Climate change: How do we know what to believe?

One of the winter snowstorm in the Washington, DC area this winter. Photo by woodleywonderworks, Flickr.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s perennial novel, “The Great Gatsby,” socialite Tom Buchannan muses about fickle weather in between sips of gin on hot summer afternoon:

“I read somewhere that the sun is getting hotter every year…It seems that pretty soon the earth is going to fall into the sun — or wait a minute — it’s just the opposite. The sun’s getting colder every year.”

There's been over 85 years of scientific advancement since “Gatsby” was published, and it seems most people are still just as confused about the science behind climate change.

Right wing-bloggers and congressmen are citing the fact that our nation’s capital still has two feet snow drifts on the side of the road from last month’s historic blizzard as evidence that global warming is an elaborate hoax. However, the bizarre weather conditions suggest just the opposite, as rising global temperatures would cause an increase in moisture in the air that would lead to more precipitation.

While some politicians and the mainstream media give the impression that scientists are evenly split about whether or not global warming exists, the actual divide is nowhere near 50/50.

Out of 3,146 accredited scientists, 90 percent believe that global temperatures have risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and 82 percent believe humans have had something to do with it, according to a University of Illinois poll conducted in January of last year. Of the climatologists surveyed, 97 percent believe that humans have played a significant role in increasing the earth’s temperature.

For many climate change doubters, the presence of any slight lack of consensus is enough to call bologna. However, anyone who has taken a high school science class can tell you that there is no such thing as evidence that 100 percent certain. The Union of Concerned Scientists has recently released materials stating that the primary lack of consensus about climate change among scientists does not come from whether or not human-induced global warming exists, but rather if they can draw a direct line between climate change and specific weather events such as blizzards and droughts.

While global warming skeptics are a minority, they are a vocal minority. As in healthcare, legislation pertaining to climate change has reached a partisan standstill in Washington. As the media continue to skew the consensus within the scientific community, how do we know what to believe?

In the spirit of democracy, I’d go with the majority. And 97 percent of climate scientists is a hard majority to argue with.

photo: One of the winter snowstorm in the Washington, DC area this winter. Photo by woodleywonderworks, Flickr.