Theoretician's Cat vs Experimentalist's Cat

Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

There’s a nearly 100% consensus in peer-reviewed publications to climate science journals that global warming is “real” and humankind has contributed significantly to it. I’ve long felt uncomfortable having an opinion on the subject because frankly I was intimidated by the complexity of the climate system. It felt similar to neuroscience that sometimes attempts to arrive at fundamental conclusions about the human mind from observing which parts of the brain light up when you touch a hot stove top.

Today, I spent about two hours on Google skimming for breadth over depth on the available material on the subject. I was not able to find any scientific studies that (1) deny the unusual rise in temperature in the 2nd part of the 20th century and more importantly that (2) deny that the major contributing factor to this temperature rise is “anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”.

Theoretician's Cat vs Experimentalist's Cat

I still believe that the Earth’s climate is an extremely complex system about which it’s difficult to make solid scientific claims (which require some control over or at least knowledge of most of the variables in the system). However, I find it hard to believe that so many intelligent people (following rigorous procedures of collecting data and modeling) could be so wrong. While it’s possible, I wouldn’t bet on it.

0 thoughts on “Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

  1. Azeez Hayne

    Check out Heaven & Earth. http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Earth-Warming-Missing-Science/dp/1589794729/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1293547522&sr=8-2 for a “primer” on the dissenting position. I don’t know enough to be an active denier, but call me a solid skeptic. Particularly given the overtly political nature of the debate, I think the jury is still very out on whether or not (1) there is warming, (2) it is anthropogenic, (3) it is actually worth trying to stop, and (4) reducing carbon emissions is the best way to stop and/or mitigate the change.

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    1. Lex Post author

      (3) and (4) are tricky, but perhaps more interesting topics for discussion because it seems more manageable to talk about policy as opposed to the causes and effects of an incredibly complex climate system.

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  2. Azeez Hayne

    Possibly. What worries me about the debate in general is that it has become dogmatic, almost a religion, rather than a scientific/policy debate. It is tantamount to heresy to even question whether we should reduce carbon emissions, let alone whether there is anthropogenic warming. In that regard, I think the treatment that Bjorn Lomborg gets is quite interesting. He actually believes in anthropogenic warming, but gets pilloried for having the temerity to argue that we can do much more cost effective things with our dollars than reduce carbon. Interesting tie in to your Mountains post, Lomborg would prefer we spent our dollars, e.g., on combating malaria where we get much more return per dollar spent.

    Whatever the answer, as always, I favor a scientific and rational approach, rather than a dogmatic or religious one.

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    1. Lex Post author

      Yes, and I also like to separate the discussion of our dependence on foreign oil from discussion of global warming. Alternative energy may be the best answer for the former, but not the latter, or visa versa. (I personally believe alternative energy is a great field to invest in for research, since it’s so rich in new ideas).

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