Before we begin, let me quantify the following:
- I firmly 100% agree in the concept of Global Warming
- It is undoubtedly true that bad energy management and human error has warmed up the Planet
- Pretending there isn’t a problem is both bad and inherently dangerous
Having said all that? This tweet is not making me happy:
HOWEVER, it isn’t the actual content that’s upsetting right now, but the commentary on it, specifically those last five words. The graph is irrefutable proof that the planet is warming, make no bones about it but WHY did the phrase ‘probably the lowest in millennia’ need to be added afterwards, exactly? Recording of this data begins in 1978. That’s 40 years in the span of a planet that’s been around a wee bit longer than us, or the Dinosaurs, or indeed any form of life. Yes, I will grant that is a nasty and concerning dip, but trying to make out this is ‘probably’ really bad is exactly the kind of fodder that the anti-Climate Change people will jump on with absolute glee. ‘Probably’ implies a general sense of ‘well, we don’t know but its a pretty safe bet, right?’ and coming from a SCIENTIST? That’s not how you science properly, and if even the layperson here gets the drift of that… There’s an issue with your reporting technique.
There’s a lot of unusual shit going down with the weather worldwide, all of which adds up to pretty irrefutable support for the ‘Climate Change’ lobby. Trying to pretend things are worse than they are, or actively scaremongering, is I understand sometimes the only way to cut through the crap of a bazillion news issues a day, and when you’ve only got 140 characters and a Tweet as your platform? Every word matters. Probably is not a scientific word. Facts and evidence are scientific words and because this graph cannot provide any data prior to 1978 to a reader to indicate what the ice did then? Working on the facts available is what happens, not vague speculation on times past. If you want more people to support your cause? The arguments have to be irrefutable and damning, with absolutely no quarter for negotiation. This is, in my mind, a good graph that cries out for better commentary to ensure maximum impact.
However, any scientist worth the white coat will inform you that only by speculation and theorising have most of the major scientific breakthroughs in human history happened to begin with. They however do not live in our current, post-truth existence. All the graphs in the world, all the dossiers and piles of folders stacked up in front of reporters are easily dismissable, can be ignored if you shout loudly enough or just pretend you’re not listening. I shouldn’t worry about a ‘probably’ when the incoming Administration of a world power can simply choose to ignore the problem and leave it for the next guy to do the same. What all of us attempting to fight post-truth (or as it is rapidly becoming, full denial) must now do is pick up our game and make sure our arguments are watertight, the facts are as precise as possible. There is no place for woolly thinking or half-conceived theories any more. If you want people to believe the truth has to be stark, and yes quite possibly sensational. However, it is time to commit, one way or the other.
I’d like to see more scientists learning to use Twitter for the planet’s good. Individuals like Neil deGrasse Tyson have the right idea: make people laugh and then think. Challenge the status quo and then push home your point. In the face of unbelievable denial and stupidity? Use science as your holy weapon and strike down the unbelievers with irrefutable fact. Stop using probably, and make your arguments bulletproof. Only then can we actually get on with successfully evolving as a species.