Human World

Andrew Revkin: Scientists and skeptics oversold climate claims

Climate scientists and climate skeptics have one thing in common, according to journalist Andrew Revkin of the New York Times. They’re both guilty of instances where they overstate their claims, said Revkin.

Andrew Revkin: As I’ve written for many years, the stuff we know confidently is pretty straightforward. More CO2, greenhouse gases actually function, more of them will make the world warmer, warmer world, less ice, higher seas. All that stuff is a no-brainer. But there was a sense of selling the whole package as ‘dangerous, disruptive climate change,’ how much of it, what was happening with hurricanes, all that kind of thing, was oversold.

In other words, the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that greenhouse gases generated from human activities are warming the planet. But the evidence is less conclusive on whether, say Hurricane Katrina was a result of human-caused warming, for example.

Andrew Revkin: That level of the overselling of the climate crisis a couple of years ago and the way it was done, enabled people recently to say, “oh, they were overstating things” and to foster a sense of doubt. And what you’ve heard recently, trying to undermine the entire body of research on global warming, that it’s a hoax and that sort of thing is also a ridiculous overstatement.

Revkin said that one truth about climate change is that it is complex.

Andrew Revkin: I think that everyone recognizes that whatever communication effort that’s done on climate going forward by the scientific community, including the IPCC, will have to be much more of an embracing of the complexity and the persistent uncertainty, even when it’s inconvenient, in some cases, on some things that matter to society. The case for action has to incorporate the murkiness, not try to hide it.

May 17, 2010
Human World

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