Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some commenters have said there is no point in continuing the climate debate because the sceptics are unchangeable. While this may be true, we must try to present the reality to journalists and general public. In a nutshell:

  • 97% of scientists believe we have a problem
  • 50% of Joe Public thinks we have a problem.
  • This doubt is holding politicians back from acting seriously over decarbonisation.
  • The main explanation for this state of affairs:
    a) denial is a natural reaction to any serious problem, so the uncommitted will tend to accept the "no change" argument
    b) the carbon companies have mobilised to cast doubt on the science with a masterly propaganda exercise in which they have dominated both right leaning newspapers and the blogosphere.
    c) free market ideology is incompatible with a co-operative global effort to decarbonise the economy, so the free marketeers have joined with the carbon companies
There has been a failure of the media to communicate the thinking of , because they always feel the need to "balance" the 97% scientists with the 3% sceptics, who are expert in the production of what is in the main an endless set of anecdotes and special pleadings.

This controversy could be resolved by showing that the position held by the sceptics is refuted by some important facts.
The debate is thus reeled in from an infinity of niceties about dendrochronology, cosmic rays &c, to a single question:

What is the most probable effect that CO2 has have on global temperatures?

Though the science is dauntingly complex, the background can be explained by well written documentaries and articles.

To get to a public debate (perhaps a series, round the country, culminating in a Council of Trent type decision, we need first to elucidate their core case.

It is most probably this:

"The climate sensitivity to CO2 is less than 1.5*C".

The debate is now focussed on one central statement. If it can be fully substantiated, we can all relax. If on the other hand it can be refuted, in the minds of the scientific community and intelligent people who can follow the debate, the doubt can be resolved, and humanity can set about transforming the global economy to renewable energy. If the debate is inconclusive, the council must specify the additional work that must be done to resolve the question.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff.

Agree with 97% of it...

I would though, resist the urge to blame any 'unusual' weather, or volcanic activity, or earthquakes etc on climate change. There's no real need to lump them together, no clear studies yet that identify a causal link and it only allows doubters to cast their doubt. I'd stick to the cold, hard undisputed facts for now.

DocRichard said...

thanks anon.

I cannot see anywhere on this post that causally links unusual weather &c to climate change.

However, an upward trend in extreme weather events, if it is indeed taking place, is CONSISTENT with climate change theory.

Anonymous No. 6 said...

Sorry Doc

didn't mean in this post. It has been mentioned a few times here though.

I agree that extreme weather is consistent with climate change but you have mentioned earthquakes and volcanoes too. I'm not disagreeing that there may be some link there but I was just trying to say that to people who aren't convinced by the core arguments of AGW, linking in shaky areas (forgive the pun) of volcanoes and earthquakes gives them more of a reason to dismiss your arguments.

Anyway, you're doing a good job. Keep at 'em.

Anon. 6 (forgot my full title in the above post)

DocRichard said...

I accept that I stuck my neck out on earthquakes, but I did add a caveat. And the data I found is indicative - but I agree it needs a lot more depth.

Your point about overclaiming is noted. If anything, I tend to be too cool and calm. The sceptics should be pressed more on the enormity of their guilt if they are proved wrong.