Science was not a strong subject for me and I am certainly not qualified to pass judgment on the hard data and the cases for or against anthropomorphic (man-made) global warming. Yet I also realize that most of the pundits that express such strong opinion on the subject know just as little about the science as I do. The language used to describe the ‘opposition’ is the language of political and religious fanatics, not scientists.
Daniel Botkin makes this point well in Absolute Certainty is Not Scientific, in the Wall Street Journal, 12/2/11.
I felt nostalgic for those times when even the greatest scientific minds admitted limits to what they knew. And when they recognized well that the key to the scientific method is that it is a way of knowing in which you can never completely prove that something is absolutely true. Instead, the important idea about the method is that any statement, to be scientific, must be open to disproof, and a way of knowing how to disprove it exists.
Therefore, “Period, end of story” is something a scientist can say—but it isn’t science.
Some scientists make “period, end of story” claims that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn’t happening. For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, “Betraying the Planet” that “as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason—treason against the planet.” What had begun as a true scientific question with possibly major practical implications had become accepted as an infallible belief (or if you’re on the other side, an infallible disbelief), and any further questions were met, Joe-McCarthy style, “with me or agin me.”
Not only is it poor science to claim absolute truth, but it also leads to the kind of destructive and distrustful debate we’ve had in last decade about global warming. The history of science and technology suggests that such absolutism on both sides of a scientific debate doesn’t often lead to practical solutions.
Is there in fact a trend of Global warming?
Is the amount of global warming bad?
Is it predominantly caused by man?
Does the environmental ecosystem have any self correcting capabilities?
Will the solutions proposed have any measurable effects?
While I barely know which end of the test tube the cork goes into, it seems absurd that we could know the answers to these questions with any degree of certainty. If global warming was so certain then why has ‘climate change’ been substituted? Who determines if warming is bad? Haven’t more people died from cold extremes? Exactly how much warming is bad? Does anyone really know what the optimal temperature is? If we are so certain that man is causing this, then how do we explain previous periods of climate change when man’s global foot print was significantly smaller?
It appears that mixing politics and science is no more palatable than mixing religion with politics. Politics pollutes them both.