In my spare time, I like to read articles and blog posts about climate change on the web, and read through the comments section. I find it both interesting and infuriating to read what people write about climate change and the scientists who investigate it. I have found a reoccurring theme though, in some of the comments.
There seems to be this idea amongst some people that they have all the answers. That climate scientists have simply failed to factor in, say, the energy output from the sun, and if they simply accounted for this factor, then they’d see that climate change is not occurring after all.
It’s as though the scientists are missing some key piece of information that joe blogg, sitting at home on his computer has managed to come up with.
Trust me. They’ve thought of it.
In science, you make a name for yourself by coming up with something new. In fact, if you want to get anywhere in your career, you have to come up with your own ideas.
What this means is that when scientists read through a journal article, they are thinking to themselves, “What is this research missing? How can I build on this work? Can I take it to the next step?”.
Scientific research is progressive. Someone will come up with an idea or theory that gets published and read by other scientists. This idea will then be built upon and filled out by other scientists. As new information is available, the scientific idea progresses. Theories that turn out to be incorrect are abandoned, and the most correct idea moves forward.
This means that older, and dead-end research is left behind and no longer discussed in new papers. It’s not that no one has thought of it, it’s that some has thought of it, investigated it and realised that it wasn’t the answer.
If a climate scientist publishes a paper claiming that increased Antarctic sea ice is due to increased ice shelf melting (for example) you can trust that they’ve thought through their conclusion and that they are aware of other research that has been done in the same field. And research from many other fields as well.
Trust me. They’ve already thought of it.