I don’t usually comment on climate change issues. Though don’t worry, it’s not out of being on the side of the “skeptics” or “deniers.” It’s just an issue I don’t follow as closely as others, and as such I haven’t had time to really sit down and research it. But there are some things in the debate that anybody can see, like false dichotomies, illusions of controversy, and in this case, terrible corollaries.
There was actually another comic planned for today, but this article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. It’s a 5-point takedown of anthropogenic climate change by author Robert Bryce. At first, it’s all the classic climate denial stuff. Standard fare, “Al Gore was wrong” and “Look at the rising CO2 levels during the years where we were too busy arguing about climate change to act.” He basically states in the next points that demand for energy is going up and we need to produce more energy. Alright. But by point #5, things get interesting.
5) The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The problem with the analogy is not the huge “maybe, sorta, kinda” in the neutrino data*, but rather that we’re once again faced with the presumption that any slight disagreement in the scientific community = dogs and cats living together. Clearly nothing works if science cannot agree on anything. It used to be that climate deniers would claim that scientists are divided on the issue, which is correct if you divide them into 98% and 2% groups. Now it’s as if they can no longer play the controversy card, so they have to reach into another field to find some disagreement. This time, it’s physics. Fellas, fellas, you’ve already shown a poor understanding of climate science, maybe you don’t want to mess with the physicists. It’s a little bit more esoteric.
At any rate, when news got out of Bryce’s terrible analogy, you could hear the belly laugh across the [now debatably flat earth]. In an instant, the twitter hashtag #WSJscience was started by science writer Charles Choi. Here’s how you play:
@Cqchoi: If serious scientists can question Einstein’s relativity, there must be room to debate [less filling versus tastes great]. #WSJscience
@Carlzimmer: If serious scientists can question Einstein’s relativity there must be room to debate [MAGNETS!] #WSJscience
@Sciencecomic: If serious scientists can question Einstein’s relativity, there must be room to debate [Office Depot. Taking Care of Business].#WSJscience
It’s fun, and prompted NYTimes columnist Andy Revkin to write a full retort about the shoddy “science” piece in the Journal. This is a guy who has done the research, so follow that link.
I’ll be over here, drawring cartoons.
This post was brought to you by travelling faster than the speed of light (c+).
Bonus: Today is Ada Lovelace Day! You may remember that I had considered her for the role of time-travelling-partner-n-crime. I was very apologetic that I had turned down the steampunk, computer programmer for Lise Meitner, but it all worked out in the end: Diligent reader Barnesm pointed out that Ada Lovelace is in a comic. It and artist Sydney Padua are effing amazing. Go check it out! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
*As of the writing of this article, no other labs have confirmed nor disproved the findings, but it is still very unlikely that we’re going to flip the table over.