I have had very little scientific training, and no formal education in climatology. If you’ve read my About the Author page, you’ll know that I’m a student and aspiring climatologist. You might think I’m a university student, probably in my undergrad.
I’m not. I’m going into my last year of high school. Many of my classmates don’t even know that the theory of anthropogenic global climate change has been endorsed by anyone other than Al Gore. They’re too wrapped up in regular high school drama. Here I am spending my spare time urging political action against climate change, and I can’t even vote yet.
All of my education in climate change has been informal and independent. I stay up late reading IPCC reports. I borrow university chem textbooks so I can understand how greenhouse gases work. I direct all my questions to a climatology prof I know. In a few years, I will have the opportunity for formal training that begins to specialize in climatology. But I’m too impatient. I want to do all I can now.
If credibility is “expertise + objectivity”, my expertise is limited by my circumstances. However, I can still spend time increasing my objectivity. I check my sources. I separate science from policy. I ask myself, “What if I was wrong?”
Since I started this blog, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to pinpoint your mistakes and fix them is to collaborate with others. A lot of you have been fantastic in the comments section, helping to improve the accuracy of my posts. Because of you, I’ve learned that Anthony Watts does not have a PhD, that the same band of radiation can only be absorbed by carbon dioxide once, and that the category of “publishing climatologists”, which is more credible than scientists from other areas on the topic of climate change, should really include atmospheric physicists and radiative physicists.
Without people telling me that I was wrong, I would never have known that I was making mistakes. Without admitting that I was making mistakes, my posts would remain inaccurate.
I believe that admitting your mistakes and fixing them is one of the best ways to increase your credibility. It lets people know that you are willing to change your mind when new evidence warrants it. Basically, it shows that your quest for accurate information surpasses your ego.
Peer-reviewed journals use this tactic all the time. If one of their publications is proven erroneous, they print a retraction. Accurate, up-to-date information is their greatest priority. What else could you ask of a journal?
We all make mistakes, as Big Bird told us when we were small. Nobody is infallible, not even the folks at NASA. Since we can’t escape making mistakes, the best thing we can do is to admit to them and fix them. In a world demanding scientific accuracy, there is no room for egos.