There's something endearing about the Flat Earth Society. Yes, it is a real organization and it has thousands of members, some of them scientists. They have a fairly active forum which discusses dozens of topics, such as erroneous curvature measurements of the earth, how even FDR thought it was a conspiracy, rivers running the wrong direction, and so forth. You can read their mission statement here.
You have to love it because it points out a humorous flaw in our hunter/gatherer brains -- the ability for logical argument to supercede fact. Some evolutionary biologists have posited that it is this very feature of powerful logic (in conjunction with the opposable thumb) which led to the success of homo sapiens as a species and its ultimate dominion over all life on earth.
The hunter brain was able to map migration routes and plan for strategic kills, and the gatherer brain developed unprecedented methods for observing and recording the passage of time. If you have any doubt of this you should visit Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, where the famous sun dial can predict not only lunar and solar cycles, but also complex astronomical cycles as well. And that was created by a paleolithic culture!
I bring all this up because I think it bears considering in regards to the seemingly ongoing "climate debate."
As I blogged yesterday this is about to be put to rest. With the anticipated EPA ruling, The U.S. will now be joining over 100 nations in admitting that yes indeed global warming is real, and weather or not humans created it in the first place is a moot point. The massive and growing levels of man-made CO2 emissions will stress the planet's climactic system to the breaking point unless something is done.
What intrigues me so much is that despite Al Gore's multimillion dollar We Can Solve It marketing campaign, trillions of media impressions, dozens of films and television specials, thousands and thousands of scientific reports from the Natural Science Academies of every civilized nation on earth, the public opinion about the importance of global warming has actually declined in past years!
Now only about 60% of the U.S. population believes it to be a serious threat.
This should be both very alarming and very instructive to people working in the climate change world. Here's the message - whatever you are doing... it is not working! Your fear-based messaging is backfiring.
I wish I could say WHY it doesn't work. Both the science and the unabated consequences seem intuitively obvious to anyone with more than an 8th grade education, but yet millions of Americans (2 out of 5) don't buy it. That is a significant finding.
Fellow blogger Jerry Cope of the Huffington Post just last week interviewed Katherine Richardson, chair of the International Climate Congress held in Copenhagen which prepares international lawmakers for the upcoming COP 15. Jerry asked her about this, and she seemed to indicate that it has a lot to do with media and the popular press. She cited Fox News darling Bjorn Lomborg who always manages to get equal air time because he adds an element of controversy.
The resulting subterfuge derails public attention, sending it in a much more ratings-friendly reality style duke-out session, rather than a deeper dive into the sophisticated science of climate change. Part of the problem has been that the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) relied heavily (as did Al Gore's slideshow) on climate modeling. The International Climate Congress now has over 4 years of hard evidence to back up all those charts and graphs, and the conclusions are now completely unavoidable. The first finding from the Congress is as follows:
Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.
If you went to the airport and they told you that the plane you were going to fly on had a 10% chance or less of getting to where you wanted to go, would you go on it? I don't think so.
Or maybe it is because we just don't like change. Imagine the uproar when the first astronomer back in the 3rd century said, "Uh, excuse me the earth is ROUND." He was probably impaled on the spot or burned as a heretic. And centuries later it became common knowledge in academia. And then Copernicus proved it. And then Galileo added in that bit about us orbiting around the sun. And now, centuries later, we have one last online forum for those few hangers-on who, desperate to believe that their belief is right, just won't give in.
They continue on, brave soldiers in the fight against logic, marching onward into the sunset, searching for that yet-to-be-discovered edge at the end of the world.
But of course, the conundrum. If they finally find it will already be too late. In order to prove they are right, they will have to jump off into that infinite abyss.