Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Its about the ends not the means

'On balance, therefore, I still think that global warming exists and is a genuinely serious problem. But I am marginally less confident in holding that view than I was before. If we see more revelations of this kind, I will be less confident still.

Unfortunately the debate over Climategate among laypeople is likely to be heavily influenced by political ignorance and irrationality, especially the tendency to overvalue any information that confirms one’s preexisting views and downplay or ignore anything that cuts the other way. Thus, global warming supporters are likely to claim that Climategate proves nothing at all, while skeptics will trumpet it as justification for rejecting mainstream climate research altogether. Both temptations should be resisted, though I’m not optimistic they will be.'

I understand Ilya Somins points, and find most of his analysis cogent and respectable. I just don't agree with his last point. I can't remember a public policy case quite like anthropogenic global warming. Certainly in my lifetime, never has a theory gone so quickly through all the stages from initial hypothesis, to gathering of data, to testing the hypothesis, to sharing the data, to re-testing of the hypothesis by others in the scientific community, to wide-spread consensus that the hypothesis has been satisfactorily proven, to use of the hypothesis to inform an important part of public policy debate, to continual assertion by those who deem the hypothesis to have been satisfactorily proven that those who are still sceptical are not simply sceptical but criminal and dastardly.

The main problem is not that Anthropogenic Global Warming went through these stages quickly, but how many of the most important stages it skipped altogether.

If you know of a hypothesis which has had a similar pattern of development to A.G.W., please let me know. Over and over again, its proponents have been caught overstating their knowledge of prior and current climatic conditions, and making grand pronouncements based on extremely dubious, flimsy and partial information, up to and including the IPCC reports. Also from the beginning, the proponents means of combating failures in their scientific method and results was not to go out and get better data and do clearer and stronger analyses, but to lambaste their opponents as idiots and corrupt lackeys of big business, and to use the fallacy of appeal to authority to quash debate.

Even for someone like me who has simply kept their ear to the ground during this debate, it is clear how it has been conducted- with very little integrity.

I personally (and I think this goes for a vast majority of the sceptics) would like to see genuine proof that A.G.W. exists. If it does, I will do my utmost to help fix the problem. I'm not an idiot, and neither are most sceptics. If we as a species are destroying our one and only planet, that is a catastrophe worth knocking down every coal-burning power station and scrapping every diesel engine.

But it has to be demonstrated to be true before any of that happens. And the biggest thing that undermines my faith in it being true? The political bent of large swathes of the researchers presenting the evidence. Communists lie. The truth is nothing to them. What matters is results- getting power and destroying capitalism and capitalists. Whether that is done via mobs of peasants with pitchforks, or committees of corrupt and stupid old farts at the UN is not important. What is revealed in the emails we have now seen is a desire to attain the goals of worldwide environmentalism/communism by hook or by crook.

Who cares what the data says if we have the peer-review journals in the palm of our hands?

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