It’s politics, not science

By Ken Perrott 04/08/2010

I am currently reading Clive Hamilton‘s book “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change.This figure in the book intrigued me. It’s taken from the report Global Warming’s Six Americas: An Audience Segmentation Analysis.

I think this demonstrates clearly that much of the public debate on climate change is politically based. Too often the real issue for those who argue against the science of climate change is political or ideological. The actions required to deal with climate change are seen as a threat to “free enterprise” because they require collective action to restrain the self-interest of individuals.

I just wish people with these concerns would be honest and stop trying to discredit the science and the scientists. After all, one can’t change reality, and it is only sensible to deal with the real issues. To deal with the politics. As I argued in Liability of scientific denialism to political conservativism attempts to discredit the science are really only a cop-out from the real political issues.


By the way – you shouldn’t read the wrong things into the above figure. The data is simply displaying the proportion of each classification (Alarmed, to Dismissive) who were liberal or conservative. “Moderates” are not shown hence the totals are less than 100. The figure does not indicate what proportion of the population is in each classification.

Another figure from this report gives this information (see below). As you can see only a small proportion of the American population is dismissive or doubtful about climate change.


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0 Responses to “It’s politics, not science”

  • Interesting graphs and report. I think that when ever science is used to justify particular actions it necessarily becomes politicised simply by virtue of being used as justification. For me this implies an important separation, those that ‘do’ science and those that ‘apply’ science. For example knowing that climate change is occurring and man made (for example) doesn’t imply a specific set of actions.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about this.

  • I agree with your comment: “knowing that climate change is occurring and man made (for example) doesn’t imply a specific set of actions.” And I think this point is made over and over again by climate scientists.

    When it comes to policy decisions we (everyone) must apply our judgement. The scientific facts are there as an aid but in the end we have to make political and policy decisions. Scientists can’t decide for us what importance to place on the plight our inaction today might cause for our grandchildren in the future.

    I am painfully aware that I am somewhat as a loss when it comes to the ETS and debates over “cape and trade” or “fee and dividend.” I just don’t have the economic knowledge required. But I guess that’s not unusual and in the end we all get to vote for or against governments seeking mandates for their actions on things like this.

    I don’t think science becomes politicised because the knowledge it provides gets used by politicians. Surely that is a good thing – and I wish more politicians used scientific facts.

    The real danger is when politicians attempt to pressure scientists, or select and distort scientific facts, to support their own political agenda. This is happening with the conservative think tanks and politicians who are making wildly incorrect and distorted claims about the science. Even resorting to taking legal action against scientists. We have got to resist that.

    The hoo ha over climate science should remind us that political interference in science was not restricted to the Nazis or the Stalinists. It goes on today. Sadly it also goes on in cases we never get to hear about – usually where economic interests are involved.