I know this is a little old, but Judith Curry had a post a week or so ago about whether or not climate change is a ruin problem. I wasn’t wanting to discuss it detail, but there was something in particular that struck me. After highlighting an excerpt about the scientific method and the precautionary principle, Judith comments
This clarifies the conflict between ‘lukewarmers’, who seem mainly data driven and don’t see danger (in favor of risk management), versus alarmists who argue for the PP to avoid possible catastrophe or ruin (as inferred from climate model simulations).
To me this seems obviously wrong and is – to a certain extent – one of the main issues with the whole debate about climate change. Risk management is defined as
the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks ….. followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events … or to maximize the realization of opportunities.
A major issue with the Lukewarmer position – in my opinion – is that it assumes that climate sensitivity will probably be low, that the risks are small (as highlighted by Judith’s comment that they “don’t see danger”), that we have plenty of time, and that we shouldn’t do anything that they regard as too drastic. You just need to read Matt Ridley’s articles to see this in action. That, however, is not risk management; it’s risk dismissal.
Similarly, suggesting that alarmists are arguing for the Precautionary Principle (PP) to avoid catastrophe and ruin also seems – broadly speaking – wrong. There may be some extreme examples, but the PP is far too simplistic to be any kind of realistic policy option. Most of what I read is people pointing out that there are risks associated with climate change, that we should take these risks seriously, and that we should be aiming to minimise these risks. It seems far closer to actual risk management than the Lukewarmer position, which seems to simply be a bury your head in the sand form of optimism.
Since I’m talking about things I thought were obvious, I’ve spent some time on Bishop-Hill recently trying to point out that there is one thing about climate science that is virtually certain: the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is pre-dominantly anthropogenic. Given that I keep getting told that there is really noone who disputes the basics of mainstream climate science, and that the real dispute is about the details, I was surprised by how many disagreed with me and how few (well, none) supported me. Okay, that’s not quite true; I wasn’t really surprised.
Additionally, it was taking place on a Discussion Thread titled “Are climate scientists scientific?”. The answer that most gave was, of course, “no”. That they did so while making some of the most unscientific arguments that I’ve ever seen, and while disputing what many would regard as a scientific truth, was not seen as remotely ironic. I tried to stick with a very simple message: that if you want to be taken seriously, you really should consider accepting what experts regard as virtually certain. I did, however, eventually make the mistake of trying to explain why it was virtually certain, which then resulted in me being challenged to somehow prove that ocean pH was really reducing. What I’d done was make the mistake of assuming that what I thought was obvious would also be obvious to a group who regularly comment on a site that focuses on climate science.
I realise that this post has rambled slightly, but I guess my broad point was how do you have genuine dialogue if people hold views that are not only discrepant, but in which one group appears to not even acknowledge the position that they really hold. It’s hard to see how dialogue is possible if people maintain that they hold what is a sensible position (Lukewarmers are in favour of risk management, there are few who dispute the basic of mainstream climate science) while it being patently obvious that they do not.