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ANDERSON: Climate Change and the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 (Part Two)

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May 17, 2019 - 12:48 PM

PART TWO

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” — Richard Feynman

Contrary to what one might have guessed from Part One of Climate Change and the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 last week, I'm not suggesting that climate change isn't happening, because of course it is, or that it isn't important, because of course it is. Nor am I arguing that humans don't have some degree of impact on it, because I simply don't know, and neither I nor almost anyone engaged in this public “debate” is equipped to carry on that argument. Having a science degree no more confers climate expertise than having an arts background means one has expertise in impressionist art.

What I am concerned about is the level of hysteria afoot out there over something that almost no one understands.

I daresay 999,999 of 1,000,000 people out there don't understand the climate equation either, despite ridiculous and long-discredited claims involving “97% of scientists agree” - see here for an explanation, and here, and here.

Those scientists who actually DO have training in global weather dynamics readily admit that just because a CO2-engendered greenhouse effect can be created in a closed system within a laboratory, it doesn't mean that the same thing will happen in the multivariate environment of the global climate system, subject to literally trillions upon trillions of additional variables, half of which they don't understand and some of which they don't even know exist. The theory of computational complexity deals head on with this problem: it simply posits that after a certain level of complexity, even the best science becomes a guess because the data are too voluminous, the processing steps are infinite, all the computational power in the world is insufficient, or all three.  In the case of climate science, it's all three. The global climate system is simply too big, with too many variables, to make any realistic conclusions possible.

Even the IPCC has taken to using the terminology of “probabilities” in its lay commentary to its annual reports, although it certainly hasn't lost its enthusiasm for issuing dire predictions.

A majority of scientists involved with climate science may believe that increased CO2 is contributing to a greater or lesser degree to climate change, but it is not a testable thesis, which makes that supposition a hypothesis, far below the status of theory. As Sanjeev Sabhlok points out, science is the act of questioning and not of consensus, and any viable scientific theory must necessarily make accurate predictions both backwards and forwards. Yet climate models have been consistently wrong, and numerous deadlines and 10 year periods have passed without their dire predictions having come true: here, here, and here

Contrary to popular belief, for example, the UN Climate Panel found that hurricanes haven’t in fact increased, and there is very little evidence that they will increase in the future: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” Later, last year, the finding was reiterated in the 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C: “Numerous studies towards and beyond AR5 have reported a decreasing trend in the global number of tropical cyclones and/or the globally accumulated cyclonic energy…There is consequently low confidence in the larger number of studies reporting increasing trends in the global number of very intense cyclones.” Regarding floods, the IPCC’s Special Report concluded: “There is low confidence due to limited evidence, however, that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods.”

And yet it is received wisdom in the public domain that climate disasters will not only become more frequent, but more intense. Why?

None of the above is to suggest that what Gramcsi would have called the “hegemonic belief” over the larger beliefs over anthropogenic climate change are necessarily wrong, but simply to point out that “science” isn't a monolithic block of unquestionable certainty, even IF the claim of “consensus” were true. But it does explain why the discussions surrounding climate change have more of the hallmarks of a religious movement than a scientific process. If a claim cannot be proven through the rationalist tradition (science), it must be proven through the agency of faith.

In fact, these claims of consensual certainty are not an appeal to actual science so much as an appeal to authority on the cheap, much as an appeal to a Holy Book is an appeal to the authority of an unquestionable God.

Stay tuned for Part Three of Climate Change and the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 next week.

— Scott Anderson comments and analysis from a bluntly conservative point of view.

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