The Beginning of the End of AGW

A month ago at a conference I met a journalist who wanted to increase public understanding of science. I said, yeah, it would be good if the public understood science, then they could see how weak the case that humans are seriously warming the planet (anthropogenic global warming, AGW). After I said that, my questions received short answers, haha.

Then there’s Gary Trudeau. According to a recent Doonesbury cartoon, I’m not just a moron, I’m a moron:

The scientific case for global warming is overwhelming — and it grows daily. Only a moron would deny it.

But I think the dissent is getting louder. Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, recently wrote:

You don’t have to look far to see that impeccable scientific standards can go hand-in-hand with skepticism about global warming. Ivar Giaever, a 1973 Nobel laureate in physics, resigned this month as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) to protest the organization’s official position that evidence of manmade climate change is “incontrovertible” and cause for alarm.

Giaever, unlike Jacoby, voted for Obama. And there’s this, from ScottishSkeptic:

This weekend I was sitting with a group of (unrelated) people I’d known since a child, and the subject of wheat farming and weather forecasts came up and almost without prompting someone else mentioned their dislike of the politicisation at the Met Office, the way the forecasts were always wrong and their suspicion about what we are being told about global warming. And then the rest of the company agreed with them.

None of these people had any financial interest in the subject, they were all educated in science at leading Universities, but they are not only questioning the assertions of global warming, they were actively sceptical.

To say I was shocked was an understatement. In many other ways this is a very pro-environment group.

So maybe there is hope for the ideas that butter is good and breakfast bad, that sugar can cause weight loss, that food is healthier after the expiration date, that faces Monday morning can make you happier on Tuesday, and so on.

13 Replies to “The Beginning of the End of AGW”

  1. Skepticism is–or should be–the hallmark of science. Unremitting questioning should be the order of the day in science. However, policy and action cannot operate on such standards. You confuse scientific skepticism–almost always a good thing–with rational judgment, which must, in the face of choices, always act in the face of uncertainty. When N=1, you’d better be sure that you want to run the experiment. We’re running an experiment in AGW, and based on the results so far, we’d better think very strongly about stopping the experiment. The experiment is fun–unlimited energy makes all of our lives better by any material measure–but if we don’t watch it, we could end up creating a mess for ourselves and future generations. That’s what choice is about.

    BTW, how about an ideological Turing test for you? (E.g. Will you post the strongest possible arguments possible in support of AGW, and based upon that statement, make a set of policy recommendations? After doing so, you can then post what policies you do support and why you’ve made that choice.


  2. Seth, I’ll bet your opinion on AGW makes many of your Berkeley friends squirm. You’re a rebuke to those who would dismiss all AGW skeptics as know-nothing, Fox News-watching tea partiers.

    If pinned down I would say my degree of belief in AGW is about 68% and climbing, but I admire your courage and I hope you are correct and “they” are wrong.

  3. If they had an actual case they wouldn’t need to resort to name calling.

    If it wasn’t politically relevant they wouldn’t bother. Follow the money.

    This has been said before but apparently it bears repeating.

  4. I would think more of AGW believers if they were doing things that fit with what they were espousing. Moving to Canada and moving inland, etc.

    I need to browse around the internet to see how the hockey stick looks now that we have ten more years of data to add to it.

  5. Tying the vindication of your butter and breakfast hypotheses to the ultimate repudiation of AGW shows very little confidence in your own ideas.

    You still have not said whether you don’t believe there’s persuasive evidence that GW is occurring at all, or whether you don’t believe there’s any way that human activity can be causing the (manifestly observable) melting of the tundra. The two positions are fundamentally contradictory. Which is it? Even days one, odd days the other?

  6. You still haven’t said what your null forecast or model for climate is, or even stated a reasonable burden of proof for non-experimental situations, so that you can never be proven wrong. That doesn’t seem very consistent with your experimental approach to other problems, which I admire.

  7. Calls for scientific skepticism to yield to the political impulse to act (for the children, for the public good, for the planet, and to keep the money flowing) calls to mind what Bryan Caplan calls the “Activist’s fallacy”:

    1. Something must be done
    2. This is something
    3. Therefore, this must be done.

    We know what causes earthquakes, but thankfully no one is seriously proposing a worldwide, trillion-dollar effort to stop continental drift. We do our best to understand it and deal with it. We don’t pretend we’re powerful enough to stop it.

    As P.J. O’Rourke points out, “There are 1.3 billion people in China and they all want a Buick.” If global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels, nothing can stop it. All the political action in the world will only waste scads of time and money.

    1. Eugene, I like Bryan’s Activist’s Fallacy. I suppose it is 90% fallacy, 10% reasonable. As I say in my next post, if you don’t do anything, you’ll learn less than if you do something, even the wrong thing.

  8. But are there any signs that we(as a collective) are capable of recognizing that we are doing the wrong thing and changing direction?

    Doing the wrong thing is a reasonable approach at the individual level, but horribly bad at the State level where mistakes may go unacknowledged for decades.

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