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The climate change and its consequences are the topics for many arguments and discussions. Even a decade ago, it was not so burning and was frequently treated as “inconvenient truth” (Takeway). For a long time, the problem of climate change was denied (Washington 2). The role of science in supporting climate issues was doubted. At present, the problem became evident and cannot be denied. Climate change and its consequences were mainly environmental issues. However, in the recent years, it became a strong political concern. The new documentary, Climate of Doubt, presented by Frontline as a part of PBS Election 2012, discovers the institutions that confronted the science concerning the significance of climate change issues.
The Role of Expert Opinion in Climate Change Debate
In all spheres, the opinions of experts are traditionally valuable and respected. However, as a result of climate change debate, there appeared a coalition of skeptics who believe that the issue of global climate change caused by humanity is a myth (“Climate of Doubt”). They oppose themselves to the official science and politics that consider climate environmental issues to be of primary importance. Nevertheless, the greater part of population still supports the conclusions of experts when it comes to climate issues.
The role of scientists in the question of climate change is discussed equally with the environmental problem. There is a supposition that experts should play key roles in “mobilizing support for policy actions” (Nisbet). However, scientists are cautious about this idea because it can lead to deterioration of public trust and negatively influence objectivity and credibility of their work. Still, some experts believe that advocating for political actions does not contradict their scientific activity.
Scientists need to earn the public trust in the questions of climate change. Many scholars realize the necessity “to identify credible experts and account for expert opinion in technical (e.g., science-based) decision-making” (Anderegg et al. 12107). This credibility can be achieved after the time proves the significance and reliability of their claims.
On the whole, experts’ opinions supported by scientific research can become decisive in the climate change debate. However, experts should preserve their scientific principles and moral values not to become a tool in political games. Still, climate discussions on the whole and political debates in particular are probably the only ways to attract attention to climate problems.
Scientific Expert Knowledge in Fossil Fuel Industry
Fossil fuel industry is generally considered to be one of the causes of climate change. However, the recently revealed evidence prove that for more than half a century environmental studies concerning the climate change have been funded by the fossil fuel companies to support their interests. For example, a researcher from the Cato Institute acknowledged that 40 percent of the funding he received come from fossil fuel companies (“Climate of Doubt”).
The Center for International Environmental Law disclosed the documents that prove the facts that fossil fuel companies realized the possible risks of their activity and climate impacts earlier that they became a significant public concern (“New Evidence”). As of 1968, the documents of the American Petroleum Institute included the facts of accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere that is considered one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change at present.
On the whole, the activities of fossil fuel companies have a vested interest in providing financial help to environmental research. They benefit from such disinformation because their work was out of the attention of environmental organizations. Moreover, they contributed to the erosion of confidence in expert opinions about climate change. Thus, it can be concluded that the fossil fuel industry succeeded in shifting the focus of the debate concerning climate from the fossil fuel impacts to authority and legitimacy of scientific expert knowledge. At present, fossil fuel companies should fund unprejudiced investigations and support objective policies concerning the impact of industry and further reduction of emissions that cause global warming.
Limits for Expert Claims
Experts in different spheres should be careful in their claims because they can be frequently used as guidelines for some activities. Consequently, experts should be conscious about the information they disclose. When environmental issues or the safety and health concerns of humanity are involved, the expert claims should be limited by the considerations of making no harm. Thus, experts should avoid disclosing false or biased information.
On the whole, the problem of climate change arouses many controversial disputes. On the one hand, it demands immediate actions to reduce and prevent negative impacts on the environment and people’s health. However, the intrusion of fossil fuel companies into research conditioned the lack of trust to expert opinion. It also caused skepticism in relation to the issue of climate change and made it a climate of doubt. However, the fact that fossil fuel companies invested in concealing the research findings concerning hazardous emissions, proves their danger and negative impacts on climate. In the future, climate and environment experts should conduct fair research and thus win back the trust of the population.
Anderegg, William, et al. “Expert Credibility in Climate Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 107, no, 27, 2012, pp. 12107-12109.
“Climate of Doubt.” YouTube, uploaded by Edward Grady. 2017. Web.
“New Evidence Reveals Fossil Fuel Industry Funded Cutting-Edge Climate Science Research Dating Back to 1950s.” Union of Concerned Scientists. 2016. Web.
Nisbet, Matthew. “What Role for Experts in the Climate Change Debate?” The Breakthrough. 2014. Web.
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Takeway, The. “A Climate of Doubt.” WNYC. 2012. Web.
Washington, Haydn. Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. Routledge, 2013.