Climate Science in a Postmodern World



Like many readers of Eos, I have found it hard to understand the persistence of climate doubters and climate skeptics. How can they not accept the science? An important clue can be found in an editorial by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal that made a connection between climate science and postmodernism [Henninger, 2009]. Postmodernism is a concept that permeates the humanities and the social sciences. In its simplest terms, it postulates that truth is a relative concept. Facts exist, but their interpretation is determined as much by society, culture, politics, and economics as by scientific objectivity. From this perspective, any interpretation is as valid as any other. So, for instance, Herman Melville's Moby Dick can be seen as a novel equally about morality, homosexuality, the repression of the masses, the quest for God, or the killing of whales in the nineteenth century. All interpretations are valid, and all truth is relative.