by Judith Curry
What use is science to society, if its advocates are not brave enough to point out the nonsense that is produced in the name of the scientific consensus? – Ben Pile
Ben Pile has a very interesting article The GWPF, Crok & Lewis, and positioning skeptics. It is a long article, well worth reading. Excerpts:
So let’s get back to the current story, which is Lewis and Crok’s paper, published by the GWPF. What does the response to the report tell us about the politics of today’s climate debate?
The Science Media Centre soon followed with an attempt at ‘expert reaction to new report on climate sensitivity published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation‘. The SMC’s approach to climate is less about getting clear scientific advice to the public debate than it is about getting rehearsed soundbytes from scientists into the press as quickly as possible.
The SMC trades on the view that ‘science’ produces single answers to simple questions, whereas in reality, science — especially climate science — is a messy process, to poorly understood, and even less clearly defined problems. Being ‘half way’ on the question about the appropriate balance of opinion (yes, opinion) in the media is not half way between the two opinions, but is ‘half way’ between censorship and editorial freedom — i.e. not ‘half way’ at all.
The SMC’s emphasis on ‘expert opinion’, reflects the ‘values’ recently evinced by Lewandowsky, that debate about the climate and criticism of his own work is valid only when ‘addressed through proper channels’ — it ‘should take place in the scientific literature’. Lewandowsky is a demonstration of the academy’s failure, and the SMC a demonstration of the need for climate scepticism, right or wrong.
From Reiner Grundman:
‘This raises the interesting question how much of the Lewis/Crok paper is actually endorsed by the GWPF. Providing a platform for an IPCC critical analysis does not mean the organisation shares the details, or the broader message of the paper. Maybe the motivation was to undermine the IPCC’s authority.
This seems to be the reasoning:
1. Lewis and Crok assess the IPCC’s assessment of the science on climate sensitivity.
2. Lewis and Crok determine that the IPCC over-estimates climate sensitivity.
3. But Lewis and Crock’s estimate is not radically different to the IPCC’s.
4. The GWPF published Lewis and Crock’s report.
5. But the GWPF are deniers of climate change.
6. The GWPF is must commit to the implications of Lewis and Crok’s proximity to the IPCC estimate.
7. The implications are still that a lower estimate of climate sensitivity means ‘there is a reason to act’.
It seems that many are surprised that the GWPF seem to have published a report that doesn’t say that ‘there is no such thing as climate change’. Yet of all the reports published by them, not one expresses a view of the debate as has been portrayed.
Jonathan Jones from the University of Oxford was the first to point out the obvious problem, in this superb comment:
It has been amusing to watch the apparent surprise of many climate scientists at their discovery that many “climate sceptics” are actually lukewarmers. Taking a rough and ready definition, that lukewarmers believe in AGW but doubt catastrophic AGW, one could reasonably place many of the more famous sceptics (Liljegren, McIntyre implicitly, Montford, Watts explicitly) in that camp, together with a number of “maverick” climate scientists (Curry, Lewis, Lindzen).
What does not follow from this, however, is Ed’s suggestion that “the debate can crucially move on to what action is needed to deal with a warming planet”. Or to be more precise that is, as it always has been, a reasonable question, but a perfectly reasonable answer at the moment would be “little or nothing”. Many lukewarmers are also “policy sceptics”, and their view that current policy responses are hopelessly ineffective, with costs far exceeding any conceivable benefits, remains unchanged.
And straying briefly into more dangerous territory, lukewarmers can and do remain highly critical of the IPCC, the hockey stick, the climategate fiasco, the Lewandowsky nonsense, and the bizarre idea that sceptics are a bunch of “fossil fuel funded deniers”. True peace in our time requires mainstream climate science to acknowledge a few uncomfortable truths.
Similarly, Benny Peiser responded,
“I’m afraid both Matt McGrath and Reiner Grundmann misunderstand the GWPF and our work. They should know better.”
“Our mission statement and philosophy has been known ever since we launched the GWPF in 2009 and is prominently posted on our website:
* We have developed a distinct set of principles that set us apart from most other stakeholders in the climate debates:
* The GWPF does not have an official or shared view about the science of global warming – although we are of course aware that this issue is not yet settled.
* On climate science, our members and supporters cover a broad range of different views, from the IPCC position through agnosticism to outright scepticism.
As a matter of fact, we don’t even have a collective view on the excellent new report by Nic Lewis and Marcel Crok.
We are promoting an open debate, our opponents are trying to close it down.”
And reiterated the point later:
“GWPF members have different views on most subject matters. The only issue we all agree upon: that there is a manifest lack of an open, frank and critical climate debate.”
“To encourage open discussion and critical assessment is the main raison d’être of our work and existence.”
Which was denied by Grundmann:
“You are trying to paint the GWPF as a group without clear direction as every member has different views. I think this is misleading. The GWPF occupies a well defined space in the ecosystem of climate change discourse.”
As is discussed here often, the most powerful misconception of the climate debate is that is divides on the proposition ‘climate change is happening’. This is presented as a scientific claim, though when one tries to understand what it means, and what its consequences are, unpacking it reveals that it means precisely nothing, and could mean anything between a trivial change in the weather, through to the collapse of civilisation and the end of all life on Earth. This turns nuanced arguments and analyses into cartoons, and would seem to put Lewis and Crok opposite the GWPF, who have published broad criticism of climate policy and also of some particular scientific questions. Worse, it is this tendency — the prejudice — which allows politics or ‘ideology’ to be presented as ‘science’, and thus preclude debate. All Ed Davey has to do, for instance, to wave away criticism of his energy policy is claim that it is the expression of denial of climate science.
How do political sociologists develop such blind spots in the climate debate, such that publishing a “lukewarm” report means a tiny organisation with few resources has radically altered its presumed position? The presumption is the key. If the GWPF had stated a position on the matter of climate sensitivity with respect to the necessity of political action prior to Lewis and Crok, Grundmann would be right to demand some revision of it, or remain ‘IPCC-bashers’. But they seem more interested in the putative transformation in the GWPF than in reflecting critically on the new role of academics, and the diminished understanding of the public.
Well, after reading this, I feel much happier about my decision to write the Foreword to Lewis and Crok’s report. In the midst of all this noise I wasn’t sure what GWPF was all about. Now I have a better idea, and I certainly support their objectives.
Well, I’m not so surprised by the mainstream media oversimplifying this situation, but I agree with Ben Pile that it is rather astonishing that such a large number of academic papers by sociologists get this so wrong.
And finally, Jonathan Jones’ statement bears repeating:
True peace in our time requires mainstream climate science to acknowledge a few uncomfortable truths.