Monday, May 9, 2011

Unwinding "hide the decline"

I think this is the clearest explanation of that 'hide the decline' crock I've ever seen. Global warming deniers picked one suspicious-sounding phrase out of thousands of stolen emails and tried to convince the uninformed that it was reason to deny all of the science.

In reality, of course, it was the kind of ill-chosen phrase anyone might use in a private email to someone else who knew exactly what he meant. There wasn't anything nefarious in it at all. It was just a convenient short-hand for a situation all climatologists understood.

Frankly, this just shows the dishonesty in the deniers' camp. If they didn't know this, it was because they didn't want to know, and didn't bother to ask. Well, why should they? Their goal is to discredit climatological science, not to actually find out the truth.

After all, what's more likely, that the consensus of climatologists is right or that some politician or pundit knows more about the science behind this than the people with the education, background, and experience who work professionally in this field?

When it comes to science, you can find pretty much any individual opinion about anything. But choosing what to believe that way is just believing what you want to believe. The only rational way to behave is to accept - provisionally, as all science is provisional - the current scientific consensus.

And that's just as true about global warming as it is about evolution or the age of the universe or that the Earth revolves around the Sun. You may wish the Earth was flat, but if you believe that, when the scientific consensus says otherwise, you're simply believing what you want to believe.

Anyway, this is a very clear explanation of that "hide the decline" "trick." Will this convince a true believer conspiracy enthusiast? Of course not. Nothing will convince a true believer conspiracy enthusiast.

But if you're still rational, this should show you not only why it's not the smoking gun of a scientific conspiracy, but also why you shouldn't believe such claims in the first place. Climatologists have worked, and continue to work, very hard at determining the truth. They may be wrong, but there's absolutely no better bet than to assume that the consensus of climatologists is right.

After all, in the unlikely event they are wrong, they'll be the first to discover that. And then the consensus will change (and my opinion will, too).


Anonymous said...

A very well thought out and well presented argument. I confess that due to the amount of information/misinformation being spread on both sides my position was leaning towards view that the warmists were wrong. This video is moving me back towards a neutral position. I still however do have the view that apart from the addition of sunlight and the occasional meteorite the earth is a closed system that will always move to a position of stasis. Consequently even if the earth is warming it may or may not be anything to do with human intervention and regardless of that the potential effects of what may happen have been blown out of all proportion to what will actually happen.

Recently I got into a conversation with some teenagers who were convinced that if we did not do 'something' (very vague on what that something should be though and certainly not something that should change their own personal life style at all) then we would all face a 'Day after tomorrow' scenario soon.

And this is the problem as I see it. Virtually every natural disaster is put down to 'climate change' from Katrina (which was a humans being in the wrong place and poor engineering problem) to droughts being declared in one of the wettest places in the world (because the water companies allow so much leakage from their pipes problem).

And Politicians use this as an immediate cop-out for their f**k ups. Nothing to do with us buddy it's climate change.

WCG said...

No, I'm sorry, but the real problem is that laymen like us use this "both sides" political and media debate inappropriately. When it comes to a scientific issue like this, the only rational move is to accept the scientific consensus.

The scientific method is the best way we've ever discovered of determining the truth. It's not perfect, but nothing else even comes close. So choosing to believe anything other than the scientific consensus, on any scientific issue, is just believing what you want to believe.

Climatologists have the education, the experience, and the tools - and the time - to actually look at the data and the arguments. As a layman, I can't tell when a plausible-sounding scientific argument is nonsensical. (I've seen that sort of thing many, many times from opponents of evolution, another issue where many people foolishly refuse to accept the scientific consensus.)

Of course, what any individual climatologist says is immaterial. Choosing to believe a particular climatologist over another is, again, just believing what you want to believe. Global warming deniers trot out scientists of their own (often not even climatologists), but you can always find someone to back up your own position, no matter what it is - especially if there's money or prestige on the line.

And scientists are only human, so there will always be disagreement among them. But so what? For us laymen, the only rational position here is to accept the consensus of climatologists, and that's overwhelmingly that global warming is real and at least partially - and probably largely - man-made.

I'm with those teenagers on this. No, you can't blame climate change for every natural disaster, but you can't say they weren't caused by global warming, either. That's not how it works. We've always had natural disasters and always will, but that doesn't mean global warming won't influence their number and their destructive power.

And politicians using global warming as a cop out? Heh, heh. Not in America. In America, half the politicians don't accept the scientific consensus at all, because it's unpopular (and because actually doing something about it would be even more unpopular).

The scientific consensus can always be wrong, but that's never the smart bet. And if it is wrong, climatologists will be the first to discover that, and the consensus will change. If that happens, my position will change right along with it. But right now, choosing to believe anything else is just clinging to what you really want to believe.