Climate Change Skeptics

Joel Achenbach looks at climate skeptics in tomorrow’s Washington Post.

Bill Gray, one of the skeptics, points out that climate skeptics trained in science tend to be old. This is true — even the most brilliant minds can fail to keep up with modern science. Einstein never accepted quantum physics, and Kirchhoff resisted the idea that atoms were physical entities and not just models. There are exceptions, some of the skeptics are boomers, and generally, the most brilliant minds do keep up with the science.

[Update: one reader noted not the age of people signing a letter stating their skepticism of climate change science, but how many years or decades it had been since they had submitted research to a peer-review journal. Looking at other names on the same list, I noted how many were not actually scientists; one listed his touch typing skills above his environmental experience.]

The skeptics are still working on getting their ideas into peer-reviewed journals. They are breaking a cardinal rule of science — explain your reasoning, and see if you can (rapidly or over time) convince others who are knowledgeable with your reasoning. You don’t get partial credit for convincing people who are not knowledgeable. Galileo began investigating Copernican ideas because he saw those around him who were knowledgeable shifting from Ptolemaic thinking, but he saw no movement in the other direction among knowledgeable people.

THE SKEPTICS DON’T AGREE with one another. They will privately distance themselves from other skeptics (“I think he’s full of beans”) while maintaining a certain public solidarity against the Forces of Fear.

Continue reading for some of the differences in thinking.

While all skeptics agree that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientific institutions are wrong in one way or another (and Lindzen disagrees with material he helped write), they don’t agree on the reason that IPCC is wrong. Many of these people have a history of holding minority views, but this is only charming when there is a kernel of truth in the ideas.

Not all of the skeptics are scientists. [When Inhofe invited Michael Crichton to explain climate change to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, he demonstrated a confusion seen by many on the left and right, that those who talk about a topic are experts.]

Often I hear people oppose transgenic (GMO) crops because they oppose big business, this appears to be a more important reason for many than scientific considerations. Similarly, a number of skeptics mention big government or international government (IPCC was created by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization), and give the appearance that their science follows politics.

In reality, as pretty much everyone knows, the arguments in the scientific community are over details, not over the big concepts. And Time Magazine’s title, Be Worried. Be Very Worried, reflects the best understanding of scientists today.

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