GK Chesterton on Climate Science

“Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”
G.K. Chesterton

I wear the label ‘anthropic global warming denier’ with pride. All it takes is a bit of education in science (PV=nRT, earth science, evaporation) to know right off the bat that AGW is nonsense.

We all need to become educated enough to ignore the politicized “experts.”

Scientists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd

So scientists are human after all. They are no different from bankers, politicians, lawyers, estate agents and perhaps even journalists. They cheat. They make mistakes. They suppress truth and suggest falsity, especially when a cheque or a plane ticket is on offer. As for self-criticism, that is for you, not me.

I am just ready to believe that the antics of the climate change scientists, revealed in this week’s Guardian and elsewhere, have no impact on the facts of global warming. But then I must rely on those same scientists to say so. The Yamal-12 larches may be dodgy, the hockey stick limp and the Amazon stats subject to re-evaluation. The date of 2035 for a Himalayan apocalypse may have been a misprint for 2350 and 40,000 comments didn’t spot it. But so what, they all say? The world is coming to an end because we are scientists and, like Nostradamus, we know.

What any layman must find alarming is the paranoia and exclusivity of the climate change community. The preparation of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was apparently like that of a party manifesto. Data was suppressed and criticism ignored. The IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, dismissed sceptics as adherents of “voodoo science”. Dark hints were made of commercial interest and Holocaust denial.

Now barely a week passes without another of the “thousands and thousands of papers” Pachauri calls in evidence having its peer-review credentials questioned. Their authors may plead that the evidence remains strong and theirs is no more than what lawyers call “noble cause corruption”. Anyone reading the University of East Anglia emails might conclude they would say that, wouldn’t they. Yet Pachauri this week issued a Blairite refusal of all regrets for the chaos into which his sloppiness has plunged his organisation.

Why Climate Science Is On Trial

Over on his blog at Foreign Policy, the always interesting and engaging political scientist Daniel Drezner raises some important questions about science and politics. Drezner looks at the interaction between populist critics of the science consensus and the guardians of that consensus — specifically at the debate between those who think that vaccinations may promote or cause autism and those (the overwhelming majority of scientists who’ve studied the issue) who think the link is totally bogus. As with the science on climate change I generally assume the main body of scientists are more reliable than their critics unless something very much out of the ordinary is going on.

Dan is surprised and disturbed that on issues like vaccination and climate change these controversies keep erupting. Not being a political scientist I’m in no position to give Dan a fully fleshed out theory, but in a seat-of-the-pants way I do have some ideas.

When a scientific question is of no interest to the general public — are the greater and lesser spotted skinks members the same species or of two different ones, for example — then scientists are left to settle this among themselves and nobody much is going to question the results of normal scientific procedures. But when science has broader public implications — for example, that cigarettes cause cancer or that every child in the country should be vaccinated against a certain disease — then its findings are going to be scrutinized and argued over in a political context and scientists can expect to have their findings and their methods assailed by all kinds of people whose interests are affected one way or another by their results.