Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?
It seems to depend on the person. Two long comments about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) have been posted to the FM site this week. Here we examine a comment by Mclaren made to A discussion about global warming, which was a reply by Eric Grant to “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton. Both written by obviously intelligent and educated people (I assume they are men for convenience); both strong believers (that seems to be the right word) in AGW.
Both have written comments which have more in common with religious tracts than scientific analysis. Specifically, medieval Christian writings — pre-Reformation. Their emphasis is on authority as a basis for belief. The “canons” of science are ignored in their writings – disclosure of data and methods, testing for replication and falsifiability, etc. They are representative of much writing by laypeople about climate change, and as such I believe they are worth a look.
This comment is by Mclaren. It exhibits the first 5 of the 7 common elements of pro-AGW comments found on the FM site as described in A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming.
- Pro-AGW comments often display no signs of having read the skeptics work.
- Pro-AGW comments often invent assertions which they can easily refute.
- Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no awareness of the authoritative reports on this issue.
- Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no knowledge of the long struggle to force some climate scientists to release data and methods.
- Pro-AGW comments usually show little understanding of the scientific method.
At the end are links to the posts on this site about climate change, some giving specific critiques of the case for anthropogenic global warming (AGW), both evidentiary and methodological. Like most of the 160+ comments giving rebuttals to these posts, Mclaren almost totally ignores the case for skepticism presented, usually just repeating some varient of AGW is consensus science. There are almost no references to the points I made, and none at all to the evidence I cited. Much of his case is, like Eric Grant’s, just made up — rebuttals to things I never said plus irrelevant material.
Due to its extreme length I interject my replies into the text. Their frequency decreases in the middle, as I ran out of interest about half way through.
I feel sorry for people like Mclaren and Eric Grant. Based on these long comments. they are obviously heavily invested in a theory whose basis (evidence and methods) they do not appear to understand and seem reluctant to either question or examine. It is somewhat cult-like behavior. If we enter a cooling cycle it will be interesting to see how they react.
Important: I strongly recommend reading the comments. Much of the value of these debates comes several rounds into the fray, as we burn through the surface issues into the key foundations. I recommend comment #9 of special interest.
A note about comment length
I was tempted delete or severely edit this, citing the comment policy which clearly stated on the home page and at the end of every post: “please make them brief (250 words max).” At 3,073 words this is 12.3x the maximum length. This is longer than almost all posts on this site — longer than those on almost every site (except professional or subscription sites). It sets a bad precedent to allow this. Being a nice guy, I let this go by.
Be warned, evil malefactors, that your transgressions against the FM site’s comment policy will no longer go unpunished! Since I do not have the time to edit them to proper length, summary and swift justice will be done: deletion awaits your cursedly long comments!
Now, on to the text for today!. My replies are indented and in italic.
Here’s how science is done: experiments collect and analyze data which is then written up and submitted to peer review in professional journals.
The number of citations of each peer-reviewed journal article gets listed over time in the Science Citation Index. The papers with the largest numbers of citations have the most influence, and tend to attract the most effort in confirming or refining their results. Peer-reviewed journal articles with the most citations collect a constellation of confirming papers around them, which builds a scientific consensus based on the available evidence.
Here are the top cited recent papers on global warming:
- Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of the role of carbon dioxide and of other greenhouses gases in climate variations and associated impacts, World Meteorological Organization No.661 (Geneva, 1986).
- Wigley, T.M.L. Geophys. Res. Lett. 14, 1135 (1987).
- Jones, P.D., Wigley, T.M.L. & Wright, P.B. Nature 322, 430−434 (1986).
- Folland, C.K., Parker, D.E. & Kates, F.E. Nature 310, 670−673 (1984).
- Jones, P.D. et al. J. clim. appl. Meteorol. 25, 161 (1986).
- Jones, P.D., Raper, S.C.B. & Wigley, T.M.L. J. clim. appl. Meteorol. 25, 1213−1230 (1986).
- Jones, P.D. J. clim. (in the press).
- Hansen, J.E. & Lebedeff, S. J. geophys. Res. 92, 13345−13372 (1987).
- Wigley, T.M.L., Angell, J.K. & Jones, P.D. in Detecting the climatic effects of increasing carbon dioxide (eds MacCracken, M.C. & Luther, F.M.) 55−90 (US Dept of Energy, 1985).
- Pan, Y.-H. and Oort, A.H. Mon. Weath. Rev. 111, 1244−1258 (1983).
- Yasunari, T. J. met. Soc. Japan 65, 67−80 (1987).
- Heath, D.F. Nature 332, 219−227 (1988).
- Kiehl, J.T., Boville, B.A. & Briegleb, B.P. Nature 332, 501−504 (1988).
Your verbal arguments against these peer-reviewed papers are meaningless.
This is rich! A list of authors and journal issues given as evidence. But only one has a title. Why not post a picture of the Harvard Faculty Directory? It would have as much meaning. This is the appeal to authority in pure form.
If you want to be taken seriously, you must collect climate data, analyze it, write a paper, and getit published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Is this comedy? Turn it around… if you want to be taken seriously please show us that you have collected climate data, analyzed it, written a paper, and got it published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Everybody — stop reading right here until he meets his own criteria! (I am weak; despite this self-confessed methodological error, I will continue on.) (Also, this might be a set-up; Mclaren might be a published climate scientist).
If you want to debunk the scientific consensus about global warming, you will have to provide at least 3 (three) papers which produce evidence directly contradicting each of the peer-reviewed published journal articles above.
How sad for Newton. He just wrote the “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” (aka the Principia). The poor guy did not have your advice, so instead of a peer-reviewed journal he self-published it. BTW — why three papers? (Perhaps that’s how many he has written)
That means that you must provide at least 39 peer-reviewed published journal articles directly and specifically contradicting the data and analysis provided in the above citations. When you fail to do this, your claims are meaningless, and no on will pay attention to your assertions.
Mclaren obviously has neither read (or perhaps understood) any of my posts. These do not purport to be scientific articles; they are articles for a general audience reporting on the work done on the front lines. Hence the reliance on authoritative sources like the North and Wegman reports, or hard data (e.g., surfacestations.org).
Also Mclaren does appears not to understand the scientific method. Data rebuts theories, no matter what credentials the theory’s author has — and how few the critic’s. Anthony Watts’ data, collected by him and many volunteers) shows that the US surface station network is not of high quality and that the adjustments to the data are larger than the warming signal “found”. That does not mean that AGW is disproved, but that this evidence for AGW is weak.
Note about the following section: a wonderful example of #2 — Pro-AGWcomments often invent assertions which they can easily refute. Rather than deal with any of the points I raise, which mclarencarefully avoids, he creates a totally bizarre analogy that he refutes at length.
To get a clear sense of how absurd it is to try to argue out of existence a vast mass of published peer-reviewed scientific evidence on the basis of mere words, substitute for “global warming” the term “Einstein’s limit on the speed of light.”
Note his first sentence; he does not even correctly state the most common element of the skeptics’ case. They ask for release of material to allow replication, and provide specific objections to data and methods. None of these involves attempts “to argue out of existence.”
Also note the repeated references in Mclaren’s comments to “vast amounts of peer-reviewed” reserach supporting AGW. But he never mentions any! Not one reference to a specific research paper, or finding of a research paper, or a survey of the research literature. Has he read any? Or is he just assuming this on the basis of what he’s read in the Sunday newspapers? Note Mclaren never mentions any evidence for AGW, so we have no way of knowing if he understands the arguements — is just parroting “I know AGW exists because I know.”
Now imagine someone said: “The 160+ comments giving rebuttals to a variable speecof light hypothesis almost totally ignore the case for skepticism presented, usually just repeating that Einstein’s special theory of relativity demands to be taken seriously.”
The “case” for skepticism about c as a universalconstant is unimportant, since overwhelming evidence supports Einstein’s claim. If you want to deny that c represents a universal constant, you will not get anywhere by raising verbalarguments against the published peer-reviewed evidence in scientific journals which confirms and supports Einstein’s hypothesis of c as a universal constant. Instead, you must provide citations of experimental evidence published in peer-reviewed scientific journals specifically disconfirmingthe results of the other peer-reviewed journalarticles which detail experiments confirming Einstein’s hypothesis of c as a universal constant. When you fail to provide such citations, your claims are meaningless and will not be taken seriously.
There is sufficient hard evidence that the case for anthropogenic global warming is weak. Like many aspects of science, much of this is understandable by the layman. Here are a few specific and tangible examples. Note that unlike your 3100 words comment (strangely devoid of references), these reference clear and relevant data.
- Computer models that do not adequately account for major factors like particulate emissions and soot (see this for more information) are useless as a basis for public policy decisions.
Let’s be clear here. There exist infinite possible arguments against the conclusions in peer-reviewed published scientific journalarticles, arguments of unlimited sophistication. No serious person cares about such arguments unless they are backed up with hard evidence. This is the fallacy of the scholasticsof the middle ages: they engaged in endless disputation without backing up their assertions with hard evidence. If you wish your arguments against globalwarming to be taken seriously, you must start by providing extraordinary amounts of scientific evidence — hard data produced by scientists withestablished reputations, not some guy in his back yard with a thermometer; and you must prove that your extraordinary amount of scientific data (of much larger quantity than the published scientific data confirmed anthropogenic global warming) can be taken seriously, by showing us citations to the peer-reviewed journals which published your anti-global-warming data.
If you can’t do that, your words are as empty as air. Absent hard evidence, solid scientific data, and a vast number of published peer-reviewed scientific journal articles supporting you claims, you claims are meaningless.
A note about the following section: it is so easy to make a powerful argument if you just ignore the case and evidence presented by the other side (#2 of the 7 frequent errors). This could be (and perhaps is) from a textbook, applying to any subject. There is no indication here that mclarenunderstands the issues on either side. It is boilerplate, which could be used for any theory challenging a current consensus position. Much of it has nothing to do with anything I said, or bizarrely misinterprets it. Also, I gave specific examples for my 7 items, which Mclaren does not bother to do.
A word about evidence, burden of proof, and logical fallacies:
Update: In comment #9 Mclaren gives the following source for these 5 rules of thumb: “they were first stated, in different form, by Francis Bacon, in his Novum Organum of 1620.” From a glance at Bacon’s text that seems unlikely to me, expect as distant parentage. Nor are they “rules of thumb” in the usual sense of the term.
RULE OF THUMB #1
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; both extraordinary in quantity, and extraordinary in quality. Anecdotes won’t cut it. One or two isolated papers aren’t enough. One or two dissenting scientists isn’t significant. Verbal arguments don’t cut it. Show us the data, prove it’s of better quality than the data confirming global warming in currently published peer-reviewed scientific journals, and prove there’s more data supporting your anti-global-warming claims than supports the scientific consensus that global warming is anthropogenic.
This is exactly backwards. The standard of proof go up substantailly when conclusions from academia (or “science”, more broadly defined) move into the public sphere. Consider the testing of new drugs. Conclusions of “peer reviewed” journals are insufficient to prove drug efficacy and safety. Approval requires meeting extensive criteria, including double-blind testing and review by outside review boards. With careful consideration for conflicts of interest. Climate science operates as more of a closed community. When such measures are taken in climate science we will have conclusions warranting large-scale public investments and regulation. Not before.
RULE OF THUMB #2
When a sufficient mass of confirming evidence builds up from many different sources confirming an hypothesis, an even larger mass of even more convincing hard evidence is required in order to disconfirm that hypothesis. In other words, if you’re on trial for murder and an eyewitness identifies you as the murderer and the gun registration shows you own the firearm and the ballistics show a bullet from your gun killed the victim, then it’s possible you’re the victim of a supremely ingenious frame. But you’re going to provide extraordinary amounts of remarkably good evidence to prove it, otherwise the logical conclusion is that you’re guilty.
Again, this is backwards. The climate science equivalent of a murder trial would be a decision made those who prepared the case — the police and the District Attorney. With perhaps a cursory review by police and DA’s of other jurisdictions, and the trialheld in secret with only a summary of the transcript made public. Again, this is inadequate when questions of such importance to the public are at stake.
RULE OF THUMB #3 – Debates about details of the evidence supporting a scientific consensus are not, and should not be mistaken for, debates about the scientific consensus itself.
What is the source of this “rule”? And what does it mean?
RULE OF THUMB #4 – Occam’s Razor applies.
Give the preponderance of the available evidence, the simplest explanation is probably correct. This applies to skepticism about the scientific consensus: given an overwhelming mass of evidence in favor of a scientific hypothesis, it’s possible that all scientists are engaged in a giant nefarious conspiracy to obscure the truth, and it’s also possible that most scientists are deluded by groupthink. However, it’s extremely unlikely. The simpler explanation is that a vast mass of scientific evidence converges on a conclusion because that conclusion approximates observed reality.
Here Mclaren move into just fancy ways of saying “I’m right.” Most of rest does not even make sense to me, and does not warrant a reply. it certainly has no relevance to anything I wrote.
RULE OF THUMB #5 – Public policy is not the same thing as scientific consensus.
Politics and science belong to different realms. We cannot draw specific conclusions about public policy from science, because politics depends on values, which are subjective, determined in part by culture, and subject to external considerations like economics.
The papers cited above represent the overwhelming preponderance of the available evidence that global warming is anthropogenic in origin. The exact rate of global warming is not precisely known, worst-case and best-case scenarios for global warming remain nebulous, and there is a wide range of forecasts by scientists about the specific long-term effects of global warming. This does not vitiate the overall conclusions in the above papers.
Let’s take an analogy, because non-scientists often have trouble understanding this point. Details of the structure of the sun are not well known. The inner structure of the sun exists at pressures and temperatures which make mathematical models hard to computer with exactitude. However, this does not change the fact that many overall facts about the long-term behavior of the sun are well understood. For example, basic physics tells us the mass at which stars collapse into black holes, and the conditions under which stars can go supernova. It is known with certainty that our sun will not turn into a black hole and will not become a supernova. The long-term fate of our sun is known in general outline — our sun will exhaust its fuel, expand briefly near the end of its lifetime in about 3 billion years, and eventually become a brown dwarf. These facts are known even though details of the sun’s inner structure are not yet fully modeled. The reason we know these things is that physics doesn’t change over time. Given a star with the mass and composition of our sun, we can calculate what will happen to it billions of years from now as its fusion reactions change over time.
With the time and effort taken to write these irrelevant analogies, he could have commented on something I actually said. But shadow-boxing is so much easier.
All your objections to global warming fit into a narrow range of well-known logical fallacies. You have committed (among many others) the fallacy of the excluded middle, fallacy of the consequences of a belief, fallacy of appeal to ridicule, fallacy of the biased sample, fallacy of the burden of proof, the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of guilt by association, the fallacy of hasty generalization, the fallacy of the middle ground, the red herring fallacy and the straw man fallacy — among many others.
It’s worth taking some time, this once, to detail the fallacies in your arguments, in order to show that your arguments against global warming are not merely factually bankrupt, but intellectually bankrupt as well. The two tend to go together: people who systematically ignore a vast convergence of evidence which leads to a given conclusion often do so because of defects in their reasoning. See Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Strange Things” for details.
Your “7 principles of pro-global-warming arguments” illustrate fulsomely the logical fallacies in your arguments:
This is just sad. First, Mclaren does not correctly state what I said. I gave descriptions of 7 elements (not “principles”) of pro-anthropgenic global warming (AGW, not “GW”) comments on the FM site.
Second, my 7 elements are descriptions of actual text. They can be challenged as incorrect by comparison with the actual comments. Instead he invents other things — which I never said — and provides rebuttals to them (#1 below). Or he provides totally spurious logic, pasting together irrelevant phrases (#2 below). At this point I lose interest, as this material is foolish. A long-winded way of say “I, Mclaren am right, without responding to anything you said.” It’s easy to win when you box with your shadow.
At this point the comment becomes increasingly absurd and my interest faded. I have posted a few more comments below on his more outrageous statements.
1. Pro-AGW comments often display no signs of having read the skeptics’ work.
This is the fallacy of burden of proof. Compare with the claims by a pro-UFO-absudciton kook: “Your arguments show no signs of having read my 17 books about UFO abductions.” This is a fallacy because once sufficient evidence converges to form a scientific consensus for an hypothesis, the burden of proof shifts to the skeptic.
Moreover, this is just common sense. If we accepted FM’s garbled reasoning here, scientists would spend all their time doing nothing but reading over the incoherent tracts written by bigfoot fanciers, UFOlogists, anti-global-warming cranks, zero-point-energy enthusiasts, and crackpots with alleged perpetual motion machines. Scientists don’t have time for that, and it’s pointless — the burden of proof falls entirely on the erstwhile perpetual motion machinist to demonstrate that the second law of thermodynamics is invalid. The burden of proof falls entirely on the UFOlogist to provide hard forensic phsyical evidence proving that aliens exist (i.e., a skin sample whose DNA can be analyzed and shown to be extraterrestrial). The burden of proof falls entirely on the AGWdeniers. It is up to them to provide a sufficient body of sufficiently impeccable scientific evidence to specifically refute the data in peer-reviewed scientific journal articles which confirm the AGW hypothesis. Moreover, the AGW deniers face a high burden of proof. They must not just disconfirm some of the pro-AGW published peer-reviewed published evidence, they must disconfirm most of it.
2. Pro-AGW comments often invent assertions which they can easily refute.
This the fallacy of the non sequitur. Even if true it is irrelevant to the question of whether the AGW hypothesis is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of published peer-reviewed scientific evidence. This is also the fallacy of the straw man, since we notice that you do not attack the authors of the peer-reviewed published scientific journals which present data supporting AGW, but only the non-scientists who support AGW in comments in this forum. You are using the pro-AGW commenters here as straw men for a failed and futile attack on the real scientists whose work overwhelmingly confirms AGW.
3. Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no awareness of the authoritative reports on this issue.
This is a combination of the fallacy of the appeal ridicule (implying that pro-AGW people are stupid or ignorant or both) and the fallacy of the biased sample, the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of guilt by association, the fallacy of hasty generalization, and the red herring fallacy.
As with so many of your comments, you are just making things up. This is a factual statement about the text. What you deduce from it is your business. Writing rebuttals to arguements that you have not bothered to read is absurd, as this comment demonstrates at great length. If you do not consider the arguement worth reading, then do not attempt to write about it.
Appeal to ridicule fails here because it’s entirely possible for someone to be correct without deep knowledge of the basis of a subject. For example, if you state that 2 + 2 = 4 I cannot debunk your claim by ridiculing your lack of knowledge of the basis of arithmetic in Dedekind cuts. This is what you’re trying to do here, and it’s intellectually dishonest as well as flat-out wrong.
This is also an example of the fallacy of the biased sample because you are picking the “authoritative reports” on AGW. Where is the evidence that you know what the authoritative reports on AGWare? You have provided no citations at all of Science Citation Index journal citation numbers, which is the true final authority in published peer-reviewed science. Once again, intellectually dishonest.
However, you’re also falling into the fallacy of composition, since you are conflating the issue of alleged authoritative reports with the much larger issue that the overwhelming mass of evidence converges to support AGW. As an example of how fallacious this reasoning is, consider that the great 19th century scientist Rutherford calculated the maximum possible age of the earth based on the heating of the earth’s core due to gravitational compression. He arrived at an answer much less than 4.3 billion years, because in the 1870s radioactive heating was unknown. Regardless of his authoritative report, scientists of the 1870s rejected Rutherford’s conclusion because the vast mass of evidence from geology and paleontology and geophysics and many other disciplines converged on the conclusion that Rutherford’s calculated age for the earth must be wrong.
You also fall into the error of the fallacy of guilt by association: even if all the pro-AGW comments are wrong, that doesn’t mean the pro-AGW position is wrong because, as mentioned, the people commenting on this blog are laypeople, not scientists.
You’re also demonstrating the fallacy of hasty generalization, because lack of awareness of alleged “authoritative reports” on global warming does not mean lack of detailed knowledge of the rest of the evidence for AGW. It only means that may be a few gaps in a pro-AGW person’s knowledge.
And you also give evdeince of the red herring fallacy here because knowledge of any reports about AGW is wholly irrelevant to the question of the quantity and quality of scientific evidence supporting AGW as opposed to the quantity and quality of the evidence disconfirming it, which is the real issue here.
4. Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no knowledge of the long struggle to force some climate scientists to release data and methods.
This combines the red herring fallacy, the fallacy of begging the question, the fallacy of the excluded middle, and the fallacy of the burden of proof.
Begging the question fallacy arises because you assume as part of your question that “some climate scientists” have not releases data and methods which support anti-AGW assertions, which is intellectually dishonest regardless of whether your assertion is even true. There is no evidence that any significant number of scientists have failed to release any significant amount of data disconfirming the AGW hypothesis. If such evidence exists, submit it to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and get it published — your nobel prize awaits!
This is absurd. I have links to sites — some authoritative reports — supporting what I said. Which is more than you have done. That’s all that is necessary or appropriate for a general audience website. Nothing I wrote purports to be original work or professional contributions to climate science.
This is also the red herring fallacy because even if “some scientists” (which ones?) have refused to release mythical “data and methods,” it doesn’t mean that the preponderance of the available published peer-reviewed scientific evidence does not strongly confirm AGW.
This too is absurd. Refusal to release key information is significant on several levels. It indicates a breakdown in the climate science professional standards and casts doubt on their work. Such behavior would bring severe results in fields such as drug-testing.
This is also the fallacy of the excluded middle, because your’re giving an extreme example of “some scientists” (presumably some nefarious evil scientists who seek to hoodwink us with false conclusions). You ignore the vast majority of scientists, focusing only on “some scientists,” when in fact it’s the consensus that has formed among the vast majority of scientists that really matters. This is same failed and faulty argument as the UFOlogist makes when he says, “You’re ignoring the opinions of some scientists who support UFOlogy!” Some scientists are cranks. There will always be dissenters. That’s irrelevant to the scientific consensus.
Conflicts of interest are a part of life. Which is why professions and public policy have methods to deal with them. To cite one of many examples, drug trials are not needed because all doctors are crooks, but because people who have personal stakes in debates lose objectivity. I am astonished that something so obvious needs to be said.
You are also guilty of the fallacy of burden of proof once again, since the burden of proof is not on scientists to provide unlimited amounts of evidence at your demand, and when you find even the tiniest gap in the evidence, to force them to produce ever more and ever more evidence, without end. The burden of proof is on YOU as an anti-AGW claimant to produce more evidence of better quality disconfirming the AGW hypothesis. This is same failed and faulty fallacy made by the UFOlogists who derided the Project Blue Book conclusion that 94% of all UFO sightings could be explained with the objection, “But what about the remaining 6%???!?!”
Explained above. Totally wrong.
5. Pro-AGW comments usually show little understanding of the scientific method.
This is the ad hominem fallacy as well as the fallacy of the appeal to ridicule. In fact, you have never mentioned the Science Citation Index, nor have you cited any more than a couple of peer-reviewed published scientific journal articles. Pot, meet kettle.
This is not the ad hominem fallacy. From Wikipedia: “An ad hominem argument (Latin: “argument to the man”, “argument against the man”) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim.” I made a factual statement (usually show) about the text. That says nothing about the person, except what you impute to them. As in your comment, I suspect (guess) it is a rhetorical device. In arguements such as yours, the scientific method is your enemy.
6. They illustrate the pro-AGW faith in computer models.
This is the red herring fallacy. Evidence that the Greenland ice sheets are melting does not depend on computer models. Evidence from ice cores in the antarctic and arctic showing different and much lower levels of CO2 thousands of years ago does not depend on computer models. Evidence of species of fish dying off because of oceanic warming does not depend on computer models. Evidence from tree rings showing that the earth has warmed over the last several hundred years does not depend on computer models.
Do you know what these terms mean? This is not the red herring fallacy. From Wikipedia: “Similar to ignoratio elenchi, a red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument.” It would be the red herring if computer models were not used in the AGW debate. As they are, it is relevant. Also, nowhere did I say that computer models were the only support for AGW — as you imply above. More of the “just make stuff up” school of debate.
7. They illustrate the irrationality of the “precautionary principle” as commonly used.
On this one I must agree with you, but it’s still the fallacy of the appeal to consequences because while you’re correct on this point it doesnt’t say anything about the factual question of whether the AGW hypothesis is correct. The scientific consensus is entirely separate from the question of what public policy we ought to pursue. The one does not specify the other.
I agree that some pro-AGW enthusiasts are guilty of hysteria. We do not have a firm scientific consensus about long-term global climate models, we don’t know exactly how many ppm of CO2 are dangerous, and so on. All we know for certain is that the earth has warmed recently (in geologic terms) and that humans appear to be responsible.
Update: Articles discussing environmentalism as a religion
As an emminent scientist, Dyson’s brief comment (#5) on the subject IMO deserves special attention.
- “Environmentalism as Religion“, Michael Crichton, speech at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco,15 September 2003
- “Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest“, Mark R. Stoll (Prof History at Texas Tech University), H-Net Reviews. September 2004.
- “Environmentalism as a religion“, Fernando Diaz Villanueva (author of Che Guevara), 22 March 2006
- “Environmentalism as Religion“, John M. Ostrowski, posted at Lew Rockwell, 21 March 2007
- “The Question of Global Warming“, Freeman Dyson (Wikipedia bio), The New York Review of Books, 12 June 2008
For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:
- Posts about Science, Nature, and Geopolitics – this lists not only posts on the FM site, but also a wide range of other online sources.
Posts on the FM site about climate change:
- A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
- Global warming means more earthquakes!, 19 June 2008
- An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
- Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
- More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
- Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
- Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
- President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
- Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
- Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
- Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
- One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
- “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton, 15 November 2008
- A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming, 17 November 2008
- A discussion about global warming, 20 November 2008