Bob Woodmansee: Cancer and world of climate change
November 7, 2017
Having served as a caregiver in both the cancer world (spouse) and the world of climate change (scientist), I will compare the two.
Looking at a case where a visit to your doctor yields a diagnosis of suspected Stage 4 cancer and a case where an analysis of long-term weather data reveals temperatures are rising globally at historically unprecedented rates.
Shocking news! What do you do?
In either case, do you make an appointment with your lawyer to discuss further assessments, tests and treatments? Do you call your local downtown merchant or politician to get a second opinion? What about consulting a spokesperson for the tobacco, fossil fuel or chemical industry?
Of course not. You seek expert opinion.
In the cancer case, you take a rational approach and have your doctor, an applied scientist, schedule an evaluation with a radiologist with extensive training in physics to conduct an MRI and a chemist to evaluate blood panels. If the MRIs and blood chemistry indicate cancer you are in for a ride of your life – cancer world. Likely next steps are surgery by another applied scientist, radiation treatment by another physicist and chemotherapy by a medical oncologist, a chemist. Hopefully, the collaboration of all of these scientists will result in a good outcome.
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In the temperature change case, rational people would ask weatherpersons, applied scientists, if they have seen anomalies in weather data over the past decades and centuries. If the answer is “yes,” you would solicit climatologists, scientists trained in physics, chemistry, fluid dynamics (atmospheric circulation) and ecologists (tree ring analysis, glaciology, and pollen analysis) to evaluate the causes and consequences of the weather anomalies. You would ask other scientist and engineers to recommend solutions to the undesired changes taking place. You would ask social scientists to recommend adaptations to societal changes. Hopefully, the collaboration of all of these scientists will result in a good outcome.
In each case you rely on decades of effort and billions of dollars of peer-reviewed scientific research, including computer analysis of data and modeling, to guide mitigation of and adaptation to the problem. Salaried scientists on government or academic payrolls did most of the research.
Some people may accept the cancer example but deny human-caused climate change.
Some deny climate change because their political or cultural thought leaders tell them to deny in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence and facts. Some deny the value of science altogether. Some deniers choose consensual ignorance. Some will distort and misrepresent data and scientific evidence and blame the media for reporting news contrary to their "beliefs."
Will reason, verifiable facts and evidence, and good sense prevail in America? At stake are the health, safety and welfare of future generations — and us.