Monthly piece by Chair East London Humanists for publication by The Newham Recorder February 2017.
‘Do you ever check the weather forecast? If so you are in good company. Most sensible people want to know what an expert thinks before planning a day out.
Of course even experts can get it wrong. Weatherman Michael Fish has gone down in history for his blunder, albeit 30 years ago, when he dismissed fears a hurricane might be on its way. Some of us still recall waking up the next day to a scene of devastation after one of the most violent storms in living memory.
But just because meteorologists get it wrong occasionally does not mean they cannot generally be relied on. Of course there will be the odd mistake and margin of error. But farmers and fishermen as well as ordinary folk depend upon expert forecasters to make decisions. And on the whole they get it right enough for us to rely on their advice.
Which brings me onto Trump and a related area of expertise, climate science. In 2012 Trump famously tweeted ‘Global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make US manufacturing uncompetitive.’ Such claptrap flies in the face of the overwhelming view of climate experts that human activity is adversely affecting the climate and that urgent action is essential to save the planet. Last April 174 states, including the US, China and the UK, ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This remarkable consensus was eventually won by the strength of evidence and recognition of the urgency. How alarming then that Trump appears set on undermining the agreement. He has already announced plans to increase extraction of fossil fuels and ordered the purge of climate change data from official websites.
Of course scientists cannot answer every question. That doesn’t justify filling gaps in our knowledge with any old twaddle for which there is no evidence.
It would be daft and inconsiderate to take your family on a picnic if 9 out of 10 weathermen predict thunderstorms. However, recklessly ignoring the advice of so many climate scientists on global warming risks a lot more than just soggy sandwiches.’