The major issue here at play is a term called “scope.” I’d like to use a metaphor because.. Well, I like metaphors.
Consider a song, any song, it doesn’t really matter what. Over the course of it playing, the sound rises and falls not always in a completely regular pattern, but with some consistency. And it stays within pretty constant bounds of loudness (amplitude). I took Prince’s “Erotic City”, the “Blurred Lines” of its day and stuck it into Traktor, some fantastic digital DJ software and generated this graphic.
Look at the top window showing the first couple seconds of the song, see those pulses? Consider those rises and falls like annual patterns…
Now, imagine your neighbor is having a party, and there is a pop song that they are obsessed with so they’re playing it over and over again. As it ends and is restarted, the sound drops off completely. and restarts. usually the start of a song is a little quieter and other parts are a little louder. There’s a rise and fall in the music choruses tend to be louder than verses etc etc… This is a bit like the bottom window showing the full song. Consider this a bit like “decadal-level” variations.
Now, lets imagine that, because everyone is drinking and not really paying attention or trying to be courteous, whoever is acting as DJ keeps turning the volume up.
This is what we are talking about when we talk about climate shift. Yes, there will be times when it’s quieter or louder relative to last year or even 3 years ago. Yes, we don’t have the fine resolution mapped out quite perfectly. But, at a certain point it really doesn’t matter if you change the song because the overall amplitude is increasing. And, at certain thresholds, negative consequences start start happening.
In our metaphor, the neighbors might complain, if nothing happens, the cops might show up, if still nothing happens, the host and some guests may be going to jail tonight or paying a fat fine. Long-term exposure at higher levels causes hearing loss… etc etc.. This is where the metaphor gets kind of fun.
Scientists, especially those working in this field have a tendency to be irritable about not being listened to, because we are in the unenviable position of answering the door to the police and getting the warning and are being told by everyone else to “Shut up and have a bong hit, it’s fine.”
To which the scientific community is replying, “No, it really is not.”
Invariably climate deniers will roust up the handful of scientists who actively work to sow dissent. This is a bit like Draco Malfoy saying, “but Crabbe and Goyle said it’s cool!”
Or Biff Tannen’s lackies propping him up…
If you want a readable yet detailed explanation of how the marketing of science doubt became a powerful business, I highly recommend Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.
I developed this in response to a heated argument brewing between a couple scientists and someone else that was dubious and not understanding. They had posted An article from the Daily Mail that claimed that this year’s arctic sea ice was inexplicably huge.
The scientists were taking the tack of “How dare you question our dedication, field and veracity?!? The Scientific Method is king!! Your source is a newspaper is bunk and aimed at creating drama! Politicians are idiots!! Here are the facts!!!!” but no one was really breaking it down into what annual and decadal variation mean versus what actual climate shift means. I liked the explanation so much that I expanded it here. Cheers!