inFact with Brian Dunning inFact with Brian Dunning


How to Tell if Global Warming Is Real

A 3-minute guide to one of the most divisive questions of our day: Global Warming.

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Today I'm not going to give you any facts; I'm just going to tell you how you can find out for yourself what's probably true, even if you don't know anything about climate, science, or politics.

The thing to be aware of when considering global warming is that it's extremely divisive politically, unlike most other science questions. There's no political debate over how many electrons argon has, or how high is the summit of Mount Everest, or how doctors should treat heart attacks.

Global warming is different. It was first presented to the public by divisive politicians, who proposed responding to it with policy changes that had broad economic consequences. Ever since then, by far the strongest predictor of a person's stance on global warming is their political affiliation.

Unfortunately, developing an independent understanding of climate change is beyond the ability of most people. There are way too many variables. Not just historical data, but economic trends, pollution output over time, ocean salinity and currents, all factoring into probability curves looking into the future that change with every variable.

The first thing you have to do, as hard as it seems, is divorce yourself from your political party's opinion of what these probability curves look like. People are split 50/50 between political parties, and they can't all be right; so your odds are 50/50 that your party is wrong. Here's how to better your odds of being right.

Instead, get your information from the people who study climate change full time. They don't have all the answers either, but they understand them a lot better than any politician. On any science question, go with the relevant experts in that field, and you'll be right far more often than you'll be wrong.

If you're distrustful of scientists because you think they've been paid off to do bad research because of global warming's economic impacts, then fine; exclude the researchers whom you've found to have a conflict of interest. The vast majority of climate researchers are grad students and post docs. They're in every country, from every walk of life; some with salaries, some with grants; working for academia, business, and government.

If you distrust any filter, then simply go straight to the source. Don't listen to engineers, pundits, politicians, or scientists in other fields. Don't ever let your politics determine your science.

— Brian Dunning

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References & Further Reading

Angliss, B. "Serious Errors and Shortcomings Void Climate Letter by 49 Former NASA Employees." Scholars & Rogues. Scholars & Rogues, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>

Borenstein, S. "Skeptic Finds He Now Agrees Global Warming Is Real." Yahoo! News. Associated Press, 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>

Brin, D. "The Navy, Russians, Shipping & Insurance Companies... and Climate Change." Contrary Brin: Speculations on Science, Technology & the Future. David Brin, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>

Douglas, P. "A Message from a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change: Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You A Liberal." Neorenaissance., 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>

Laden, G. "HeartlandGate: Anti-Science Institute's Insider Reveals Secrets." Greg Laden's Blog. ScienceBlogs LLC, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>

Rosenau, J. "The Drama or the Soap Opera: the Future of Deniergate." Thoughts from Kansas. ScienceBlogs LLC, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012. <>


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