Alas, certainty…!

From the SINTEF report on the debate over the human impact on climate change:

Conclusions

To illustrate the way that scientific, political and ethical concerns are mixed in the debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming, this report used the by now famous quote from Gro Harlem Brundtland, that “doubt has been eliminated“,and that “it is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation” as a point of departure. The goal of the report was to enter this debate and battlefield of arguments and take stock of the debate about anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. Based on the present review of this debate there are several conclusions to be drawn. The first and simplest one is that considered as an empirical statement, the assertion that doubt has been eliminated on AGW is plainly false. Although as documented the level of agreement in the scientific literature that AGW is occurring is quite extensive,the magnitude of dissent,questioning and contrarian perspectives and positions in both scientific discourse and public opinion on the question of AGW evidently contradicts such a proclamation.

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8 Responses to Alas, certainty…!

  1. David says:

    A breath of fresh air!

  2. troutsky says:

    Doubt within the “scientific discourse” is a good thing. Doubt in “public opinion” is irrelevant because it is so easily manufactured.

    By the way, what do you think about metabolism as a conceptual tool? As it relates to “balance”?

    • Lichanos says:

      Don’t know. Sounds like the Physiocrats! Metabolism was popular as a metaphor for urban systems a while ago…now people like the Systems Approach, I think.

      I’m not sure what balance means in terms of biology… In terms of physics, it means equilibrium, a state of rest. People don’t see it that way – ‘balance’ always implies a sort of tension, potential, I think, when I hear it used to discuss art or culture.

  3. troutsky says:

    Perhaps this last paragraph of the report needs to be examined using the lens of ideology:

    “In open societies where both scientists and the general public are equipped with critical skills and
    the tools of inquiry, not least enabled by the information revolution provided through the Internet,
    th
    e ethos of science as open, questioning, critical and anti

    dogmatic should and can be defended
    also by the public at large. Efforts to make people bow uncritically to the authority of a dogmatic
    representation of Science, seems largely to produce ridicule,
    opposition and inaction, and ultimately
    undermines the legitimacy and role of both science and politics in
    open democracies.”

    How “open” really? How “equipped”really?

    • Lichanos says:

      …questioning, critical and anti-dogmatic […]should and can be defended
      also by the public at large.

      Can one argue with this?

      …In open societies where both scientists and the general public are equipped with critical skills and
      the tools of inquiry…

      How open and equipped? Well, probably not nearly open or equipped enough – but what is your point? If our societies are not open and people are not equipped, all the more reason to encourage debate. If they are, then more controversy is still good. Are you simply grousing that things are not as good as they should be?

      More to the point of AGW, the view of this report is that societies are relatively open (okay, you disagree…and so do I) and that debate should not be quashed. Presumably, open or not, you agree with that latter point. And the view of this report is that the advocates of AGW have tried in many ways to pretend that there is no legitimate debate, and that those who dissent from this view are yahoos. You, the champion of free though against the Dominant Discourse, seem to want it both ways. Society is closed, and therefore debate on AGW is illegitimate. Don’t get you at all…

      Your views are totally political, and you have not delved into the scientific detail. Like many leftists and liberals, you look at your opponents, see the Koch brothers and Senator Inhofe, and make a decision about the science. No, no, no! What if Lysenko’s theories had NOT been bullshit? Would the fact that Stalin endorsed them make them wrong? Broken clocks are right twice a day, etc…

      All you have to do is try and make a list of what the AGW Consesus on ‘The Settled Science” actually comprises, and you will find that you can come up with very little in the way of clear propositions beyond the most trivial and irrelevant, e.g., CO2 is a greenhouse gas. (Not a controversial point!) Yet, the drumbeat continues.

      I know that Fox News and other rightist organs call AGW a hoax, but you can hardly claim that the power elite is trying to crush the correct views of a group of noble scientists when you have the New York Times firmly in the AGW camp, and practicing awful journalism in that regard. As far as class politics analysis goes, I’d say we have an internal split within the ruling elite on this one.

      • Ducky's here says:

        If our societies are not open and people are not equipped, all the more reason to encourage debate.

        ———
        Among whom?

        Greenhouse gases are close to the 400ppm level which is considered a point at which profound changes of unknown intensity may occur.

        Are we open enough to say “back off” and be heard? Or is it just, “go ahead with the Keystone and turn up the thermostat if you can afford to”.

        Got a hunch, bet a bunch. And in this case it’s a bunch.

  4. troutsky says:

    But isn’t the whole concept of ( I will share your use of scare quotes) “Settled Science” the point? Natural selection has not been “settled” but the policy implications are marginal. With AWG this is not the case.Pure Settlement, like Pure Reason, is impossible. So we wait?

    This is why I like to look to motive and for a majority of the AWG dissent there is an economic element. They either accuse the “science community” of desiring personal gain (“increased funding, to gain attention”) or they include an economic analysis from a distinct ideological position, ie “costly regulations, slow development, inflict taxes, economic disbenefits” etc.etc.

    The Heartland Institute is the most obvious case of ideological bias and while you are right that the David vs Goliath analogy is blurred, with heavy hitters on both sides, we know the Fossil Fuel Industry stands alone as a “player”.

    Of course I have my own bias and philosophy around political economy and don’t make claims of objectivity.I want AWG to be a crisis of capitalism- in this “open debate” I would appreciate my opponents being as candid. A simple question added to each survey perhaps? Something about their attitude concerning the free market? The correlation would be stark.

    • Lichanos says:

      Natural selection has not been “settled” but the policy implications are marginal.

      Yeah, it’s pretty settled, and the policy implications are huge. Start with education! Then think of medical research… I guess you could do the research without the theory, but what if the teaching of medicine were changed to reflect anti-Darwinism?

      This is why I like to look to motive and for a majority of the AWG dissent there is an economic element. They either accuse the “science community” of desiring personal gain (“increased funding, to gain attention”) …

      Exactly the tack taken by the AGW community. Dissenters are all in the pocket of Big Oil, etc. etc. The truth is, a lot of them are die-hard libertarians, true enough, and some of them are definitely wacko. But hey, I don’t read their crackpot manifestoes – I just look at the data. Most of my views are based on reading reports from Pro-AGW sources, e.g., the IPCC, EDF, press releases, the NY Times, etc.

      A simple question added to each survey perhaps? Something about their attitude concerning the free market? The correlation would be stark.

      I’m sure it would be, but it wouldn’t tell us much about the science, but only about the political nature of the question. A few thoughts:

      – The current level of CO2 is not going to change things much, and neither will it when it reaches the doubling point, but in 100 years or so, if it doubles again or again, that could be serious!

      – There are many reasons to reduce use of fossil fuels in the long-term, and to diversify energy sources. Air pollution, habitat protection, and, yes, climate change (long-term) are among them.

      – In the near-term, however, there is little alternative to their use: try to tell otherwise to the Brazilians, Chinese, Indians, and other nations that want a better living standard and that have growing populations. The alternative energy schemes discussed are junk, and the best we can hope for in the next couple of generations is a sharply decreased rate of increase in fossil fuel consumption based on improved efficiency and diversification. Long-term? Vast changes in energy distribution? population decrease with growing affluence? new technologies? (We should be funding R&D massively!)

      – There are many factors influencing climate change now that are probably much greater than CO2 discharge.

      – Doing the ‘right thing’ for the wrong reasons is bad science and bad policy, and it just won’t happen anyway. The majority of claims for climage change impacts that I read are spurious, illogical, vague, polemical, and simply intended to scare policy makers into action, often counter-productive and irrational.

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