Climate change and Bigfoot – real or imagined? | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Nov 10, 2017

Bigfoot does exist.

Bigfoot does not exist.

Climate change does exist.

Climate change does not exist.

About 1,600 years ago, Aristotle introduced the concept ignoratio elenchi to demonstrate how someone can prove something false by "ignoring a refutation," or in simpler terms, proving the wrong point by not arguing the specific facts but presenting a slew of unrelated ideas.

A tiny minority of those remaining in the world who do not recognize the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change would have you believe that the proof for climate change is as flimsy as the proof of Bigfoot.

To some, Bigfoot is a species of tall, hairy, part-human, part-monkey creatures living in forests, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, verified by hundreds of sightings over the last few centuries.

The few scientists who have investigated Bigfoot, however, generally believe the creature is a combination of folklore and hoax, citing a lack of physical evidence after centuries of investigation.

Just last week, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was released to the public after being submitted to the unmanned Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House (one of the last unfilled senior positions in the White House).

The report, reviewed by 13 separate U.S. government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the Department of Energy, as well as independent scientists, concludes that it is "extremely likely" that human activities are the "dominant cause" of global warming.

The report is the most comprehensive study ever conducted of climate science by U.S. government researchers, and "This has been reviewed so many times in so many ways, and it's taking what we know from … centuries of climate science and applying it to the U.S.," said Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State University.

However, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, "I believe that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do. There's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact."

This claim, supported by 3 percent of the world’s scientific community, includes assertions like the climate has changed before (and caused widespread extinction following a massive volcanic eruption or has not changed as quickly or significantly as our current conditions), carbon dioxide is a trace gas (and yet a fatal one), and even warm periods were good for people (except for low-yield agriculture with a growing population, heat-related health risks and disease-carrying insects, sea-level rise for communities at or below sea level, interruption to the food chain, etc. etc.)

Bigfoot and climate science became unlikely allies in 2016 with the Taming Bigfoot competition created in Jefferson County, Washington, as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Taming Bigfoot Edmonds, which kicked off on Oct. 24, is a carbon footprint reduction competition designed to engage Edmonds community members through education and awareness.

Although making real progress against climate change requires national and international policy change, for geeks like me, it sounds like fun. To sign up or learn more about the competition, go to www.edmondswa.gov/taming-bigfoot.html.

Ironically, another fictional, large, hairy (and lovable) creature has become associated with climate change, and specifically the fraction of the scientific community who argue against it by presenting large quantities of irrelevant information as evidence. The “Chewbacca Defense” entered modern lexicon after the TV show “South Park” portrayed a cartoon courtroom drama satirizing the smoke and mirrors tactics used in legal defense.

In the show, a lawyer up against insurmountable evidence of his client’s guilt introduces what planet Chewbacca lives on as evidence. This, of course, made no sense, at which point the lawyer said that since bringing up Chewbacca makes no sense, the case makes no sense, and thus the client had to be acquitted.

The National Climate Assessment, supported by 97 percent of the scientific community (find it here: https://science2017.globalchange.gov/), presents how climate change has been shown to impact a wide variety of real-life conditions related to human safety, infrastructure, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems.

But in prime Chewbacca-defense style, certain political leaders and business interests invest time and money in a few climate deniers who ignore being debunked over and over, and continue on with a barrage of the easily refuted, scientifically useless arguments meant to distract from reality. (Remember when Senator Inhofe and his snowball?)

Sometimes, lawyers, politicians, scientists, reporters and pundits use the Chewbacca Defense and confuse their audiences with an overabundance of irrelevant information that obscure the facts but do not actually refute them, just as Aristotle said they could.

Bigfoot’s existence may need more study, but the verdict is in on climate change.

 

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