Somehow I missed this Op-Ed in the LA Times yesterday by Naomi Oreskes [LINK]. It is called "Global Warming -- Signed, Sealed, and Delivered," and it a defense of her work -- which found an overwhelming scientific consensus that scientists believe global warming is real and humans have played a large role in it -- and also an explanation that there are always people who refuse to accept new ideas and facts. That second point is directed at the few remaining global warming deniers in the real scientific community (i.e., Richard Lindzen) and those outside science who cling to these "experts" as evidence that there is still some kind of debate about whether humans have influenced Earth's climate. Ms. Oreskes uses a classic example to show that this is not a new phenomenon; she points out that Harold Jeffreys, an eminent geophysicist in the early 20th Century, who was a brilliant and talented person, never believed in plate tectonics or continental drift. He just didn't think it was possible. As evidence mounted, he never bought into it, and railed against the idea. Despite the fact that by the time he died almost everyone in the geosciences believed in plate tectonics, Jeffreys refused. Of course, whether continents drift or not had no bearing on public policy in the 1950s or 1960s, and the "debate" was never sensationalized by the popular media and no lobbying groups rallied to quash the well-accepted science of continental drift. Undoubtedly there were religious types who found the thought unappealing, there still are people who don't want to believe in plate tectonics... for that there are a few out there who still believe Earth is hollow, but they were unable to stop the progress of science. With anthropogenic global warming, solid science faces a serious obstacle because the results of innumerable studies point directly toward humans and fossil fuels as the cause for global climate change, and that butts up against policy decisions. Worse yet, the most obvious way to mitigate climate change is to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but to do so would affect how business is conducted, and Business (with a capital B) has the money and influence to alter the policy-making process.
Go read the Oreskes' op-ed, it is quite clear and doesn't digress like I always do.