"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

They concede nothing; they can't

The perception of competing polarized scientific camps within climatology is a politically constructed illusion.

I argued as such in response to a question I saw on Quora:

What are the logical premises shared by both sides of the AGW debate?

 The questioner, Martin Stoehr, proposes for starters that:

* The average land surface temperature has increased over the last 200 years

 * A CO2 molecule does not absorb EM energy at visible wavelengths and does absorb EM energy at infrared and near-IR wavelengths (1437nm, 1955nm, 2013nm, 2060nm, 4257nm asym-stretch, 7205nm sym-stretch, 14993nm bending: Page on wesleyan.edu)

Well, you'd think.

I respond as follows:

The question holds a premise that there are two coherent scientific positions. But there aren't.

Within science, there is no polarization, although there is a spectrum of opinion on a lot of open questions. The illusion that there are two competing camps is promoted by political interests. If you look at the actual scientific perspective of the few people who are constantly invoked by the naysayer camp, you will find no coherence or commonality among their opinions. Many of them are frank crackpots, and all of them are, by definition, scientific eccentrics.

Therefore there is almost nothing or maybe nothing at all that they would agree to among themselves. They really don't have an alternative theory they are advancing.

 It should be considered settled that

* humans affect the climate in many ways
* greenhouse gases are among those ways
* CO2 accumulates so the greenhouse perturbation grows every year
* CO2 accumulation causes energy to accumulate in the climate system on short and long time scales, which causes warming, some of which is delayed
* warming is observed, most of which is a direct result of human impacts
*  a great deal more warming is to be expected.

That some warming has occurred is obvious - sea level is rising and this provides a crude global thermometer just by itself. You don't need a whole lot of observations and subtle data manipulations to observe this.

Also it is demonstrated that the rate of CO2 accumulation overwhelms the ocean's buffering, creating ocean acidification.

We can debate ethically, economically, and politically what to do about all these things. We can debate scientifically about the numbers and scales. But those facts should be considered established.

People questioning these points are very rarely real scientists in the physical climatology domain . Such exceptions as there are don't agree with each other, so they collectively concede nothing.


EliRabett said...

Climate science denial is very red queen territory, a throw the spaghetti against the wall exercise.


Susan Anderson said...

Thanks, a useful construction.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest that

1) noting, specifically, that CO2 is an integral part of the ocean buffering system would strengthen the point considerably

2) the frank crackpots should not be elevated to the level of scientific eccentrics

John Puma

Chris G said...

Re Peter Webb's post on Quora -

"Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague,
than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise."
- John W. Tukey