24 June 2010

Is it Science or Is it Politics?

Real Climate offers a rather muddled take on the controversial PNAS paper published earlier this week, which helps to shed some light on the thinking behind the paper, and how questions of science are conflated with questions of politics.

Real Climate describes the question that the PNAS was focused on as follows:
So, do the climate scientists who have publicly declared that they are ‘convinced of the evidence’ that emission policies are required have more credentials and expertise than the signers of statements declaring the opposite?
By contrast the PNAS paper describes their methodology as one focused on views on the science of climate change:
We provide a broad assessment of the relative credibility of researchers convinced by the evidence (CE) of ACC [anthropogenic climate change] and those unconvinced by the evidence (UE) of ACC. . . We defined CE researchers as those who signed statements broadly agreeing with or directly endorsing the primary tenets of the IPCC Fourth Assessmentthat it is “very likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature in the second half of the 20th century . . .
So is it science or politics? We can explore this with a short focus the paper's methodology. The IPCC statement that the PNAS paper uses as its mechanism for distinguishing scientists views was published in 2007. Consider that seven (maybe eight) of the sources used to identify people who disagree with the 2007 IPCC statement were written before the IPCC statement even existed, one as long ago as 1992. As a matter of social science methodology, unless the authors of the pre-2007 statements had access to a time machine, it is improper to use those statements to say anything about how the authors would view a document written years later. (This flaw alone would render such a paper unpublishable in any self-respecting social science journal.)

But maybe the paper really isn't about scientific views on climate change, but political views. Real Climate would seem to agree (emphasis in original):
. . . as tests of political preferences, these [sign-on] letters are probably valid indicators.
I would not even go that far, as I have documented, the world's most authoritative "skeptical" climate scientist (RPSr) argues strongly for a human influence on climate and the need for action, including on emissions. But for purposes of discussion, lets say that the PNAS paper has perfectly segregated two camps according to their views on climate science as it claims to have done.

There is a major problem that results.

It is the idea that acceptance of the "tenets of the IPCC" equates with a particular political view on emissions reductions. Jim Prall, responsible for developing the lists, says this explicitly on the methodology page linked from the paper:
I claim it is only reasonable to place IPCC authors in the "mainstream" and to recognize that the IPCC reports incorporate a strong call for action on greenhouse gas reductions.
This is simply factually wrong insofar as the IPCC is concerned. The IPCC goes to great lengths to characterize itself as "policy neutral" -- a stance that is formalized in its terms of reference, explaining (PDF):
IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy.
It cannot be both ways. Either the IPCC is a politicized body consisting only of people with a single political view on emissions, or it is policy neutral with no implications of being a contributor for a particular political agenda. If the former then the IPCC is deeply compromised and biased and if the latter then the PNAS paper is built on a flawed assumption. Is the PNAS list about views on science or politics? I don't think that even Real Climate would go so far as to say that one's views of climate science dictate one's views on climate politics, given the diversity of opinion on both.

This gets to the nub of the problem of blog and media wars over climate science. These debates are in fact entirely political (if you actually want to debate science there is a peer-reviewed literature for that). These debates are about what we should do on climate change and who should have authority to speak and decide. But in democratic politics you get to participate no matter how many papers you have written, how stupid your views are and how inane your policy recommendations (e.g., they even let cap-and-trade advocates participate, but I digress;-).

The problem with the PNAS black list is that it seeks to use a metric of scientific credibility to establish authority in political debates and thus to delegitimize a group of people in political and public debate. In the real world, action on climate change will occur via compromise via traditional democratic processes. It will not occur because some small group of elites have been judged to be the wisest men (and women) of all and the others relegated to irrelevancy. Such efforts to delegitimize will inevitably flounder on the realities of democracy.

In politics, climate scientists have no special authority in making policy judgments. They are no more special than economists, sociologists, engineers, technologists, philosophers, priests, rabbis and other experts and specialists. In fact, they have no special authority beyond non-specialists like Marc Morano or Joe Romm. They are experts, who have knowledge that is useful and even necessary in policy making, but this confers no special authority in the political process. Military historians or tacticians don't get to decide how wars are fought and academic economists don't decide economic policy -- they are important to consult of course. Now, it is true that politicians and the public sometimes act like scientists have a special authority (and often for selfish reasons, like avoiding accountability), and of course some scientists like to act that way as well. Many activist scientists won't like to hear this.

In conclusion, Real Climate says this:
the basic consensus is almost universally accepted. That is, the planet is warming, that human activities are contributing to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (chiefly, but not exclusively CO2), that these changes are playing a big role in the current warming, and thus, further increases in the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere are very likely to cause further warming which could have serious impacts. You can go to any standard meeting or workshop, browse the abstracts, look at any assessment, ask any of the National Academies etc. and receive the same answer. There are certainly disputes about more detailed or specific issues (as there is in any scientific field), and lots of research continues to improve our quantitative understanding of the system, but the basic issues (as outlined above) are very widely (though not universally) accepted.
They are right. And I would bet that many on the PNAS black list would also agree with this point of view. Had the PNAS paper been about science, it might have actually tested this proposition. But why would it? There is little need to test scientific opinion because there is such a broad consensus on exactly these questions. In fact, most of the US and global public also agrees with this point of view. As I have argued, insofar as climate policy is concerned the science debate is over. Does this mean that everyone agrees on everything or that we won't make new discoveries in the future? No, of course not. What it does mean is that further public debates over climate science offer precious little to advancing climate policies, but do offer great potential for harm within the scientific community.

Equating science with politics in an effort to give a small set of scientists an upper hand in political debates will do far more to politicize science than to usher in an era of authoritarian policy making on climate change by a few scientists. Sorry guys, but that's politics.

47 comments:

judith said...

Roger, thank you, very well said!

Judith Curry

dljvjbsl said...

What is the purpose of the scientific effort surrounding AGW?

Is it to get papers published in prestigious journals and to present papers at conferences in exotic locations?

Or is it to generate the knowledge needed to enable policy makers to craft effective and economical policies?

If it is the former then perhaps the scientific debate is over. If it is the latter then perhaps the scientific debate will need to proceed until climate science can produce accurate quantitative predictions. Currently the accuracy of climate sensitivity predictions is such that a doubling of CO2 could produce either catastrophic or benign consequences. Obviously the policy implications of this degree of uncertainty is significant.

The science debate is not over. In fact, the real issue now appears to be if the science will ever be complete enough to be of any use to policy makers.

bostmass said...

The science debate is over. Wow. If you'd been around during Galileo's time you'd have been the one whispering in the Pope's ear to have him locked up for saying the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. I'm glad we've left the Dark Ages behind us and entered into this enlightened period where the science is never settled. Oh wait, your Sept. 2009 post says it is. My bad.

jae said...

The scientific debate is not over, as long as even one scientist says it is not. To say otherwise is totally illogical and Orwellian!

jae said...

Roger, it totally baffles me how you can state, in a very authoritative manner even, that "the debate is over." For the debate about AGW to be over, someone has to explain the natural changes, such as the RWP, MWP, LIA, etc. AFIK, there is absolutely not one shred of empirical evidence to support AGW. And without empirical evidence, there can be no scientific certainty. If you know of such evidence, I would like to see it. You are not talking science; you are talking dogma.

models-methods-software.com said...

Excellent post.

The debate will continue so long as some scientists insist that there is a direct connection between their science and public policy. That such a connection bypasses almost all the really hard, and actually useful, work seems to continue to evade certain scientists.

The Cunctator said...

Strange. I read the PNAS paper and the supporting documentation and there were no lists of names, "black" or otherwise.

Michael Tobis said...

Sorry, which "list" was the black one again?

I agree that "There is little need to test scientific opinion because there is such a broad consensus on exactly these questions. ... As I have argued, insofar as climate policy is concerned the science debate is over. Does this mean that everyone agrees on everything or that we won't make new discoveries in the future? No, of course not. What it does mean is that further public debates over climate science offer precious little to advancing climate policies, but do offer great potential for harm within the scientific community."

That much is quite true.

But I omitted your sentence that is, I think, demonstrably false: that "In fact, most of the US and global public also agrees with this point of view." While there has been some controversy about polling in this regard recently, informal experience talking to the general public shows that this isn't true and most polls agree with my intuitions.

If it were the case that the outlines of the problem were well-enough understood by the public, the public debates over climate science would not occur, certainly not with such frequency and vehemence. Such debates would not be harming the scientific community, or, even more importantly, the prospects for a sound policy and a sustainable future.

Sharon F. said...

I'm with Judy. Your paragraph that starts "in politics" has relevance far beyond the climate science community.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-2, 3, 4-

Insofar as climate policy is concerned, the science debate is over, and has been for a while. Sorry to have to break the news!

That said, debates will still occur (and they do of course) but they are now part of the culture of the political debate, they won't really change the underlying dynamics.

That said scientific research will continue, and maybe something revolutionary will occur. But for now, with respect to the policy debate my forecast is persistence . . .

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-7-Cunctator

You can find the list from my earlier post. It is at the website where the PNAS source material is found. If you are able to figure out how to enter comments on this site you are web-savvy enough to get to the lists ;-)

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Why are you surprised that the people seeking to suppress discussion and censor speech and thought are not able to clearly rationalize their effort?

nigguraths said...

Super post, Roger.

This paper has become useful, inasmuch, it crystallizes and sharpens (in the form of your posts and Dr Curry's posts), the climate-political situation at the moment.

The paper brings to the surface and formalises differences in philosophy and politics between two allegedly non-overlapping groups. If this is how, the 'warmists' think, that is a separate problem we need to solve, regardless of the expertise they possess.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

The odd thing in your blog is that you have apparent agreement with the most extreme of CAGW promoters, "The debate is over," for instance. Yet you nearly dialy poke holes in their claims and you are deeply hated by the mainstream of CAGW believers. You see the institutional faililngs, the hype, etc. yet you claim to believe. Do you believe a climate catastrophe is imminent?
There seems to be a fairly strong dissonance in your position. Would it be OK with you to spend a moment or two reconciling this?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-8-Michael Tobis

The list of skeptics is the black list, you know the people that you often say should not be quoted by the media or have a say in the political debate? ;-)

Please show any data contrary to my claim that (a) most people accept a human influence on climate and (b) that it could be negative and (c) that most people support action to reduce emissions, then show it. Public support for action has been consistently strong, even though climate is not a highly ranked priority (it won't be, get over it).

Sorry to be blunt, but your "intuitions" on public opinion are about as authoritative as Monckton's on climate science. it is exactly this sort of incorrect assumption that gets you climate scientists into trouble. you think that you need to convert every nonbeliever, but politics does not require unanimity of views, only sufficiency of public opinion -- and the sufficiency criterion has been met for years.

There is not uniformity of opinion, of course, and so long as there is not uniformity there will be public debates. Do you really expect such debates to go away? Ever? But make no mistake, public opinion is not a limiting factor in climate policy. It is an untapped resource.

Chapter 2 of The Climate fix makes this case with data, and I am sure that we'll have plenty of opportunity to discuss this in coming months.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

A response to Gavin at RC, reposted here ... you know why ;-)

-----

Gavin (#18)

Thanks kindly for your response. A few replies.

First, you write, "Whatever flaws or ambiguities exist in the paper, the use of the letters as source materials for any comparison cannot purely be a test of agreement with the IPCC (as we stated above - you could agree with every word in the IPCC report and still not want to do anything about emissions), but must be a test of someone's opinion about what to do about it. . . Thus the only way in my mind to interpret a comparison of signers is a categorization by policy direction, not understanding or agreement on the science. Perhaps the authors of the PNAS paper would disagree, but that is up to them. Do not confuse something they may or may not have said with what I and Eric have said."

You do realize I hope that with these statements you have completely undercut the entire methodology of the PNAS paper? I had thought that this post was about that paper. If it is about something else, then indeed I am confused. I have characterized the paper as an inkblot, and perhaps that is what we see here.

2. Thank's for the lecture of the definition of "politics" -- I will share with my colleagues in political science ;-)

3. But lets take your spin on the paper rather than the authors'and let me ask a follow up question -- To be clear, do you really think that a 1992 statement on "immediate action" is relevant to discerning someone's views on action in 2010? Really?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-14-FFS

I see no dissonance. But perhaps The Climate Fix will help to make things clear, at I give it a try.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

A good overview article here:

http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2010/06/pnas-study-sparks-support-and-criticism/

lkdemott said...

I think you post is very insightful. I would quibble with only one aspect. You quote Real Climate's statement of the consensus and then state: "I would bet that many on the PNAS black list would also agree with this point of view."

I would go further to state Real Climate's statement of the consensus is so broad that it is difficult to imagine that any of the "unconvinced scientists" would dispute it.

Although some scientists may believe that the amount of warming has been overstated, very few would deny that over the past 100 years or 50 years or 30 years that there has been some warming.

I doubt that many of the "unconvinced scientists" would deny that the burning of fossil fuels is adding significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Although people may quibble about what constitutes a "big" role in contributing to the current warming, I doubt that many unconvinced scientists would dispute textbook greenhouse gas physics or that CO2 emissions have contributed and will continue to contribute to warming temperatures.

Finally, I am certain that most of the unconvinced scientists would take the position that we don't have sufficient knowledge of the climate to make certain predictions of the impact of CO2. Accordingly, they would not rule out the that it is possible that CO2 warming could have serious consequences.

What I find frustrating in this debate is that so often people will cite the "consensus" as the basis for enacting a particular policy. They seldom define what the "consensus" is. If the consensus is as Real Climate defines it, then it is not very helpful in guiding policy choices.

Steve Reynolds said...

Roger, I agree with most of what you wrote in the post, but I don't see why a reasonably exact value for climate sensitivity to CO2 is not critical to policy. Whether the value is 1, 3, or 5C (along with corresponding impacts) will likely determine what cost for mitigation the public will accept.

In light of this, can you explain what you mean by ‘the science debate is over’?

jae said...

"Public support for action has been consistently strong, even though climate is not a highly ranked priority (it won't be, get over it)."

Consistent? No. And look at the TRENDS:

http://citizensagainstproobamamediabias.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/rasmussen-poll-global-warming/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/126560/americans-global-warming-concerns-continue-drop.aspx

Give it another year and you may be completely wrong. As said in Lawrence of Arabia, nothing is written!!

Ali: In God's name understand, we cannot go back.
Lawrence: I can...
Ali: If you go back, you'll kill us all. Gasim you have killed already.
Lawrence: Get out of my way.
Another Arab: Gasim's time is come, Lawrence. It is written!
Lawrence: Nothing is written.
Ali (riding back with Lawrence): Go back, then. What did you bring us here for with your blasphemous conceit? Eh, English blasphemer? Aqaba? What is Aqaba? You will not be at Aqaba, English. Go back, blasphemer! But you will not be at Aqaba!
Lawrence (riding ahead and turning): I shall be at Aqaba. That is written...(He points at his head.)..in here!
Ali (shouting after him): English! English!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-20-Steve Reynolds

Two quick replies ... certainty on a "reasonably exact value" is not in my inexpert view is not immediately forthcoming.

Second, even if it was it is trumped by economic and political realities. Public acceptance of costs of policy has virtually nothing to do with climate sensitivity.

Gotta run to the BBC event, happy to engage later.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-21-jae

Thanks for helping make my point, 1998-2010, no change!!!

http://sas-origin.onstreammedia.com/origin/gallupinc/GallupSpaces/Production/Cms/POLL/vsj_u-80huqgud6kgt9v9a.gif

Don't confuse short-term variability with the long-term (lack of) trend! ;-)

Harrywr2 said...

There are only two possible options for speech.

1) All speech must be officially sanctioned.
2) No speech requires official sanction.

I believe Secretary Chu was asked the question as to whether or not his job would be easier if the US had a Chinese System of Government.

His answer was succinct, he would much rather live in the USA.

I don't think history shows that countries with 'approved Speech' policies had/have particularly good records on environmental issues.

Mike said...

The reason for the consternation by many about Roger's statements that public opinion supports action and has consistently for a long time is because of different ideas of what climate action means. Roger's position is that public opinion supports moderate actions -- not too expensive and primarily for the purpose of funding research into new technologies. But what some people want is public support for something along the lines of a 90% cut in carbon emissions yesterday! There is not public support for that, and probably never will be. It requires a true crisis for the public to support something like that, and saying it's a crisis (for over 20 years now), just doesn't make it so...

eric144 said...

My view of the IPCC is that is was set up by highly intelligent bureaucrats to corral ambitious, careerist scientists into producing the result the banks and fossil fuel lobby wanted.

That is obvious to anyone researching its structure and consensus driven methodology. The scientific consensus on AGW seems to be formed from a herd driven mentality in individuals who are too frightened to speak intelligently, never mind the truth.

It is actually unfair to single out scientists. It is the way of the modern world.

I took voluntary redundancy and spoke to a journalist. Someone else took early retirement and more successfully spoke to an MP, and blew the truth (that I could get literally every one of my colleagues to admit to in private) across the national media and parliament.

However, it suited the Blair government to massively expand and the circus continued. The result is one trillion pounds (actually more) of public sector debt to their friends in the banks.

Steve Reynolds said...

Roger: 'certainty on a "reasonably exact value" is not in my inexpert view is not immediately forthcoming.'

Yes, one reason the public will not likely support draconian CO2 limits anytime soon.

Roger: "Public acceptance of costs of policy has virtually nothing to do with climate sensitivity."

Unless you just mean only public perception matters (which I agree), that statement seems unlikely to be the case. Do you have some support for it?

jae said...

Mike:

The public support is very rapidly disappearing, but Roger does not want to admit it. Climategate; Pachurigate; the widely broadcast fact that IPCC is a political body, NOT somehow an unbiased scientific organization that is based only on "peer-reviewed" science; the complete meltdown at Copenhagen; all the scare stories that are so outlandish that not even a third grader would believe them; the economic disasters wrought by the leftist idealogues/elitist ivy league pinheads---as well as the simple fact that there has been no warming for 16 years--is quickly eroding the public's confidence in the "big warming doom." Even the UN knows this, which is why it's now changing the doom-and-gloom game to the endangered species meme. It's all so visible to those that are watching; and I doubt that the enviros will ever have the power they once had. Economics will see to that. Especially if half the countries in the world go bankrupt and millions of people have to stand in "bread-lines." Thank your Sierra Club friends for what is about to happen!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

#16 not allowed at RC, why not?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Roger writes:

"The problem with the PNAS black list is that it seeks to use a metric of scientific credibility to establish authority in political debates and thus to delegitimize a group of people in political and public debate. In the real world, action on climate change will occur via compromise via traditional democratic processes. It will not occur because some small group of elites have been judged to be the wisest men (and women) of all and the others relegated to irrelevancy. Such efforts to delegitimize will inevitably flounder on the realities of democracy."

I believe this is entirely correct, except for the assumption that the AGW crowd is in the least bit concerned with the "niceities" of democracy. This is the reason they could so blithely trample upon the idea of academic freedom...it simply is one in a long line of freedoms they have no interest in. They do not make a distinction between science and ideology; for them those are just two sides of the same coin. Thus they have no use for the ideas of, say, John Stuart Mill. The Millian conception, for them, is something we cannot "afford" to take seriously, because it gets in the way of their attempts to reconcile/save humanity from itself. It is the gnostic dream of having "secret" knowledge beyond the ken of the great unwashed, which will usher in a new age for those who believe.

Its Fourier all over again, and as a result boring as all get out.

rjtklein said...

#26 eric144

"My view of the IPCC is that is was set up by highly intelligent bureaucrats to corral ambitious, careerist scientists into producing the result the banks and fossil fuel lobby wanted."

The IPCC was set up in 1988, when no bank had even thought about the implications of climate change or climate policy for its business, and the development of a carbon market was still years away. UN General Assembly resolution 43/53, defined the mandate of the IPCC:

"[to provide] a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to:

(a) The state of knowledge of the science of climate and climatic change;

(b) Programmes and studies on the social and economic impact of climate change, including global warming;

(c) Possible response strategies to delay, limit or mitigate the impact of adverse climate change;

(d) The identification and possible strengthening of relevant existing international legal instruments having a bearing on climate;

(e) Elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate."

This mandate has changed somewhat over time (emphasising that the IPCC's role is to be policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive), but it is clear that, contrary to your view, the IPCC was set up to inform governments. In 1992 this led to the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (of Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord fame).

You can read more about the history of the IPCC in these peer-reviewed articles by Shardul Agrawala: dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1005315532386 and dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1005312331477 .

jgdes said...

When was the debate then? I missed it. Maybe it was the one that took place behind IPCC doors where only the enlightened were allowed to take part and any dissenting viewpoints were totally ignored by the authoritarian lead authors.

If this was the debate then there is currently a review taking place about whether that debate was done correctly or not, because seemingly a lot of unchecked nonsense made it's way into the final report.

jgdes said...

The science debate is over.....so it's now time for politicians to kick the ball into the long grass and blame the "flat-earthers" that nobody listens to.

The science debate is over, the hypocrisy continues unabated.

The science debate is over... we'll have either a beneficial 1.1C or a world frying 6C, or anything in between. Mother nature meanwhile prefers to remain below the lowest estimate.

Jonathan said...

Roger #23, the graph you point to could be interpreted in many ways. Personally I see a resemblance to the pattern of support described in Langmuir's famous discussion of pathological science

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~ken/Langmuir/langmuir.htm

More broadly I'm with Jae #28. Short of some really spectacular event climate alarmism is now effectively over. Which is good news for Roger, as the obvious retreat position for politicians is pretty much what he has been advocating.

Matt said...

With respect to the debate about "action on climate change," it's important to consider that pretty much all environmental policies are essentially luxuries. If you can't put food on the table, you're not concerned, and certainly not willing to pay for, rivers you can't swim in, or air that you can see, let alone with something that will supposedly heat up the planet to some uncertain degree over an uncertain number of years.

Most people are very uneducated with respect to the science, but they've heard so much about it, and there's so much authority telling them that it's definitely truly actually really cross my heart real, that it should be no surprise that many are concerned about it.

The difficulty in fomenting action is that the case must be made with alarmism to convince the public that there are huge costs associated with not taking action. But they're generally future costs, and over reaching claims (like increased hurricanes) that have fizzled make great counter points in the debate.

I doubt that there will be any sort of a revolution as far as the science goes. Instead, as the model forecasts, predictions, scenarios (or whatever weasel word their makers choose) don't pan out over time, this is the way CAGW ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper. And alternate theories will continue to be developed

DaveJR said...

RPJ wrote: "But make no mistake, public opinion is not a limiting factor in climate policy. It is an untapped resource."

You're playing both ends against the middle, are you not?

Let me see if I can shine light where you're reluctant to do so:-

1) The science is clear that CO2 will produce warming (consensus), although how the climate will ultimately react to this warming is currently highly uncertain (no consensus).

2) The public are broadly supportive of efforts to protect the environment, including climate change (public support), within limits (no public support).

3) Policy makers are in agreement to do something because of public support (policy debate over) but they haven't decided exactly what to do because of public support (policy debate not over).

In this respect, the science is both settled and still in its infancy. Public opinion is both for and against. The policy debate is both over and not.

Is this how it works?

W.E. Heasley said...

Dr. Pielke:

“In the real world, action on climate change will occur via compromise via traditional democratic processes. It will not occur because some small group of elites have been judged to be the wisest men (and women) of all and the others relegated to irrelevancy. Such efforts to delegitimize will inevitably flounder on the realities of democracy.

In politics, climate scientists have no special authority in making policy judgments. They are no more special than economists, sociologists, engineers, technologists, philosophers, priests, rabbis and other experts and specialists. In fact, they have no special authority beyond non-specialists like Marc Morano or Joe Romm. They are experts, who have knowledge that is useful and even necessary in policy making, but this confers no special authority in the political process. Military historians or tacticians don't get to decide how wars are fought and academic economists don't decide economic policy -- they are important to consult of course. Now, it is true that politicians and the public sometimes act like scientists have a special authority (and often for selfish reasons, like avoiding accountability), and of course some scientists like to act that way as well. Many activist scientists won't like to hear this.”

Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals and Society takes an in-depth look at the concept you outline above. It boils down to the empirical/tragic view vs. the anointed/intellectual view.

Simon said...

#29, that's a rhetorical question, right?

jgdes said...

Science or politics?
I'd say that they are one and the same thing and always were. One of Judiths colleagues, Julien E-G, once wrote that 90% of those involved in climate science are left-leaning. It is certainly a plain fact that most believers in AGW (as opposed to GW) are left-leaning. Similarly most opponents, including apparently all of the dissenting scientists, are right-leaning. People can pretend all they like but conservative versus progressive memes dominate this pseudo-debate with only a little non-partisan truth sometimes seeping through.

Progressives seem to be hard-wired to be anti-industry, anti-growth and Conservatives are similarly hard-wired to despise all taxes and exhortations to "change our behaviour". Of course these attitudes affect their interpretations of the science.


There will be no agreement that is not based on satisfying this dogmata, only an executive decision will do it. The seek for compromise via cap and trade had more to do with gaining the support of traditionally conservative finance houses by showing them how to profiteer from carbon trading than any real effort at CO2 reductions.

There is no other roadmap except what the Bric countries have already dictated; that punitive limits are unacceptable and only a properly crafted energy plan will do.

Stan said...

Roger,

You can pound your "science is settled, the debate is over" drum 7/24, but it won't make it true. BTW, since this post concerns flawed methodology, why won't you focus on the flawed methodology you used to come up with that favorite drumbeat conclusion?

Harrywr2 said...

"Is it Science or Politics?"

Science.

Politics is warfare by other means.

In warfare there are only 3 ways to end a war,
annihilation, accommodation and assimilation.
Complete annihilation is rarely achieved, which leaves accommodation and assimilation.
Assimilation takes 60 years. Which leaves accommodation.

At the professional level of warfare, achieving accommodation is a balance of inflicting costs on our opponent while simultaneously offering generous surrender terms.

Science, in it's quest for a singular answer doesn't offer surrender terms. One is either right or wrong. Scientists are ill suited to politics or warfare by nature of their profession.

In the end the 'climate wars' won't be ended by people with degrees in atmospheric physics, it will be ended by people with degrees in engineering who develop new ways to produce electricity and new products that use less energy.

eric144 said...

rjtklein

You are correct. The formal plan to use carbon trading was initiated in the White House in 1997 at a meeting between Lord Browne (BP), Kenneth Lay (Enron) and Al Gore (Occidental Oil). It appeared in article 16 of the Kyoto Protocol.

Here is a brief history of Margret Thatcher's involvement. Like the individuals above, Thatcher was connected to the oil/gas industry. Her husband was a director of Burmah Oil. Thatcher put fanatical Christian environmentalist John Houghton in the chair of the IPCC and at the head of the Met Office. In my view it is highly likely the embryo of current policy was created then. Thanks to Thatcher, Britain is a (very deliberately created) post industrial banking economy whch has lead the political AGW process from its beginning to the present.

Certainly, Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988, With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then our man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming, Under his influence, as she recorded in her memoirs, she made a series of speeches, in Britain and to world bodies, calling for urgent international action, and citing evidence given to the US Senate by the arch-alarmist Jim Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

She found equally persuasive the views of a third prominent convert to the cause, Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office. She backed him in the setting up of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, and promised the Met Office lavish funding for its Hadley Centre, which she opened in 1990, as a world authority on "human-induced climate change".



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/7823477/Was-Margaret-Thatcher-the-first-climate-sceptic.html


Sir Crispin Tickell (see above) is very much a member of the ruling classes and is George Monbiot's mentor. He is very closely related to the Huxley science dynasty. The real roots of modern environmentalism are to be found amongst the billionaire classes and the intellectual end of the New Age Movement whch I once studied enthusiastically myself and still have an affinity to.

Here is an article about one such man, Maurice Strong in the Guardian yesterday. A target of many conspiracy theories.

Maurice Strong: Ignore Glenn Beck – I don't want to rule the world

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/23/maurice-strong-reacts-to-glenn-beck

I think he is being a little silly and disingenuous.


It is simply not feasible for sovereignty to be exercised unilaterally by individual nation states, however powerful. The global community must be assured of environmental security."

Maurice Strong, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Al Gore's mentor and executive member of the Club of Rome.


To understand environmentalism, you have to study the history of the Club of Rome. Probably the club with the most elite membership in the word. The billionaire class who fund Greenpeace etc. The main author of PNAS document Stephen Schneider is a member because of his science background.

http://www.clubofrome.org/eng/home/


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_of_Rome



The Limits to Growth 1972 - club of Rome

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Limits_to_Growth

Gerard Harbison said...

I'd certainly recommend 'The Limits to Growth' as a salutary lesson in the dangers of prognostications based on computer modeling. You can buy it from any number of used booksellers. As a teenage science nerd, it scared the willies out of me. The modelers were using the BIggest Computers In The WorldI They were using Multiple Coupled Variables and Numerically Integrated DIfferential Equations! And they proved, beyond a shadow of scientific doubt, that we were all doomed, by 2010 if not earlier. If population growth didn't kill us, food shortages would. If we magically survived those nasties, there was pollution, and resource depletion to contend with! Unless we immediately and absolutely ceased all population and economic growth, there was no way out!

I had contingency plans all set up to buy a small place in the country and live by subsistence agriculture. But I figured I needed a job for a few years to buy the survivalist necessities. By the time I had the assembled the wherewithal, I had also grown up, and mirabile dictu, none of it had come true.

eric144 said...

Stalin's reign of intellectual terror by Dennis Bray. Seems even more appropriate now.

1. To begin, Stalin's reign of tyranny, was a reign that was indulged by Western intellectuals.

Climate change, particularly its remediation, is a point of contention. It is, however, indulged by Western intellectuals as if there only facts and no assumptions . (See statement by professional/scientific organization)

2. The Cheka - The Extraordinary Commission - (a soviet state security organization) operated by instilling fear in people. People needed to know they were never safe for the Cheka to operate successfully.

The IPCC and Co. tend to let people know they are never safe and people need to be kept this way if the IPCC and Co is to maintain its existence. (Although recently, the IPCC has been accused of understating the potential dangers of global warming and the public are beginning to have their doubts.)

3. Stalin, history books will tell us, waged war on the truth. Torture and fear were used to force people to collude in a fiction.

Well, we don’t have torture yet, but we do have some healthy doses of fear instilled in the public, (although, it is beginning to subside, at least according to recent polls). The extent of the fear even gave rise to new forms of therapy for those individual no longer able to deal with the daily bombardment of environmental threat (at least in the USA). And, according to the fall out of climategate there is definitely an attempt to wage war on the truth.

4. Bendy, the poet, was evicted from the Writer’s Union for writing a satirical opera (Bogatyrs).

While no one, to my knowledge, has been evicted from any scientific institute yet (for being a skeptic) they have certainly been penalized in pal review system.

5. Stalin was noted as saying ‘There is a man, there is a problem. No man, no problem.’

Much to do with global warming often comes back to issues of over population and the evils of humanity.

6. Tsipko, a noted Russian philosopher characterized the Bolsheviks as having a desire to astonish the world.

Some of the alleged global warming impacts certainly seem astonishing.

7. In December 1930 Stalin told the Institute of Red Professors ‘We have to turn upside down and turn over the whole pile of shit that has accumulated in questions of philosophy and natural science.’ According to Volkogonov, ‘... philosophy dried up ...’ and ...‘ no one had the courage to write anything more on the subject.’

See Climategate

8. Kolakowski: ‘Half starved people, lacking the bare necessities of life, attended meetings at which they repeated the government’s lies about how well off they were, and in a bizarre way they half believed what they were saying ... Truth, they knew, was a Party matter, and therefore lies became true even if they contradicted the plain facts of the experience.’ According to Kolakowski, means define the ends and means, in the USSR, were all you were ever going to get.

Half starved populations of developing countires are continually told to act on behalf of the greater good. Closer to home, there WAS a large public majority that believed in AGW. Experience so far seems to be contradicting facts (as far as I know I still don’t need to go by ferry to visit the Cologne Cathedral). Measures taken to combat AGW are always decried as being not enough - i.e. while the means are being implicated there never seems to be an end in sight. Witness the perpetuation of talk-fests.

9. Santayanas description of Stalin the fanatic: He redoubles his efforts while forgetting his aims. He doesn’t want to think to know. He just wants to believe.

We just know there is AGW and we just know it will lead to Armageddon. Some time.
10. Malia, talking on the ubiquitous unreality of Soviet socialism tells us: In short, there is no such thing as socialism, and the Soviet Union built it.’

markbahner said...

"Currently the accuracy of climate sensitivity predictions is such that a doubling of CO2 could produce either catastrophic or benign consequences. Obviously the policy implications of this degree of uncertainty is significant."

It's not *necessarily* significant, if there exists some policies that lead to good results no matter what the impacts are of climate change. Two examples (somewhat hypothetical, but not completely);

1) Suppose some minimal investment (say, less than $50 billion) would result in liquid fluoride thorium reactors that could produce electricity that's less expensive than coal or natural gas (even without any carbon tax). If so, such an investment would be worthwhile, regardless of whether or not climate change has significant impacts.

2) Suppose a portable storm surge protection system could be designed and deployed for the next two decades at a cost of less than $20 billion, and was capable of reducing storm surge damage by more than 80%, anywhere on the Gulf or East coasts. In other words, if this system had been deployed during Hurricane Katrina, the cost from Hurricane Katrina would have been reduced from about $80 billion to about $20 billion, saving $60 billion. Such a storm surge protection system would be worthwhile, regardless of whether or not climate change impacts future costs of hurricane storm surge.

rjtklein said...

eric144:

My comment was in response to your stated view that the IPCC was set up by highly intelligent bureaucrats to corral ambitious, careerist scientists into producing the result the banks and fossil fuel lobby wanted.

All I did was simply show that this is not the case, and judging from your first sentence ("You are correct"), you agree with me. This then renders your view invalid, irrespective of the wall of text that follows.

Sure, reflections on Thatcher, Tickell, Strong, Beck and others are interesting but hardly enlightening in this context. The fact of the matter remains that your view is not based on reality.

eric144 said...

rjtklein

I admitted at the very beginning you were correct. This isn't a family squabble. The truth isn't always black and white.

However, you may be labouring under the grand delusion that the UN is an independent body of nice people who's job it is to help the world.

Margaret Thatcher, a front for the global oil industry set up the IPCC and put her very own born again Christian environmentalist, John Houghton in charge. She also set up the world's foremost climate research unit, The Hadley centre at roughly the same time. It is hardly a coincidence that her primary domestic policy was closing the coal industry.


Thatcher's duplicitous agenda was highlighted by George Monbiot.


On November 8 1989, Margaret Thatcher shocked the UN with a speech on global warming

Two days before she delivered the speech, the UK blocked a proposal at a conference in the Netherlands for a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2005. On the day after the speech, the energy secretary, John Wakeham, told the House of Commons that he had been forced to abandon the government's insane plan to privatise nuclear power. It was Thatcher who insisted that "nothing can stop the great car economy" and her ministers who announced "the biggest roadbuilding programme since the Romans".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/jun/30/climatechange.climatechangeenvironment1

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