by Judith Curry
Here are a few things that I think are worth discussing from the past week.
Al Gore on Climate Denial
The 8-0 decision by Justice Ginsburg dismissing the lawsuit is based entirely on displacement of federal common law by the Clean Air Act. The Court found that Congress had entrusted EPA in the first instance to decide how GHGs should be regulated, and it’s not for the federal courts to issue their own rules.
The justices of the United States Supreme Court this week became the world’s most august global warming sceptics. Not by virtue of their legal reasoning – the global warming case they decided turned on a technical legal issue — but in their surprising commentary. Global warming is by no means a settled issue, they made clear, suggesting it would be foolhardy to assume it was.
“The court, we caution, endorses no particular view of the complicated issues related to carbon-dioxide emissions and climate change,” reads the 8-0 decision, delivered by the court’s acclaimed liberal, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The court decision noted that the Environmental Protection Agency itself had “Acknowledg[ed] that not all scientists agreed on the causes and consequences of the rise in global temperatures,” before suggesting readers consult “views opposing” the conventional wisdom. Specifically, the justices’ recommended reading was a superb profile of Princeton’s Freeman Dyson, perhaps America’s most respected scientist, written in the New York Times Magazine, March 29, 2009.
Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor has an article entitled “Don’t ignore climate sceptics – talk to them differently.”
Climate skeptics who ask critical questions for whatever reasons (as differentiated from disbelievers who engage in a close-minded campaign to debunk the science) should not be ignored or dismissed. In a representative democracy, diverse worldviews and constituencies must be heard and engaged.
To do otherwise risks burying climate change in a “logic schism,” an intractable and stalemated debate in which the two sides are talking about different issues (such as life and choice in the abortion debate). They then seek only information that confirms their opinion and discounts those of others.
Scientists will never be able to say with complete certainty that anthropogenic climate change is happening without a controlled experiment, one that requires another planet Earth. When it comes to understanding something as complex as the global climate, they will have to rely on the preponderance of evidence suggesting a prudent course.
Do scientific literacy an numeracy worsen climate denial?
This is the title of a blog post by Chris Mooney. The paper he refers to is entitled “The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Cultural Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change.”
Abstract. The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones. More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: the individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.
It will be interesting to see how Mooney spins this one in his follow on posts.