Global warming: it’s a myth, a crock, a conspiracy of evil scientists scrounging for more grant money, a World Government socialist takeover plot, a latte liberal’s loony lark, and hey, look, it’s cold out today! We’ve all been there, faced with climate change skeptics who are just dying to argue with any action designed to reduce the damage that human activity is causing to the planet and its inhabitants. The next time you’re faced with a climate change skeptic, you can have a mass of carefully worded, authoritative responses in the palm of your hand: as long as you own an iPhone. That is the concept behind the Skeptical Science iPhone application that debuted last month (it’s free on iTunes.) Interestingly, it’s categorized under “Weather” –I guess the folks at Apple didn’t set up a “Climate” category!
The goal of Skeptical Science is to explain what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming. Skeptical Science is not affiliated with any organization; it is maintained by John Cook, an Australian who studied physics and is quick to confirm that he is not a climate scientist and that this project is a labor of love.
The app divides deniers’ arguments into three broad categories: It’s Not Happening; Its Not Us; and It’s Not Bad. Each category then has a list of “Skeptic Arguments” such as “Temp Record is Unreliable” and a detailed write-up of what the science says, along with links for further reading. All research findings are taken directly from peer reviewed scientific literature, with links to full papers throughout. The app is well designed and lively, but it’s no t-shirt slogan monger: each argument debunking the skeptics goes into detail, with charts and citations.
Skeptical Science points to a fundamental error of most climate change deniers: by focusing on narrow parts of the puzzle, such as a cold winter season in one part of the world (weather), they dismiss the broader picture of global warming (climate). This extrapolation of a pattern from random events is a classic debating tactic, and it has certainly been successful of late.
A nifty feature of the application allows users to report each time they hear a particular argument against global warming. In the long run this could be a very interesting way of monitoring the effectiveness of global warming skeptics’ campaigns. In the current version, the phone only shows the arguments that each user has reported, but anyone can go here to see which arguments are reported most often. Today, “Temp record is unreliable” is the winner, with 7.6% of all the votes.
Don’t have an iPhone? You can still check out all the counter-skeptic arguments on the Skeptical Science website. Not as cool, perhaps, but cooler than the planet is going to be if we don’t act soon.
Photo: Two polar bears, arguing for their very existence.