An interesting article in the NYTimes today discusses the polls over climate change and how they don’t show the truth, which is that a vast majority of people in America really do understand climate change and agree that man is causing it.
Polls, of course, are dicey things — how the question is asked is critical. I was struck by one CNN poll question used as an illustration in the article:
Imagine being asked this, from a poll by CNN: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of global warming: Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities like power plants and factories; global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by natural changes that have nothing to do with emissions from cars and industrial facilities; or, global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.”
Now, I have several issues with this, not all agreeing with the authors of the article. My biggest problem is the use of the word “believe” in terms of climate change, and the third question in this list, which asks if the respondent believes (that word again) that “global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.”
Interestingly, that third question is the most accurate of the three, and yet someone looking at the results of the poll would say it is the least supportive of the idea that climate change is going on.
Of course it is a theory. And of course it has not been proven. If it were proven, it would not be a theory, it would be a fact. But scientists don’t use the word “theory” the way the popular culture does, which is as a synonym for “wild guess.” They use “Theory” as “explanation for observed phenomenon that we can’t prove the reason for but this covers all the observed data and works until a better theory comes along.”
The observed data is factual — earth temperatures are rising, correleating with the rise of human exuded CO2 and other stuff — but the mechanisms are not yet completely understood, hence the word “theory.”
But believe in? You don’t believe in a theory. A theory is not a matter of faith. A theory is an explanation. Come up with a better explanation if you don’t accept this one, but don’t play it up as something you believe in.
The earths temps are rising, the observed data says man is causing the rise (and I think the mess in the Gulf of Mexico pretty much shoots down all those folk who say the world is too big for man to cause changes to) and unless you can come up with a better theory that covers all the observed data, you have to work with the theory we have.