Published on November 15th, 20123
The Moral Issue of Man Made Global Warming
By Joachim Vogt Isaksen
The global warming debate is loaded with rhetoric, political polemics, and has become the defining moral cause of our time. It is not framed as a scientific question, but rather as one of being either morally right or morally wrong.
If you are a person who find the evidence of man made global warming compelling, you are lucky to be on “the morally right side”. If you on the other hand find that the theory may be subjected to some scientific doubt, you may expect to be characterized as an “irresponsible person with low moral standards who does not care for the future of the earth”. For most people it is easy to pick a choice among these two alternatives.
Yesterday Popular Social Science published an article pertaining to the theory of man made global warming. There seems to be wide agreement that global warming is taking place; what has been up to the debate is whether it is caused by human activity or not. We live in an age where science and reason is considered among societies highest values. Yet, within this issue there is no room for debate or discussion.
Criticism of the theory of man made global warming is not tolerated, even if it is based on research of the highest scientific standards. The critics have become scientific dissidents and are considered dangerous and even morally irresponsible. How is it possible that this may take place in an age where we often consider rationality to be at its historical peak?
To make it clear at once, the point of this opinion is not to criticize the theory of man made global warming itself. The main argument is to point out that this question involves serious scientific dispute and disagreement, and that this should be communicated to the public in a free and open debate.
In the public debate the theory is often presented as a scientific truth, even when researchers claim that there are considerable doubts. Many scientists, especially within the natural science community, claim that there is no direct evidence that links human activities and global warming. Some of the claims are that the earths´ climate has always been changing and that the temperatures are not mainly driven by carbon dioxide, whether it is man made or not.
Further, they claim that there is nothing unusual about the temperatures today, and it has for example been pointed out that lions existed in northern Germany during the Middle Ages. Some of the sceptics include MIT professors, University of Virginia professors, in addition to experts that are in the forefront when it comes to science of climatology. Even if these people deserve the highest ranking credits and credibility their views are not only silenced or denigrated as irrelevant by politicians, media and other scientists, but they are also subjected to shameful labelling and name calling.
Several scientists have for a long time disputed the scientific consensus regarding man made global warming. It has also been demonstrated that it is easier get funding on projects that pose research questions that support the theory of man made global warming, rather than the opposite.
Max Weber´s ideal of the value free science is probably hard to follow strictly, but is still a vital principal that at least should be taken seriously. Even so, the scientific question on whether global warming is man made or not, has become packed with bias. In the mainstream media and among a lot of the researchers it is often presented as a scientific fact without any doubt. Any dissenting voice is not to be tolerated, and as a result a lot of scientists do not dare to express their scepticism. This does not lead to a healthy climate for performing scientific activity.
We in Popular Social Science are concerned with environmental issues. But we are also concerned about the stifling of the scientific debate, and do not think that this will contribute to a better environmental future in the longer perspective. The debate should be held as open as possible regardless of whether you support the theory of man made global warming, or whether you find the contra evidence more convincing. The question of whether global warming is man made should not be objected to moral or political bias, but rather to scientific evidence.