Why we should trust data on climate change


By Shankari Sureshbabu

In a column published in the Guardian, the scholar Ruth Greenspan Bell says that “in the fight for climate change, data isn’t always your friend.” br She argues that when talking about climate change, adding numbers and data figures to the conversation is actually not beneficial because we don’t know where the numbers come from. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/25/climate-change-action-imperfect-data-epa

It’s important to not blindly believe information, but it’s foolish to not let science help us when confronting a dire problem such as climate change.

Climate change advocates have spent years fighting for proactive measures to be taken regarding the issue and offering up statistics and strategic solutions on how to best handle the problem.

Data can certainly be manipulated to change viewpoints, but this is more of a problem of distrust, not misinformation.

These stats can definitely be overwhelming and confusing at times because the public largely doesn’t understand the enormity of the situation and its consequences. To ensure that it is taken seriously, scientists need to prove that this is an actual threat and that action is essential.

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 It is also our job as citizens to put forth the effort to comprehend the data presented to us. We cannot blame scientists for not simplifying it for the general public.

Bell does not dispute that they can indeed be helpful. She says, “I would be an idiot to argue against numbers as part of the toolbox to help us understand difficult challenges.”br Instead, Bell argues the statistics used to support climate change are misleading.

Since it is such a complex issue, there is obviously no simple solution. When scientists propose “solutions,” they focus on one portion of the issue and tend to ignore other equally important aspects of the problem which need to be taken into consideration. Bell argues that a more holistic approach should be taken on tackling the situation.

Although this is obviously ideal, it is also very difficult. To create a solution that will minimize effects to all of the industries would be amazing. However, not only is it almost impossible to achieve, trying to find the perfect solution prevents action from being taken on this imminent threat.

I would be lying if I said that I understood all of the information given to us about the looming danger of climate change or the intricate plans to prevent further damage.  It’s a complicated issue that requires a complicated solution.

Knowing where information comes from and understanding what the data says is incredibly important; however, we cannot expect to understand everything and need to trust the experts in the field that almost unanimously agree that action must be taken. As of right now, 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening, and more than likely could be attributed to human activity.

I understand that the scientists and mathematicians who have painstakingly tried to tackle this problem are much more educated about the issue than I am.

Bell goes on to say, “when models steer the climate conversation, it inverts priorities in two ways: it allows the modelers to decide which climate damages are important and which are not – and how to value them. And it diverts attention from the real issue – what level of risk we are willing to tolerate. But there are other ways to formulate policy.”

Although I recognize that we may be giving scientists power over what aspects of climate change we focus on in the years to come, we must also realize that tackling climate change will not be easy and it may be helpful to focus on one or two things at a time. Honestly, that’s also kind of the point.

This problem is of concern because of the negative effects of mankind. The only solution is to change our ways. Now, it is also vital to come to a consensus on how to change so that the damages to the economy and our social infrastructure are as minimal as possible, but without any prototype to base this off of, action is difficult.

Bell closes saying, “we must always question the numbers before us.”br Although it’s good to be critical and wary of the information presented to us, we cannot foolishly let this prevent us from taking the essential steps forward to tackle climate change.

Shankari is a freshman in DGS. 

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