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Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 2, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Climate change: Don’t blur science and science policy

Michael Osbun / Op Art

It’s understandable why The Seattle Times published guest columnist Patrick Allitt’s piece about how we shouldn’t panic about climate change [“The rhetoric of catastrophe around climate change,” Opinion, April 27].

Allitt makes a seemingly levelheaded argument that science has pushed the panic button before about environmental and health issues, so here we go again — climate change is just another panic. Unfortunately, Allitt’s argument reflects a popular but misguided sentiment that scientists aren’t credible because they push panic buttons too often.

At the core of this misunderstanding is the notion that science and science policy are the same. They aren’t. Science is about discovering truths. Science policy involves figuring out what to do with this information.

Unlike any other issue facing us today, there is no doubt whatsoever about the science here: Our planet is warming fast as a direct result of human activity, and the consequences of this warming will be significant. There is also no doubt that our window for action is closing.

Unfortunately, when we blur the distinction between science and science policy we’re bound to dismiss inconvenient truths and think of science as being hyperbolic. It isn’t. The only hyperbole here is estimating just how bad things may get before we finally act.

Glenn Hampson, Executive Director National Science Communication Institute, Seattle

Comments | More in Climate change | Topics: climate change, Glenn Hampson, global warming

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