by Judith Curry
When it comes to climate change, openmindedness is the wrong approach.
Naomi Oreskes has an op-ed in the LA TIMES today entitled “The verdict is in on climate change“, with subheading “When it comes to climate change, openmindedness is the wrong approach.” Some excerpts:
In my travels, I have met many, many people who have told me that they are not in denial about climate change; they simply don’t know enough to decide. It strikes me that these people aren’t unlike my fellow jurors at the start of jury selection. They are trying to keep an open mind, something that we are routinely enjoined to do in many other aspects of daily life.
Yet many Americans cling to the idea that it is reasonable to maintain an open mind. It isn’t, at least not to scientists who study the matter. They have been saying for some time that the case for the reality and gravity of climate change has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. But there’s the rub. The public seems to view scientists as the equivalent of the prosecuting attorney trying to prove a case. The think tanks, institutes and fossil fuel corporations take on the mantle of the defense.
We have to get over that flawed notion. Scientists don’t play the role of prosecutor trying to prove a case. Rather, they are the jury trying to evaluate the evidence. And they have rendered their verdict. The problem is not that scientists have become advocates, as some have claimed. The problem is that there is no judge, no recognized authority giving us instructions we accept, and no recognized authority to accept the scientists’ verdict and declare it final.
Consider for a moment the case against tobacco. There too scientists were nearly unanimous in their conclusion, based on research, that tobacco use had serious health consequences. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry tried to play the role of defense attorney, offering up denials and dodges and pseudo-scientific studies denying a link between smoking and lung cancer. So how did Americans decide whom to believe?
In that case, there was a judge whose instructions had a large effect on public consciousness: the U.S. surgeon general. Without a scientist general to instruct us on climate change, we as a nation have been adrift, looking for leadership and not finding it.
JC comment: So am I to infer from this that the only way to support the IPCC consensus is to close your mind? And trust the ‘experts’? (like those we saw in the CRU emails)? This is a big step worse than reversing the null hypothesis.