Author: Ryan Glaubke

In Defense of Climate Optimism

For decades, the response to the threat of global warming has been divided roughly into two categories: those who believe anthropogenic global warming is a serious problem, and those climate “skeptics” who don’t. But the reaction to the UN’s recently released Special Report on the subject, known as SR15, highlights the fact that global-warming believers themselves are deeply split on how to act in the face of what is arguably humanity’s most pressing challenge, dividing themselves between optimists, pessimists and, as described below, full-blown fatalists. Commenting on the SR15 authors’ conclusion that humankind has just two decades to avoid a global cataclysm, Emily Atkin of The New Republic argued that there is now “no logical reason to be optimistic about the planet’s survival.” In a column for New York magazine, David Wallace-Wells proclaimed a new era of “climate genocide.” Guardian columnist David Sirota declared that we are facing “the end of the world” in 2040. As a graduate student in climate science, I regard such apocalyptic predictions as deeply counterproductive. We have reached the point where pessimism …

Communicating Science in an Era of Post-Truth

A resurgent populist politics has galvanized public skepticism of the scientific community by portraying academics as a remote elite, distinct from the American populace. This delineation leverages our innate tribal instincts to breed distrust of expertise, providing fertile ground for bad actors to sow seeds of doubt about what we know to be true of the world. Naturally, an army of professional scientists have stood up to this rhetoric, amplifying their voices on social media and assembling political action committees (such as 314 Action) to help fight the onslaught against truth. But too often, scientists and science advocates fail to connect with their audiences. And with social divisions exacerbated since the election of Donald Trump, efforts to reach the lay public have only grown more difficult. So how can we have meaningful conversations about science during a postmodern age in which both populist Left and Right insist that expertise is suspect and truth is relative? For decades, it was assumed that a lack of scientific literacy contributed to the public’s adversarial attitudes towards politically polarizing—yet …