- Last night in Australia a documentary titled “I can change your mind about climate change” was screened on the ABC. The basic premise of the documentary was that a climate change sceptic (former senator Nick Minchin) and climate change campaigner Anna Rose, each chose 7 authorities on climate change to try to change the other’s opinion. Minchin’s choice of “experts” was interesting to say the least. His experts included bloggers to authors with no scientific authority. Interestingly, 5 of Minchin’s experts to Rose’s 3 appeared in the final cut of the documentary.
- What are your thoughts on climate change? What pieces of opinion or research evidence will change your mind? Have you seen the documentary yet? Why did Minchin’s experts get more air time in the documentary? Was it because they were more interesting but less credible?
- Hard scientific fact isn’t the most interesting thing for the general public to be listening to. Maybe they prefer controversial opinion instead?
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Last night the ABC premiered the fascinating documentary “I can change your mind about climate”, in which Nick Minchin, the recently retired Liberal senator, and Anna Rose, the co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, attempted to change each other’s minds about the reality of human-induced climate change.
As you might imagine, Minchin is sceptical of any human impact on the climate. He demands a high standard of proof before embarking on any radical changes that might require government intervention. Rose, while acknowledging some uncertainties, is convinced that we have enough information to act, and we must do so urgently to avoid a global catastrophe.
Climate scientists – I’m talking about the 97% or so that agree that humans have a considerable influence on the climate – are very uneasy with the false balance that a program such as this engenders. From the moment a climate scientist steps onto the stage with a climate denier, the audience’s default assumption will be that there is a 50:50 contest going on. It is going to be difficult or impossible for the scientist to win the argument at the 97:3 level that characterises the debate amongst experts, let alone the 99.99:0.01 level as it exists, roughly, in the scientific literature.
Anna Rose was very aware of this issue and, as she writes in her book Madlands, thought long and hard before agreeing to participate in the documentary. But with the producers going to proceed with Rose or with someone else, she bravely stepped up to the plate.
The documentary performed an intriguing experiment by plucking Minchin and Rose out of their comfort zones and thrusting them together for a month of filming on the road. Each was able to choose seven experts, from anywhere in the world, to help argue their cases. Will Nick convince Anna? will Anna convince Nick? And how will the viewers react?
For me, the most surprising part of the documentary was Minchin’s choice of experts: they were all duds who would only influence the gullible or those blinded by ideology. Although, to be fair to Minchin, there aren’t any non-dud experts on his side to choose from.
For example, blogger David Evans from Perth showed Rose an aerial photo of a meteorological station near an airport, declaring that half of the world’s “official” thermometers were like this and that they were measuring warming from jet aircraft engines more than anything else.
Source: The Conversation