Dry California lakebed

What happens when false premises set public policy?

As someone at least moderately interested in science and one who as a kid thought he wanted to be a meteorologist I sometimes find myself attracted like a cat to a red dot to stories like this.

David Shiffman complains in Slate.com that politicians who claim ignorance of scientific matters are merely playing a political game of “cop-out” when asked their opinions on matters such as climate change.

With that, Shiffman and I agree.

There is a dangerous practice among politicians and regulators to set law and policy based on societal whims, knee-jerk reactions to headlines and downright false premises.

California is a breeding ground for such as laws with flowery titles written by lawmakers who claim from one side of their mouth that they’re no expert in (you pick the topic) while from the other side of their mouth claim something must be done to fix a problem that may not exist.

Shiffman’s article attempts to connect high-profile Republican lawmakers with an anti-science notion that may be misleading at best.

I’m not here to defend Republicans; they have some serious problems, as do their antagonists on the other side of the political aisle.

If political leaders in our representative republic form of government are unwilling to educate themselves on the issues they want the rest of us to live by then they are unfit for office and should be removed or voted out.

On issues that have serious public consequences, including climate change, groundwater management and public policy related to agriculture, I don’t think people expect lawmakers and regulators to be the all-knowing gods they oftentimes bill themselves as. They do, however, need to be diligent and honest enough to seek as much information as possible before they carefully act on these laws and regulations.

On the matter of climate change, the notion that mankind is responsible for significantly altering the Earth’s climate is one of those notions political leaders must be disavowed of.

Which is it?

Years ago, I read with fascination the mantra that the Earth was plunging into an ice age and that it was going to get dangerously cold very soon. Those of us old enough to remember may recall the Time magazine cover from 1977 that talked about how to survive the coming ice age as if it were a foregone conclusion.

Not 30 years later Time covered a special report on global warming and how we should “be very worried.”

So which is it?

While the argument over cooling and warming has morphed into a more generic claim of catastrophic “climate change,” the premise that mankind is causing dangerous swings in the climate and therefore can reverse it by simply returning us to the Seventh Century is, in my unscientific opinion, laughable.

As I write this, the western United States is watching a partial eclipse of the sun. Centuries ago such a phenomenon caused people to panic and kill animals to appease their gods.

In the 15th Century, Christopher Columbus sailed for the new world in part to prove (as legend goes) that the majority of scientific minds at the time were wrong about the shape of Planet Earth.

Which brings me to my first point: popular scientific thought (or what we’re made to believe is scientific consensus) may not be correct.

History suggests the flat-earth society was nearly unanimous and equally convinced of their theory until sailing ships failed to fall off the edge of the Earth.

Could the alleged 97 percent of scientists Shiffman claims believe in a hard-and-fast connection between a changing climate and mankind also be wrong?

For those who believe there should be an unbridgeable chasm between church and state. Where are those who have a similar idea about politics and science?

Aside from a genuine public need for publicly-funded sound scientific research that sets aside personal biases and attempts an honest discovery, politics should never be involved.

The fact that climate change commands as much headline space as it does suggests politics is too involved is an area that merely demands common sense and reason.

 

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