Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Simple Position on Climate Change

MIT quantum computer scientist Scott Aaronson:
On climate change: I’m not a professional climatologist, but neither is Lubos, and nor (correct me if I’m wrong) is anyone else commenting here. Accordingly, I refuse to get drawn into a debate about ice cores and tree rings and hockey sticks, since my experience is that such debates tend to be profoundly unilluminating when not conducted by experts. My position is an incredibly simple one: just like with the link between smoking and cancer, or the lack of a link between vaccines and autism, or any other issue where I lack the expertise to evaluate the evidence myself, I’ll go with what certainly looks like an overwhelming consensus among the scientists who’ve studied the matter carefully. Period. If the climate skeptics want to win me over, then the way for them to do so is straightforward: they should ignore me, and try instead to win over the academic climatology community, majorities of chemists and physicists, Nobel laureates, the IPCC, National Academies of Science, etc. with superior research and arguments.

To this, the skeptics might respond: but of course we can’t win over the mainstream scientific community, since they’re all in the grip of an evil left-wing conspiracy or delusion!  Now, that response is precisely where “the buck stops” for me, and further discussion becomes useless.  If I’m asked which of the following two groups is more likely to be in the grip of a delusion — (a) Senate Republicans, Freeman Dyson, and a certain excitable string-theory blogger, or (b) virtually every single expert in the relevant fields, and virtually every other chemist and physicist who I’ve ever respected or heard of — well then, it comes down to a judgment call, but I’m 100% comfortable with my judgment.
He gets more direct on a guest post at Motl's blog; you can read it here. Naturally he gets all kinds of abuse for it, so they showed him didn't they.

Alas, Aaronson's "simple" position is all too rare.

1 comment:

eduardo said...

The nub of the question is to clearly state what is the ' an overwhelming consensus among the scientists who’ve studied the matter carefully"

In the climate change debate there are assertions that are shared by most professional climatologist ( Increase of atmospheric CO2 causes
a rise in global mean temperatures) and other assertions which are much more debated (e.g. unabated emissions will cause temperatures to rise by 5 degrees by 2100; CO2 causes an increase in hurricane frequency and intensity; or CO2 causes an increase of hydrological extremes; CO2 causes an increase of storminess).

Some climatologists, in their public appearances, tend to include all these in the 'consensus' , whereas in reality the consensus is just the first assertion