How We Determine Our Positions on Climate Change
As I mentioned in a post earlier in June, I have spent some time listening to the discussions between climate change skeptics and proponents. One of my main takeaways is that rarely is a thorough understanding of the science the basis for people’s views. Proponents can quote scientists and so can skeptics. I don’t believe that many of us though (myself included) have really done our own analysis of all the research papers and, even if we had, that we would know how to reach our own judgment on the sensitivity analysis, scenarios and balance of risks.
Most of us, on both sides, reach our conclusions based on whose advice we trust (although even trust is waning at the moment – see my last blog post). So there is limited value in laypeople arguing the science. At this level, neither side is able to concede, because we don’t have sufficient scientific understanding of or confidence in our own position to do that.
So if laypeople arguing the science is a dead end, what should we do, us proponents who so ardently want to save the skeptics and ourselves from a terrible fate? I don’t have the whole answer, but I have a start.
I think the proponents should listen to the skeptics more. Get past the climate science because we know we are all just repeating what we read to affirm our own views. Instead, understand the underlying concerns. Perhaps some skeptics really do have an understanding (better than us proponents have) of how much change it will take in our way of life and what level of government intervention will be required to meet the carbon emission reductions required.
I like to explore with a skeptic why they think the governments of most countries around the world are proponents. Is it that most governments are naïve, or do they have an ulterior motive? Why they think this seems to split across party lines? In return I share in whose views I have confidence, why and how that has helped me determine my position. I think that distinguishing motivations and understanding positions will, in the long term, help consensus. Don’t worry about right and wrong, or about changing viewpoints. That is not the purpose. Focus on listening and understanding.
And proponents should ask themselves the same questions too. Assuming that, like me, you are not a trained scientist and have not analyzed the raw data yourself, on what basis have you determined your position? Should you be familiar with more of the science? Whose views are you aligning yourself with and what does that say about your motivations and values?