A new paradigm shift

It was lovely to see a letter expressing skepticism about climate change

It was lovely to see a letter expressing skepticism about climate change (Science on thin ice, Sept 19).

As it happens, this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s little book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) on paradigms – about how science changes.

Kuhn wrote about how science putters along for years with everyone agreeing on basic ideas. Then someone says, ‘wait a bit, this isn’t right, we have to change,’ and eventually, people say, ‘you know, you have a point.’ This is the paradigm shift.

Regarding climate change, we have two schools of thought: that climate shifts occur, have occurred in the past, and that there is no big deal with the current slight changes.

And that cutting forests and burning coal and oil have so changed the atmosphere that we are on the cusp of a runaway warming process.

A geologist has even proposed that we are at the start of a new geological age which he calls the Anthropocene – the human caused era. In other words, the second scenario is a paradigm shift.

Of course one doesn’t know whether we are in a paradigm shift until it has occurred, and science is never about certainties, only about probabilities. But, if I may contradict the writer of the previous letter, there is a measureable sea level change.

Of course this is not all about science, there are business and political interests which would be impacted if climate change occurs and this colours attitudes regarding investments and funding.

There is big money dependent on denying climate change.

Joe Harvey

Oak Bay

 

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