By Dr Ben Habib.
With regard to the ongoing debate between climate change believers and sceptics, I’d like to introduce an academic concept called “epistemology”, which is an intellectual tool for establishing the burden of proof by which information can be considered to constitute valid knowledge. Scholars like me employ this concept as a filter to separate reliable information from less credible sources.
In any field of inquiry, the highest quality information sources are found in literature that has undergone peer review. To pass through peer review, a publication is judged to have reached its conclusions through coherent reasoning and sound method, based on a solid theoretical understanding of its given field. Consequently, there is often a large credibility difference between peer-reviewed literature and information from less rigorous sources.
Only a very small number of works published by climate sceptics appear in the peer reviewed literature. By contrast, there have been thousands of peer reviewed scientific papers published by scientists around the world, conducting independent research across numerous scientific disciplines.
This body of research broadly concludes that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have steadily increased since the industrial revolution due to human activity, which is affecting the global climate system in increasingly intense and erratic ways.
In short, the debate is over. When we apply an epistemological filter we find the sceptic position far less credible than the human-induced explanation agreed upon by a majority of the global scientific community.
An adapted version of this posting appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Border Mail, 21st April 2011.