In January the Guardian UK listed fifty people who can help save the planet. I was very encouraged to see Bjorn Lomborg on this list as he’s one of the few well informed and rational voices in the global warming debate. Lomborg simple, obvious, and common sense argument is that we are failing to prioritize our time and treasure as we deal with global challenges like Global Warming, health, and poverty. He’d like to see us devote more resources to the most pressing problems and fewer to the least pressing, suggesting that although Global Warming will cause problems it is very unlikely that catastrophe is looming.
Perhaps ironically the next person on the list is Climatologist Gavin Schmidt from the RealClimate.org blog -my favorite source for spirited debate about Climate Change. Gavin is one of several well connected scientists who participate regularly at that blog along with a group of moderately informed yet rabid commenters who are very quick to attack as “denialists” blog participants who suggest any deparature from the prevailing partly line on climate change. A friend noted to me recently that climate change has become the new religion of the inquisition, where heretics are verbally burned at the stake – usually by those who are not particularly well informed – for suggesting even obvious problems such as the many defects in current global climate computer models.
As somebody trained in science, my biggest concern remains the reluctance (refusal?) of climate scientists to define their work in ways that allow much if any falsifiability – they key mainstay of all modern science. You’ll be very hard pressed to find many climate modellers say “if we find [insert any measurable phenomenon here], then our assumptions about warming are misguided”. Unlike most conventional science where falsifiabilty is king and politics is left at the door, the climate community has a political component that is coloring the perception of the scientists. I rarely hear scientists challenge the hysterical assertions that climate change will lead to catastrophic conditions soon. Since the science does not suggest we have catastrophe looming, why this failure to comment more thoroughly and responsibly on the issue? I think most of this is the assumption that reducing pollution is so important it’s OK to mislead the public into thinking warming catastrophes are looming when in fact they are not. Watch “An Inconvenient Truth”, a movie largely supported as factual by the climate community and then read the critiques of the film’s examples.
Although many in the climate field bristle at the notion that they have a vested interest in “hype” thanks to over $5,000,000,000 in annual grants for climate reasearch, but clearly feeding your kids plays a role in most human opinions and scientific opinion is no exception to this.
The list *should* include Steve McIntyre, creator of the blog www.ClimateAudit.org, created in some ways to foil the dramatic level of omission of relevant information and participation that characterizes RealClimate.org. MyIntyre is a mathematician and amateur scientist who is making quite a name for himself by replicating tree ring studies and challenging some questionable practices in the climate change community.
From the Guardian:
Bjørn Lomborg, 42, has become an essential check and balance to runaway environmental excitement. In 2004, the Dane made his name as a green contrarian with his bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist, and outraged scientists and green groups around the world by arguing that many claims about global warming, overpopulation, energy resources, deforestation, species loss and water shortages are not supported by analysis. He was accused of scientific dishonesty, but cleared his name. He doesn’t dispute the science of climate change, but questions the priority it is given. He may look increasingly out of step, but Lomborg is one of the few academics prepared to challenge the consensus with credible data.
Gavin Schmidt, 38 and British, is a climate modeller at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He founded RealClimate.org with colleagues in 2004. Offering “climate science from climate scientists”, the site has quickly become a must-read for interested amateurs, and a perfect foil to both the climate sceptic misinformation that saturates sections of the web and the overexcitement of the claims of some environmentalists. Unapologetically combative, technical and high-brow, the site and its contributors – essentially blogging in their spare time – nail the myth that scientists struggle to communicate their work. Whenever a major flaw is pointed out in the global consensus on climate change, or new evidence is discovered to blame it on the sun, it is always worth checking RealClimate. The site has a policy of not getting dragged into the political or economic aspects of science, but it’s fairly easy to guess which side it’s on.
Update to make my case: Realclimate’s response to the new Hurricane study that suggests that the link between Hurricanes and Global Warming has been exaggerated shows how – to my way of thinking – they have little if any interest in falsifiability. RC seems to frequently highlight even anecdotal evidence supporting their view but critically rejects even well researched, peer reviewed studies that suggest things they don’t want to hear. This rejecting the alternative hypothesis because it does not suit your beliefs science … or is it religion?