Believe in climate change if you must

Many people place the most value on the precise data science offers, but the most important things we get from science are the theories that help us to understand how things work. When unmeasurable things are involved, imprecision is unavoidable, but theory can still provide an important understanding of the world, even without precise numbers.

Predictions based on theory have a very good record, but for people without an understanding of science and math it must seem that any prediction without precise numerical data to prove it is doubtful. Until after something has already happened it can't be actually measured, so without after-the-fact measured numbers it's easy for them to say, "it's just a theory."

Without an understanding of science science can only be taken on authority, and that requires belief. People would rather not believe in something that scares them, and the theories that predict global warming are very scary. Three things combine to support a rejection of the theory of global warming: "it's just a theory," fear, and doubts about the real motives of the scientists who are warning us.

The people who are accusing scientists of trying to scare people are getting plenty of air time. Their propaganda about the motives of scientists is unbelievable, because our real situation is scary enough without anyone trying to exaggerate it. Those of us who hope to prevent more global warming will need the cooperation of many people. We will not get enough cooperation from people to cut the pollution driving global warming if people believe that the warning provided by science is a just a hoax intended to scare them. Without a case lawyers resort to trying to discredit witnesses.

Either one can understand science, or one can believe it. Belief in science might help to save us from becoming both the proud creators and suffering denizens of a self-made hell. Science offers a hope of a salvation from the hell it is helping us to create. After nature provides provides the fear, scientists can offer hope.

Paving the road to hell

Once heat rises enough to start a fire, the fire will spread by itself until it runs out of fuel or is put out. Ignition is fire's tipping point. Global warming is known to have reached tipping points when warming began to fed on itself, as can be learned by studying geology. Unlike small fires, we will have no good way to stop global warming once it begins to feed on itself again.

The theory that warming, started by other events, can reach a tipping point was suggested to geologists by the evidence they found in the geological record. They were studying the ice ages to understand how they worked. The tipping point theory explains that when some ice starts to melt, then that loss of ice will cause even more warming, because with less ice on top to reflect the sun's heat back up into space the increased water surface and the newly exposed land will trap more of the sun's heat here on earth. Without the ice cover the newly exposed land and water will warm, that will warm up the air, and that will lead to even more melting, and that to more heat being trapped, and so on, until all the ice has melted.

Neither numbers nor belief are necessary to understand the climate tipping theory. Many people have already done the needed experiments for themselves by watching heat melt ice, and happening to notice that black things get hotter in the sun than white things.

We can't accurately predict when we might reach a climate tipping point, or even know when we have caused one until after the fact. Even without our pollution global warming would start again naturally but probably in the distant future. Why rush it? The theory seems to be true, it makes sense and it explains the records found of rapid sea level rises in the past.

Don't expect that a perfect family can be happy living in a world just turned upside down. Let's fix the system.