Sabhlok : Climate hysteria is a great opportunity to teach children to ask questions

CULTURE, Sanjeev Sabhlok / Monday, August 26th, 2019

From Sanjeev Sabhlok on Seeing the Invisible

Most adults have little or no time to investigate the claims about climate change. They either accept them, assuming that “authority figures” have done their homework, or sit on the fence.

Some consider that only scientists are supposed to understand science. But everyone has an equal place at the table of science and if our questions are not answered or the evidence doesn’t stack up, we are free to reject that “science”.

Climate alarm has long given up the pretence of any link to science. Millions have been successfully “converted” – and they get duly worked up if their belief is questioned: “have you been outside recently?”, “erratic climate events are everywhere!”, “rainfall is getting less every year!”, “flash floods, including in Rajasthan are clear proof!”.

Some of them have gone to the next stage and become missionaries. They go about distributing their religious pamphlets in schools, indoctrinating innocent lower-IQ children. Hopelessly confused children like Greta Thunberg are being churned out as a result. At an age when children like her should be learning to ask questions, they have become the brainwashed front for the climate religion. There is little difference between such “committed” youth and Hitler’s Youth or the youth churned out by ISIS’s madrassas.

In my view, if anyone tells a child that climate change is man-made just because someone says so (such as a missionary “scientist” but now increasingly, “royals” and “celebrities”), that person has committed a sin against the enlightenment, against human progress.

I would personally have been supportive of Greta Thunberg if she had been a prodigally intelligent child who dazzled her teachers with amazing questions, then found the answers and was now promoting a view that she thoroughly understood. It would not matter to me that she had come to the wrong conclusion. After all, no one can be right on everything all the time. But she suffers, sadly, from mental issues and speaks as a missionary – she cannot answer a single question about the science.

We are very prone as a species to superstitions, panics, delusions, manias and hysterias. We have gone through thousands of them (many still underway), such as religion, alchemy, witchcraft, astrology, phrenology, eugenics, the Y2K bug, the SARS panic, much of Ayurveda and Chinese traditional medicine and all of homeopathy.

The climate hysteria will ultimately pass, but to avoid such hysterias in the future we need to get our children to start thinking and stop believing. Climate change is a superb topic for teachers and students to explore.

I stumbled upon the ideas of Socrates and Voltaire when I was a child and since the age of twelve, I have been a deep sceptic. “God” would have to pass through a thousand hurdles if “He” came by and tried to make me believe. For example, I recall being the only one staring into the eyes of Sathya Sai Baba in Bangalore in 1981 when all others had prostrated themselves before him. He obviously failed to pull a fast one over me. Today, Michael Strong, author of The Habit of Thought, is one of the few educationists who actively uses the Socratic method. Our educationists must learn from him.

I believe that children from age 10 onwards should attend one class each week only on questions. They should list various topics and then ask as many questions as they can on that topic. As they grow older their ability to ask questions will get deeper and more sophisticated.

The topic of climate change can lead to many questions. What is climate? What factors impact the climate? (Answer: at least a few hundred). How is the Earth’s temperature measured? (Long-term quality thermometer measurements have only been available in a few European and American sites, with most of them now contaminated by urbanisation. Let children also ask about satellite measurements and about the only reliable surface measurements – from the US Climate Reference Network.)

How is the sea level measured? (Let them ask whether the land itself can sink – indeed it does: it is very common.) What is the proof of the greenhouse gas effect? (Let them ask and find out that there is no robust way to prove it in a laboratory.) How is CO2 measured?

What information is needed to confirm (or reject) the CO2 hypothesis? What is the correlation between CO2 and temperature over the recent past? (Answer: very little.) What is the correlation as we stretch out to hundreds and then millions of years? (Answer: zero.) What climate “model” predictions could prove the hypothesis? What would nullify it?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of temperature and CO2 estimates of the past? (Eg tree rings, ice core, marine sediments, pollen. Tree ring data is a better measure of rainfall than of temperature, ice cores show that CO2 increased when the Earth’s wobbles first made it warmer – CO2 was thereafter ejected from the oceans.)

Are extreme events increasing? Let the children read IPCC’s reports that say: “there is only low confidence regarding changes in global tropical cyclone numbers over the last four decades”, there is “low confidence that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods” and that there is a “decreasing trend in the global number of tropical cyclones and globally accumulated cyclonic energy”.

Let them then ask about the costs and benefits of CO2. Let them read IPCC’s reports which show no economic harm. Let them understand that CO2 is plant food so it gives us a lot of benefits. Let them ask: what other competing scientific hypotheses exist to explain the slight increase in temperature since 1800?

This topic is not going away any time soon. So let’s use it as an opportunity to train children to ask questions. Einstein was smart not because of his intelligence but because he asked questions.

Children should also be asked to watch magic shows on Youtube, such as the Penn and Teller show and James Randi’s work. Let them, thereafter, discuss in the class how easy it is to fool even adults. Let their blind “respect” for adults’ “wisdom” drop a notch each day as they grow older.

The final test of all this will be whether these children are ready to question “God” himself. (Of course, God won’t ever appear before any of us but many charlatans will.) Only when our children have developed this strongest possible level of scepticism, first introduced to the world by Charvaka and later emulated by Socrates, can they be said to have been educated.

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