Yes. Even today’s best computer simulations can not accurately predict weather patterns in the near future. There are so many factors influencing climate that it simply can not be implemented in a computer software. That is also why you may hear contradicting reports about climate change. The concept of climate change though can be easily understood, but the effects of it can not be determined.
I don’t think the concept is too hard for most people to understand. In the simplest form, global warming is the same phenomenon that makes greenhouses work.
Yes and no. I think it is simple to understand that the earth is getting warmer, and it’s pretty easy to visualize the effects of that: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, agricultural effects, etc. I think it’s more difficult to explain precisely why, and I think a large part of it is that science is still mostly a mystery to average people. For 99% of people out there, all the science they know is the basic stuff they learned in school: we have a general idea of what gravity is, why the sun shines, why we need air to breathe, how basic life processes work and such. Climate science is a step above that. With the very basic science taught in most schools, or even the “pop science” you often see on Discovery Channel and other such outlets, it’s hard to understand why a particular gas like CO2 makes the atmosphere warmer and why carbon generation is such a big deal. Most people understand the concept of pollution: if you dump chemicals into the water or air, they will probably have a bad effect somewhere down the line. Climate change is more complicated, and because people expect environmental issues to be as simple as a matter of pollution, it’s often hard for them to make the conceptual jump beyond that.
Science has a curious role in our culture. We find it at once fascinating and almost magical, and at the same time we fear it. Who can fail to be thrilled by exotic concepts like black holes and timespace, especially if they’re explained to us by engaging figures like Stephen Hawking or the late Carl Sagan? At the same time, scientists are often portrayed as villains: Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Moreau, countless James Bond villains with nefarious inventions to destroy humanity, the stock character of the “mad scientist.” I think both perceptions stem from the fact that, to most of us, science is mysterious. “Good scientists” like Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan thrill us because they’re letting us in on the fascinating secrets that are usually only known by men and women of advanced and arcane learning. “Bad scientists” like Dr. Jekyll or Professor Moriarity (Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis) abuse the mystery of science and use it as a cloak to hide their misanthropic intentions. Most of us are caught between these two poles, and when we hear something as complicated as climate change explained to us by scientists, we naturally tend to associate those scientists and their theories with one or the other of these paradigms: either they’re benevolent eggheads trying to alert us to a global disaster that we must address, or they’re evil charlatans trying to pull one over on us for whatever nefarious reason. This is part of why climate change has become a contentious political issue.
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