The case for lukewarmism



Meagan McArdle, writing in Bloomberg, reviews in an intelligent fashion the fundamental truth: the same people who cannot and would not predict the market for a week’s duration think we can predict the climate over the course of a century. The main point of McArdle’s admirable article is that it appears in a major publication.

A taste is given here:

This lesson from economics is essentially what the “lukewarmists” bring to discussions about climate change. They concede that all else equal, more carbon dioxide will cause the climate to warm. But, they say that warming is likely to be mild unless you use a model which assumes large positive feedback effects. Because climate scientists, like the macroeconomists, can’t run experiments where they test one variable at a time, predictions of feedback effects involve a lot of theory and guesswork. I do not denigrate theory and guesswork; they are a vital part of advancing the sum of human knowledge. But when you’re relying on theory and guesswork, you always want to leave plenty of room for the possibility that your model’s output is (how shall I put this?) … wrong.

Naturally, proponents of climate-change models have welcomed the lukewarmists’ constructive input by carefully considering their points and by advancing counterarguments firmly couched in the scientific method.

No, of course I’m just kidding. The reaction to these mild assertions is often to brand the lukewarmists “deniers” and treat them as if what they were saying was morally and logically equivalent to suggesting that the Holocaust never happened.

She refers to an excellent set of articles by Warren Meyer, for those interested in the full discussion, at Coyote Blog. McArdle concludes:

The arguments about global warming too often sound more like theology than science. Oh, the word “science” gets thrown around a great deal, but it’s cited as a sacred authority, not a fallible process that staggers only awkwardly and unevenly toward the truth, with frequent lurches in the wrong direction. I cannot count the number of times someone has told me that they believe in “the science,” as if that were the name of some omniscient god who had delivered us final answers written in stone. For those people, there can be only two categories in the debate: believers and unbelievers. Apostles and heretics.

I have debated enough ignorant fanatics that I am always delighted when someone asks my views as if the issue were a scientific, real-world issue, one capable of being proven or disproven,  and not a matter of faith and doctrine. I can be so much more nuanced and balanced in the case of a sincere question, and how different is my reaction when I am dealing with a witch hunter from Anthropogenic Global Warming Central.

99% of the time, one deals with witch hunters as opposed to inquirers. That  figure of 99% is as specious as Oreskes’ figure of 97%.