As a kid growing up in the American Midwest, one of my favorite pastimes was stargazing. To this day I have a fascination for constellations, telescopes, and the science behind them. It also fascinates me how politics has always complicated the quest to understand the cosmos in general and our planet in particular. Part of THAT fascination is with the many people involved in the struggle for knowledge.
One such person was Galileo — a scientist who, through his observations of the movements of celestial bodies, determined that the Earth rotated around the sun and not the other way around.
Unfortunately for him, the politics of his time (which were heavily influenced by religion) saw things differently. They focused on what they called incontrovertible evidence that the Earth was the center of all things and everything in the universe revolved around Earth.
This meant Galileo was at odds with the political and religious orders of his day, and that was NOT a good thing. He was tried by the Inquisition and found to be “vehemently suspect of heresy.” The sentence: House arrest for the rest of his life. Yikes.
Fast forward to today and we have a parallel situation, minus religious implications. This situation revolves around a theory that the Industrial Revolution and its offshoots have polluted the Earth with so much carbon dioxide (CO2), that it’s creating harmful global climate change.
As in Galileo’s time, today a powerful group of scientists and political leaders believe, incontrovertibly, that climate change — global warming in particular — is killing this planet, and they are bent on creating legislation and laws to control it.
For the record, I’m not against environmentalism. I support rational innovation to reduce negative impacts on the Earth. I support scientific research and discovery. I love this stuff.
There was an interesting opinion piece in the January 27th edition of the Wall Street Journal. Entitled, “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (on.wsj.com/GW_Panic), the opinion piece is signed by 16 international scientists who don’t dispute the potential for environmental damage, but who feel “there’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to decarbonize the world’s economy.”
Key word: “drastic.”
Drastic is when one side of the issue so disagrees with the other that they force each other out of positions where they can publish their scientific findings and opinions, as is the case with a former editor of the journal Climate Research.
The WSJ article points out how Dr. Chris de Freitas published a politically incorrect (but factually correct) article that concluded that “the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.”
This type of action isn’t a singular event. It has happened throughout the ages as in the case of my hero, Galileo. Today, it causes fear among younger scientists not convinced that climate change is as imminent a danger as others would have us believe. They won’t speak up for fear of losing their jobs. This is not good. It’s not quite the same as the house arrest suffered by Galileo, but the outcome is similar.
What I liked about the WSJ article was its call for common sense. It called for reducing emotional linkages to incontrovertible truths that have no place in the scientific community. If politicians want to impact climate change, they should support scientists seeking more information on this by helping with better funding and helping to establish sound, impartial review of what the scientists discover. Science and politics really don’t mix well, otherwise.
Just ask Galileo.