The Interface of Climate Change Science and Climate Change Policy

Guest essay by PATRICK J. MICHAELS

We came across a pair of interesting, but somewhat involved reads this week on the interface of science and science policy when it comes to climate change. We’ll give you a little something to chew on from each one, but suggest that you ought you have a look at them at length to appreciate them in full.

First up is a piece, “The Limits of Knowledge and the Climate Change Debate” appearing in the Fall 2016 issue of the Cato Journal by Brian J. L. Berry, Jayshree Bihari, and Euel Elliott in which the authors examine the “increasingly contentious confrontation over the conduct of science, the question of what constitutes scientific certainty, and the connection between science and policymaking.”

Here’s an extended abstract:

As awareness of the uncertainties of global warming has trickled out, polling data suggests that the issue has fallen down the American public’s list of concerns. This has led some commentators to predict “the end of doom,” as Bailey (2015) puts it. In light of this, it seems odd to keep hearing that “the science is settled” and that there is little, if anything, more to be decided. The global warming community still asks us to believe that all of the complex causal mechanisms that drive climate change are fully known, or at least are known well enough that we, as a society, should be willing to commit ourselves to a particular, definitive and irreversible, course of action.

The problem is that we are confronted by ideologically polarized positions that prevent an honest debate in which each side acknowledges the good faith positions of the other. Too many researchers committed to the dominant climate science position are acting precisely in the manner that Kuhnian “normal science” dictates. The argument that humanity is rushing headlong toward a despoiled, resource-depleted world dominates the popular media and the scientific establishment, and reflects a commitment to the idea that climate change represents an existential or near-existential threat. But as Ellis (2013) says, “These claims demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the ecology of human systems. The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered natural ecosystems.”

The fundamental mistake that alarmists make is to assume that the natural ecosystem is at some level a closed system, and that there are therefore only fixed, finite resources to be exploited. Yet the last several millennia, and especially the last two hundred years, have been shaped by our ability—through an increased understanding of the world around us—to exploit at deeper and deeper levels the natural environment. Earth is a closed system only in a very narrow, physical sense; it is humanity’s ability to exploit that ecology to an almost infinite extent that is important and relevant. In other words, the critical variables of creativity and innovation are absent from alarmists’ consideration.

In that sense, there is a fundamental philosophical pessimism at work here—perhaps an expression of the much broader division between cultural pessimists and optimists in society as a whole. Both Deutsch (2011) and Ridley (2015b) view much of the history of civilization as being the struggle between those who view change through the optimistic lens of the ability of humanity to advance, to solve the problem that confronts it and to create a better world, and those who believe that we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control and that efforts to shape our destiny through science and technology are doomed to failure. Much of human history was under the control of the pessimists; it has only been in the last three hundred years that civilization has had an opportunity to reap the benefits of a rationally optimistic world view (see Ridley 2010).

Yet the current “debate” over climate change—which is really, in Ridley’s (2015a) terms, a “war” absent any real debate—has potentially done grave harm to this scientific enterprise. As Ridley documents, one researcher after another who has in any way challenged the climate orthodoxy has met with withering criticism of the sort that can end careers. We must now somehow return to actual scientific debate, rooted in Popperian epistemology, and in so doing try to reestablish a reasonably nonpolitical ideal for scientific investigation and discovery. Otherwise, the poisoned debate over climate change runs the risk of contaminating the entire scientific endeavor.

It seems the idea that the way climate change science is being conducted is proving a detriment to the good of science is becoming a common theme these days (see a new examination of the general topic by Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath here, as well as our reflections from last week).


Our second piece this week is an opinion paper by Oliver Geden in the publicationWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change titled “The Paris Agreement and the inherent inconsistency of climate policymaking.” In it, Geden basically outlines what international climate negations are basically broken and that the role of climate scientists (especially those who want to act as climate policy advisor) is largely contradictory to what these (self-ordained) well-intentioned folks seem to think. While most policymakers assume consistency from talk to decision to action, in reality, Geden points out, inconsistency is true way of the world when addressing complex issues involving a “deliberately transformative agenda such as energy and climate policy.” This fundamental misunderstanding, or improper assumption, only furthers the ineptitude (foolhardiness?) of international climate negotiations.

Here’s an excerpt:

Until now, there has been no serious questioning of the intention to limit the temperature increase to 2 or even 1.5 °C. Not that many in the climate research community seem to grasp the political rationalities behind the setting of long-term policy targets. Even the mainstream policy discourse assumes consistency between talk, decisions, and actions. Accordingly, a decision on a certain climate target is presented and perceived as an act of deliberate choice, that will be followed up with the deployment of appropriate measures. In real-world policymaking, however, many decisions are viewed as independent organizational products, not necessarily requiring appropriate action. Despite the cultural norm of consistency, inconsistency is an inherent and inevitable feature of policymaking.

…Against this backdrop, the most challenging task ahead for policy-driven researchers and scientific advisors is that of critical self-reflection. In a world of inherently inconsistent climate policymaking, simply delivering the best available knowledge to policymakers might have counterintuitive effects. This means that those providing expertise cannot rely solely on their good intentions but also have to consider results. They must critically assess how their work is actually being interpreted and used in policymaking processes. This is not to say that researchers and scientific advisors should try to actively influence policymaking, as occasionally suggested, since that would almost inevitably lead to more inconsistency in experts’ knowledge production as a result of an increased politicization of climate research.

Climate researchers and scientific advisors should resist the temptation to act like political entrepreneurs peddling their advice, for example, by exaggerating how easy it is to transform the world economy. It is by no means their task to spread optimism about the future achievements of climate policy. Instead, to provide high-quality expertise, it is sufficient to critically analyze the risks and benefits of political efforts and contribute empirically sound—and sometimes unwelcome—perspectives to the global climate policy discourse.

This latter advice seems to have been lost on the 375 National Academy of Sciences who this week were signatories (aka “Responsible Scientists”) of an open letter expressing their “concern” that pulling out of the Paris Accord (as advocated by the “Republican nominee for President”) “would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.”

Sure, whatever you say.

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.



44 thoughts on “The Interface of Climate Change Science and Climate Change Policy

  1. The whole issue of climate change has beome, if it was not from the beginning, a quasi-religious mass movement, with orthodoxies and heresies, and a move towards an inquisition by some believers. The true believers insist their pet models are “science”, and reject any dissent. Layer conventional left-right politics onto this mass movement, and one has a rather recondite controversy.

    • And the way it got there was because confirmation bias, group think and politics wormed its way into the science as a consequence of the formation of the IPCC whose conflict of interest (without CAGW they have no reason to exist) acts as positive feedback reinforcing the bad science via the reports it produces which the ignorant masses (and many ignorant scientists) consider to be authoritative.

  2. As to the first point, Earth is provably a closed system until we can mine asteroids for metals and Jupiter’s moons for methane. Dream on. We may be able to extract more from, and use more wisely, from Earth’s closed system bounded by space. But to assert it is not closed and therefore in a broad sense finite is intellectual sophistry.
    As to the second point, spot on. The catastrophic 2C thing was invented out of thin air by Schellnhuber (or so he claims), now trying to reduced by warmunists to 1.5C since observational sensitivity is only 1.65C.
    Sensitivity half of CMIP5. Those same models falsified by absence of the predicted tropical troposphere hotspot. SLR not accelerating. Arctic ice not disappearing despited modeled polar amplification. Extreme weather not increasing. No credible tipping points after much seeking. Warmunists are increasingly in despair, so throwing out ever more absurd warnings and conjectures (9C sensitivity!!! Based on bad math and bad logic).
    Thus does the ‘settled science’ CAGW house of cards begin to collapse. And a lot of warmunists are legally culpable based on the gross negligence ‘knew or should have known’ standard.

    • In regards to the Closed vs. Not Closed paradigm, I think its is better to see Man and Earth’s resources not as a zero-sum game. This is entirely due to the human ability to create complex tools and extend each generation’s technical knowledge advancement and learning through our development of complex written language.

      The warmunist-alarmist-socialists see this too as they overtly and covertly attempt to pervert the very basis of our advancements through manipulation of the education systems from K to college. And to manipulate it, they must first control it. Thus we see extreme resistance to public charter schools as just one example in the public K- 12 system. At the post secondary level in the US we see it as the abuse of Title IV and the federal govt control of student loan system and research grants as hammers.

    • Unlimited cheap energy, and we can do anything.

      Future strategy should be seeking to procure energy as cheap as possible and as plentiful as possible. After that endless possibilities open up.

      I see no reason to fear the future. Problems that we consider to be problems today, will not be problems for our grandchildren It is very dumb to be concerned about the world in 2100. The threat to humanity is war, nothing else.

      • – Unlimited cheap energy (UCE) is the econutters’ and socialists’ nightmare.
        – UCE frees mankind from the controls of the controllers, the despots, and the kleptocrat class.
        – UCE means the elitist class is not elite in their ability to command resources to their desire while maintaining a servile class to groom their landscapes, tend their mansions, drive their yachts and jets.
        – UCE is the ultimate socal class equalizer.

        In some ways they are correct is done badly. UCE would mean every Chinese (all 1.4 Billion) could own a piano with ivory keyboards to the decimation of the last remaining elephants.
        If done badly, it means vast suburban sprawl as everyone could have their own estate and garden with robotic lawn care.
        UCE, if done badly,means the oceans are turned into nothing but mere managed fish farms.

      • Some years ago did find an old book – published in 1901 (!) about the brand new inventions of that period like a “dust sucking broom” (vacuum cleaner…) and many other nowadays quite common things. Would be interesting if there was a time machine to bring the people from 1900 to these days of cars, airplanes, computers, telecommunications,… Or people from now to 2100.

        Cheap energy indeed is the key to the future, but the only more or less best option – fusion – seems to move forward for industrial implementation always 20 years ahead in the past 50 years or so…

    • “As to the first point, Earth is provably a closed system”, and yet somehow it warms up every day from all those billions and billions of Photons arriving from “outside” the “closed system”. And then it cools again at night when the visible photons stop arriving for about half a day.

      Closed system says you….

      Would be interesting to see how this “closed system” fairs without a friendly nearby star…

      Cheers, KevinK

    • “And a lot of warmunists are legally culpable based on the gross negligence”

      While the climate-gate emails show this negligence in its raw form, I can show independently that some of the scientists involved in this deception have known about their errors for at least a decade and have refused to own up to them because if they did, it would undermine the foundation of a broken philosophy they have dedicated their careers to breaking.

  3. “The Interface of Climate Change Science and Climate Change Policy”?

    Easy answer.
    Political Science Fiction.

  4. ” the critical variables of creativity and innovation are absent from alarmists’ consideration.”
    except when they are not. to be remorselessly concrete about it- solar energy revolution they preach is dependend on the batteries that will be invented – and the flinging of funds will make that happen, right?
    so, because this single example falsifies the premise, i must reject that contention.
    though i am not obliged to offer a coherent alternative explanation, i sure as heck can.
    they want to tax our breath. they are exploiting the well deserved respect earned by scientists in a form of aggressive mimicry for the purpose of predation.
    this is the realm of science which is the proper study of these doomsters. it’s not about the weather – it’s a predator/prey relationship involving aggressive mimcry.

    • Gnomish- flinging other people’s money at non-problems(green energy) is not creativity and innovation. It is graft and corruption.

      Compare that to the Cold War. Elected Senators and Representatives of the people(taxpayers) appropriated the money needed. The method, Mutually Assured Destruction, worked for 60 years. MAD is/was a morally bankrupt policy, but it did work. One alternative, which has been implemented by a President who seems clueless about how international politics works seems to be turning the world to global chaos.

      President Kennedy’s vision of putting a man on the moon sparked a generation of creativity and innovation with many non-program benefits- something like $10 in non-space program inventions for ever $1 in space program expenses.

  5. Why does Hillary and her gang fly around the planet in private jets, etc. Drive only gigantic armored vehicles that get 2 miles to the gallon and live in gigantic palaces…when I see them all on bikes, using the internet instead of flying all over the planet to talk with each other about global warming, then I might believe that at least they believe what they are saying and not openly lying about everything.

    • EMSNEWS,

      Because we are deplorables… and they are the IYI elitist class. We are supposed to serve them. Rules and the rule of law are for us, not them.

      But of course, you knew that. It is how she sees everyone not in her “realm.”

      Putting Hillary in the White House would of course bring along Bubba and his (doing what former Sec Sate Colin Powell described) fun with bimbos.

      Hillary women and Feminists should be justly proud of putting the ethics-challenged Clintons back in the White House as their First Woman President, so that Bubba can carry on there, and Hillary can continue to run a money-for-favor graft machine.

  6. Today’s mainsteam climate science is not science, it is pseudoscience. It is a realm where observations are bent to meet hypotheses and prediction.

    Thus the Public policy Rx’s relevant to this mainstream climate “pseudoscience” are but political agendas whereby ends (more political power and control of economic wealth in the hands of a few) justify whatever means employed (witness the destruction of the ethics of science and journalism). The resulting pseudoscience and its publication and dissemination as climate porn (via constant alarmism and self-serving crisis creation) is simply propaganda for control of the masses. And the masses are generally thought of as ignorant deplorables by the “Intellectual Yet Ignorant” intellectual class who must be fed lies and distortions as their liberties and democracy are slowly taken from them.

    And the means are many, for the riches to be controlled are vast. We see this in the creation complex systems, such as, whereby many actors intersect and interact in this system of controls of the deplorables. Some-actors participate out of noble cause corruption, some participate merely out of indifferent greed, and others out of naïveté. Great literary minds of Michael Crichton and George Orwell knew them well and richly described them in their literary work, writings, and speeches. We, the deplorables, must understand the IYI intellectual class for what rhey are and what they want to do to our liberties and our economic wealth, that is, control them with authoritarian means.

  7. The biggest danger to science as a methodology is to begin to mix it with politics. The nature of politics and the culture of persuading others to do what YOU think is best is the antithesis of the scientific method where, as Einstein so famously said “it takes only one negative experiment to prove a theory wrong, not one hundred.” Politics is the art of the possible, science is the study of the provable. They just don’t mix. For a scientist to speak of ‘consensus’ is to abandon the scientific mantra of,”there is no assumption, there is only experiment”. For a politician to speak of proof by experiment is to abandon the possible.
    Climate science has become thoroughly contaminated with political principles – consensus, intention, and of course greed and corruption. It will take a LONG time and a lot of work to turn climate science into a science again.

    • “The nature of politics and the culture of persuading forcing others to do what YOU think is best is the antithesis of the scientific method . . .”

      “Politics is the art of the possible . . .”
      Superficial goo-goo nonsense. Politics is the brokerage of violence.

      • @gnomish September 27, 2016 10:17 pm:
        Thanks, but in this particular instance I have to confess to merely knowing what’s worth stealing. ;-) Actually, if I could remember who I stole it from, I’d be glad to give credit. Probably one of: Larken Rose, Butler Shaffer, Dan Sanchez, or L. Neil Smith.

      • “. . . an oxymoron”
        Not quite, but, in the context of the sentence from which you are quoting, yes. Replace “principles” with “methods” and the statement is pretty much valid.

        @Joel O’Bryan September 27, 2016 6:38 pm:
        Your first graf is so spot on that I presume you just forgot the /sarc tag for the second one.

        @richard verney September 27, 2016 6:05 pm:
        “The threat to humanity is war, nothing else.”
        The threat to humanity is the State. War is certainly a major, but by no means the only component of that threat.

      • Dav09,

        no /sarc there intended.

        UCE not be like what nuclear weapons were to modern warfare.
        That is: A game changer.
        Nuclear weapons are UCE that dissipate in about 10 seconds (<less than 1 microsecond for the U/Pu/D-T chain reactions relaesing gamma rays and neutrons, and about 10 seconds for 95% of the following X-ray and gamma ray emissions from extremely short-lived daughter fragments)

        We would have to evolve to use it (UCE) wisely and not destroy our planet, just as a total nculear war would do to our human civilizations. A UCE discovery would be like the cold war, a dangerous period where we would have to evolve our war-like nature between superpowers to a more detente-like state.

      • Correction:
        “UCE not be like what nuclear weapons were to modern warfare.”

        UCE would put humanity in the same place it was in the 1950-80’s. That is, in danger of destroying ourselves.

  8. Excellent post. Ignoring or denying uncertainties in the science and in the processes of policy decisions and implementations are indeed having horrible consequences on science. Even if climate change (AKA global warming) somehow goes away those scientists addicted to giving the government and government supported non-profits any research results they want will be carried to the next “crisis”. Once their snouts are in the public trough they will seek to destroy any skeptics that threaten their scientific dole. Scientists on the dole, especially when their science is dodgy, will fight against all evidence and continue along their path. The question is, how do we get out of this horrible situation now and prevent further ones in the future?

  9. Proof that it is a CAGW is a Untrue is the fact that if it was as bad as they and their models claim they would be protesting in the street for the immediate construction of Nuclear power plants and the electrification of all transportation and home heating systems.
    Is not happening, probably never will happen. Even the believers that, on the surface, seem to be pushing for more nuclear power seem to not be credible in their effort. E.g., For some reason I have my doubts about the true efforts of Climatologist James Hansen. I have heard and read conflicting opinions on his effort.

      • Then obviously you are not aware that James Hansen now supports Nuclear power after opposing it. You must also not be aware of the fact that Nuclear Power generates ZERO CO2 in the production of electricity. After an explosion and fire, would you try and fight the house fire without shutting off the gas? Wind and solar rely upon fossil fuel for backup always have and will long into the future, long after your grandchildren are dead. Don’t believe me – then calculate the size of the needed batteries to supply just one days worth of power for NYC after assuming they are ten times better than any they have developed to date.

  10. “This latter advice seems to have been lost on the 375 National Academy of Sciences who this week were signatories (aka “Responsible Scientists”) of an open letter expressing their “concern” that pulling out of the Paris Accord (as advocated by the “Republican nominee for President”) would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

    Could they find another 25 concerned warmist scientists? Then they would match the CO2 PPM!

    But seriously, there is no possible mitigation for climate change until we have a clue how the whole process works. Climate is weather history. History repeats itself. Many individual asynchronous oceanic and atmospheric cycles are involved, along with random (or cyclically enabled) tectonic or volcanic events. The only thoughtful course of preparation would be adaptation to either extreme of weather, as weather history has taught us. Modeling the future weather is yet an unachieved aspiration of those who entertain technological vanity.

    • pseudoscience. Trying to rationalize an irrational belif system of climate change alarmism will always fail.

      Climate Change is a religion. Take it on faith.
      Believers remain.
      Non-believers are skeptics/d3niers.

  11. There are two articles you refer to in your comment, (1) “The Paris Agreement and the inherent inconsistency of climate policymaking,” and (2) “The Limits of Knowledge and the Climate Change Debate” I will analyse them separately below.

    (1) Reading what he has written on Paris and climate policy, the author of this article (Oliver Geden) is a true believer. He thinks in terms of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees or less and cautions scientists not to allow watering down of this target. To him it is “…the threshold to dangerous climate change”. Unfortunately, that is not science, it is pseudoscience. That is what you get from a non-scientist in a high political office. His way leads to a belief that by throwing money at insane and crooked “climate scientists” we can change the climate and save the world of our grandchildren from de-decarbonization by deniers. The result of such policy today is thousands of papers that have produced no important scientific breakthroughs, not even proof that the greenhouse effect id real.

    (2) They authors point out that according to Mann, the post-1970 surge of global growth has created a “hockey stick” of increased emissions, higher CO2 levels, and therefore temperatures. That is a lie. The tip of that “hockey stick” came from an external source and was clued on to the end of data obtained from tree rings because tree rings refused to show the temperature increase they expected. They don’t deny this and have specious arguments to excuse it. In my opinion there is no excuse for changing experimental results just to make them conform to someone’s prejudice. That paper should have been rejected but it was not. The evaluation to allow it to be used comes from a scientifically incompetent or totally biased source. For years we had to stare at it on two IPCC reports. And on top of this they found a cushy job for him at Penn State. Not only that but he is now so important that he feels free to sue his critics in Canadian courts. And speaking of that post-1970 surge, it involves falsification of climate records. Thus, from 1979 to 1997 a hiatus existed in the eighties and nineties. That hiatus is covered up in NOAA official records by a fake warming that does not exist. To see what that hiatus was like before it was covered up see figure 15 in my book “What Warming.” As to the rest of this” Limits of Knowledge” article it is overlong and meanders but what do you expect from social scientists. They bring out Kuhn who never did any science but wants to tell us what we do. At one time, some scientists did not like Einstein’s theories and wrote a book opposing him called, “100 Authors Against Einstein.” Einstein’s reaction was: “Why one hundred? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.” I hope you understand the logic. That is how science is.

    • Now they are boasting that cancelling this plan will “save” us a whole $2.80 per month that they were planning to tack on to the $80 a month they are already taxing us for their “green” crony capitalist schemes. Gee, thanks guys! Appreciate that.

      Meantime they are still dreaming that all the other energy jurisdictions on the planet will have to catch up to these usurious rates, so as to level the playing field. Will that be before or after our economy craters, though?

    • “But the cancellation was a shock to the renewable-energy industry, which was counting on the new program, which would have awarded contracts for about 1,000 MW of projects in 2018.”

      So by cancelling one gigawatts worth of green power contracts, the Ontario government will save $3.8 billion.

      Isn’t that the same as $3800 per kilowatt.

      That number is so bizarre, is my math wrong here?

  12. The one trait that Homo sapiens sapiens exhibits that is most unique and definitive of the species, distinguishing it from all other species present and past, is its ability to modify its environment to it’s own purposes. There are animals which are opportunists that can pick up objects and use them as tools, and some even who can pick up something and alter it for use as a tool. There are even species that can construct their own homes from found materials. These are all remarkable anecdotes for their rarity, yet none of the other creatures on this earth can display anything near the sheer variety of environment-altering behaviors human perform.
    For over 3 million years humans simply made stone tools. About 100,000 years age our ancestors developed clothes – a portable alteration of the environment for personal use. Since then we have learned to alter our environments with technology that enables us to survive in space, under water, and in frozen environments, and to move freely between places and through our environment at speeds unimaginable for other life forms.

    • tadchem- it’s a little more complicated than you make out. Consider the famous Plains of Serengeti”. The animals living there are essential to maintaining the ecology and probably co-evolved with it. Ungulates produce grasslands. Their hooves till the ground, their dung fertilizes it, they kill off the shrubs and trees that would colonize it. The grassland holds water, softening the impacts of seasonal rains or droughts.

      Same is true for beavers. A young, mated pair finds a new creek and turns it into a swamp for their food and for breeding.

      I think what you mean to say is that Homo sapiens can change its environment intentionally by science(observation, hypothesis, experiment) and engineering(applying scientific principles to make things). Examples: beavers build dams by instinct, men observed beavers and went them one, the twice, then 10, 100 and more times better. People saw others grinding grain by pounding it between stones. Later someone figured out that sliding the stones could work better and others figured out how to use water from the dam to do the work.

  13. There are a very large number of trained scientists in the world. Why anyone would listen to 375 of them is astonishing. In any population that large, you’ll find 375 idiots.

Comments are closed.