Before any discussion of global warming (or climate change if you prefer) can begin, one unfortunately is expected to state up front if they accept it or are a skeptic. So my disclosure is that I currently accept anthropogenic (i.e. human caused) Global Warming (AGW) as a scientific fact, despite considering myself a ‘skeptic’ in general. I wasn’t born believing that AGW is real though. When I first heard of AGW years ago, it was through the mainstream media. I got the impression from the media that there was a strong legitimate debate about the veracity of AGW. At first I did not know what to believe, but suspected that humans weren’t the cause of global warming, if it was happening at all. I never much liked the environmentalism movement and was therefore skeptical of all their claims, whether they made sense or were hyperbolic. As I got more involved with the skeptical community, I learned which sources were trustworthy and which were less so on various scientific issues. I also learned about the non-rational psychological processes that can lead people to believe or not believe certain ideas. But honestly, I do not know exactly when, how, or why my views changed, but it’s interesting to briefly look back and examine why I did not accept AGW, and perhaps it can give us some clues as to why others still don’t.I find that most people that are skeptical of global warming do not have good rational reasons for their skepticism. According to a recent article in my local paper (originally from Agence France-Presse), people do not accept global warming because it would negatively impact their desire to consume. I think this theory may help explain some AGW doubt. People do not want to feel guilty about their habits. In order to assuage guilt, we either attempt to fix the cause of the guilt, which takes effort, or we deny that the problem exists, which is much easier. This denial is not done purposefully, it is done subconsciously. Through psychological factors such as cognitive dissonance, our brain decides for us what we should believe, on an instinctual level. We don’t actively choose what to believe, we are influenced in many ways and our beliefs are then formed. Rational judgement of scientific evidence is only one of these influences on our beliefs. In fact, for the case of AGW, I’d even argue that the scientific evidence plays an even smaller part in someone’s acceptance.As someone with libertarian/right-wing values, I’ve learned to accommodate the inconvenient truth of AGW. I think the turning point may have been learning about arch-skeptic (and libertarian) Michael Shermer’s about face on the issue. The fact that the founder of Skeptic Magazine could not remain an AGW skeptic made me re-examine my personal AGW skepticism. It made me take a fresh look at an issue that I realized may have been clouded by subconscious influences. After reading debunking after debunking of poor AGW skeptic arguments, I had no more excuses. Just as some religious people find ways to accommodate the fact of evolution, I found ways to accommodate global warming despite my political views. As the president of a local skeptic organization I’m often asked if I’ve ever changed my mind due to scientific evidence, I’m proud to say that in this case I did.
via Jonathan Abrams: Why I am no longer a skeptic on climate change – Full Comment.