Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A precedent for the failure of a scientific consensus

The climate science consensus today, covering a range of views, says our policies are very much on the wrong track.
"... the [climate science] field, as represented by IPCC, rightly or wrongly is solidly behind a range of opinion [i.e., "enormously disruptive changes in the world’s climate in the lifetimes of people now living"] that, if correct, makes current policy toward carbon emissions flatly insane."
That's excerpted from a fine post by Michael Tobis at Planet3.0, looking at what lessons the late 19th-century extreme underestimates of Earth's age hold for scientists and other citizens today.

"People don’t believe us [on climate science projections] because 1) our competencies are not especially visible to them 2) our message seems improbable and 3) what we say reminds them of superstitious, excessive, innumerate apocalyptic green radicalism (and is embraced by green radicals) and 4) what we recommend is spending on specific expensive projects that would be otherwise unnecessary or premature. ...

... one might want to look through the history of science for cases where a crucial quantity [analogous to climate sensitivity] had an accepted range [and yet]... turned out to be badly wrong.  I’ve recently come across one, and the story is instructive.

How could such a crucial number [as the age of the earth] be so widely held for so long at a value that was so badly wrong?"
Go read the post for the answers.

It concludes,
"... Just as uncertainty is not our friend, the herd mentality is not our friend either. The herd will always split the difference between the evidence and what they want to believe. Consequently, we may be worse off than we think."

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