If you are ignorant in a field, such as I am in ancient Peruvian pottery, you must look to purported authorities to settle disputes that might arise or for guidance in making decisions, should you be forced to.
Suppose you, being an impartial judge, were asked to settle whether a piece of pottery was authentically Moche pottery or a forgery. A not unwise program would be to gather the opinions of those who are supposed to be in-the-know, and then vote with the majority if there no clear idea who is right.
This strategy won’t guarantee accuracy, but it’s not nuts, and if you have chosen your would-be experts wisely, and they seemingly are disinterested in the outcome, it is the best way to bet.
So it isn’t strange that a large portion of the public, ignorant of the intricacies, would believe the fear-laden forecasts of global warming. In “the public” I include all those untrained in the formal sciences of the physics of fluid flow, computer modeling, statistics and the like, all necessary to grasp “climate change”.
“The public”, therefore, includes professors of “environmental studies”, who seem to be, more times than not, glorified journalists, whose jobs consist in summarizing the work of their betters. It’s a way to “do” science without having to do the hard work of learning it.
Take Max Boykoff, of the University of Colorado Boulder, who confirms this opinion in two of his “studies”, which are summaries of news reports, which are themselves summaries of the work of climate scientists. Another journalist summarizes all this thusly:
A study out this week found that 90 percent of media coverage accurately represented the scientific consensus that human activity is driving global warming, looking at thousands of articles from 2005 to 2019. That’s a sharp change from the last comparable study in 2004, when researchers discovered that more than half of articles treated dissenting opinions as equally valid.
Boykoff is the “researcher” in both cases. He said “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
Well, now, not to be unkind, but how does Boykoff know this? The same way you and I know about disputes in ancient Peruvian pottery. From those purporting to know the subjects themselves.
There turns out to be politics about Peruvian pottery. Seems some white supremacists made off with some of it way back when and installed it in various gringo museums. The now-alive Peruvians want it back. Should they get it? Hold that question in mind and re-suppose we’re asked to settle the authenticity of a piece that may or may not have to be ejected from the museum and shipped Peruward.
It now becomes difficult to know whether our experts are giving us their full and fair opinions on the matter. Are they shading their statements, or, even more likely, omitting crucial information, so that they get what they want? Uncertainty abounds.
Pottery is easier than global warming because the amounts of money and politics are trivial in comparison. We’ve seen innumerable examples of shaded and shady opinions, more then plenty of omission (where were all the official climatologists calling out Al Gore’s nonsense, for example). We also see what is rarer in antiquities: fake experts and fake science. People trying to get in on the latest “thing”.
And, finally, we have actual Experts who have fallen down on the job. For instance, “Boykoff also pointed to advances in attribution science, which can link extreme weather events to climate change, and the growing visibility of amped-up wildfires, heat waves, and other wild weather.”
It really is odd how scientists value these so-called attribution studies, when their critical flaws are so easy to see. Why this is so is, however, a subject for another time.
What we have here is the same kind of thing we have in the coronadoom panic. A person passing himself off as an Expert, lecturing the world on “the” science, “the” only correct opinion, judging “accuracy” by how well statements accord with “the” consensus, and in failing to understand shortcomings, criticisms, and failures in the field.
Boykoff’s “work” adds zero to any understanding of the actual uncertainties, and certainties, of global cooling (or warming). It has no value of any kind in science. At the very best, and being our most charitable, it catalogs current media opinion that may some day be of use to historians.
Things like this only serve to pressure folks into espousing “correct” opinions, whether they believe them or not, and whether they are true or not. It is propaganda.
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