Steve Sherwood admits in The Australian today that climate scientists avoid debate, but attempts to justify that by claiming that it’s impossible to get their position across in a the short time normally allowed in debates.
Sherwood also claims the science is settled – an interesting juxtaposition of conflicting arguments. On the one hand, the debate’s over, but on the other, there just isn’t time to explain why!
Sherwood’s analogy with a criminal trial is shaky at best:
[...] it helps to think of the present state of climate science as if it were a high-profile and complicated murder trial that had just ended.
After a month of courtroom arguments and careful deliberation of the testimony and evidence, the jury announces its verdict: the accused is innocent. But not everyone likes the verdict.
Gnashing of teeth and unhappiness ensue. The victim’s family, the police and many others want to believe the perpetrator had been arrested, and want them brought to justice.
Some commentators, who don’t know any of the jurors, begin saying they are soft on crime, were bamboozled by crafty lawyers or suffered from a conflict of interest because the government paid jury fees.
A politician enters the fray, asking why the community should accept the judgment of a “monopoly” of only 12 people on such an important matter. He proposes that the verdict be disregarded and the case judged democratically instead.
He suggests that each solicitor present arguments and evidence on evening television, for 30 seconds. Afterwards, the people will decide, by plebiscite, based on each 30-second presentation whether the accused committed the crime.
It is hard to imagine how this would be regarded as fair. It is clearly a travesty of justice.
But climate scientists are being asked to participate in exactly this kind of arrangement when debating contrarians in public forums.
“The accused is innocent.” Or in the case of carbon dioxide, guilty. That would be the flawed assumption in this argument. The science is settled, is effectively what Sherwood claims. The climate models accurately reflect every single element of the climate system, and we have little more to learn. But as we have discovered from Donna Laframboise’s recent book, the IPCC, that impartial arbiter of all things climate, on whose pronouncements climate policies are decided the word over, is nothing of the sort – it is a politicised and compromised organisation, with a very rigid agenda. Is that what you mean by the accused is innocent? Because the IPCC says so?
It’s the same old story – just trust the scientists and let us get on with it. We know best. Shut up, he explained.
The basic physics of global warming may be simple, but the potential complications revived in perpetuity by contrarians took years for experts to sort out. They cannot be adequately explained in an hour or a day.
A solicitor with integrity, faced with 30 seconds to deliver trial evidence, would refuse to participate in such a scheme.
Climate scientists are refusing to enter public debates for exactly the same reason. (source - behind a paywall now…)
Sorry, but I think the reason is much simpler. Scientists avoid debate because they hate having to answer questions about the politicisation of the scientific process, the corruption of scientific integrity at the IPCC, Climategate and the Big Green bandwagon of funding that keeps most climate scientists in work.
Given Sherwood has used a trial analogy, here’s a slightly different one to think about:
CO2 is on trial for assault on the planet. The prosecution consists of the UN, virtually every national government, academic institutions the world over, all funded by a massive revenue stream running to billions of dollars. They have massive departments, massive budgets, banks of supercomputers, and corporate Amex cards. The judge, who is also from the UN, has also said publicly in the past that CO2 is guilty – before the trial even starts. The night before, the judge is spotted out partying with the prosecution – they’re all good mates and have known each other since the good old days of Bert Bolin.
On the other side sits the defence: a few retired scientists in threadbare suits, with no money and no glory and barely a laptop between them who toil away in the background trying to test the prosecution’s case as best they can with extremely limited resources. When the defence gets a donation from Big Oil, the prosecution (and the judge) are incensed – conflict of interest, they cry! The fact that the prosecution is bankrolled by Big Green, however, seems not to concern the court. Even the judge remains silent.
Links between the prosecution and special interest groups are exposed, revealing that this is nothing more than a political show trial. Twenty odd years ago, a bunch of environmental hard-cases got together in Villach and decided they could make a tidy profit and help them achieve global power by stitching up poor old CO2. The judge and a number of the prosecution team are all in on this, and will make significant profits if CO2 is found guilty, yet no-one bats an eyelid.
The evidence is presented. The prosecution relies on incomplete and flaky computer models that “prove” that CO2 is guilty, despite the fact that they omit a range of key factors that would significantly influence that result. They rely on data that have been “adjusted” to remove any trace of uncertainty about CO2′s guilt. Witnesses are called who misrepresent and utter falsehoods under oath, but oddly that seems OK too. The judge remains silent again.
When the defence attempts to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses, however, the judge rules that the witnesses don’t have to answer. They can simply refuse to provide the code for their models or their raw data. The defence are astonished! Is this how the trial system works?
Despite these challenges and obstacles, the defence exposes significant weaknesses in the prosecution case. Their own witnesses are empirical observations of the real world. The prosecution objects – empirical observations aren’t as reliable as the outputs of our computer models! The judge agrees. The models take precedence and the empirical data ruled inadmissible.
Furthermore, the defence are drowned out by continual interruptions from the prosecution, who insult them and call them names like “denier” and “flat-earther”. The judge joins in the chorus of insults too – he knows CO2 is guilty, so why should he have to listen to the ramblings of the morally bankrupt defence team?
The prosecution insist that everything presented by the defence must be peer-reviewed (by the prosecution), but ensure that their own case can be built from newspaper clippings and WWF leaflets and other “grey literature”. The judge agrees – sections of the defence evidence is excluded, but the prosecution evidence is admitted in full.
The media report favourably on the prosecution case, with graphic daily stories of CO2′s past misdeeds, frequently illustrated with heart-wrenching pictures of polar bears drowning [or maybe just swimming?]. The defence are portrayed as a bunch of kooks. But the public aren’t fooled. They can smell corruption when they see it. The proportion of the population that believes CO2 is guilty is plummeting like a stone. But no-one cares. It will be a long time before the public will have their say again.
In the end, the judge rules “the case is over”. He doesn’t want to hear any more debate. The defence are on their feet – how can this travesty (© K Trenberth) of justice be allowed? The judge rules in favour of the prosecution, CO2 is guilty as charged.
CO2 is condemned – and as a result, Western economies are turned upside down. The poor long-suffering public now find that since CO2′s conviction, they can no longer afford to heat their homes, or buy food. They also notice that despite CO2′s incarceration, there are still terrible things happening in the world – floods, cyclones, droughts – they all happen with exactly the same frequency and intensity as before. Temperatures go up, and down, and up, and down, and up and down again. Nothing has changed – except that they are broke and all their jobs have moved to China. Maybe it wasn’t CO2 after all, they begin to think, and all this was for nothing.
And then a climate scientist writes glibly in a national newspaper that they don’t debate the science in public any more because the court has already found that CO2 is guilty…
And they all lived unhappily ever after.