Climate Change – where to turn for credible information?

Making new sources of fossil fuels available through unconventional gas and fracking may have a profound impact on our ability to tackle climate change.  Climate Change is not a matter of opinion or a political issue but the policy response of how we mitigate and adapt to climate change is.  It is sometimes difficult to know what to think about climate change given the barrage of misinformation presented in the media which can often be traced back to fossil fuel lobbyists and vested interests. Better then to go to the science academies, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, for a clear message about climate science. These organisations have produced a Short Guide to Climate Science and a more detailed overview called Climate Change: Evidence & Causes.  If you are too busy then 60 seconds watching this Royal Society film will be a minute well invested:

If you have the time the NASA Global Climate Change Facts pages are also worth a visit. There is no shortage of authoritative information.

To their credit the main political parties (Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour) have signed a joint statement pledging:

You can view their full agreement here.

Not all political parties and candidates agree with NASA, The Royal Society, The US National Academy of Sciences and 97% of climate scientists that the warming trend over the past century is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and land cover change or that the consequences of climate change are potentially serious for society. Not happy with their policy role some politicians would like to challenge climate science and replace it with their own version. Notably UKIP energy policy states that “there are increasing doubts about the theory of man-made climate change” without offering any credible evidence to back up the assertion and its author says Global warming is “a politicians’ scam designed to centralise power and increase taxes“. From this alternative reality flows a pro fossil fuel, pro fracking policy based on a rejection of what science has to tell us about how our planet works. Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg has broadly promoted UKIP energy and climate policy whilst Conservative MP for North East Somerset arguing that energy policy shouldn’t be based on “quasi-relegious” green fears and “Hydraulic fracturing may be part of the solution but carbon emission targets will not be“. NASA hasn’t commented on these articles.

In the election campaign Mr Rees-Mogg has publicly said that he is a fracking NIMBY when it comes to North East Somerset and so has the UKIP candidate, but they have said nothing about climate change.

If you are interested in climate change denial as a topic there are plenty of resources to help understand what is going on:

Haydn Washington, John Cook, 2011, Climate Change Denial – Heads in the Sand

John Cook, 2010, The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Scepticism

John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, 2011, The Debunking Handbook

(Professor Lewandowsky is currently at Bristol University)

If you are really interested then you have just got time to sign up for the free online course Making Sense of Climate Science Denial organised by the University of Queensland and starting on the 28th April.

About this course

In public discussions, climate change is a highly controversial topic. However, in the scientific community, there is little controversy with 97% of climate scientists concluding humans are causing global warming.

  • Why the gap between the public and scientists?
  • What are the psychological and social drivers of the rejection of the scientific consensus?
  • How has climate denial influenced public perceptions and attitudes towards climate change?

This course examines the science of climate science denial.

We will look at the most common climate myths from “global warming stopped in 1998” to “global warming is caused by the sun” to “climate impacts are nothing to worry about.”

We’ll find out what lessons are to be learnt from past climate change as well as better understand how climate models predict future climate impacts. You’ll learn both the science of climate change and the techniques used to distort the science.

With every myth we debunk, you’ll learn the critical thinking needed to identify the fallacies associated with the myth. Finally, armed with all this knowledge, you’ll learn the psychology of misinformation. This will equip you to effectively respond to climate misinformation and debunk myths.


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