The “scientific consensus” that human-released greenhouse gases are the main driver of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) didn’t evolve naturally from the science, but was forced into being as a tool of advocacy, argues Jean Goodwin of Iowa State University in a paper (PDF) submitted to the National Communications Association in 2009.
I mention this paper now because climate scientist Judith Curry, a so-called “lukewarmer”, has brought it up on her excellent blog, Climate Etc.
Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology is less interested in the much-proclaimed consensus than how it was arrived at. Curry thinks striving for a consensus can distort the scientific process.
Goodwin’s paper states that scientists appear to have “manufactured consensus” on CAGW as a non-scientific tool to win support from the public for policy goals.
“The consensus claim, furthermore, appears to be an elaboration of the appeal to authority specifically designed to heighten its force. “Credit what I say, because I say so” is the minimalist version of the appeal to authority. I have argued elsewhere that the force of this appeal is based in a kind of “blackmail”: it puts the audience in a position such that they will appear imprudent if they conspicuously go against the view of someone who obviously knows more . . . If, however, all the experts say the same thing, the layperson’s “plausible excusability” is restricted. In such a case, the experts’ statements do seem to constitute the unavoidable “foundation” for policy-making.”
Curry comments that this approach is evident in the works of advocates such as Naomi Oreskes, a historian at UCSD who in recent years has lobbied for the “consensus” view on CAGW.
Oreskes’ tack is to portray the global warming skeptics as giant bullies aided by fossil fuel money, beating up on scientists whose main motive is to find the truth. Of course, the truth is a lot more complicated that than – it’s the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming activists who get the approval of authority for sometimes thinly sourced and alarmist claims. Science that challenges the consensus is the real underdog against an establishment that has already made up its mind about the truth.
Curry also quotes Goodwin’s paper, which argues that manufacturing a consensus requires a self-appointed team of scientists to decide who is qualified to judge climate science and who is not. In other words, this team had to draw boundaries to delineate the experts:
“Even when successful and legitimate, boundary-drawing created additional problems. If indeed every scientist within the consensus agreed that policy action was urgent, and every scientist outside thought otherwise, a strong appearance of politicization was created—i.e., that the boundary between “insiders” and “outsiders” was based on political views, not scientific relevance.”
Curry says the only way to dispel this concern that the “consensus” is a political act and not a scientific one, is for the scientists running the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change to reveal their data, methods and criteria for judging what is legitimate climate science. This hasn’t been done, she says, and the IPCC has retreated behind its appeal to authority. That has only diminished the credibility of climate science in the public’s eye.
And Curry says bluntly:
I have argued previously that the IPCC is torquing (and even corrupting) climate science, and this article clarifies that the source of this corruption is the consensus building process.
As I would put it, you can be a scientist, you can be an advocate, but mixing advocacy and science is a dangerous combination of church and state. In the words of CAGW “lukewarmer” social scientist Roger Pielke, Jr, such a mixture is fertile breeding ground for “stealth advocates“, who advance political goals while pretending to be just objective scientists.
Unlike Curry, who has made a good-faith effort to understand and meet the concerns of global warming skeptics, most of the science activists such as Oreskes are still fixated on the appeal to authority. They haven’t realized that the growing wave of “deniers” is a result of attacking critics’ motivations and credentials, when they should be answering critics’ concerns and honestly dealing with inconvenient observations of failed CAGW predictions.
To the contrary, the global warming activists are upping their propaganda campaign. They have enlisted supposedly objective entities such as Google into their climate crusade. Anti-science extremist Neanderthals that we are, we CAGW skeptics still know how to read. The predictable result of this propaganda campaign will be to increase distrust of Google. Considering Google’s disturbing power, that may not be a bad thing.
In their arrogant folly, these activists are pouring gasoline onto the fires of CAGW skepticism.
(DISCLAIMER: This is my opinion, not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).