It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Unsettled Science


NASA has an excellent page summarizing the key practical uncertainties about climate change. A fine place to rebut the idea that anyone is claiming "the science is settled", and in aggregate showing how many of the uncertainties pull in the direction of greater impact and more dangerous outcomes.

They also lead in with a big and gorgeous image of the Sun, which I copy here 'cause it matches my color scheme and stuff. Here's their caption:
Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) image of the sun with a huge, handle-shaped prominence, taken in 1999. While there is no evidence of a change trend in solar output over the past half century, long-term changes in solar output are not well-understood.

4 comments:

Dano said...

A fine place to rebut the idea that anyone is claiming "the science is settled"

This was an effective frame a few years ago. It worked perfectly for denialists and there are good spin-offs from it today.

Nonetheless, 'the science is settled' is a denialist straw man, and I think that showing the science is not settled sets one up for criticism of setting policy on unsettled science, and that is an additional 20 minutes talking about risk and uncertainty...

Best,

D

Anna Haynes said...

> "...and in aggregate showing how many of the uncertainties pull in the direction of greater impact and more dangerous outcomes."

But they don't _say_ that, and if Joe Public visits that page, that's not what he'll take away from it.

Which, IMO, is a problem.

Steve Bloom said...

IIRC the phrase was coined to point out that the science is plenty settled for purposes of critical public policy decisions, contrasting present knowledge with what was known 20 years ago (although of course even that limited knowledge was enough to justify critical policy steps that still haven't been taken). IMHO it remains legit. Denialists will make noise with whatever is at hand, as we have seen with the teabaggers over the last few months.

Dano said...

Steve has a good point wrt policy discussions. Hammer that home.