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Climate, Controversy And Strangers On A Plane

He looked like a former linebacker, tall and solidly built. After stowing his wife’s luggage in the overhead, he squeezed past me, sat down and looked straight at the astronomy textbook I was reading. “You’re a scientist?” he asked. “Are you involved in that big controversy over climate?”

I looked into his face and could see he wasn’t angry or hostile or combative. He seemed like a good guy and, by the way his wife gently rolled her eyes, I could see he liked to talk. So I took a chance and replied.

“What controversy?”

What followed was a long conversation, 30,000 feet above the American West, about a great and dangerous gap. On the one hand we spoke of science and what it looks like on the ground to those who practice it. On the other hand we waded knee-deep into the wreckage that is science in the sphere of politics.

From my seatmate’s perspective the field of climate studies must be awash in controversy. Was the planet warming, or not?

(Image credit: Berkeley Earth)

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