Judith Curry has written about her recent (but not new) presentation about ‘climate science and the uncertainty monster’. My sense is the analogy is pushed to the limit. No one knows what the monster is, and there are too many heads, tails and monster body parts flying around.
Curry says the monster concept is for examining the ‘response of the scientific community to uncertainties at the climate science-policy interface’.
The skeptic asks: what is this ‘climate science-policy interface’? Why should there be such an interface at all?
If you go back in time to Stephen Schneider, child of Malthus, you will encounter among his (many) books, ‘The Genesis Strategy’. In the preface Schneider tells us he warns the world about ‘the dangers ahead’, and he is compelled to point out ‘the uncertain state of scientific knowledge’ … ‘does not imply there are no problems’. The ‘iceberg in the distance’ for the world-as-Titanic was ‘climate change and related misfortunes’.
The world was a different place as were circumstances. But the ‘terrible problems’ confronting it were the same as today: famine, climate change, global pollution—arranged in different configurations—along with yesteryear’s favorite bogeyman – population growth.
A significant chapter is devoted to the effect of human energy sources on the climate.
However, if global energy consumption expands greatly in the next few decades and this proves to be climatically dangerous, a great dilemma will befall the world
Sounds bad. It is. In fact, Schneider tells us, it’s so bad
… widespread climatic disruption from increased energy production could also occur as soon as the year 2000;
Sounds terrifying, but how would this happen?
Schneider lays down the case for the disruption occurring due to … heat released by power plants and urban heat islands. That’s right — not CO2 but the direct heat from coal plants and nuclear stations.
Over a span of several pages, with ‘uncertainty’ in tow, Schneider allows this industrial heat to be amplified by climate ‘feedback mechanisms’ just as with CO2 and ‘force changes in atmospheric motions that might be global’. At one point he has ‘large quantities of head added to the Gulf Stream from power parks’ finding ‘their way into the climatic system…in the subpolar part of the North Atlantic’ ready to melt Greenland ice,The Day After Tomorrow -style. In the next page, he wonders if thermal pollution from power parks could unleash tornadoes.
With climate, Schneider has no clue what will happen next. Ozone, CO2, aerosols, natural variability, supersonic transport, ‘thermal pollution’ all make their appearance in the book and they could all wreak havoc on the “steady-state”. But it doesn’t matter, there is ‘change’. ‘Change’ would cause famines in the populous third world whose citizens would consume the world’s food. There is a whole chapter on ‘The North American Grain Drain’.
Through it all Schneider wrings his hands: there has to be ‘decision-making with uncertain inputs’, but ‘the degree of uncertainty …should not delay consideration of actions to prevent..plausible catastrophes.’ He feels compelled to warn ‘some wolves will attack long before we are certain enough of their existence’. He even advocates ‘no-fault climate disaster insurance’, just like Curry.
Looks like he’s grappling with a monster, doesn’t it?
This monster is clearly unaffected by ‘the science’ — change of unknown kind, cooling and warming all have the same causes, produce the same effect and require the same people to be christened ‘experts’ and handed the keys to the kingdom. The monster, it now appears, is a reflection of individual activists and scientists who promote their discipline by positioning it as close to policy as possible, and insisting there is an interface. It is a reflection of pious science’s impulse and success in exploiting authority to stoke fears.
In close to 40 years since the book was published many of the problems scientists like Schneider threatened the world about have disappeared or dissipated. But climate science employs the same paradigm about ‘uncertainty’, the same bogeyman of ‘global change’ to imply the same catastrophe and demands a seat at the power table.
In the 1970s, when famine-struck India would request food supplies from other countries, donors ‘inquired about the progress of the family-planning program that India instituted’. Today, the World Bank system refuses aid to African countries for building coal plants. The Malthusian-ism and ‘lifeboat ethics’ which held sway and spawned the ‘monster’ — the will-to-power disguised as scientific probability — still reigns.
On a blog post about ‘blog discussions’, Judith Curry bumped off a comment from me that included the sentence “ATTP does not belong in the climate debate”. Curry’s post claims ATTP’s ‘warm blog’ has a magic touch and is heavily commented. Sure.
What is the “magic touch” for a warmie blog? First, you write about the topics running on well-trafficked skeptical blogs. This brings two advantages (i) you don’t have to scratch you head thinking about what to write, (ii) you draw commenters from the well-trafficked blogs. Second, you practice blatant one-sided censorship. This announces and consolidates your partisan status, and earns a stable of commenters who need protection to thrive. Ta da – ‘magic touch’.
The formula is clear: you can examine almost any climate consensus blog – they don’t survive and grow without the golden combination of borrowed skeptic points and censorship.
The opposite does happen. If you go back, there was Bart Verheggen’s blog which hosted, among others, a remarkable discussion thread that ran for thousands of comments with participants of all stripes. Then Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-scape became the venue for interesting discussions. In both the spark lasted as long as the hosts held back, allowing emergent conversation to flow.
Others think it is pesky commenters that destroy good discussion. Marcel Crok’s Climatedialogue and Michael Quircke’s Climate Change National Forum (CCNF) marshaled original climate content and catastrophist Michael Tobis made a hermit of himself at the gated community Planet 3.0. All appear to be motivated by a sense of dread about the barbarians (i.e, commenters). Climatedialogue and CCNF cordoned commenters into a separate second-class area whereas Planet 3.0 required vetted registration. As far as I can see no ‘magic’ happened. It is no one’s fault but just confirmation of the formula.
Curry now declares she will ensure ‘stricter moderation’ on her blog. Her blog flourished because there was a groundswell of support for someone from the orthodoxy willing to state unpalatable truths. It is unique for the torrent of comments that would put legions of online marketing pundits to shame. It is sad she’s decided to go hunting to remove critical comments.
I used to hear regularly climate scientist Robert Grumbine was a rational voice in the climate debate. Very balanced, sensible etc. I recently ran into Grumbine’s theory for why fellow scientist Judith Curry turned climate skeptic:
Curry became a skeptic to fit better with her Georgia colleagues who do not believe in Darwinian evolution and therefore do not believe in anthropogenic climate change – so goes Grumbinian convoluted logic. His association with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), it appears, helps makes such impressive leaps of logic.
For those not in the know, the National Center for Science Education is a ridiculous organization devoted to ‘fighting’ creationism and intelligent design in schools. They fight the good fight by filing court cases, making speeches and hosting such articles as Am I a Monkey by Francisco Ayala and the appropriately titled The Dawn of the Deed: The Prehistoric Origins of Sex by a John F Long.
As arrows of causality fly, it is infinitely more likely the NCSE glommed on to climate change as a cause than Judith Curry became a skeptic to please her neighbours. Why hold back from the vistas of activist opportunity climate change affords? Grumbine modestly admits it might have been he who egged the NCSE onto climate change.
Curry, on the other hand, informs us her skepticism comes at a cost at Georgia Tech.
I don’t know. I am having a hard time understanding what she is saying.