Global warming is just a theory – kind of like gravity.

Spratti-GW-toon

Have you ever noticed how climate change deniers (who call themselves skeptics – ClimateSight explains the difference) like to point out that global warming is a theory? They say it as if the radical enviros who “believe” in the theory are trying to mislead the public into thinking of climate change as a fact.

Well, let me tell you something.  When deniers claim that global warming is a theory, they are absolutely right!  But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t act on it.  The theory status does not make the science unreliable.  Most of what we learn in science class is theory.  Relativity is a theory.  Plate tectonics is a theory.  Heliotropism is a theory.  Even gravity is a theory.  How many people question them?

There may be a scientist somewhere who has alternatives to commonly accepted theories, but the general public does not usually question them.  If you ask an average person if he or she believes in the Theory of Relativity, the person will probably not claim to know enough details to question it, and certainly will not purport to know more than the scientists who accept it.

Climate science should be the same.  It is different only because, unlike most other areas of science, its implications are politically inconvenient and they require lifestyle changes that many people are reluctant to accept.

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2 thoughts on “Global warming is just a theory – kind of like gravity.

  1. Nicely done, David. I feel it important to point out that, in the scientific world, a theory is no less definitive and credible than a law. The only difference is such:

    A law is an observation; it says what happens. eg an object will always move in the direction of and with acceleration due to net force (Newton’s second law).

    A theory tries to explain why something happens. eg you can smell perfume that is sprayed across the room because the gas particles have enough kinetic energy to diffuse (kinetic molecular theory).

    Neither are infallible or absolute (as nothing in science ever is) but both are very credible.

    If the “skeptics” really wanted to bash global warming, they should call it a hypothesis. That seems to be what they’re going for when they call it a theory.

    But if you look at AGW, it is not a theory or a law, but a logical product of theories and laws that we already knew about the climate system – see this excellent post by Michael Tobis: http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2008/05/falsifiability-question.html

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