How to convince science skeptics

A psychology professor at Yale found that when looking at new scientific evidence, we tend to interpret facts through a lens based on our previously held beliefs. With the wrong framing, our brain subconsciously jumps into a defensive mode where we try to rationalize the new information in a way that either makes the information support our preconceptions or pick out the faults so as to not shift our beliefs.

So the key to convincing someone isn’t throwing facts at them, it’s presenting the facts in the context of certain values:

This theory is gaining traction in part because of Kahan’s work at Yale. In one study, he and his colleagues packaged the basic science of climate change into fake newspaper articles bearing two very different headlines—”Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming”—and then tested how citizens with different values responded. Sure enough, the latter framing made hierarchical individualists much more open to accepting the fact that humans are causing global warming. Kahan infers that the effect occurred because the science had been written into an alternative narrative that appealed to their pro-industry worldview.

You can follow the logic to its conclusion: Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a “culture war of fact.” In other words, paradoxically, you don’t lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.


We shouldn’t bring back extinct species

Extinct Animals Should Stay Dead | VICE United States:

Stewart Brand and his team of mad scientists want to bring extinct animals back to life. While we’re at it, why don’t we have the Olympics on Mars? Why don’t I have a carbon-fiber toilet seat? Oh yeah, because those ideas would cost a shitload of money and everyone everywhere is broke. Surely it would be cheaper and better for the environment to preserve the flora and endangered species that we still have.

Money isn’t everything, of course. Some view de-extinction as a moral responsibility—to extend an olive branch to the planet that we’ve fucked up so badly. However, my glass has been half empty since before I even took a sip. And so, I see two possible outcomes.

First, there’s the absolute worst-case scenario: we bring back our extinct species, but since we hunted them to extinction, they seek revenge. Then there’s the slightly less-worse-case scenario: we make them live in misery, or even relive the misery of their original existence and cause them to go extinct again.

Scumbag humanity: bring back extinct species only for them to go extinct again because of the permanent damage to the environment caused by anthropogenic global warming.

Global temperatures rising at faster rate than any point in last 11,500 years

climate change graph

“The Scariest Climate Change Graph Just Got Scarier”:

To be clear, the study finds that temperatures in about a fifth of this historical period were higher than they are today. But the key, said lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University, is that temperatures are shooting through the roof faster than we’ve ever seen.

“What we found is that temperatures increased in the last hundred years as much as they had cooled in the last six or seven thousand,” he said. “In other words, the rate of change is much greater than anything we’ve seen in the whole Holocene,” referring to the current geologic time period, which began around 11,500 years ago.

My greatest fear is that we’re already too late to stop this change from becoming irreversible.

The Case for a Higher Gasoline Tax

The Case for a Higher Gasoline Tax –

THE average price of gasoline in the United States, $3.78 on Thursday, has been steadily climbing for more than a month and is approaching the three previous post-recession peaks, in May 2011 and in April and September of last year.

But if our goal is to get Americans to drive less and use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, gas prices need to be even higher. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has been essentially stable since 1993; in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s fallen by 40 percent since then.

While I do think that the gasoline tax should go up over time, I also agree with Obama’s decision to focus on improving mileage standards was a smart one. Think about the millions of people living in small towns or rural areas where even a bus route just isn’t feasible. You’re increasing their burden without them getting any of the benefits. You could say that everyone benefits from slowing climate change, but people have a hard time putting a monetary value on something that abstract and that far into the future. 

Wind energy top source for new generation in 2012

American Wind Energy Association:

“The U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year ever in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association announced today, installing a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity, leveraging $25 billion in private investment,and achieving over 60,000 MW of cumulative wind capacity.  

The milestone of 60,000 MW (60 gigawatts) was reached just five months after AWEA announced last August that the U.S. industry had 50,000 MW installed. Today’s 60,007 MW is enough clean, affordable, American wind power to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes, or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.”

Nearly one fourth of all wind capacity in one year. One fifth of all wind capacity in the last five months. Definitely a good trend.