As requested by Richard Drake and J Ferguson, who began a conversation on a similar topic last week, this new post asks what is the best “opinion poll-ready definition of climate skeptic.”
As in, “Excuse me madam,” assuming we’re still allowed to use that form of address, “Would you classify yourself as a climate skeptic, where by ‘climate skeptic’ I mean X?” Our job is to fill in the “X.”
This isn’t an easy question. I know of nobody who denies that the Earth’s climate has changed. I also do not know any trained scientist, or any non-trained but educated civilian, who denies the evidence that mankind has influenced the climate. Every species influences the climate. Every non-living thing, too.
The main question is how much? Implicit in that is “Why?” Orthogonal queries—to the main question and to each other—are, “What are the consequences?” and, “What can or should we do about them?” My experience is that these questions are often conflated, or that people let the answer from one skew their judgment of the others. Thus, whatever question we arrive at should make plain that other questions are immaterial.
The way I posed the main question implies the answer should be “Yes” or “No.” It needn’t. It could be put entirely quantitatively, as in, “What degrees C will the Earth’s average temperature be in 2015 and 2020?” The answer could also be an interval in which the responder is, say, 90% sure his answer will fall. I like this one because, as I say always, this is the best test of any theory.
The next objective is to decide who gets to answer. An internet poll is of no use. The opinion of the uneducated is of use, but only politically. It can only tangentially answer the question of how convinced the electorate is.
Should we ask economists, sociologists, engineers, and so forth? After all, the IPCC touts these kinds of folks as “climate” scientists. Once more, the use of asking them is only political, because few of these people will have primary knowledge of the subject.
So, ask only those trained in assessing climate data (modelers, dynamicists, forecasters, etc.)? Great idea. First find me a list of these people. Then verify that the folks on the list deserve to be there. Just defining “deserve” ought to be a useful exercise. At the least, it would put to rest claims of “The consensus”—which, incidentally, seems to have faded from discourse. As has “The science.”
Please, I beg you, be dull in your discussions. Attempts at hilarity will not be helpful here.
To summarize, we have two goals:
- What question best answers the term “climate skeptic”?
- Who should answer this question?
Update 17 January Comments for all posts are closed after one week to avoid a deluge of spam. I’m just back and will try and summarize this post in a new one soon.