I’ve been spending a while reading some pro-AGW literature. In DeSmogBlog I came across Revealing the Climate Cover-up, which I reproduce in full:
Exactly the opposite charge might be levelled at the warmists – that in promoting belief in climate change they are misinforming electorates, undermining democracy, and using electorates’ (taxpayers’) money to do so.
It really depends who is providing ‘accurate’ information. If the warmists’ views are accurate, then by definition the sceptics’ views are inaccurate, and vice versa. But who knows which is accurate? It is the goal of science to discover accurate information. Before that task has been completed, information will very likely be inaccurate. What seems to be being suggested here is that the scientific investigation of climate is complete, and accurate information is available, and it supports the warmist views, and so the sceptics are peddling scurrilous misinformation.
If the science has been done, and ‘the science is in’, why are we paying all these researchers to carry on with their research at UEA, GISS, and NOAA? Shouldn’t they have all been pensioned off?
If someone states something that is factually incorrect, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are intentionally deceiving anyone. They may state something that they believe to be true, but which is in fact untrue. In science, someone may put forward a hypothesis which subsequently proves to be incorrect. In advancing a hypothesis, and vigorously defending it, are they engaging in deception or intentional subversion, if the hypothesis subsequently proves to be wrong? If yes, then the scientific process cannot proceed at all. Science proceeds by putting forward hypotheses, trying to falsify them, and retaining unfalsified hypotheses.
You mean antismoking campaigners backed by Big Pharma? I suspect you mean Big Tobacco.
What? Big Tobacco is funding climate sceptics? Or do you mean Big Pharma? I suspect you mean Big Oil.
Is it a crime for industries to resist moves which might damage their interests? Big Tobacco is under threat from antismoking and health activists who would like to close down the industry completely, for being ‘dealers in death’. Environmental groups and global warming activists seem to want to do the same to Big Oil. Are they not permitted to resist? I suspect that they are really being disqualified because they make profits, and are therefore evil. Anti-smoking and health activism, funded by taxpayers’ money, is perfectly all right, even if smokers have no wish to fund the organisations that persecute them.
This is the paragraph that really caught my attention. Clearly the anonymous author believes that it is a virtuous thing that there is no debate, because he believes it indicates that the debate is over, the science is settled, and all the facts are known. He also clearly believes that creating the impression that the debate is continuing sends the wrong message – that the science isn’t settled at all, when in fact he believes that it is.
As I see it, scientific debates are never over. All that happens is that the debate is temporarily adjourned, usually when most people reach agreement, but the debate instantly re-opens the moment somebody disagrees. There is never a time when the debate is over. Or, if there is, that is the point when people have ceased to engage in scientific inquiry.
For something like 1500 years or more, the debate was ‘over’ in respect of the motion of the sun around the earth (the geocentric Ptolemaic hypothesis). It was re-opened when Copernicus advanced another hypothesis, which was that the earth revolved around the sun. This resulted in controversy for a century or more, before most people adopted the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis. Now nobody much contests this view. But anyone is perfectly entitled to re-open the debate at any time, and put forward either the geocentric hypothesis or some other one. At the moment the settled scientific view is in favour of the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis, and this is the working hypothesis that most people use. And that’s all science ever is: a set of working hypotheses, any of which may be abandoned at any time if a better one comes along.
People have a right to know who is paying the deniers. It is difficult to deceive or confuse a well-informed person. DeSmogBlog exists to clear up the PR pollution around fossil fuels and climate change.
I don’t know why it is that climate deniers are always said to be being paid by somebody to do their denying, as if no honest man would do any such thing of his own free will. Warmists like Jim Hansen and Michael Mann and Phil Jones and the like are all being paid to carry out climate research, mostly by governments. Does that mean that they wouldn’t do so if their funding was slashed? Or that they would no longer advocate the warmist view?
It seems to me that, sitting at the heart of all this, there are some misunderstandings about the nature of scientific enquiries. The warmists seem to think that there is an investigation and a debate, and at the end of the debate, when the science is in, a vote is taken and whoever wins the vote carries off the prize of being able to call their views ‘settled science’ or the ‘consensus view’. So far as it goes this is more or less right, because at any particular time opinions will be more in favour of one hypothesis than another. But it doesn’t go far enough, because once one debate is over, and a vote is taken, a scientific debate immediately re-opens once again. The debate is never over. Scientific debates are not like political debates in the House of Commons, where some sort of decision must be made, and debates can’t go on interminably. Nor are they like debates between friends about which pub they’re going to visit one evening, which are similarly time-constrained, and can’t go on all evening.
The real problem with the climate issue is perhaps that, at some point in time, a scientific debate became – or was converted into – a political debate which was necessarily truncated, because in political debates decisions need to be made, and policy decided, and action initiated. Climate science has become politicised by attempting to force it to draw quick conclusions, and reach a premature consensus opinion.
It’s rather as if somebody knocked on the door of Isaac Newton’s room in Cambridge, and shouted through: “Are you done yet with your equations? We can’t wait for ever, you know! We’ve got a moon rocket here that’s waiting to be launched, and 10,000 paying spectators.”
The same applies in the case of the smoking debate. There was a debate about smoking that began in 1950, and which seems to have reached a consensus view that smoking caused lung cancer. Once again, it is being said that the debate is over, and the science is settled. It is now regarded as somehow improper to question the settled consensus view. Same also with the subsequent passive smoking debate. But in this matter, as in all matters of science, the debate is never over.