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While our attention was on the election and its aftermath, Scott Adams of the Dilbert Blog has posted some items on climate. His posts during the campaign season presented an iconoclastic view of the proceedings that proved to be obdurately prescient. His attention to the climate controversy is welcome. His first post on the subject was December 5th.
Before I start, let me say as clearly as possible that I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. If science says something is true – according to most scientists, and consistent with the scientific method – I accept their verdict.
I realize that science can change its mind, of course. Saying something is “true” in a scientific sense always leaves open the option of later reassessing that view if new evidence comes to light. Something can be “true” according to science while simultaneously being completely wrong. Science allows that odd situation to exist, at least temporarily, while we crawl toward truth.
So when I say I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change, I’m endorsing the scientific consensus for the same reason I endorsed Hillary Clinton for the first part of the election – as a strategy to protect myself. I endorse the scientific consensus on climate change to protect my career and reputation. To do otherwise would be dumb, at least in my situation. …
… You probably are not a scientist, and that means you can’t independently evaluate any of the climate science claims. You didn’t do the data collection or the experiments yourself. You could try to assess the credibility of the scientists using your common sense and experience, but let’s face it – you aren’t good at that. So what do you do?
You probably default to trusting whatever the majority of scientists tell you. And the majority says climate science is real and we need to do something about it. But how reliable are experts, even when they are mostly on the same side?
Ask the majority of polling experts who said Trump had only a 2% chance of becoming president. Ask the experts who said the government’s historical “food pyramid” was good science. Ask the experts who used to say marijuana was a gateway drug. Ask the experts who used to say sexual orientation is just a choice. Ask the experts who said alcoholism is a moral failure and not a matter of genetics. …
… As I said above, I accept the consensus of climate science experts when they say that climate science is real and accurate. But I do that to protect my reputation and my income. I have no way to evaluate the work of scientists.
If you ask me how scared I am of climate changes ruining the planet, I have to say it is near the bottom of my worries. If science is right, and the danger is real, we’ll find ways to scrub the atmosphere as needed. We always find ways to avoid slow-moving dangers. And if the risk of climate change isn’t real, I will say I knew it all along because climate science matches all of the criteria for a mass hallucination by experts.
His next post we link to was December 19th.
I often hear from people who are on one side or the other on the topic of climate change. And I think I spotted a new cognitive phenomenon that might not have a name.* I’ll call it cognitive blindness, defined as the inability to see the strong form of the other side of a debate.
The setup for cognitive blindness looks like this:
1. An issue has the public divided into two sides.
2. You read an article that agrees with your side and provides solid evidence to support it. That article mentions the argument on the other side in summary form but dismisses it as unworthy of consideration.
3. You remember (falsely) having seen both sides of the argument. What you really saw was one side of the argument plus a misleading summary of the other side.
4. When someone sends you links to better arguments on the other side you skip them because you think you already know what they will say, and you assume it must be nonsense. For all practical purposes you are blind to the other argument. It isn’t that you disagree with the strong form of the argument on the other side so much as you don’t know it exists no matter how many times it is put right in front of you. …
… Given the wildly different assessments of climate change risks within the non-scientist community, perhaps we need some sort of insurance/betting market. That would allow the climate science alarmists to buy “insurance” from the climate science skeptics. That way if the climate goes bad at least the alarmists will have extra cash to build their underground homes. And that cash will come out of the pockets of the science-deniers. Sweet!
But if the deniers are right, and they want to be rewarded by the alarmists for their rightness, the insurance/betting market would make that possible.
It would also be fascinating to see where the public put the betting odds for climate science. Would people expose themselves to both sides of the debate before betting?
Then Scott Adams/Dilbert posted on the CO2/warming arguments. Chicken/egg or Egg/chicken?
… Remember how I taught you that Trump’s linguistic kill shots had a special quality that allowed them to strengthen over time thanks to confirmation bias? Every time Ted Cruz said something that didn’t pass the fact-checking you remembered his Lyin’ Ted nickname. And every time someone accused Clinton of crooked dealings you were reminded of her Crooked Hillary nickname. Climate change has the same dynamic. Every time it snows the non-scientists of the world look out the window and experience confirmation bias that global “warming” isn’t happening. Sure, it’s usually called climate “change” now, and most people know that. But to the under-informed that change in preferred wording just looks suspicious.
Climate scientists might be right that CO2 will cause catastrophic warming. And fear is a great persuader. But this particular fear is a bit abstract. It isn’t like a nuclear bomb that can kill us all instantly. Climate worries are in the unpredictable future and won’t affect everyone the same way. Persuasion-wise, the climate scientists only have facts and prediction models to make their case. And what are the weakest forms of persuasion known to humankind? – Facts and prediction models.
And how are climate scientists trying to solve this problem? Mostly by providing more facts and more prediction models. And by demonizing the critics. The net effect of all that is to systematically reduce their own credibility over time, even if they are right about everything.
I think you see the problem.
A less theoretical and more down to earth approach comes from James Delingpole in The Spectator, UK.
… he (Trump) was never the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, which means he has the attitude, the independence and the leeway to be much more radical — and effective — than any of his rivals would have dared to be.
Nowhere will this become more evident than in the fields of energy and climate change. It’s true that there were other climate–sceptical presidential candidates, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio among them, but it’s unlikely that when push came to shove any Republican other than Trump would have had the will to take on the powerful and entrenched green establishment once in office.
Partly it’s down to temperament: Trump relishes confrontation and, unlike most conservative politicians, feels under no pressure to moderate his position on the environment lest he be perceived as nasty or uncaring. Partly it’s because as a property developer he has much personal experience of the way environmental red tape impedes business. Partly, as one admiring DC insider explained to me, it’s because he’s the first US president since Reagan who doesn’t identify with the ‘bicoastal urban elite’. …
… Take NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: both have been caught red-handed doctoring raw data to make 20th-century global warming look more dramatic, for reasons which probably have more to do with ideology than science. Trump simply won’t tolerate this. NASA will likely be returned to its day job of exploring space, while NOAA and its climate data will be put in the hands of a sceptical scientist: someone, perhaps, like John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who has long infuriated warmists by noting that the satellite records show much less warming than the (-rather patchy) surface temperature records do.
Until now, green propagandists have been able to point to their tame scientists at NASA, NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Science and Technology and so on, and say: ‘Look. All the experts agree…’ With this option off the table the repercussions will be enormous. I’d go so far as to say it’s the beginning of the end of the Green Blob.
Yes, I appreciate some of your squeamishness about Trump, and if you’re on the greenie liberal left or part of the smug elite whose nose was put out so badly by Brexit, then you’ve good reason to be terrified. Not otherwise, though. He’s going to be great.
What might a presidency unencumbered by Beltway orthodoxy look like? We reach deep in our files from an article in the October 5, 1999 WSJ by Ken Adelman who told how the uninhibited Reagan acted at the beginning of his administration.
… The first epiphany came early in his administration, when we gathered in a formal National Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room. Secretary of State Alexander Haig opened by lamenting that the Law of the Sea Treaty was something we didn’t like but had to accept, since it had emerged over the previous decade through a 150-nation negotiation. Mr. Haig then proceeded to recite 13 or so options for modifying the treaty–some with several suboptions.
Such detail, to put it mildly, was not the president’s strong suit. He looked increasingly puzzled and finally interrupted. “Uh, Al,” he asked quietly, “isn’t this what the whole thing was all about?”
“Huh?” The secretary of state couldn’t fathom what the president meant. None of us could. So Mr. Haig asked him.
Well, Mr. Reagan shrugged, wasn’t not going along with something that is “really stupid” just because 150 nations had done so what the whole thing was all about–our running, our winning, our governing? A stunned Mr. Haig folded up his briefing book and promised to find out how to stop the treaty altogether.
That set the tone for the first Reagan administration. …
Dems continue to beclown themselves over climate. The latest was a rising star in the party, Kamala Harris, who looked the fool when questioning designated CIA chief. Here’s PJ Media;
This is why the Democrats can’t have nice things like the White House, Congress, most state houses or state legislatures. California’s new senator grilled CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo about climate change (as well as gay marriage), illustrating just how out of sync with reality Democrats’ priorities are when it comes to national security.
More from Ed Morrissey at HotAir.
Confirmation hearings often reveal more about the panelists than they do about the nominee, and that’s certainly the case in the exchange that took place between Mike Pompeo and newly installed Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Donald Trump nominated Pompeo for director of the CIA, a role for which his years as chair of the House Intelligence Committee have prepared him, including an understanding of the role intelligence services play. Harris seems to have a strange set of priorities for intelligence operations, and her obsession with climate change leaves Pompeo almost laughing in bemusement. …
… Bear in mind that this followed Harris questioning Pompeo on LGBT policy, and you get a sense of the silliness on display:
HARRIS: CIA Director Brennan, who spent a 25-year career at the CIA as an analyst, senior manager, and station chief in the field, has said that when, quote, “CIA analysts look for deeper causes of rising instability in the world,” one of the causes those CIA analysts see as the — is the impact of climate change. Do you have any reason to doubt the assessment of these CIA analysts?
POMPEO: Senator Harris, I haven’t had a chance to read those materials with respect to climate change. I do know the agency’s role there. Its role is to collect foreign intelligence, to understand threats to the world. That would certainly include threats from poor governance, regional instability, threats from all sources, and deliver that information to policymakers. And to the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that, we’ll deliver that information to you all and the president.
That was Pompeo’s attempt to acknowledge her concern at climate change while politely reminding her that it’s not the CIA’s primary focus, or even secondary focus. (If it has been in the past, perhaps that’s why we missed the real nature of the “Arab Spring,” the rise of ISIS, and Russia’s determination to team up with Iran to keep Bashar al-Assad in power.) Harris didn’t take the hint, however, which forced Pompeo to become a little more blunt: …