There is a distressing commonality when discussing climate science lately: many people skip past the data and arguments offered by a skeptic and ask the question, “Are you a climatologist?” The implication, sometimes flatly stated, is that, if you are not, then you have no business offering a negative opinion on the state of “the” science.
It is distressing because I repeatedly have to point out that it is a logical fallacy that because a person is not a climatologist their skeptical argument is therefore false. If you like labels, this fallacious retort is called the Appeal to Authority. Each argument must be assessed on its merits and cannot be dismissed because the person offered it does not meet a certain credentialing standard. Climate theory arguments from non-experts cannot be banned or forbidden tout court.
Being open to arguments from non-specialists in other fields has meant that honest scientists have had to deal with the ravings of cranks and bizarre, pointless, and irrelevant theories. But tough luck. Every physicist gets a steady stream of letters and emails from people claiming to have finally solved zero point energy, every mathematician has to read missives that have uncovered the secret proof for squaring the circle. The progress of physics and math have not been appreciably slowed by this nonsense. And every now and then, rarely, comes a paper from a nobody in a patent office or a hand-written theorem from some unknown Indian kid whose hobby is playing with numbers, and entirely new avenues of thought are opened.
But climate science is in a different state than much of theoretical physics and mathematics: it is demarcated because much of its theories about future changes have not been verified. They are, at some level, speculation. Climatology borrows heavily from other branches of science: chemists are needed to analyze temperature proxy samples, computer programmers code and validate the enormous models. Its borders are fuzzy: where does climatology end and glaciology begin?
But if critics are going to insist that, in order to offer evidence for or against significant man-made warming, that the person giving evidence must have a Ph.D. in climatology (not meteorology, or atmospheric physics, or any other field) granted from a restricted list of superior universities, then so be it. We cannot just compile the list of people working on the IPCC, however, because that august body contains people who are no better than mathematicians, statisticians, meteorologists, computer programmers, engineers, glaciologists, and, God help us, even economists and politicians. The final approved list must actually be very small. However, I invite critics to create and publish such a list so that we can all know who our betters are.
Understand, though, that the public-comment restriction must, by logic, go both ways. If you are not allowed to offer negative commentary because you are not a climatologist, then you are not allowed to offer positive reviews either.
This is the odd thing: you never hear or read of somebody asking a mere journalist who has just breathlessly reported on a paper that purports to show how birds will suffer under global warming, why he, the journalist, should have written his article because he is obviously not a climatologist or ornithologist. You will not hear cries of “What temerity!” or “How dare he!”
Anybody, apparently, is allowed to offer positive thoughts, or glowing, unrestrained praise, on the theory that mankind significantly alters global temperatures, and they never have their credentials questioned. Even more, scores of internet commentors will read the journalist’s article and add their insights (“When will people realize that the problems we are facing are real!”), and nobody will ask them what gives them the right or ability to do so.
The current state of debate says much about the desires of those who praise positive comments but denigrate the people who offer negative comments.
Since this is the case, I propose a cessation of all internet commentary, one way or the other, until the Approved List of true climatologists has been compiled.