Um, right, O.K. then.
Climate science is not a religion. Or a belief structure in general. It is the physical and systematic understanding of how the climate system works, based on the primary laws of physics and recorded observations. These observations include how things like temperature, rain, pressure and wind change over different locations through space and time, and how they interact with each other and govern conditions on the surface of the earth. These interactions include the weather we experience every day, the longer-term climate, and conditions include where certain ecosystems such as rainforests, grasslands, or desserts occur.
A synonym for science is knowledge. So any subject that’s a topic of science (e.g. chemistry, physics, biology and, yes of course, CLIMATE) is based on what we KNOW about how that particular subject behaves and interacts, that is, its characteristics and properties. Scientists run experiments and gather evidence that go on to form information, on which we base our knowledge. And we don’t use just one experiment or one finding to give us our absolute final concrete answer. No, no, no. We run experiments many, many times so that we have robust, and strong, confident conclusions, which then form our evidence, etc, etc.
Religion works quite differently. Most religions require you to believe in a higher being/s and spirits, and to do this, you must have sincere and absolute faith. Faith means that you believe no matter what, you don’t need evidence to know that your god/s exist. You utterly believe with your whole heart and mind that your religion is genuine, and prescribes the best overall life philosophy for you to follow.
Religions include at least one higher being, that is responsible for things like the creation of the earth, providing explanations for things we don’t understand, and guidance in the afterlife. This is something science does not have, being based on physical evidence and fact about what we know, and using similar principles and methods to investigate and explain what we don’t know. This doesn't require the existence of a divine being.
Now I must make it quite clear that I am not trying to insult anyone’s faith or religion. I grew up in a Catholic household (the sheer size of my family confirms that) and both my parents had a very strong Christian faith, for which I admire them. It is an amazing ability to believe whole-hardheartedly in something and someone/s that you have not seen with your own eyes or heard with your own ears, and rely on word-of-mouth and ancient literature to build up and confirm that faith. Indeed many scientists (from all subjects) have a strong religious connection. Although I don’t feel that I myself fall into that category (sorry Mum & Dad).
You see, my all-too-logical way of thinking means I struggle with the concept of believing that a great and mighty being that created the Earth in 7 days (amongst other things) . I can maybe take that the book of genesis is a metaphor, but I’ve had many, many arguments with my Dad about this. By being Christian, one believes that the earth was created in just one week, whereas for me, the overwhelming evidence to the contrary (that is, evolution) can’t be ignored.
So where does that leave us with human induced climate change? What evidence do we have that it is a scientific issue, and not a question of faith?
We know carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas under certain conditions, such as those that exist at the top of the layer of the atmosphere that is closest to Earth (the troposphere). It acts as a blanket by trapping some of the energy in this atmospheric layer, as it comes off the surface of the earth. The more carbon dioxide in the air, the thicker the blanket, so to say.
We know that human emissions of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) have increased since the industrial revolution. The hypothesis based on this scientific knowledge that suggested this would lead to a global temperature increase was given many years ago, and global temperatures have shown a steady increase since our activities have provided the conditions to do so.
Many thousands of model experiments, including but not limited to, those part of the IPCC process have provided the multiple experiments we require to double, triple, quadruple and 1000-times check that this warming definitely is due to increased greenhouse gases, and not just the pot (bad) luck of a single experiment going wrong. We need climate models for our experiments as we only have one actual climate, and we don’t have the luxury of running and re-running thousands of times over just to see what happens.
There are many other lines of evidence that are underpinned by known and understood physical scientific laws, not beliefs. All of which deserve a unique, dedicated post. What I’ve just started with here are the basics.
So if you ever catch yourself saying or thinking “I don’t believe in climate change”, stop. This does not make sense. If you ever hear your peers saying this, stop them too. Ask why this is. Is it actually because you don’t understand the science? Because belief doesn't come into it, when we’re talking about scientific fact.