I see from the news there is another study saying there is a 98% scientific consensus on climate change (see the BBC website coverage here). This certainly does no harm to the consensus case, but is largely a pointless battle now. There have been years of the consensus saying the sceptics are a minority, and the sceptics saying they are excluded from the discussion, the scientific community is biased against them and that of consensuses are self reinforcing.

At least the consensus now has a response to the argument that the IPCC’s 2,500 people contain only a small proportion of scientists: this study draws on 908 IPCC researchers for its conclusions and says of them they “have a lot more experience in climate research and have published a lot more papers in the scientific literature and are generally well respected in their field”. Nevertheless, Gallileo opposed the consensus of his time, so did Einstein, so did Darwin, and there is no doubt the sceptics know that. Undoubtedly the consensus leaders of their time were well respected in their field. The existence of a consensus wins some, but relatively few hearts and minds.

Gratuitous picture of a black bear (picture from http://artinthestudio.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html)

The argument I see surprisingly little, is that surely this is a question of risk management? If the whole IPCC and and its consensus supporters prove completely misguided then there will have been a cost, undoubtedly. But if the sceptics are wrong and they prevent action, then we really are in trouble. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, climate sceptics are one quarter as convincing as the consensus. If 80% of scientists told me my house would be attacked by bears and 20% said it was safe, would I start double-checking my doors and buying beartraps, even at the cost of spending that money elsewhere? Of course I would. Maybe 20% fewer beartraps than if there was 100% consensus, but still, plently of them. If the diagreement was 50:50, I would still be making plans to adapt. If the consensus was 20:80 against, yet again, I would be adapting. Less, yes, but still adapting.  That’s just effective risk-management.

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