Creed Noun. A statement of belief summarising the faith it represents; a definitive summary of what is believed, especially one that is brief but comprehensive. Commonly pertaining to religion, but not necessarily so.
Cred Noun. The quality of being believable or worthy of respect, especially within a particular social, professional, or other group.
For some time now I have pondered exactly what I believe in and what I don’t with regard to climate change. When I taught in UEA I had to know exactly what I thought was true, what I was not exactly sure about, and where I could stand my ground and say “boll**ks”.
Environmental science students were then not of one belief. The better, more thoughtful ones, questioned everything and demanded proof. The absolute best of them tested different peoples’ views and tried out different stances against all comers and possibly didn’t reach any final conclusions before they left us. All this meant that I needed to stand on firm ground about my own beliefs and what I knew to be factual, and to be able to take on all the different types of students. This I believe I accomplished, especially by reading absolutely everything in sight and by arguing/discussing matters with selected people who I felt were still not set in their ways. I enjoyed many wonderful discussions and debates with residents of the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, which is why I did not hesitate to defend it after Climategate. But in a School replete with climate scientists, all busy measuring wood rings, calculating averaging temperatures and the like, I desperately needed climate cred.
I no longer have this same degree of confidence about what I feel sure of. I realise that, although I still know more or less what I believe, I don’t feel secure in being able to fully defend those beliefs. In part this is due to lack of practice: I haven’t given a talk to a local group or discussed climate with students for almost a decade. My arguments are rusty.
Insecurity is also due to memory loss. I’m getting old; I’ll be 80 next birthday and “she who must be listened to” keeps bringing up topics that I don’t remember anything about, especially places we have visited together of which I have no recollection. So when I read some items here at Cliscep, I sometimes ask myself if what is being argued or commented upon is reasonable, and sometimes I find myself thinking that it should not be unreasonable for a sceptic to agree with the sentiments laid out in the article being quoted. Such heresies of mine I commonly hide or repress. Commonly I read here items about possibly questionable evidence supporting climate change – new temperature records, changing in the timing of natural events and the like. My response now commonly is – so what? Don’t I believe we are still recovering from the Little Ice Age? Surely then I might expect higher temperatures occasionally and consequences of those changes to occur? I suppose what I still don’t believe is that the reason for the temperature increases is primarily the result of human activities or that it will soon be dangerous. Should this be part of my sceptical creed?
But then again can we defend this? I have known since I was a schoolboy studying chemistry and physics that carbon dioxide (and some other gases) cause temperatures to rise in the laboratory and in the atmosphere. In fact those gases are responsible for rising temperatures to acceptable levels on the Earth’s surface. Without them we would freeze everywhere, all year. I also accept that there is evidence that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have substantially increased since 1950 and that it is not unreasonable to believe that human exploitation of carbon-based fuels has been responsible for a large part of this increase. Then combining this information, how can I deny that humans are responsible for at least some climate change?
If I now argue that we must be responsible for at least part of the increase of temperatures we have experienced, what can I now use as argument that the changes we are causing, and will cause, will not be harmful? Or that by drastically reducing our emissions we might avoid danger.
Attribution science is the bane of my existence. I intuitively mistrust claims made for it, but is such opposition reasonable? In my view it certainly has a weak foundation. When I read about some weather event being made so much more likely because of climate change I invariably note that the amount of climate change (= average temperature change) is not given for that locality. Sometimes we are asked to accept absolute inanities. Such was the case recently in the Pacific Northwest where a “heat dome” was supposedly made that much more severe. How much more severe? Well I read where what you do is subtract the average global temperature increase from the measured temperatures to find the effect of climate change. Such utter stupidity, especially when later, it transpired that the rest of North America was decidedly cooler than usual. Difficult to explain – it never was.
Then I recall my time living on the Canadian Prairies; especially in Saskatchewan. Governmental well-being (that meant my employment) depended much upon income from the grain and rapeseed harvests. At times of summer drought we worried and some years resort was made to rain making. Huge rockets were blasted up into clouds carrying chemicals. Sometimes rain came, other times at seemingly identical conditions or places it didn’t. We never knew why. Now of course we understand the weather so very well that we can predict it so very, very precisely (sarc). I just don’t believe it. Nor do I believe that of all of the innumerable weather disasters attributed to climate change have been predicted ahead of time. But is this just my prejudice showing?
So today I find myself without much of a climate creed I can defend. My experience and still (I hope) rational mind still convince me that my opposition to most of what spews from the lips of green climate activists is justified, but the creed I used to follow is today looking decidedly ragged. So please help a poor, somewhat decrepit denier regain some street-cred so that he can wear it again as armour. Give me your best arguments. What exactly do we believe and, most importantly, why do we do so? This old codger has lost his way; the opposition strengthens inexorably.