nathan wrote:I'm led to conclude that scientism has a lot in common with stalinism. Seems to have built the more effective killing machine, in a global sense. So I'm forced to agree. When all of this 'progress' reaches it's natural conclusion and there is no one left alive, the arguments will all end.
If you're concerned about the abuse of science, you shouldn't limit your concern to just one side. Here we have a case where certain businesses have a financial stake in what opinion the public has about this issue, and have been spending a lot of money to try to influence that opinion. In this case it's the "dissenters" who keep complaining about how (businesses' notion of) progress would be sacrificed by doing too much, while most climatologists are more concerned about the impact that doing too little would have on human beings and other living things. Businesses are more prone to err on the side of wishing to push this kind of "progress" at the expense of other values. If we want to prevent the kind of disaster you describe, we need to be pushing businesses to exercise restraint where their idea of progress poses risks to others.
nathan wrote:So it will be relatively easy for me to concede that a couple of decades of playing with computer models is entirely equivalent to a prescient foreknowledge of meteorological events in the far future even in the context of the ongoing inability to accurately forecast the local weather for the week to come.
It's only natural that long-term global averages are easier to understand and predict than daily local averages. You also do a disservice to climatologists by calling it "playing" with models.
The piece you linked to tries in various ways to turn failure on the part of the "dissenters" into reasons for us to trust them more
! If they have trouble getting their papers published, we're supposed to assume that this is because of bias on the part of journals, so we should distrust the journals and instead regard the "dissenters" as relatively to be trusted. If they have in general a low reputation among mainstream climatologists, we should take this as a sign of bias on the part of the majority of climatologists. If people basing their careers on "dissent" are rewarded by industry but not academia, so much the worse for academia: we're asked to interpret this as "pressure" within academia rather than what it mostly is, a preference for good work over bad. There is an incentive for cartographers to believe that the world is round and not flat, for example. If reporters do not always regard the "two sides" as being on par with each other, this too is supposed to count as a point in favor of the side that (sometimes) is presented (correctly) as weaker. Finally, we are asked to treat statements that there is a consensus as evidence that there is not
In point #1 he presents the "pro" side as acting in a way that doesn't seem accurate to me, but without citing specific examples. I really don't see issues being "bundled" like that. If for example someone has a typical opinion of the science, but is opposed to policy changes, I don't see that they are usually branded as a climate denier... more likely they will simply be a Republican and/or libertarian with a different policy preference. Of course it's really quite frequent that people who oppose doing anything about the climate crisis go on to say that they have especially strong suspicions of the scientific work that motivates the interest in doing something.
The industry shills would like for us to think that "dissent" is coming from a wider diversity of sources than it is. One can presumably find people who adopt all these different possible positions on the topic. But so much of it seems the same because the same interests are behind it, especially the people who stand to get more profits if nothing is done.
Point #1 also seems intended to reinforce a certain misconception about how the science has proceeded: by speaking of the need to separate the question of whether warming is occurring from the question of why it is occurring, it helps to convey the impression that the latter question came second historically. But global warming is not an observed phenomenon that went hunting for an explanation; it's a prediction that was proposed around a century back, based on general physical principles, and which was then confirmed.
This is also a problem with his point #8, the reliance on involved models. The main chains of cause-and-effect here are not terribly complicated. Putting CO2 into the atmosphere increases what is there. CO2 absorbs a certain amount of certain frequencies of light (which we know from physics). This adds to the available heat. Heat also causes water to evaporate faster. Water vapor also absorbs a certain spectrum of light. None of this is problematic on its own.
But if this were all that we knew, we certainly would not be entitled to be as confident as we are now. (Indeed, decades ago, climate scientists were much more tentative about their opinions.) That's because it doesn't say what else
might be going on to cause the system to behave differently. For example, at one time, the degree to which additional water vapor might increase the cloud cover, and thus reflect more light back into space, was much less well known. (This effect is apparently one reason why the average temperature during the winter has gone up less than the average temperature during the summer; water vapor is more likely to form clouds then.) There are many effects that might
be relevant, and the "dissenters" love to remind people of them.
The models are important if for no other reason, because they help to check the extent to which major additional effects might be being missed. For a long time, for example, models that didn't take into account the cooling effect of aerosols (including some pollution) deviated from reality much more than current models, which do recognize this effect. The "dissenters" like to pretend that "alternative explanations" for warming are being given short shrift, but in fact they've gotten every reasonable opportunity to find other relevant effects, whether from observed data or theoretical analysis.
By now, it would be reasonably amazing to find that there is some effect that we don't understand yet, that negates the warming effect of CO2 that I outlined above. Going back many decades, yes, one could easily imagine that some auxiliary feedback loop unknown to us would help to keep temperatures more stable and blunt the impact of gigatons of CO2, but at this point, we have mainly the bare claim that such a mechanism could conceivably exist, without a statement of what it might be. (Some of what we have discovered, in fact, is further positive feedback loops that seem to be making matters worse, not better, like the effect of warmer weather causing arctic tundra to release some of its stored CO2.) It would, on the other hand, be similarly amazing to find that there is some effect that we don't understand yet, that causes the warming that we have observed to occur anyway (and not because of what we are doing). People have said, for instance, maybe the Sun has gotten brighter. But we now have much better evidence as to what the brightness of the Sun is doing, and similarly for the other suggested "alternative explanations". For the "pro" side to be basically wrong would require that both of these somewhat amazing things to be true at the same time. The dissenting side is unable to give good support to either one, let alone both.
For his point #2 the author describes ad hominem attacks on the "dissent" as "predominant". This is nonsense. The "dissenters" spend hugely more of their time talking about the alleged vices of their opponents than do mainstream climatologists. This whole piece is devoted to asking the reader to scrutinize the manner in which scientists go about their business, and not the content of what they are working on.
Similarly, in point #4, he gives us no reason to believe that climate scientists are any more "cliquish" than any other profession of a similar size. If you go looking at "dissenting" material, I think you'll find that a remarkably large amount of it comes from a very small group of people who are quoted over and over. When I see an article on the "dissenters" overall, I expect to see a reference to Lindzen, for instance.
In point #7 we see an example of a common tendency in "dissenting" essays, which is to keep repeating factoids that sound good, even when they were corrected a long time ago. George Will misrepresented this 1992 Gallup poll so badly, that they wrote to his paper to ask for a correction. Supposedly 53% of "scientists concerned with global climate research" "do not believe warming has occurred". But it was actually 66% of the scientists polled saying that global warming was caused by people, 10% disagreeing, and the rest undecided. (Moreover, it's not clear to me that their sampling of 400 members of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society counts purely as scientists "actively involved in global climate research". I would tend to expect the American Geophysical Union in particular to have as members many people with close ties to industry, some with a good understanding of the issues and no particular bias, but also some who would be defensive about research that suggests their employers could be doing harm, and inclined to believe industry propaganda on the issue.)
Consensus was not declared prematurely. Contrary to what many "dissenters" have been saying, in the 1970s there was no pretended consensus in favor of global cooling; a survey of the literature has shown that the predominantly expressed opinion in papers on the topic was that probably the climate would be warming as it has done. As I said, there was more reason for uncertainty back then, but the smart money was already on warming a very long time ago.
These guys love to exploit our desire to be fair and not come to premature conclusions. It's understandable that one expects bias often to result in excessive confidence in conclusions. But there are cases where an unbiased assessment of evidence leads one to a reasonably high degree of confidence, and it's the granting of substantial plausibility to the alternatives that is due to bias. I'm sure you can still find people who think smoking doesn't cause disease or that HIV is not a major cause of AIDS. There are people who write to math departments to dispute this or that fact too.
For purposes of decision-making, whether we are 99%, 90%, or 80% sure that the climate crisis is as described by most climatologists may be significant, but isn't all that crucial. To be staking hopes on that chance that they are thoroughly mistaken would be a bad idea even if there was a 1 in 3 chance of it. What it would make sense for us to do if we were 100% sure is not that much different from what it makes sense for us to do anyway.