This is my first one, let's see how it goes.
Merchants of doubt is the title of a book written by Naomi Oreskes and co-author Erik Conway, that tells the story of how distinct groups of
scientists have abandoned the scientific principle to push their own political and ideological agendas.
“A well-documented, pulls-no-punches account of how science works and how political motives can hijack the process by which scientific
information is disseminated to the public.”
Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences. She recently arrived at Harvard
after spending 15 years as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Geosciences
at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Professor Oreskes’s research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, with a particular
interest in understanding scientific consensus and dissent.
Her work over the last decade was primarily focused on public perception of climate science, and especially on the apparent disconnect between the
state of scientific knowledge about climate change among experts and the response of modern society.
In a TED talk she gave last May, Naomi Oreskes makes her case why scientists ought to be trusted and why they deserve that trust.
But it shouldn't be blind trust any more than we would have blind trust in anything. Our trust in science, like science itself, should be based on
evidence, and that means that scientists have to become better communicators. They have to explain to us not just what they know but how they know it,
and it means that we have to become better listeners.
A relatively short segment of her talk relates to climate change directly. The chart shown below is presented as evidence that the increase in surface
temperatures over past 50 years was primarily caused by man-made greenhouse gases.
This slide here, the black line shows the measurements that scientists have taken for the last 150 years showing that the Earth's temperature has
steadily increased, and you can see in particular that in the last 50 years there's been this dramatic increase of nearly one degree centigrade, or
almost two degrees Fahrenheit.
So what, though, is driving that change? How can we know what's causing the observed warming? Well, scientists can model it using a computer
simulation. So this diagram illustrates a computer simulation that has looked at all the different factors that we know can influence the Earth's
climate, so sulfate particles from air pollution, volcanic dust from volcanic eruptions, changes in solar radiation, and, of course, greenhouse gases.
And they asked the question, what set of variables put into a model will reproduce what we actually see in real life? So here is the real life in
black. Here's the model in this light gray, and the answer is a model that includes, it's the answer E on that SAT, all of the above.
The only way you can reproduce the observed temperature measurements is with all of these things put together, including greenhouse gases, and in
particular you can see that the increase in greenhouse gases tracks this very dramatic increase in temperature over the last 50 years. And so this is
why climate scientists say it's not just that we know that climate change is happening, we know that greenhouse gases are a major part of the reason
Naomi Oreskes was also the co-author of a peer-reviewed paper published this year, which compares model outputs to real world observations. The
authors acknowledge the obvious mismatch between model simulations and observed temperature change over the last 15+ years. They argue, however, that
direct comparisons are not appropriate to test for the credibility of climate models.
But the point here is simply to show that Naomi Oreskes must be fully aware that peer-reviewed research exists that seriously questions the models'
ability to simulate the observed climate system.
Hans von Storch is one of the scientists referenced in the study, he explains his take on the discrepancy between models and data in an interview with
SPIEGEL: Just since the turn of the millennium, humanity has emitted another 400 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, yet temperatures
haven't risen in nearly 15 years. What can explain this?
Storch: So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break. We're facing a puzzle. Recent
CO2 emissions have actually risen even more steeply than we feared. As a result, according to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures
rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 10 years. That hasn't happened. In fact, the increase over the last 15
years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) -- a value very close to zero. This is a serious scientific problem that the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will have to confront when it presents its next Assessment Report late next year.
SPIEGEL: Do the computer models with which physicists simulate the future climate ever show the sort of long standstill in temperature change that
we're observing right now?
Storch: Yes, but only extremely rarely. At my institute, we analyzed how often such a 15-year stagnation in global warming occurred in the
simulations. The answer was: in under 2 percent of all the times we ran the simulation. In other words, over 98 percent of forecasts show CO2
emissions as high as we have had in recent years leading to more of a temperature increase.
SPIEGEL: How long will it still be possible to reconcile such a pause in global warming with established climate forecasts?
Storch: If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our
climate models. A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. But even today, we are finding it very difficult to
reconcile actual temperature trends with our expectations.
Our trust in science is ultimately an expression of confidence in the credibility of individual scientists and their commitment to the truth.
If a scientist misses the opportunity to present a truthful summary of the current state of knowledge, he can no longer claim to be a credible source