Summary: In 2009 I gave recommendations for the best public policy responses to climate change. The list still works, since climate activists continued their mad – and so far unsuccessful – campaign. And the leaders of America’s major science institutions refuse to learn from 30 years of unsuccessful advocacy for large-scale policy action. We can do better. Here are five suggestions to break the gridlock.
Measures to fix climate change range from massive (e.g., carbon taxes and new regulations) to changing the nature of our economic system (as urged by Pope Francis and Naomi Klein). Such actions requires stronger proof than usual in science (academic disputes are so vicious because the stakes are so small). On the other hand, politics is not geometry; it’s “the art of the possible” (Bismarck, 1867). Perfect proof is not needed. The common sense and the norms of science can guide us in constructing useful immediate policy actions that are politically feasible.
(1) More funding for climate science.
“Thus an extraordinary claim requires “extraordinary” (meaning stronger than usual) proof.”
— By Marcello Truzzi in “Zetetic Ruminations on Skepticism and Anomalies in Science“, Zetetic Scholar, August 1987. See the full text here.
Understanding the past provides the foundation for making climate policy to produce a better future. Many key aspects of this are grossly underfunded. Most glaringly, the collection of current global weather data (e.g., temperature and precipitation) is bizarrely underfunded. The collection and analysis of data about the past deserves an order of magnitude more funding. Perhaps more.
Also, it should be done as a planned and organized program. We didn’t wait for the normal course of research to produce an atomic bomb or send men to the moon. Those seeking to participate in this grand project should submit proposals, whose methodologies should be consistent with the needed high standards. Individual science entrepreneurs running their own little shops, on projects that interest them, no longer suffice. Time has proven that even vast sums spent on these do not provided the answers needed for this public policy challenge.
(2) Check the models!
“For such a model there is no need to ask the question ‘Is the model true?’. If ‘truth’ is to be the ‘whole truth’ the answer must be ‘No’. The only question of interest is ‘Is the model illuminating and useful?’”
— G.E.P. Box in “Robustness in the strategy of scientific model building” (1978). He also said “All models are wrong; some are useful.”
Models are the key tool when making public policy decisions about climate change. But too little effort has been spent validating them. This can be done in two ways. The results will provide good enough answers for policy decision-makers, so that they can either proceed or require more research.
First, we need a thorough review of the major climate forecasting models by a multidisciplinary team of relevant experts – experts who have not been involved in their design and operation. Assurances from those making them are inherently inadequate to assure their accuracy and reliability. This should include a broader pool than those who have dominated the field, such as geologists, chemists, statisticians, modeling experts, and software engineers. There is a large body of knowledge about testing and validation of models. It has not been adequately applied to these, among the most important models used today.
Second, we can test their past predictions. We have multi-decade predictions from models cited in the IPCC’s reports, especially in the second through fourth assessment reports. Those models can be reconstructed, then rerun with observed data from after they were created (to reduce the effect of tuning). The predicted warming can be compared with actual temperatures. This will give precise predictions (not projections) for statistical evaluation. For more about this, see these posts.
- How climate scientists can re-start the public policy debate about climate change.
- We can end the climate policy wars: demand a test of the models.
More attention should be given to the validation of climate models. There are a wealth of unused insights from a wide range of sources. For more about this see
my posts about climate models, especially these.
- Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
- Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
- Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
- Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
- Milton Friedman’s advice about climate models, & how to win the policy debate.
- A climate science milestone: a successful 10-year forecast!
- About Hansen’s powerful demo that climate models work!
“Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory — an event which would have refuted the theory.”
— Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963).
(3) Raise the standards of climate research.
Given its importance to a key public policy question, run government-funded climate research with tighter standards. Publicly funded data should be available to the public. Methods of publicly funded research should be fully disclosed. Conclusions of critical research should be reviewed by unaffiliated experts. Most of these are already standard requirements of medical research.
(4) Push the pace for conversion of the US economy to non-carbon energy sources.
The pace of conversion depends on the pace of technological innovation. Since the mid-1970s, interest – and funding – of energy research has ebbed and flowed due to trivial factors. Instead let’s push the pace with long-term and well-funded programs to develop new sources (and increase efficiency of energy use). That is justified by both environmental and economic reasons.
As above, do this as an organized and broad program. Do not rely on a few favored projects. Cast a net widely with seed capital. Funnel additional funds to those that show results.
(5) Prepare for extreme climate.
America’s preparation for extreme weather is pitifully poor. Europe builds large infrastructure to protect its cities (e.g., the Thames Barrier, the Zuiderzee Works, the Delta Works). America does patchwork fixes after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and “superstorm” Sandy. Meanwhile developers print money building in vulnerable areas. We are unprepared for the inevitable repeat of extreme weather from the past few centuries – such as hurricanes hitting cities and long-term droughts in the Southwest. We are poorly prepared for the continuation of long-term trends, such as rising local sea levels (often combining effects of land subsidence and rising seas). The policy gridlock about climate change leaves us unprepared for possible futures.
Climate Change is a test of our ability to plan for the future
A changing world, including the massive effects of global industrialization and rapid technological innovation, creates challenges unlike anything humanity has faced in the past. Climate change is one of the early tests of our ability to work together, to see threats and build better futures.
So far we are screw-ups. Our response is folly, for which we probably will pay dearly. We have the tools to plan. We can do better. This is just a sketch about ways to do so.
Other posts in this series
- Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
- Fix the mistakes that killed the climate change campaign!
- Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade.
- Climate activists show us why they lose.
- Simple steps to prepare for climate change.
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about ways to end the climate wars…
- About RCP8.5: Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
- Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.
- Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.
- Stratfor gives us good news, showing when renewables will replace fossil fuels.
- Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
- Updating the RCPs: The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
- Roger Pielke Jr.: the politics of unlikely climate scenarios.
- A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.
- Roger Pielke Jr.: climate science is a grab for power.
- Secrets about the 1.5°C world temperature limit.
Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.
Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr., because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom. They really do not want you to read this book, the revised second edition of …
The Rightful Place of Science:
Disasters & Climate Change.
By Roger Pielke Jr.
See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …
“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?
“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”