In the field of ‘climate change’, which has been an abiding interest of mine for several years now, there is a sharp division between researchers and the lay public. Researchers insist that peer-reviewed journals are the only place in which serious discussion should take place, and by and large they simply avoid the Internet. The rest of us can usually read the articles, unless they are behind a paywall, but can’t take part in the discussion, which requires the capacity to write articles that can be published there. So, by and large, the Internet is the place where furious discussion takes place, but without the participation of those who write the articles.
There are exceptions. Judith Curry’s Climate etc is the best of them, that is why I read it and it is on my Blogroll. She is herself a leading climate scientist, and from time to time others of her quality will join in. I can’t say quite the same about RealClimate, which is controlled by a group of scientists who support the orthodoxy on ‘climate change’, for here serious discussion is rare, the moderators cutting off serious questioning of the standard positions. I’ve had a real scientist question one of my posts, at length, and that forced me to go back to the beginning and look hard at what I wrote. I will return to that topic (sea levels) in time, because it is important, but it is taking a lot of work.
And that leads me to another piece I wrote that was republished (by agreement) on On Line Opinion. The piece itself was straightforward, a dissection of the Government’s recent Budget with respect to ‘climate change’. So far it has drawn 55 comments , and their variety has prompted this little essay. From what I can learn about the authors of the comments, one of them is a chemist, and he agreed with what I wrote but said also that my ‘analysis was ‘tainted by [my] climate change scepticism’, and added that ‘the changing composition of the atmosphere will likely have a real effect on climate’. I couldn’t see what the taint was — mine was simply a scroll down the budget papers inspecting what was being done in the AGW area, and I agree, and always have done, that burning fossil fuels will, other things being equal, increase temperature.
He was the third commenter, the first two having agreed with what I wrote. Thereafter what occurred was what seems generally to occur on Internet forums like this one. The next person brought up the Cook survey of climate science papers about which I wrote a few days ago, and added that ‘Blind Freddy can see that the global climate is changing’. That was perhaps an unfortunate thing to say, as other commenters then leaped on him, pointing out Blind Freddy’s inability to see anything. They might have asked more searching questions, such as how anyone could tell that ‘global climate’ was changing, and how those who thought they were able to do so could detect such changes from what was happening to the weather.
Then another commenter asked why we weren’t exploring new sources of energy, like thorium power, natural gas (?) and ceramic cells, which drew other commenters to ask about what these ceramic cells were. No one pointed out that thorium power is a long way off, and has been a long way off for quite some time. Someone had a go at the chemist, who returned, peaceably enough, saying that, yes, there was uncertainty about the future, but that we must prepare. By now the discussion is becoming a set of jousts between pairs of commenters. Someone brings up President Obama’s apparent endorsement by tweet of the Cook paper (it is unlikely that the President authored the tweet or that he is even aware of the Cook paper). People quarrel about that. Someone asks could he learn more about ceramic cells. Tony Abbott is brought in — what will he do (gasp). Ethanol is bad. And so on.
The subject was originally the budget papers, but by about comment five they have been forgotten, and never reappear. As a former academic myself, I can appreciate why those actually doing the research see no point in contributing to such a discussion, for which there is no chair and no standards of relevance. Yet where do we go for a proper discussion? As I have said many times, there has never been any real debate about AGW in which both the orthodox and the dissenting side have marshalled their arguments and their evidence. Such debate was bypassed by the government, which adopted a position for political and electoral reasons and wanted no debate or community discussion, though Julia Gillard said in her election speeches last time that she would set up a community consultation about it. She dropped that one very quickly.
I am not dismissing the commenters on my post. All of them have a real interest in AGW, and posts like mine offer them a way of getting their views across. The mainstream media are no help, because they have adopted the orthodox position, from which a request for debate is a form of ‘denial’. All in all, it is a bad state of affairs, and the only ray of sunshine is the fact that, slowly and painfully, governments around the world are backing off the orthodoxy in practice, if not in what they say. Which was what my post was about.