Monday, February 22, 2010

Wow, I'm Good

I wrote the following 16 months ago, which is an eternity in the global warming debate.

It's scary how right I was. Scary.

Walt Bennett says:
8 October 2008 at 12:58 AM
Re: #91 inline


Gavin,

Thanks for asking, because I really want to answer that question, and since you are the one who asked it, perhaps some will pay attention to the answer who otherwise might not.

What is the point?

The point is that we are being lied to. You don’t lie. Let’s say in a perfect world everything you say is completely accurate.

Then your PR office issues a statement describing the implications of your work. Those are their words, not yours.

Then the press gets the release and writes a story based on it. “More Evidence Of AGW” is the likely headline, with the story selecting the quotes which best illustrate the point.

AGW has become a juggernaut. It has morphed from a theory into an industry. The lay public is worse off than ever, trying to discern what’s true from what’s possible from what’s wrong, as well as trying to unravel various motives.

I’ve said this before. When there are two vociferous and dedicated sides to an issue, it’s almost for certain that neither side is completely right or completely wrong.

And if ever there was an issue where “right” and “wrong” are subjective, this is it.

The reason I quoted the passage that I did was because it is so illustrative of the doubt which has crept into this process, and why that doubt is necessary.

550? 650? Dr. Hansen says that anything over 350 is armageddon. Rates are rising higher than the BAU scenario of AR4.

In other words, it looks as though mitigation is dead before it starts. You ask “so that means we should do nothing?”

No, it means we should be honest about the situation so we can allocate our resources the best way possible. We probably only get one chance to get this right.

If there is literally no way to avoid even the most generous tipping point, then adaptation must become a higher priority than it is today.

The point is that we must be honest and transparent and restrained. Why? Because when people believe they aren’t getting the straight story, they wonder why.

And then they don’t know what to believe. And if they don’t know what to believe, then they don’t know what to do.

Anyway, that’s the view from here. You most likely see it differently, but I thank you for sharing your forum with me, and for asking the question.

I am still a “warmer”. :-)

Walt Bennett says:
16 October 2008 at 8:36 AM
Re: #254


Ray,

Speaking for myself, the “alternate hypothesis” is that there is something we don’t know which will turn out to be significant.

You say that the problem is not ” that the IPCC did not state the matter clearly” but “that without precise, technical language of statistics, you cannot state the problem precisely”.

I would say that the problem is trying to mix science and public policy. And when the stakes are stated to be as high as the stakes of AGW are stated to be, that only places more pressure on the science to coherently inform public policy, to do so in realtime, and to do so with a minimum of error.

Those requirements are in direct conflict with sound science.

The only way to be sure we don’t, in my simplistic terms, “miss something” is to wall off, as much as possible, scientific pursuit from the pressure being placed on the science community from public policy makers.

Since public policy causes human effects, you may have noticed that lots of people believe they have a stake in this issue, and have chimed in from all points on the ideological spectrum. This will never reverse, but will only intensify.

Soon there will be specific factions with dug-in positions; one example is the McIntyre gang, which has firmly and most likely irrevocably concluded that proxy studies are over-wrought with error and cannot reliably reach accurate conclusions regarding past temperatures.

I don’t have any particular wisdom to share regarding what to do about this, but I am at least trying to give the subject some air time, in the hope that one day one of you will take a step back and at least look at the concerns I am raising.

I am fine with public policy proceeding on the basis of the best knowledge we have today. I am simply concerned that more and more of our efforts and resources will be spent “confirming” this case in order to make the public policy changes easier to swallow. The potential recoil from this, is that we slack off of our efforts to understand climate in a more critical way, trying to break things, seeing what that looks like, and so forth.

3 comments:

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