Readers may have noticed that I’m clearing out some built-up links from the Wall Street Journal, and I apologize for those unable to access full articles. Nonetheless, the concepts are worth having floating around in your mind, even absent a subscription, so allow me to pass along theoretical physicist Steven Koonin’s suggestion for how the science world could improve climate science and public attitudes toward it:
Summaries of scientific assessments meant to inform decision makers, such as the United Nations’ Summary for Policymakers, largely fail to capture this vibrant and developing science. Consensus statements necessarily conceal judgment calls and debates and so feed the “settled,” “hoax” and “don’t know” memes that plague the political dialogue around climate change. We scientists must better portray not only our certainties but also our uncertainties, and even things we may never know. Not doing so is an advisory malpractice that usurps society’s right to make choices fully informed by risk, economics and values. Moving from oracular consensus statements to an open adversarial process would shine much-needed light on the scientific debates.
Given the importance of climate projections to policy, it is remarkable that they have not been subject to a Red Team exercise. Here’s how it might work: The focus would be a published scientific report meant to inform policy such as the U.N.’s Summary for Policymakers or the U.S. Government’s National Climate Assessment. A Red Team of scientists would write a critique of that document and a Blue Team would rebut that critique. Further exchanges of documents would ensue to the point of diminishing returns. A commission would coordinate and moderate the process and then hold hearings to highlight points of agreement and disagreement, as well as steps that might resolve the latter. The process would unfold in full public view: the initial report, the exchanged documents and the hearings.
I was just thinking, while reading comments to my post on the “March for Science,” that it will be nice when the alarmists are able to start shifting their emphasis from what they project for the future to what they can show for the past (if they ever are). Apart from that, though, it’s always a warning sign when an apparently organized movement insists that there’s no time, the consensus is overwhelming, those who still need convincing are “deniers” who should be shut out of debate, and the only solution is to shuffle more money to the researchers and their ideological allies.
Seems to me the alarmism approach isn’t gaining large numbers of converts. Maybe the best way forward to save the planet is therefore to step back a little and begin with a new approach to putting the subject before the public.