New Paper Tackles Ethical Disputes Of Climate Policy

Bishop of Chester: ‘Climate policies that lack in-depth debate won’t have democratic consent’

ethicsLondon, 16 December: A new paper by Dr Peter Lee and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation explores many of the ethical disputes that characterise climate science and policy in the twenty-first century.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message… Leaders must act.” These words by Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, welcomed the latest IPCC Report as certain and indisputable.

But actions require choices to be made – each with economic and often overlooked ethical dimensions – and the uncertainties involved are greater than Ban Ki-moon and many of the IPCC authors publicly acknowledge.

A new paper by Dr Peter Lee and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation explores many of the ethical disputes that characterise climate science and policy in the twenty-first century. Dr Lee is a lecturer in Ethics and Political Theory at the University of Portsmouth and the author of Truth Wars: The Politics of Climate Change, Military Intervention and Financial Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr Lee shows that ethical considerations have arisen and continue to arise at every stage of the climate debate, from climate science to the current and future implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. “In a field characterised by extensive uncertainty a combination of good intentions and ill-informed policies can result in damaging unintended outcomes for humans and for the natural environment alike,” Dr Lee said.

“Democratic consent to whatever is decided will not be forthcoming if the climate debate is not engaged in the depth which Dr Lee demonstrates is necessary,” writes the Rt Revd Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, in the foreword.

Full paper (pdf)

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31 thoughts on “New Paper Tackles Ethical Disputes Of Climate Policy

  1. What’s interesting is that the Church of England is usually fully signed up to the false god of CAGW so the Bishop’s introduction to the paper is brave despite its caveats.

    • The Church of England needs something to believe in, so CAGW is an alternative to having an invisible friend.
      Its all there Storm & Tempest, Plagues, Drowning, Drought, Floods, Pestilence, Burning…..all in ‘Biblical Proportions’; Sinners, Saints, Heretics (us), Prophets (of Doom & False variety’s), and a gullible flock of folk.

      • Hey – don’t make fun of my invisible friend. But the CAGW folks did steal a page from our playbook. However their claims are false whereas our….well, depends on your faith…..

      • The “invisible friend” is an extra-universal entity that is not known to provide aid to the faithful. He has specified a religion or moral philosophy, and will stand in judgment of us in our post-mortem. That’s it. In the universal domain, there is an unknown, underlying order that established a fitness function, which, among other things, gives rise to human life in a semi-stable state.
        Contrary to popular misconceptions, religion is not the opiate of the masses. Far from it. Religion or moral philosophy requires men and women capable of self-moderating, responsible behavior. This is in contrast to Marxism, and derivative ideologies, that substitutes coercion for morality; and promises dissociation of risk and material fulfillment to bribe supporters. So, if you want an “invisible friend”, then you may be better off choosing a mortal god.

      • In any case, it is irrational and unseemly to make affirmative statements about phenomenon outside of the scientific domain (i.e. constrained in time and space), unless you also acknowledge your faith or axiomatic beliefs. This is where the traditional churches went wrong. They have since reformed and now separate faith and science. The secular alternative, unfortunately, has regressed to a naive alternative.

  2. What is ethical about denying relatively cheap and abundant energy from fossil fuels to millions of human beings, therefore condemning them to lives of poverty and misery, all because of policies based on flawed models and fraudulent research?

  3. The Italian seismologist and engineers who were prosecuted and convicted is instructive here.

    Prison Terms for L’Aquila Experts Shock Scientists
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6106/451.summary?
    The prosecution alleged that the information provided by the experts led many people to stay indoors in the early hours of 6 April 2009 rather than seek safety outside. The men were not being charged with having failed to predict the exact time, place, and magnitude of the deadly quake but with having made a series of “banal and self-contradictory” statements during their 2009 meeting, many of which were “at best scientifically useless” or, worse, “misleading,” said public prosecutor Fabio Picuti.
    Among the most controversial statements were those made by De Bernardinis in a television interview ahead of the meeting. The DPC deputy head said that the ongoing tremors posed “no danger” and that “the scientific community continues to confirm to me that in fact it is a favorable situation,” because the ongoing tremors helped discharge energy.

    What we find here is that scientists like Mann would support prosecuting scientists for their opinions, as long as it isn’t him. Indeed, Mann wrote in the abstract to his talk:

    “Scientists are often reluctant to comment on the implications of their work for public policy, despite the fact that because of their expertise they may be among those best placed to make recommendations about such matters as mitigation and preparedness.”
    – As the Italian judge levied the L’Aquila convictions onto those seismologists and engineers, I can just see Michael Mann cheering in the crowd and yelling…. “Stone ’em!!”

    Commenters discussed some of these issues on the Mann AGU talk yesterday.http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/12/14/hilarious-irony-michael-mann-to-give-lecture-on-professional-ethics-for-climate-scientists/
    Many yesterday on that WUWT Mann-AGU blog thread pointed out the Chicken Little analogy. The common example is for Climate Scientists acting like Chicken Little. Climate Science today finds itself running around yelling “The Sky is falling” and wanting to go tell the King (i.e. the people and politicians). That path leads on right into the Fox’s den where unscrupulous individuals (imagining banks licking their lips over Carbon trading fees, Hedge fund managers on carbon trading schemes and renewable energy credits, and NGOs masquerading as environmentalists simply to line their pockets, etc.) in order exploit your naivete and siphon off public monies as grants and tax credits. Chicken Little also had his Henny Penny to encourage the naivete. So under the guise of the Precautionary Principle, the Foxes are exploiting public naivete of the real state of climate and it’s past excursions of cold and warmth, in order to keep a AGW scare narrative alive for the lure of bigger funding grants and a lifetime of academic research (see Dr Ball’s recent blog posts on that subject).

  4. “Democratic consent to whatever is decided will not be forthcoming if the climate debate is not engaged in the depth which Dr Lee demonstrates is necessary,”
    Dangerous talk from His Grace. Democratic consent is far too easily taken for granted by politicians not only in the climate “debate”, but in most political questions.

  5. In Europe, 6 earthquake scientists were convicted of manslaughter after downplaying the threat of a major quake one week before it happened. After appeal, one of them was still sentenced to serve 2 years in prison.
    In the US, we have laws that prohibit people from yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater and sparking panic. If climate scientists are overselling the threat posed by Global Warming and trying to incite panic, don’t they have culpability?
    One journalist when so far as to get a vasectomy because he was so panicked and scared of Global Warming making the planet uninhabitable and sparking societal collapse during his lifetime. Does that person have a civil case against lead Climate scientists if Gaia continues not to cooperate and Climate Doom never materializes?

    • If academics said that we must accept their advice because they were “experts”, when there is no caveats and where that advice is followed – then sure they are liable to each and every one of us that has had to fork out.

    • . . . One journalist when so far as to get a vasectomy because he was so panicked and scared of Global Warming making the planet uninhabitable and sparking societal collapse during his lifetime. Does that person have a civil case against lead Climate scientists if Gaia continues not to cooperate and Climate Doom never materializes?</blockquote.
      Probably not, or every doomsayer would be liable for any fool who took him seriously. Actually, in this case the Global Warming Alarmists should be credited with saving the rest of us from the progeny of this gullible mark.
      /Mr Lynn

    • One journalist when so far as to get a vasectomy because he was so panicked and scared of Global Warming making the planet uninhabitable and sparking societal collapse during his lifetime. Does that person have a civil case against lead Climate scientists if Gaia continues not to cooperate and Climate Doom never materializes?

      The abundance of suitable Darwin award candidates must be overwhelming nowadays. So many journalists have tirelessly produced objective evidence to prove their gullibility that rewarding also the professional self-termination seems appropriate. And this one scores both.

  6. “In a field characterised by extensive uncertainty a combination of good intentions and ill-informed policies can result in damaging unintended outcomes for humans and for the natural environment alike,’ Dr Lee said.”
    Hasn’t this been happening for a while now? “Green energy” changes and damages the environment far more than fossil fuel does (all those wind farms and etc.). Green energy requires so much space to even become viable. And even then it’s less effective than coal.
    I wonder how this Global warming politics will change when the Earth starts cooling again? They will probably forget they ever talked about CAGW.

  7. A couple of the contentions that are made by the author in the full paper are logically faulty. That global warming can be falsified.is a falsehood. That predictions were made at the end of the last century is an equivocation on the polysemic term “prediction.”

    • Terry,
      The example he gives for falsification is rather explicit and limited by a ‘defined period’:
      “When applied to global warming/climate change, there are
      circumstances in which it would be theoretically possible to show, through
      measurement, that over a defined period the phrase ‘global surface temperatures are rising’ is false (when that temperature stands still or falls).”

      • Joe,
        Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify. Properly speaking, a model is “falsified” when the predicted relative frequencies of the outcomes of events fail to match the corresponding observed relative frequencies. For the climate models underlying governmental attempts at controlling global warming there are no such events hence are no such relative frequencies and thus the claims of these models are non-falsifiable.

  8. The question must be asked, which ethics are they talking about? Where are we to find these binding ethics they talk of? What is going to make biased “scientists” from following them? What is the motivation to follow any agreed ethics? What motivation do any of these people have not to lie? By what standard is a “lie” classified?

  9. In a field characterized by extensive uncertainty…

    I guess the “science is settled” balloon is starting to deflate.

    • Like “prediction,” “science” is a polysemic term supporting equivocations such as “the science is settled” in which a polysemic term changes meanings in the midst of the argument. To draw a conclusion from an equivocation is a logically illicit “equivocation fallacy.” To complete deflation of the bubble we need to alert voters to the fact that global warming alarmism is based entirely upon applications of this fallacy. Currently, few voters are knowledgeable about logical issues.

  10. “Science has spoken” translation: We bought off some guys with letters behind their names, and so you have to listen to them and do what we say.

  11. I think the money quote from the paper is as follows:
    “Climate scientists face an ethical choice: do they conform to established ethical standards of scientific practice or do they sacrifice those standards in favour of actions and statements that will be more likely to shape public opinion and climate policy in their preferred direction? For scientists there is no such thing as a balance between ‘being effective and being honest’; once scientific honesty is violated it damages trust to the extent that it can undermine any good intentions and negate anticipated effectiveness in the long run. ….. Omitting the ‘doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts is not a morally neutral act; it is a subtle deception that calls scientific practice into disrepute. If such actions took place in any other field, for example pharmaceutical research and the testing of new medicines, the scientists would not only be branded unethical but would most likely be stripped of their positions and potentially face prosecution as well.”
    Many, if not most, of the most vocal of the current crop of ‘climate scientists’ have chosen what Ravetz calls, ‘the scheme of Post-Normal Science’ route to advocacy. Once this ‘global warming’, ‘climate change’ or whatever boondoggle ends, the fact that other (i.e., real) scientists haven’t spoken out and denounced their methods run the risk of destroying the reputation of all scientists in the public eye. Once that occurs, it is going to be awfully hard for any government to justify spending the millions to billions of dollars currently going to the science side of academia. There sure aren’t enough environmental NGO’s out there to absorb the current population of the Departments of Climate Science in practically all of the Universities of the free world. I also don’t know where the physicists, geologists, etc. will go when half those research grants disappear.
    To mix metaphors, once this whole ‘global warming’ fiasco starts collapsing, the ‘house of cards’ will be more like the proverbial ‘snowball rolling down hill’. And, just watch for ‘rats … ( and) sinking ships’.

  12. There’s a significant body of behavioral or cognitive science research depicting legitimate science; science that acknowledges the lack of evidence for any catastrophic effects of AGW or disputes its existence, as anti-social. Scientists who hold opinions consistent with this are defined as people who identify with their professional cohort rather than supporting the welfare of society. According to polls, this attitude is correlated with scientific knowledge and ‘numeracy’; the ability to think in quantitative terms. Stanford Law professor Dan M. Kahan is one of the social scientists who have published extensively on the subject. The issue of valid science and the existence of scientific absolutes are irrelevant in these discussions. The meme has been repeated in the liberal media, and has been attributed to private interest funding by some, including sociologist and environmental scientists Robert J Brulle at Drexel University, Philadelphia.
    Ethics and facts and physical science are irrelevant, according to these analyses; only political propaganda is acceptable as evidence in climate science. Truth isn’t acceptable. Climate scientists who don’t support AGW are depicted as a group requiring ‘re-education’ in this body of literature, something I discovered very recently.
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193133

    http://phys.org/news/2013-12-koch-brothers-reveals-funders-climate.html
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney

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