Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taking the battle to the climate sceptics

I have just sent this letter to some climate scientists in the UK:

I would like to explore a new strategy designed to resolve the climate change debate speedily.

At present the debate seems interminable, like fighting the Hydra: cut off one misperception, and another two appear in its place. The sceptics' criticisms can be refuted, but they always come back with more. They attack, we defend, and the journalists deduce that there is a "controversy", which results in the lamentable situation that Joe Public is undecided, which in turn extinguishes the enthusiasm of Government to do anything meaningful to address the problem.

I propose that instead of defending our position, we should take the fight to the sceptics' own territory and force them to think critically about their own position.

In Popperian terms, if the sceptics' position is scientific, it must be refutable.

I have had a debate with Benny Peiser, which is on my blog here. There is a summary of the correspondence here:

Peiser was coy of offering a testable hypothesis, but his remarks clearly imply that he believes climate sensitivity is far lower than the IPCC figure.

It is reasonable to argue that this proposition lies at the core of the sceptics' position. Lindzen and Choi, and Roy Spencer are all putting forward papers that support low climate sensitivity.

Therefore if we focus the debate on the science around climate sensitivity, testing the fit of their proposition with what we already know, and even designing investigations that would refute (or not, as the case may be) their proposition, we could achieve a resolution of the debate.

The advantage of this strategy is that it focuses onto a single point - refutability of low sensitivity - and sidesteps the infinity of special pleadings and cherrypicked anecdotes that is the stock in trade of their hugely successful propaganda campaign.

My purpose in writing is to explore your reactions.
You might have names of contacts in academia who are focussed on climate sensitivity, or if you think the idea has merit, you might like to consider setting up seminars or debates in Bristol to take this further.

I am very grateful for your attention to this proposal.



I've actually asked this question of you a number of times but to date you have not given an answer:

Who says that the climate we have at present is the perfect one?

john said...

Gideon Mack It may not be perfect but the last major shift in climate regime took 1500 years of erratic 'trials' before the current pattern established. We cant assume an easier transition, and it may prove somewhat disruptive to agriculture.
It may well be that the current extremes of weather worldwide are just outlying events of the historical climates energy distribution system but when a system breaks down typically it is preceded by a series of peak events, followed by a sudden breakdown, a period of chaos then a new system slowly establishing. Think russian or french revolutions, or even the civil war here in britain all more or less typical of systemic breakdown.

john said...

Extreme events for instance

DocRichard said...

Nothing is "perfect", so your question is not well framed.

What we can say is that the climate we have had for say, the last 2000 years is reasonably predictable. For instance, monsoons were pretty regular.

GW theory predicts that the global climate will be perturbed, with an increase in extreme weather events. And that is what we are seeing. No single weather event can be linked to GW, but the weather we are seeing is *consistent* with AGW theory.

The predictions of the theory are being borne out in practice.

And the extreme weather events are not imperfect (since perfection does not apply) but they are inimical for human development.

Benny Peiser says we have to go 30 years further down this road before he would reconsider his position.

I hope you will agree that is an irrational approach.

I hope that answers your question. Now please answer mine: What would it take for you to change your mind?

DocRichard said...

Gideon: take a look at this: http://bit.ly/mQlGpF

""Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change," says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: "It's as if the weather machine had changed up a gear."