My interest in this debate is more about its psychology than its substance. One of my guiding observations in finance and other areas is that “when markets go to extremes it pays to be a contrarian”. Much of the language of the AGW debate indicates fears of extremes, including an incredible intolerance and demonization of dissent. One of the reasons for this in my worthless opinion is our tendency towards what I call “emotional rationalism”- our tendency to form opinions with emotional responses first and then rationalize them with selective facts (and likewise ignoring facts and perspectives that contradict our first emotional response). Our emotional rationalism explains more about our political preferences as well and that is why our political preference is so caught up in the AGW debate.
Over our history there have been great breakthroughs in science and human progress but there have been very few radical changes in our environment in relatively short periods. Natural phenomena and even broad social and economic phenomena tend to regress to a mean. As a betting man predicting to a regression to the mean has been far more accurate than “scientific” predictions.
Just as the Phd quants on Wall Street had the masters of the universe convinced they could quantify and control risk with incredibly cerebral models like the Gaussian formula, we bury ourselves in data that discloses patterns that do not hold up over time. A philosophical understanding of risk was replaced with a delusional mathematical certainty. In other words our science needs to be tempered with philosophy, and especially epistemology. That does not mean that science should be held hostage to religion and beliefs. It just means that science and politics may go together no better than religion and politics.