16/2/14 – belief, acceptance and change

By Mike Johnson

As anybody who uses the language can attest, words can be tricky devils. Our assumptions, our world views, are often hidden behind the language that we use to describe and question the world.

The other day, for example, somebody asked me if I believed in man-made global warming. It was the wrong question. The word belief carries with it the implication that we are dealing with something beyond rationality. I believe in a god or believe in ghosts; I don’t believe that the world is round, I accept it on good evidence. I don’t believe the sun is ninety three million miles away, I accept that others have measured it. I don’t believe in the existence of black holes at the center of galaxies, I accept that the maths and evidence points that way. I don’t believe in evolution, I accept the fossil record.

Similarly, I don’t believe in man-made global warming, I accept the evidence for it. Not being a scientist myself, the overwhelming consensus of scientific knowledge is crucial for my understanding.

I understand that the consensus of climate scientists is not a consensus of opinion but of evidence.

In that respect, President Obama’s famous tweet accepting the consensus is important, as it is a significant step forward in our ability to publicly acknowledge the situation we’re in, even if he can’t, or won’t, do much about it.

The question put to me springs from the mind set attempts to paint man-made global warming as a religious issue, rather than of a simple matter of fact. The scientists who have long been considering the consequences of putting more Greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere are portrayed as zealots, rather than the bearers of bad tidings.

Acceptance of reality is a necessary survival skill. What we do and how we respond to that reality is the issue at hand. We have to accept the reality of man-made global warming and believe that we can at least stop making it worse for ourselves further down the line. Believing in our power to change our culture is where belief comes into play as an important component of that change.

 ( with thanks to the Union of concerned Scientists for the Cartoon)

(with thanks to the Union of concerned Scientists for the Cartoon)