10 September 2009

Can Climate Policy Survive Doubt?

Over at the Washington Post, several of its expert bloggers at the Capital Weather Gang are mixing it up on questions related to climate science and scientific consensus.

Matt Rogers has doubts.

Andrew Freedman does not.

Meantime, Marc Morano of ClimateDepot looks to maximize the PR value of the debate.

Can climate policy survive expressions of doubt? I think that it can and it must. but this means giving doubt its proper place in debates about climate, as being not just acceptable, but fully expected and welcomed. So good for Rogers and Freedman both for expressing their views. If you read closely enough you'll see that their policy preferences are not really so different, and therein lies an important lesson.

As Walter Lippmann once said, and I often paraphrase, democracy is not about getting everyone to think alike, but it is about getting people who think differently to act alike.


  1. Mr. Freedman wrote:

    "...you think the solutions to climate change will cost more than letting the climate system run amok..'

    Do you really suppose a worthwhile discussion with him is even possible?

    "run amok" Indeed.

  2. I think that the claims that the "science is settled" and we must respect the scientific "consensus" diminish the credibility of those who are most concerned about AGW. Any reasonably intelligent person who takes the time to evaluate the evidence knows that these claims are untrue. Sure, certain areas are well-settled: we have observed warming over the last forty years. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and adding it to the atmosphere will cause some warming. There are, however, vast areas of uncertainty and debate: how do cloud feedbacks effect the climate? How are manmade aerosals estimated historically and what effect have they had on the climate and how we model it; How do cosmic rays effect cloud formation and influence weather? How do natural variability in ocean cycles effect long-term climate and how can these cycles be predicted? What other manmade climate forcing have an effect on climate besides CO2; How do we empirically measure feedbacks to warming caused by CO2? How do we reduce the wide range of predictions made by credible computer models? How can we empirically test the predictions made by the computer models?
    I can respect your position that while there are many uncertainties in predicting the effects that CO2 emissions, we should nevertheless take actions to curb CO2 and plan how we can deal with potential global warming. I have little respect for the likes of Al Gore who claim that the science is settled and its time to close that debate.

  3. "I have little respect for the likes of Al Gore who claim that the science is settled and its time to close that debate."

    Could you provide a specific example of such a claim?

  4. "Could you provide a specific example of such a claim?"