To continue musing why some people don’t’ accept climate science, I wonder if part of the blame lies with those of us who want legislative action. We’ve convinced ourselves that climate science definitively, inexorably, and without any doubt leads to climate policy. I get the logic, and have a fair deal of sympathy for it. But since our argument often takes the form: science says x, thus implement cap-and-trade, it’s not too surprising when the science is attacked. Can we really expect otherwise? There are people out there who oppose regulation, taxation and environmental stewardship. Given the way the debate plays out, asking everyone to agree with the science is just a sneaky way of asking those people to agree with regulation, taxation, and environmental stewardship in the first place.
As I speculated ages ago, it’s possible climate science denial has increased precisely because wait-and-see isn’t viewed as a legitimate response. Perhaps more people would accept climate science if it were decoupled from climate policy, and if our argument instead took the form: the science says x, which means very little for anything else. It’s possible that maintaining the purity of the science means compromising our core argument. (If it’s any consolation, at least one climate policy expert believes wait-and-see can be a reasonable stance.)
Now I’m not arguing (as Roger and Breakthrough do) that we should decouple the science and policy because it will advance the policy. I have no clue what will move climate policy, and I actually agree with David Roberts’ critiques of the Breakthrough approach. But for people like me who aren’t that emotionally invested in the issue, separating the science from policy can bring its own rewards. Despite some of my caveats, I really do want better public science literacy. If muting the link between science and action also mutes some of the intrinsic opposition to climate science, that’s a win in my book.