There are a couple of readers of this blog that seem highly invested in the “global-warming-will-kill-our-children-unless-we-do-something-drastic” narrative promoted by David Suzuki, Al Gore, et.al. One reader claims to be a schoolteacher who wants to give “all sides” to her students, but saves all her skepticism only for those who do not accept the narrative. The other reader takes pride in “gotcha” moments that he thinks impeach the credibility of the “deniers”, thus somehow proving that his side is right. (For example, he revelled in the news that Carl Wunsch, a contributor to Channel 4’s “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, was upset about the tone of the program. The whole Wunsch story can be found here.)
The reasons that ordinary people personally invest themselves in the global-warming-hysteria narrative are numerous: misdirected post-9/11 angst; dreams of a return to pre-industrial times; star-struck fawning over Hollywood latest cause celebre; a search for meaning in a chaotic natural world for those who don’t believe in God; and good old-fashioned gullibility. Some of these pathologies can be cured; others are hopeless. However, everyone needs to understand this simple fact before they jump on board with the demagogues:
SCIENCE IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, AND SCIENCE IS NEVER “SETTLED”!
The constant refrain from the Al Gore-David Suzuki crowd is that “(x number) of scientists agree”, that “deniers” are a fringe element, and that the “science is settled”. This is not how science works. The scientific method requires that hypotheses and conclusions are constantly challenged, with additional data adding to previous studies to confirm or refute others’ findings. The scientific method allows a single dissenter to change an entire body of work; there are no votes, and there is never an appropriate time for demagogues like the ex-VP to demand that inquiry stop. If you recall the story of Galileo Galilei, you’ll find that the “settled science” crowd is sounding a lot like the Inquisition that tried and convicted Galileo in 1633.
So, I will wait until the shrill scam-artist brownshirts like Gore move on to the next fad, and the enviro-science community returns to reason. Do I leave open the possibility that a tragic global warming death-spiral will occur if we don’t cut down on CO2? Sure. But my brain tells me to be wary of snake-oil salesmen. It tells me that pushy intellectual bullies are usually trying to cover up logical flaws with bluster. For this reason alone, I’ll side with the skeptics for now, even if every one of them is not 100% perfect, until open-minded debate is welcomed by the polar bear pimps.
In the meantime, Torontonian Lawrence Solomon’s ongoing series in The National Post, “The Deniers”, can be found here. The series profiles scientists who refuse to follow the climate change orthodoxy, often at significant personal and professional cost. Profiles so far include Dr. Edward Wegman, professor at the Center for Computational Statistics at George Mason University, chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, and board member of the American Statistical Association; Dr. Richard Tol, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University; Dr. Christopher Landsea of the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory; Dr. Duncan Wingham, Professor of Climate Physics at University College London and Director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling; Dr. Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute (DSRI); Dr. Henk Tennekes, former director of research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the space research laboratory of the Russian Academies of Sciences’ Pulkovo Observatory and of the International Space Station’s Astrometry project; Dr. Jasper Kirkby, director of the CLOUD project at CERN; Dr. Claude Allegre, director of the Paris Institut de Physique du Globe; Dr. Sami Solanki, director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; Dr. Paul Reiter, Professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris; and others.