AndThenTheresPhysics (real name unknown)
Let’s face facts: for a climate blogger, I’m a damn good astrobionomer.
I don’t know what it is about me and the written word, but it seems that no matter how painstakingly I try to convey my point, everyone always manages to miss it completely. On particularly bad days I find myself wondering if semantic intercourse between human beings is even possible.
And why should today be any different? Let’s be frank: I’m probably wasting everyone’s time by even posting this.
But like a moth to a flame, I can’t seem to help myself. Science communication must be in my blood or something.
Hey: you can’t talk. Like a moth to a car accident, you just couldn’t resist reading this train wreck of an article, could you?
You might say we’re all junkies for some life-destroying product or another, be it ice, cigarettes, inept prose or women who are bad for us.
But that would be such a gross misunderstanding of my point, I’d almost have to conclude you were wilfully misinterpreting me. That’s not even what this post is about, for Christ’s sake!
So what is it about?
Well, as you may have guessed, I normally blog on one thing: physics. But for once in my online career I hope you’ll excuse a slight departure. What I want to discuss today is the phenomenon of climate deniers.
I probably shouldn’t be commenting on this because I don’t actually understand anything about them.
And I’m well aware of that—intellectually. I keep telling myself this article is a big mistake, but it just won’t sink in. As I may have mentioned, I have all the prefrontal discipline of a month-old poodle.
What the hell are “climate deniers” (or climate skeptics, cynics, infidels or whatever they call themselves this week), you may ask?
That’s simply the term for folks who claim they’re not yet fully sold on the physical evidence that proves we need economic reform to retard international climate change, and we need it yesterday. (A better name might be science haters.)
Believe it or not, such people really exist. There are whole websites catering to them—I shit you not. I think their bizarre little society even has a UK chapter.
Nobody ever talks much about climate skeptics.
That’s probably because the science is so solid. If (hypothetically!) the scientific argument for a carbon tax were dubious or tendentious in some way, its opponents might pose enough of a threat to be worth discussing. Climate skeptic might even be a household phrase.
But as it is, it isn’t. Because people who still question the science simply don’t matter. Certainly not to scientists.
Which is why I wanted to talk about them. For such an irrelevant and marginal hate group, climate deniers sure like to bang on! Have you been on the Internet lately? In case you haven’t, let’s just say the online activities of skeptics give a whole new meaning to the word disproportionately vocal.
It all smacks of bad faith. And when you’ve worked enough semesters in my corner of the scientific world, you tend to become an expert in faith. So blindly take my word for this: theirs doesn’t smack good. Not good at all.
See, if I didn’t believe in science, and I honestly thought I had the science to disprove it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t waste time blogging about it. (Blogs are for people who do believe it.)
I’d write it up as proper, peer-reviewed science and submit it to a science journal.
As you know, science works by weight of papers. So if modern science is wrong—as opponents of the climate keep telling us—then all they have to do is produce 4 million scientific articles (or thereabouts) refuting it.
Five, tops. Et voilà! The consensus in favor of science would be flipped upside-down, back-to-front and ass-forwards. Science would stand falsified, 97 to three. And trust me, nobody would be happier than the scientists themselves, who understand the horrifying implications of science better than anyone.
So what’s stopping them? (The deniers, I mean?)
After all, there’s a Nobel Prize with your name on it if you can demonstrate beyond a reasonable, 3.01% level of doubt that all of science (plus large chunks of radiative physics) is wrong.
Remember, nobody ever got a Nobel for proving man-made climate change—so there must be one available for disproving it.
(Logic, people. Hello.)
Then there’s the lucrative purse that comes with it. I did a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation—assuming it takes sixteen people to write a single paper, which seems about right in my experience—and you know what? We’re looking at $0.12 an author, minimum. That’s almost a cent per page per denier, including figures.1
Easy (prize) money.
And I’m not even mentioning the oil companies. Ah, the oil companies. Big Oil would be so grateful, none of those millions of climate deniers would have to work another day in their lives. Like any other corporation legally answerable to its shareholders, the average fossil-fuel company is always looking for an excuse to give away a few hundred billion dollars for purely sentimental reasons to a bunch of strangers to whom it doesn’t owe a cent.
So we’re talking a nice little earner, in anyone’s language.
Yet try telling a climate denier this, if you can find one, and… nothing. Pin-drop silence. Evidently these folks are afraid to put their money where their wallets are: in the hip pocket.
I think they know, deep down, that they don’t have the 58 million pages of evidence (or 3.31 km if stacked vertically) it takes to disprove what the world’s scientists believe, and have been trying to believe to no apparent avail for the last 28 years, all the way back to Arrhenius.
But instead of admitting it, they indulge in prolix and dilatory rhetoric like a bunch of complete and utter cunctators.
So I know they’re just going to ignore my challenge. Not that I’m accusing them of being the kind of people who would do so. It just seems, sadly, that in my experience, certain folks might well be.
Ironically, I used to think of climate rejectors as basically decent, sportspersonlike people. Not evil, just wrong. But the minute I started reaching out as a science communicator I was disabused of my naïveté pretty much immediately. It only took me three blogs to figure it out: they’re nothing like I thought. Which is probably my fault for expecting certain standards of behaviour from certain folks.
I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here, and I regret writing this post.
About the author
Scientists say they have no idea who AndThenTheresPhysics (pictured) is, what he looks like or what function, if any, he serves.
What is clear, though, is that Anders—or Wotty, as he prefers to be known—was an astrobiologist and part-time bioastrologist for some years. But in 2015 he or she left the world of science forever to study his or her real passion: consensus, and the increasingly-strengthening consensus on it. It’s said that ATTP’s ambition in life is to one day be the 14th-or-lower author on a major study of either consensus on consensus or (if things go well) consensus on consensus on consensus on consensus.
Best of luck, Ken!
1 Unfortunately I don’t have mathblogging privileges at CliScep (and considering the kind of person who’s apparently happy to associate with this site, I’m not entirely sure I’d really want them). So you’ll just have to trust me on the equation. Pity. It looks great in LaTeX.
Or if that’s asking too much you could always, I don’t know, maybe buy your own [redacted—Mod]ing envelope and verify it for yourselves! According to a calculation I did on the back of an envelope, an envelope costs the princely sum of 1.72 Euro cents. You’ll obviously need to splash out on the 200-pack to get those kind of savings, but it’s an investment that pays for itself tenfold.
Heck, you know what? I’ll even mail you an envelope if you’re that skint. Just leave your home address in comments.
I get the feeling I probably shouldn’t have made that offer. Live and learn. I can’t do much about it now, can I? If there’s one thing that’s become clear from my plural years as a science communicator, it’s that nobody can stop people like me being taken advantage of by [redacted—Mod]s like you.
Keeping it civil,