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Ken Fabian

Is doubt of climate science the right place to start?

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Ophiolite and I had an exchange in the "Who here is a global warming skeptic?" thread. I did want to continue but the thread was locked (for being overlong) before I could do so. Hope I'm not stepping on toes by starting this thread.

 

Ophiolite asked for responses to this -

 

I am a global warming skeptic. I think it is not only plausible to have doubts, but essential, especially if we wish to honour the memories of Bacon and Galileo and Newton. We should doubt the data gathering techniques, we should doubt the analytical processes, we should doubt the conclusions. We should doubt the researchers, we should doubt their motives, we should doubt the peer review process.

Doubt is a cornerstone of good science. Skepticism is an essential part of the scientific method.

Having doubted all of these things in relation to global warming I am left with the distinct impression that global warming is very real and very serious. However, as a good skeptic, there is one area in which I have no doubt. I do not doubt the possibility that new research could turn our current understanding on its head - its just that that possibility is, on the balance of the evidence, extremely remote. In the meantime we should proceed on the basis that global warming is a real and present danger.

Oh, and have a look in your dictionary. You will likely find that skepticism and denial are not synonyms. Skeptical? Just go ahead and check.

 

My own reply was that it is not an appropriate default position to take because most people do not have the ability to evaluate complex science and accepting what the overwhelming majority of experts in a field tell us is not just appropriate, for those who hold positions of trust and responsibility it could be considered negligence for them to fail to do so.

Ophiolite replied that many participants here are scientists and it is a correct position for scientists to take but agreed that, for those without the requisite skills, deferring to experts is more appropriate. I still find myself disagreeing.

Ophiolite - It may be a matter of semantics - just what you mean by "doubt" in this context - but I think a default position of doubt suggests, intentionally or not, that you won't accept the validity of climate change science (or any other science) until personally satisfied, through personal investigation. That may not be what you mean but I think it requires clarification.

My own view is that, even for scientists, treating the work of other scientists as valid should be the default position. It's not a matter of tribal loyalty or science as faith but of trust in the institutions and practices of science. We can quibble - there are some areas of science that I personally think need to lift their game - but climate science is, in it's fundamentals, about maths, physics and chemistry. It's based on the 'hard' sciences rather than the 'soft', without much room for the subjective. And perhaps no area of science has been subject to as much scrutiny as modern climate science. For those involved in oversight within scientific institutions, keeping eyes open for sloppy science, bias and malpractice is good practice but not the same as doubt as the default.

Perhaps, for those appointed to a panel of experts by Institutions like the National Academy of Sciences to review a field of science - as happened at President G.W. Bush's request

on climate science - witholding any acceptance and doubting everything it might be appropriate but more generally even for other scientists I don't think it is.

 

It looks most appropriate when individual science papers are submitted and published, for experts capable of competent review to provisionally withhold acceptance and begin with doubt and scepticism; in that circumstance it could be the kind of scientist's obligation suggested. For the accumulated body of knowledge within a field - the consensus if you will - an initial position of acknowledged ignorance is, I believe, more appropriate - an "I don't know" rather than "I doubt" - if only because it won't be construed to mean the work of others is provisionally rejected.

I never completed undergraduate science - not qualifying as a scientist - but my impression was that students don't begin from a position of doubt but of acknowledged ignorance. Along the way they should learn how and why the widely agreed conclusions within a field have been achieved rather than presented as unassailable 'facts'- ie come to know why it's valid not simply taken on faith. And learn which conclusions are in dispute and why. The end result for a student starting from a position of doubt should be much the same; a confidence in the conclusions that merit it and awareness of the grounds for dispute for those that don't.

Making the effort to understand something personally and be well informed is to be applauded and sharing your experiences, of your doubts and how you dealt with them, in places like this is worthwhile. With respect to climate change science Doubt has become a professionally crafted product by and for partisan interests for political gain - to compromise, impede and delay oppropriate and effective government policy. In a context of climate politics where concepts of doubt, scepticism and uncertainty are being misused we need to be especially careful in urging it's wide application. People who don't have the skills and competency or even a real comprehension of scientific scepticism and who may not follow through with it as a process, are being encouraged to provisionally withhold acceptance of mainstream climate change science and oppose policy based on that 'scepticism'. So I'm sceptical about urging doubt as a default place to start with climate science. (edit: last three sentences added after initial post)


My own experience is that, whilst the nitty gritty of real science can often be dense and opaque and beyond the non-expert to critique, even ordinary people like myself can recognise misunderstandings, misinformation, logical fallacies, appeals to tribal loyalties, pressing of emotive buttons ie the charlatan's (or politician's or PR/advertiser's or tankthinker's or non-thinker's) tools of persuasion. Most of the commonly repeated grounds for doubt of climate change science can be examined by non-scientists and recognised as weak or invalid.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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At some point one has to allow some trust in the experts, and this goes for all science and mathematics not just climate change. On this point you are absolutely correct.

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I think it is inefficient on time and effort to doubt, by default, what recognised experts say within their field. I go on the basis that any incongruities and falsehoods will soon come to light, if they are there, with reading the works of several experts in the field. I look for consensus and always keep in mind that what appears correct today may well be wrong, or outside its 'domain of validity', tomorrow. This is from my position as an interested amateur.

Edited by StringJunky

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Climate change deniers like evolution deniers walk the same tight rope of "micro vs macro". With evolution there are examples of mutation and examples of how mutations can change a population over time. It is undeniable. So micro vs macro exists as a mechanism to acknowledge what can be seen while denying that such a process continues over time and have a accumulative effect. An argument that while we may have changed the biology of horse by breeding specific genes at the end of the day horses are still horses. The implication is that if selection continued that somehow repeated micro changes could never become a macro change. No explanation for the limitation is provided. Micro times a trillion is still just micro.

 

similarly we know 100% we are putting carbon into our environment. We know 100% that air quality and the climate surround the world's largest cities are impacted. It is completely undeniable. So deniers turn to micro vs macro to segment the argument. To seperate environment from climate. Deniers acknowledge that we (humans) have and continue to dramatically change our envirmental because they have to acknowledge what is too obvious to deny but then claim climate exists separate from those changes. The Sun, gravity, tilt of the Earth, and etc determine climate. Actions on the planet do not. No amount of environmental change ever put a dent in the earth climates.

 

The acknowledge what you must, what is plainly visible right now, but than deny any and all calculations that accumulate reflects an obvious desire to willfully ignore the science.

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Here is a quote from non-climate scientist, who hit the nail on the head:

 

http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/CMIP5-73-models-vs-obs-20N-20S-MT.png is worth a look. It shows the predictions of 73 published climate models for the years 1979 - 2025, and the actual data to date. The best of the models has overestmated the actual temperature rise by 100% and the worst by 1200%. None of them has understimated the actual data.

Now when I make an expert estimate of the likely outcome of an experiment, or of the probable effect of a forensic cause, I expect there to be an even chance of being a bit over or under the actual figure. Indeed I'm supposed to give a further estimate of the uncertainty of my prediction, and to explain any small bias in that figure. If 73 groups of supposed experts all overestimate the outcome, I think the court might suspect a bit of collective misunderstanding of the underlying physics, or possibly deliberate fraud.

 

If all opinions on global warming had been allowed, including what is called the deniers, some models would be high and some models would be low more in line with the rest of science. The average would be closer to the actual data. But due to political pressure and boycotts against anyone not with "the program", only the highest estimate models get the funding. The models used come from only the scientists who are willing to tell the money people what they wish to hear. It would be interesting to see if the worse models get the most funding; boot licker premium.

 

Maybe someone can explain this prediction anomaly of all the consensus models being high? How can a consensus form if everyone is wrong on the high side, in line with the needs of the politics. I have been saying this all along and someone found the smoking gun for political and mercenary science.

Edited by puppypower

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If all opinions on global warming had been allowed, including what is called the deniers, some models would be high and some models would be low more in line with the rest of science. But due to political pressure and boycotts against anyone not with "the program", only the highest estimate models get the funding.

 

Why should any opinions be taken into account? Opinions are irrelevant.

 

1. What evidence do you have that "all opinions" are not allowed? And please restrict your answer to scientifically valid "opinions"; i.e. peer reviewed science.

 

2. What evidence do you have that "allowing all opinions" would mean that there would be more models predicting low values?

 

3. What evidence do you have of 'political pressure and boycotts against anyone not with "the program"'?

 

4. What evidence do you have that 'only the highest estimate models get the funding'?

 

5. What evidence do you have that 'models used come from only the scientists who are willing to tell the money people what they wish to hear'?

 

 

Maybe someone can explain this prediction anomaly of all the consensus models being high?

 

On another thread, Shelagh (a fellow denier) posted some very interesting research on some of the new data and physics that is being included in models to make them more accurate. Some of these explain why some models have overestimated the effects.

 

 

How can a consensus form if everyone is wrong on the high side

 

Huh? How can a (scientific) consensus not form around the predictions of all the models?

 

 

in line with the needs of the politics

 

6. What evidence do you have for 'the needs of the politics'?

 

As the answer to all 6 questions is "none", please refrain from posting such ignorant nonsense.

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!

Moderator Note

A reminder to all that this is a mainstream section. While much of climate science is affected by politics, our discussions here in the Climate Science section need to focus on the scientific evidence and not political opinions. If you can't support it, don't say it.

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Moderator Note

Further to Phi's post, I would also like to add that the topic of this thread is not about any elaborate conspiracy theories, nor is it about whether or not AGW is real. Please keep this in mind.

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To be fair to Ophiolite this was included -

 

In the meantime we should proceed on the basis that global warming is a real and present danger.

 

 

- which could equate to the provisionally treating the consensus of experts as true that I think is most appropriate.

 

If, as a scientist, you feel you should confirm it for yourself and then find something that is in error, then point it out - journals accept and publish criticisms as long as there are valid grounds and there are other channels. Standards and Ethics committees or similar are there if malpractice is found; absolutely fraud or other malpractice should be reported and investigated.

 

Ten Oz -

 

Climate change deniers like evolution deniers walk the same tight rope of "micro vs macro".

 

 

I certainly notice fallacies from focus too narrow - local or regional rather than global, one or few indicative measures out of many and too short time scales. And focus too broad - looking at very long time scales that can make current climate change appear trivial.

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Doubt is a fine state of mind in science[1]. The worst denial in history was the reluctance to accept germ theory, despite presentation of evidence that sanitizing led to wonderful things like decreases in infant mortality. It is important to note that the acceptance of germ theory was a result of hundreds of years of scientists and doctors presenting evidence to the contrary that the believed theory of bad air was the cause of disease, and not political yahoos typing furiously onto forums that they possessed doubts.

 

If you doubt anything, even something controversial as climate science, I salute you. Take those itchy fingers and those doubts and pry open a textbook. Learn as much as you can about the phenomenon. Ask questions. Lots of questions. But also be prepared to learn.

 

 

 

[1]I have no idea why people bring up Galileo as a bastion for doubt. The man was a hardcore Catholic and was unable to provide evidence to back up his astronomical theories when asked. Without this evidence, he felt free to ridicule his opponents. He also (surprise, surprise) felt free to accuse other astronomers of seeing things that weren't there, like comets.

Edited by kisai

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Doubt is a fine state of mind in science

 

 

 

 

Kisai - It's not doubt that's the fine state of mind, it's the commitment to becoming well informed that doubt can lead to. If it's not a process that includes that follow through action - the prying open of textbooks - doubt is a disabling state of mind that impedes rational decision making. Whether that follow through occurs or not, if it comes with provisional withholding of acceptance that the work of others is valid it is disabling. We can hope that for those identifying as scientists doubt is motivating rather than disabling. I still believe that scientists should provisionally accept the body of work of other scientists as valid, whether they carry through with scepticism as a process or not. This should be explicit when urging the use of sceptical inquiry as a scientific method.

 

My own view is because withholding acceptance that climate science as valid is widely taken to be a correct response to doubt, that state of mind and the very term 'sceptic/skeptic' has become something to be identified with and held to for climate action obstructionists. It becomes an opportunity to put open alternative 'textbooks' of their choosing in front of people as well as a 'legitimate' reason to oppose, delay and impede prompt action.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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I still believe that scientists should provisionally accept the body of work of other scientists as valid, whether they carry through with scepticism as a process or not.

Absolutely not. They should carefully, rigorously, and objectively doubt the methods, observations, interpretations and conclusions of other scientists. This is how - and only how - the wheat is sorted from the chaff. This is how hypotheses are refined and theories confirmed. This is how science works.

 

As to the distortion of the meaning of skepticism by an uneducated press and charlatans with agendas, that is an entirely different matter. There is no reason to corrupt a productive methodology simply because the world has its share of fools.

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Ophiolite - withholding acceptance of the work of others as valid during the interim between a starting point of doubt and any conclusion of your investigations will leave you in don't-know limbo and incapable of action based on the expertise of others.

 

I disagree that science must work as you claim. I can see where doubt is the appropriate starting point, such as in reviewing newly submitted and published papers, novel hypotheses or where significant data that is inconsistent comes to light but as a general rule applied to existing bodies of knowledge I think trust in the methods and processes, and of institutions providing oversight are valid and serve well. I think doubt is something to be applied selectively rather than as an all encompassing prerequisite to acceptance of science based conclusions as valid.

 

All encompassing doubt will ultimately fail for all but the most extraordinary intellects and I suspect the overall body of knowledge of a multifaceted area of study such as climate science may be beyond even the extraordinary. Trust in the methods, processes and institutions that built and oversee a specialised body of knowledge, as well as much of the consensus knowledge itself is valid and reasonable.

 

For those aiming for expertise it's reasonable to begin from acknowledging ignorance and commitment to learning, including learning past and current methods and processes, which will, of course, include the application of sceptism. ie they will have a sound basis for trust in the reliability of the knowledge base they hope to build upon even where unable to confirm it's validity personally.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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Ophiolite - withholding acceptance of the work of others as valid during the interim between a starting point of doubt and any conclusion of your investigations will leave you in don't-know limbo and incapable of action based on the expertise of others.

I trained as a geologist. Limbo is our natural environment. Uncertainty is second nature to us. It is not a problem.

 

You are focused on doubt in relation to AGW. I am focused on doubt as a cornerstone of the scientific method. But since you want to address AGW, continuing doubt in no way limits action. One need only make a simple risk assessment: what if AGW is a myth? What would be the impact of our efforts to counter it? Simple, a small reduction in economic growth over the next half century, for which we would get a "cleaner world". What happens if we ignore the warnings and it turns out to be real? Frigging disaster. Action can and should therefore proceed regardless of any remaining doubts.

 

I doubt my house will burn down, but you had better believe I have it fully insured.

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As a cornerstone of science I suggest scepticism is applied individually to the specific but collectively to the whole. I disagree that AGW is as simple as risk assessment when doubt holds you back from accepting that the work of others is not valid until personally confirmed - it requires some level of confidence that the work of others will be valid. I believe there are sound reasons to trust that the work of others - within fields of science where trustworthy methods and processes and oversight are in use - without personally validating them.

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The answer to the question is yes. That is the spirit of science.

 

But also yes in practice imo, if some of the worst case scenarios of the IPCC are correct, then we need to take drastic actions, these actions could potentially cost the world's economy a lot of money and slow growth. This would impact our ability to tackle other very important social and environmental problems. It would be preferable to choose correctly for the welfare of millions of people.

 

I also worry that we run the risk of over focusing on climate change when attributing cause that might be better attributed other causes such as soil erosion, flood plain management, deforestation, economics etc

 

The whole issue is over simplified, Its not a question of climate change or not, man made or not, its a question of 1. how much will occur in the future (temp rise), 2 .what will be the economic damage be? 3.best ways among a very large number of options we can explore to manage the problems.

 

Relating to an incredibly complex system, how that interacts with society, economics, global food system, and all the other problems we need to face, this is clearly not a simple process, and the little details that climate science produce matter.

 

That the argument is settled for how serious the problem will be seems bizarre to me, (especially in predicting such a system using modelling) and I am disturbed at how easy we got to this stage. I think we will see a moderation of popular mainstream opinion towards, climate change is happening, man is a major cause currently, but there is huge uncertainty to how serious the effects will be, and how we should manage the problem.

 

Matt Ridley has offered this article and it fits the spirit of the thread topic neatly. It doesn't fit the average opinion here most likely, but if your feeling especially empathetic towards lukewarm/middle men, I think that's more informative than denier or skeptic for many, give it a read

http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/what-the-climate-wars-did-to-science.aspx

Edited by tantalus

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ere the work of others is held to be in doubt until personally satisfied otherwise - to what extent is personal support withheld in turn for policy that is based on the expert advice being sound? I doubt it is unaffected.

Ophiolite suggests that, on the basis of risk assessment, policy based on the presumption of mainstream advice being valid would have his support during the period his judgement is held in abeyance. But, whilst he insists that withholding acceptance of the work of others is a scientist's obligation, supporting policy based upon it, on the basis of risk assessment isn't presented as an obligation. I don't doubt that it's possible that the issue of holding the science to be in doubt won't affect support for policy based on it being valid, but I seriously doubt it.

Tantalus points out that it involves significant decisions -

... if some of the worst case scenarios of the IPCC are correct, then we need to take drastic actions, these actions could potentially cost the world's economy a lot of money and slow growth.

It doesn't sound like Tantalus feels such an obligation. Sounds like the risks of excessive costs of action impeding economic growth are ones we should be hesitant to take. I don't know what efforts Tantalus makes to validate such assessments, or what he does to address his doubts of climate science. Or if that is a legitimate and productive use of his time and effort. I would say that if he held some kind of relevant public office he would be negligent to ignore the expert advice.

Is every 'scientist' even capable of personally validating a body of knowledge as large and complex as climate science? Is there a time limit for doing so or a point at which holding the work of others in doubt should revert to holding one's own ability to properly validate it to be in doubt? Holding to high principles can also be impractical, unrealistic and disabling.

Now, my own understanding is that the climate problem is one where the consequences are decades to centuries delayed between cause and effect, the effects are cumulative and are effectively irreversible, so the risk assessment criteria are there for justifying strong policy with minimum delay. ie deferring commitment to action until doubts are answered has significant consequences. I also have a lot of trust in the institutions, the methods and processes of science and I don't believe it is misplaced or inappropriate. The US Academy of Sciences or UK's Royal Society for example have earned their places as expert advisors to governments and communities, through attracting and engaging the most capable scientists and through a history of probity and service to the community. Even if I were a working scientist, it would be wholly appropriate to treat the advice they give as trustworthy, whether I've personally validated it or not.

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Is every 'scientist' even capable of personally validating a body of knowledge as large and complex as climate science?

It is not just climate science here, but any branch of science or mathematics. Scientists typically are experts in a narrow range of things, to the extent that I would say that no single climate scientists would be fully able to verify every result in his science. He does however have sound knowledge of the general methods used in his field.

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Two overlooked factors: finding out what the consensus of the well informed is, and determining whether or not it's justified.

 

Determining what the consensus is requires a medium, a go-between, for most people faced with scientific matters. They have no way of evaluating credentials, distinguishing major from minor differences in positions, or often even getting a reasonable and comprehensible statement of what the consensus is from those who have joined in it. The corruption of this essential mediating function in our information sources bedevils us in the US, with regard to climate change especially. ("The loss of journalism" is one way to put it. )

 

The second factor, which is usually "does adequate expertise exist in this field, to justify this consensus", can be found informally explained in various places - Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow", for example. And in this matter one key feature is that the experts themselves are not reliable. They are not always wrong, or blind, but they can be - credentialed expertise is not a guarantee, or even an indication, of the necessary awareness. Stock market investment advisors are perhaps the most famous example, new fields of science have in the past provided others (although not any more, of course).

 

So it's not as simple as weighing consensus vs alternative.

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First I would like to commend you on your honest attempt to represent my points. If you read ridleys long article you would get a feel for some of my concerns, but I feel I need to elaborate a little on where i'm coming from. In would be great if you could define your premise more precisely in terms of what specific claim of climate science experts are saying?

ere the work of others is held to be in doubt until personally satisfied otherwise - to what extent is personal support withheld in turn for policy that is based on the expert advice being sound? I doubt it is unaffected.

Ophiolite suggests that, on the basis of risk assessment, policy based on the presumption of mainstream advice being valid would have his support during the period his judgement is held in abeyance. But, whilst he insists that withholding acceptance of the work of others is a scientist's obligation, supporting policy based upon it, on the basis of risk assessment isn't presented as an obligation. I don't doubt that it's possible that the issue of holding the science to be in doubt won't affect support for policy based on it being valid, but I seriously doubt it.

The logic of action with policy without very, very strong scientific certainty can be sound in principle, no doubt. But it depends on how certain you are of the threat, and how certain you are of certain damages, and you evaluate the costs of the solutions, in other words, an idea of real quantitative evaluation ultimately informs such logic.

 

At this point, withheld support for action isn't based on personal doubt of the science, but of personal doubt of the evaluations, a fundamental disagreement with a consensus, if such a consensus really exists on such an evaluation, which I also doubt.

 

I acknowledge that this may be off the point of your op.

 

It doesn't sound like Tantalus feels such an obligation. Sounds like the risks of excessive costs of action impeding economic growth are ones we should be hesitant to take. I don't know what efforts Tantalus makes to validate such assessments, or what he does to address his doubts of climate science. Or if that is a legitimate and productive use of his time and effort. I would say that if he held some kind of relevant public office he would be negligent to ignore the expert advice.

Is every 'scientist' even capable of personally validating a body of knowledge as large and complex as climate science? Is there a time limit for doing so or a point at which holding the work of others in doubt should revert to holding one's own ability to properly validate it to be in doubt? Holding to high principles can also be impractical, unrealistic and disabling.

Now, my own understanding is that the climate problem is one where the consequences are decades to centuries delayed between cause and effect, the effects are cumulative and are effectively irreversible, so the risk assessment criteria are there for justifying strong policy with minimum delay. ie deferring commitment to action until doubts are answered has significant consequences. I also have a lot of trust in the institutions, the methods and processes of science and I don't believe it is misplaced or inappropriate. The US Academy of Sciences or UK's Royal Society for example have earned their places as expert advisors to governments and communities, through attracting and engaging the most capable scientists and through a history of probity and service to the community. Even if I were a working scientist, it would be wholly appropriate to treat the advice they give as trustworthy, whether I've personally validated it or not.

I also had a lot of trust, now I don't. As I will discuss below in replies to other posts, the IPCC have over-reached, policy based advice on modelling of a complex system, making risk-cost evaluations of an even more complex scenario when you combine climate scenarios with the global economy, thy are not acting soundly and do not have the necessary skill set or tools available to them for us to take their word.

 

 

It is not just climate science here, but any branch of science or mathematics. Scientists typically are experts in a narrow range of things, to the extent that I would say that no single climate scientists would be fully able to verify every result in his science. He does however have sound knowledge of the general methods used in his field.

Exactly, climate change is massive field, although I dont agree with you that they have sound knowldge for general judgement, one climate scientist might be an expert on on climate and dendrochronology, another on specific type of modelling, another yet on ice cores, another yet on atmospheric science, these people are not well placed to judge the merit of the details of other specialised fields.

Two overlooked factors: finding out what the consensus of the well informed is, and determining whether or not it's justified.

 

Determining what the consensus is requires a medium, a go-between, for most people faced with scientific matters. They have no way of evaluating credentials, distinguishing major from minor differences in positions, or often even getting a reasonable and comprehensible statement of what the consensus is from those who have joined in it. The corruption of this essential mediating function in our information sources bedevils us in the US, with regard to climate change especially. ("The loss of journalism" is one way to put it. )

 

The second factor, which is usually "does adequate expertise exist in this field, to justify this consensus", can be found informally explained in various places - Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow", for example. And in this matter one key feature is that the experts themselves are not reliable. They are not always wrong, or blind, but they can be - credentialed expertise is not a guarantee, or even an indication, of the necessary awareness. Stock market investment advisors are perhaps the most famous example, new fields of science have in the past provided others (although not any more, of course).

 

So it's not as simple as weighing consensus vs alternative.

Exactly, all of it has taken on a strange form currently, it wont last. Eventually more dissenting voices will break through, and science itself as a process always corrects itself. Politics and the green movement are blocking this path towards honest debate, honest risk assessment, an honest discussion of what we really know.

 

I once heard a climate scientist of a major academic university, an actual full blown skeptic (appropriate to label here imo) recount a discussion he had with fellow professional who did some work with the IPCC. The skeptic asked him about their presentation of certainty, he acknowledged that it was over-exaggerated but felt it necessary to provide a simple account to public and politician so as to encourage action and policy.

 

sounds like the risks of excessive costs of action impeding economic growth are ones we should be hesitant to take.

 

And the politicians have been slow in some peoples minds in attempting to reduce carbon emissions over last 2 decades, probably for other reasons they have chosen to not take the expensive options proposed by some. The US were already heading towards peak emissions anyway and used improvements dependng on efficiency to reduce. The chinese hope to reduce and contain coal expansion because of smog problems, becoming ever more noticeable to their swelling middle class, the dependency on middle eastern oil of the 1980s and changes in energy technology made diversification desirable, and the predicted arrival of peak oil all pointed towards a inevitable world of reduced carbon emission.

 

What is suggested by some over last 2 decades that we needed to achieve in the short term, is inevitable in the short to medium, in the mean time it is becoming more apparent that climate sensitivity was over-exaggerated in the models, and global temperature has been fairly stagnant in the last 15 years.

 

Hopefully we can grow the world economy, and pour money into climate adaption instead of focusing on prevention.

Edited by tantalus

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Overtone, I think there is no reasonable option except to trust in our institutions of science. Not out of faith, but as something earned. Expert 'opinion' from working scientists comes with obligations for relevance, honesty and accuracy. For those who hold public - or corporate - office, there are similar obligations around responsibility and trust. Popular opinion, or that of self appointed 'experts', which have no such obligations, simply aren't good enough.

 

Tantalus, I'm glad I managed to not misrepresent your views. Just to be clear I think the risks of failure to adequately reduce emissions in a timely manner look to be greater than the foregone economic growth from doing so. More importantly that appears to be consistent with the expert advice commissioned by and for governments.

 

Doing and not doing, action and inaction can be inverted in these discussions. We are taking 'strong' actions in burning fossil fuels at multi- gigatonne per annum rates and dumping the combustion products into the atmosphere without restraint. There really isn't any default 'no action' position that has no consequences and no risk. We can argue the level of confidence in understanding the consequences and we can argue about the risks, but whatever we 'do' - and we will be doing something - will be on the basis of imperfect knowledge. Yet this is an issue where the mainstream scientific advice has been broadly consistent in the face of decades of exceptional scrutiny so I'm doubtful of claims that the fundamental basis is seriously in doubt. Given that emissions are ongoing, and the advice that the climate impacts are cumulative and effectively irreversible, delaying and deferring policy for better, more perfect knowledge comes with significant risk. Personally I'm not sure 'risk' (like 'scepticism') has the broad acceptable meaning that is appropriate when the consensus of experts is that it's something that is happening rather than something that might happen.

 

Scientific inquiry going back more than a century has revealed a physical basis for climate consequences to raising atmospheric CO2 levels. Given the widespread use of fossil fuels, scientists and scientific institutions are being called upon to investigate and advise on the consequences for global climate for a variety of future scenarios. Sometimes scientific inquires can be implicit - scientists working within a field where better understanding of climate processes is intrinsic to what they do - or it can be explicit - a Prime Minister or President or Parliament or Congress requesting answers to questions or information or an overview or reports from an agency like the US National Academy of Sciences. Or a group of governments can use an international body like the UN to set up a specific agency like the IPCC to review, summarise and advise.

 

I have serious reservations about the capability of self appointed individuals to do it better than organisations like The Royal Society or National Academy of Sciences or the IPCC and whilst I think it's certainly an individual's right to believe and express whatever he/she wants, i don't think policymaking should defer to them.

 

So, Tantalus, I can't accept that where your confidence in climate science differs from that within the reports by such agencies, that policy should be influenced in any way by your judgement. When people hold positions of trust and responsibility that 'right' to believe whatever you like and withhold acceptance for the expertise of others becomes constrained. In reality and unlike areas like medicine and engineering, responsibility for basing decisions on expert advise with respect to climate responsibility has not yet been made explicit. But it is heading towards being legally recognised, at least in limited ways - a court decision in the Netherlands for example requiring government policy on emissions reductions to have goals in line with the mainstream science.

 

As a scientific principle, properly applied, doubt may serve well, but misused as a means to justify deferring and delaying appropriate policy, it's not serving us well in this time of need.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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. Yet this is an issue where the mainstream scientific advice has been broadly consistent in the face of decades of exceptional scrutiny so I'm doubtful of claims that the fundamental basis is seriously in doubt.

 

Note that key evidence for dangerous levels of warming are based almost solely on computer modelling (and only some of their scenarios). Thus far for whatever reasons the models have failed to predict the last 15 years accurately. Imo, the fundamentals are carbon dioxide emitted by man has led to climate change, climate sensitivity as predicted by modelling is not fundamentally simple.

 

I want to extract a passage from ridley's article as it sums up what I want to say

The IPCC actually admits the possibility of lukewarming within its consensus, because it gives a range of possible future temperatures: it thinks the world will be between about 1.5 and four degrees warmer on average by the end of the century. That’s a huge range, from marginally beneficial to terrifyingly harmful, so it is hardly a consensus of danger, and if you look at the “probability density functions” of climate sensitivity, they always cluster towards the lower end.

What is more, in the small print describing the assumptions of the “representative concentration pathways”, it admits that the top of the range will only be reached if sensitivity to carbon dioxide is high (which is doubtful); if world population growth re-accelerates (which is unlikely); if carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans slows down (which is improbable); and if the world economy goes in a very odd direction, giving up gas but increasing coal use tenfold (which is implausible).

But the commentators ignore all these caveats and babble on about warming of “up to” four degrees (or even more), then castigate as a “denier” anybody who says, as I do, the lower end of the scale looks much more likely given the actual data. This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the “psychology of taboo”, there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale.

http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/what-the-climate-wars-did-to-science.aspx

 

Barack Obama says that 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is “real, man-made and dangerous”. That’s just a lie (or a very ignorant remark): as I point out above, there is no consensus that it’s dangerous.

So where’s the outrage from scientists at this presidential distortion? It’s worse than that, actually. The 97 per cent figure is derived from two pieces of pseudoscience that would have embarrassed a homeopath. The first was a poll that found that 97 per cent of just seventy-nine scientists thought climate change was man-made—not that it was dangerous. A more recent poll of 1854 members of the American Meteorological Society found the true number is 52 per cent.

I think the idea of consensus in regard to climate change being very dangerous may be absent. The IPCC (a small institution with vested interests) blatantly misrepresent their own models in terms of the different scenarios. I also believe a lot of people have remained in the shadows who are lukewarmers because of the nature of the debate and the importance of funding.

 

Nevertheless only time will play out this matter. As I stated before I expect you will see more people of the lukewarm school emerge in the public eye over the coming years, we will see if that happens and if it can shake up the IPCC.

Edited by tantalus

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Exactly, all of it has taken on a strange form currently, it wont last. Eventually more dissenting voices will break through, and science itself as a process always corrects itself. Politics and the green movement are blocking this path towards honest debate, honest risk assessment, an honest discussion of what we really know

You refer of course to the current Republican Party politics, and the associated corporate corruption of the journalistic media in the marketing of AGW denial,

 

right?

 

 

What is suggested by some over last 2 decades that we needed to achieve in the short term, is inevitable in the short to medium, in the mean time it is becoming more apparent that climate sensitivity was over-exaggerated in the models, and global temperature has been fairly stagnant in the last 15 years.

That's nonsense, of course. Where are you getting that from?

 

I want to extract a passage from ridley's article as it sums up what I want to say

There are quite a few obvious problems with this guy's "argument" or whatever he wants us to see there, but I'll pick one odd one from the sludge for comment:

 

"it thinks the world will be between about 1.5 and four degrees warmer on average by the end of the century. That’s a huge range, from marginally beneficial to terrifyingly harmful, so it is hardly a consensus of danger, - - "

 

Uh, yeah, it is. The 1.5 is on top of the 1 already, giving 2.5 from AGW in less than two hundred years, which is a bit over the hazard line and into the possible very bad stuff happening range. And that's the very lowest end. There is also the unsupported and unlikely and unconsensus claim that the low end is "marginally beneficial", combined with the truly bizarre claim that if the high end of 4+ is just one unlikely end its "terrifyingly harmful" import is not a danger.

 

What's up with this strange logic whereby the (claimed) unlikely is therefore not a danger? Risk is always just that - a probability. There are climate change possibilities and events a sane person would not take a one in a thousand risk of if they could avoid it. If everyone agrees that there is a reasonable possibility of another 3C AGW by century's end, then everyone agrees that AGW is dangerous. That's a consensus.

Edited by overtone

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You refer of course to the current Republican Party politics, and the associated corporate corruption of the journalistic media in the marketing of AGW denial,

 

right?

 

Think about the lukewarmer position, it seeks a discussion about climate sensitivity, feedbacks, cost-risk analysis, science and economics, the different scenarios even the IPCC models cover.

 

That there are many institutions with their own agendas to completely deny climate change, or align themselves even with the lukewarmer school, with their own form of stupidity and that is unfortunate. The opposite side of the media have had a more negative effect on the discussion, because they are more dominant, the idea of the consensus.

 

 

That's nonsense, of course. Where are you getting that from?

 

Its widely agreed that surface temperatures have been increasing very slowly for last 15 years, currently not in align with IPCC high sensitivity models. The question becomes are those surface temperatures wrong. There is a lot of research on this slowdown, some studies suggest its just a statistical artifact. I don't know personally, but this is the point where serious debate should be occurring, not that it is nonsense. Because the answers influence certainty on projections of temp., serious differences in impact, and thus risk-cost evaluations etc etc.

 

 

 

There are quite a few obvious problems with this guy's "argument" or whatever he wants us to see there, but I'll pick one odd one from the sludge for comment:

 

"it thinks the world will be between about 1.5 and four degrees warmer on average by the end of the century. That’s a huge range, from marginally beneficial to terrifyingly harmful, so it is hardly a consensus of danger, - - "

 

Uh, yeah, it is. The 1.5 is on top of the 1 already, giving 2.5 from AGW in less than two hundred years, which is a bit over the hazard line and into the possible very bad stuff happening range. And that's the very lowest end. There is also the unsupported and unlikely and unconsensus claim that the low end is "marginally beneficial", combined with the truly bizarre claim that if the high end of 4+ is just one unlikely end its "terrifyingly harmful" import is not a danger.

 

What's up with this strange logic whereby the (claimed) unlikely is therefore not a danger? Risk is always just that - a probability. There are climate change possibilities and events a sane person would not take a one in a thousand risk of if they could avoid it. If everyone agrees that there is a reasonable possibility of another 3C AGW by century's end, then everyone agrees that AGW is dangerous. That's a consensus.

The current hope of the IPCC is that the problem would be largely mitigated with only a 2 degree rise by the end of the century, that's now considered unachievable so everyone is aiming for 3 degrees. I'm not commenting on the merit of this, but trying to set a framework for you to judge Ridley's comments as set out by the IPCC .

 

I would also like to post this cato summary which imo summarises why there needs to be a non-consensus discussion of climate scenarios...

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) last week to fanfare and stinging criticism.

Most of the criticism was aimed at the IPCC’s defense of climate models—models that the latest observations of the earth’s climate evolution show to be inaccurate, or at least are strongly indicative that is the case.

There are two prominent and undeniable examples of the models’ insufficiencies: 1) climate models overwhelmingly expected much more warming to have taken place over the past several decades than actually occurred; and 2) the sensitivity of the earth’s average temperature to increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (such as carbon dioxide) averages some 60 percent greater in the IPCC’s climate models than it does in reality (according to a large and growing collection of evidence published in the scientific literature).

Had the IPCC addressed these model shortcomings head on, the flavor of their entire report would have been different. Instead of including projections for extreme climate changes as a result of continued human emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from our production of energy, the high-end projections would have featured relatively modest changes and the low-end projections would have been completely unremarkable.

Since changes in the earth’s temperature scale approximately linearly with a property known as the earth’s equilibrium climate sensitivity (how much the earth’s average surface temperature rises as a result of a doubling of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration), it is pretty straightforward to adjust the IPCC’s projections of future temperature change to bring them closer to what the latest science says the climate sensitivity is. That science suggests the equilibrium climate sensitivity probably lies between 1.5°C and 2.5°C (with an average value of 2.0°C), while the climate models used by the IPCC have climate sensitivities which range from 2.1°C to 4.7°C with an average value of 3.2°C.

To make the IPCC projections of the evolution of the earth’s average temperature better reflect the latest scientific estimates of the climate sensitivity, it is necessary to adjust them downward by about 30% at the low end, about 50% at the high end, and about 40% in the middle.

The figure below the jump shows what happens when we apply such a correction (note: we maintain some internal weather noise). The top panel shows the projections as portrayed by the IPCC in their just-released Fifth Assessment Report, and the lower panel shows what they pretty much would have looked like had the climate models better reflected the latest science. In other words, the lower panel is what the IPCC temperature projections should have looked like.

Figure 1. (Top) Temperature evolution from 1950 to 2100 as portrayed by the IPCC in its Fifth Assessment Reportaccording to its worst case (red) and best case (blue) emissions scenarios (RCP8.5 and RC2.6, respectively).

(Bottom) Temperature evolution from 1950 to 2100 from the same emission scenarios adjusted such that the equilibrium climate sensitivity values better matched the latest science.

The result of such adjustments is that the IPCC’s worst-case emissions scenario produces a global average temperature rise (from the 1986-2005 average) by the end of the century that has a centralized value of about 2.6°C, compared with a rise of 4.1°C given in the IPCC AR5. The more moderate emissions scenarios (the more likely course as the natural gas revolution will see lower carbon dioxide-emitting natural gas replace higher-emitting coal in energy production), once properly adjusted, produce a temperature rise by century’s end of only about 1.25°C (of which, about 0.15°C has already happened).

Since virtually all climate impacts are related to the change in the earth’s temperature, the smaller the future temperature increase, the smaller the resulting impacts. Another degree of so of temperature rise during the next 87 years is not going to lead to climate catastrophe.

Had the IPCC been more interested in reflecting the actual science rather than in preserving a quickly crumbling consensus (that human greenhouse gas emissions are leading to dangerous climate change that requires urgent action), its Fifth Assessment Report would have been a much kindler and gentler document—as it well should have been.

 

http://www.cato.org/blog/what-ipcc-global-warming-projections-should-have-looked

I didn include the graph, so follow the link if you wish to see them.

Edited by tantalus

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Its widely agreed that surface temperatures have been increasing very slowly for last 15 years, currently not in align with IPCC high sensitivity models.

They are still in the error bars for the common, standard IPCC models. And we just had El Nino hit, a large one, at the end of an already very warm year, so - - -

 

The CATO report there, always dubious and agenda driven with fuzzy logic, has been completely dismissed by the discovery that the ocean temp measurements had not been calibrated accurately - the correction for bucket temps had been omitted under the mistaken impression that temps reported from ships were no longer being measured by bucket, but many were. Restoring that correction takes care of all of CATO's concerns.

 

And there are other factors: even with the failure to calibrate the buckets and so forth, even without the discovery of faster deep and midwater heating than had been allowed for, even without the correction for the recently discovered melt acceleration in Greenland and Antarctica,. there was solid increase in temps - so it's a bit scary at the moment: if we are losing track of such major heat stores adn sinks, but still measuring a solid increase in temps, what happens next? Suddenly the high end predictions come into likelihood.

 

 

I don't know personally, but this is the point where serious debate should be occurring, not that it is nonsense. Because the answers influence certainty on projections of temp., serious differences in impact, and thus risk-cost evaluations etc etc.

Sure. But you seem to be assuming the "serious debate" isn't occurring, and that if it were allowed unto the media stage it would present the IPCC as having been alarmist. There are serious debates for the finding, and the most common suspicion or conclusion one finds in them seems to be that the IPCC is being too cautious and conservative, while the data show low percentage but significant likelihood of greater drama and more radical threats.

 

There is no serious debate involving the bs from the CATO institute, the Heritage Foundation, Fox News, or the rest. Those are not serious people, in this matter.

Edited by overtone

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