If there’s one thing a non-scientist needs to understand, it’s this: science is never truly “settled.” Any theory, no matter how widely accepted or how effectively it appears to be explain the natural world, must be open to amendment if verifiable new information is unearthed.
Recall that, for thousands of years humans thought the Earth was the center of the universe. That was the view Aristotle promoted hundreds of years before Christ, and it held sway until Copernicus finally disproved it in the 16th century.
More recently, consider the “germ theory,” which holds that invisible bacteria and viruses are responsible for many human illnesses. We take this for granted today and wash our hands frequently, but doctors haven’t always been open to the idea.
In the 1840s a doctor in Austria named Ignaz Semmelweis showed that doctors were responsible for spreading puerperal fever, a disease that killed as many as one in four women shortly after childbirth. But his findings -- that doctors could save lives by washing their hands -- were ignored. For decades, many doctors continued to blame the fever on causes such as “bad air,” and women continued to die needlessly.
Yes, some may say, but today’s scientists are dedicated to rigorous examination and reexamination of every possibility. Right? Apparently not, when it comes to climate studies.
For years now, we’ve been told that global warming is settled science. Humans are purportedly destroying our planet, and we need to take action to prevent that, no matter how much it costs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a vast U.N. bureaucracy, shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace with Al Gore for alerting the rest of this to this crucial threat.
But we’ve been hearing some unsettling news lately.
Somebody hacked into the Climatic Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia and released thousands of e-mails from CRU scientists. That school is, supposedly, the Harvard of global climate change data. Its scientists have been compiling information from tree rings and ice cap drillings for years. These days, though, they mostly sound worried.
“Where the heck is global warming?” one scientist wonders in a leaked e-mail. “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
That’s right. The planet hasn’t warmed in a decade. And none of the climate models that predict disaster in the future predicted the lack of warming in the present.