10 Questions for Climate Change Denialists

From politicians to regular old average folk on the street, many people seem to reject the idea that the climate has been adversely affected by man-made activity. Yet science seems to be pretty sound on this being a fact – 97% of scientific papers that took a stance on the subject after considering the evidence agreed, as demonstrated by John Oliver’s recent ‘Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate‘ stunt.

So why would anyone reject this?

Of course, for the average person the answer is obvious. They simply get the impression from the media that it’s all up for debate and the science isn’t in, or there’s disagreement – again, as demonstrated by John Oliver’s stunt – and so they hedge their bets based on what they’re exposed to (we can learn the same moral from the vaccines-cause-autism manufactroversy and non-debate). But for more vocal opponents in the media and politics, or even more vocal “regular” people one would expect that they know better. One would expect that their disagreements are based around science, and evidence, and studying and robust synthesised conclusions.


I’m pleased I didn’t burn those notes when I graduated…

You – addressed to a hypothetical climate change “skeptic” – wouldn’t just think something for any old half-arsed reason, would you?

So, to prove your worth, here are 10 simple climatology questions that you should be able to answer if you’re enough of an expert to reject scientific consensus. If you can answer these (no cheating with Google and Wikipedia, you should know these already) then your opinion on climate change not being a real thing can hold some weight. And no, this won’t be multiple choice – each of these could be answered with a mini-essay discussing around the subject, because that’s how complex climatology actually is.

Q1. What is the primary carbon sink within the hydrosphere?

Q2. What is effect of oceanic salinity on the planet’s heat deficit?

Q3. What is the primary driving force behind the climate in north-western Europe?

Q4. What mechanism is responsible for the majority of sea level rises?

Q5. If we drained the oceans of water and replaced it with ethanol, what would happen?

Q6. When Phil Jones from the Climate Research Institute said “hide the decline” in an email, what was he actually talking about?

Q7. Super-continents are associated primarily with what kind of climate?

Q8. Which parts of the film The Day After Tomorrow are scientifically accurate?

Q9. Why doesn’t water vapour contribute to global warming even though it’s a significant greenhouse gas?

Q10. What is the radiative forcing effect of sulphate aerosols?

Sure, I might need to go back through my atmospheric chemistry and environment notes to answer these in full. In fact, I think these questions are very much on the simple end that only scratch at the complexities of climate science. They certainly don’t go into detail of modern approaches to climate modelling. But then again, I never claimed to be a practising climatologist nor anyone capable of overruling the scientific consensus of people who study this stuff for a living. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough. I can hold a conversation with an expert on this subject, but I can’t quite override her on it.

But if you think you’re qualified enough to have an opinion that can override an expert, then surely these should be easy for you. Right?

“Women are Privileged Too”

Apparently, the phrase “women are privileged too” is a search term that drove traffic to this blog.

To help with that, should anyone else want to arrive here via the same route, here is a comprehensive list of female privileges.

  • Having grow a new life inside you
  • Taking your clothes off without being thought to be a pervert (not a personal experience)
  • Being able to bitch about the other gender wanting to help you.
  • Being able to make a conscious choice to be inconsistent on the above point, because the other side is afraid.
  • Getting a free meal a lot more often than man.
  • Being able to manipulate men into giving you things (and I want to stress that that ability, not the pattern, is there)
  • Being able to do a lot of sports without being thought of as a jock.
  • Being able to talk about your feelings with same-sex friends without having the asshole around complaining that’s gay.
  • Not getting the constant bullshittery of the compensating-for-small-penis argument.
  • Your gay sex is popular.
  • Having A LOT more freedom to experiment sexually without half of your family having a heart attack.
  • Always having the ability to give the middle finger to a possible career for having a family without having to answer 20 years of questions.

Okay… so they’re not really female privileges. They’re not really anything of the kind in the slightly. And the “your gay sex is popular” one just cracks me up with how spectacularly terribly it misses the entire point.

Full disclosure, now: This list was actually culled from something dropped on a RationalWiki discussion page by a user who shall remain nameless. Eyes were rolled at the time, and I feel I should just copy/paste it just to keep it on hand because I think it comes in useful for illustrating terrible misconceptions of social privileges. These misconceptions of privilege are ingrained in people and they seem to crop up frequently. People get tired of hearing the dreaded p-word (I know I do on occasion) but it’s no excuse for typing out crap like this without any hint of irony.

Social privileges are almost all about what you don’t experience rather than what you do experience – a lack of rape threats, a lack of discrimination over having a perceived “ethnic” name, or a lack of having your right to marry actively oppressed and so on and so forth. And they apply universally at a systematic, social level, not on individual cases. So, for example, a wealthy woman like – to pull an example not-at-all at random – Phyllis Schlafly may indeed have advantages over poverty stricken homeless men, but it’s a class-based privilege and a wealth-based privilege, nothing to do with her being a woman (and this perhaps is what causes Phyllis Schlafly to hold some of the most detestable opinions about women possible).

It’s something people need to get into their head before they ever criticise the p-word or bring up counter-examples: we use privilege as an expression of class-based and on-average experiences, and individual examples don’t invalidate the overall trend.

Ideas like “women get more free meals than men” is just… well, that’s just being a whiny little asswipe for no other reason than being a whiny little asswipe. Ideas like “your gay sex is popular” and “you can experiment with your sexuality” have got nothing to do with supposed female privilege and everything to do with excusing latent homophobic tendencies in society. And the “compensating-for-small-penis argument” is all about the male power fantasy that penis size equals power – I don’t really think that has anything to do with women at all.

So, the idea that “women are privileged too” misses the mark a lot. It really ignores what is going on underneath all this on a social level.

If anyone can find a female privilege that doesn’t straw man the concept, miss the point, or can’t be ultimately attributed to a patriarchal (the other p-word) society, I’d be very interested in taking note of it.