Judith Curry: Consensus Angst

  • Date: 30/06/14
  • Judith Curry, Climate Etc.

The public seems to have gotten the memo that climate scientists believe that humans are warming the planet, and the warming is dangerous.  They also don’t seem to care.

For some context, see the numerous CE posts on the subject of ‘consensus‘, particularly my paper No Consensus on Consensus.

Climate scientists and others that are alarmed about AGW seem very concerned by consensus denialism that attacks the expert consensus on climate change, that has allegedly resulted in a gap between the scientific consensus and the public consensus about climate change.

During the past few weeks, there have been some interesting articles that shed light on the topic of consensus. [...]

JC reflections

So . . .  as per Dan Kahan, the public has gotten the message that there is a consensus among climate scientists about dangerous anthropogenic climate change.

As per Adam Corner,  debating the precise proportion of scientists who endorse the mainstream position on climate change is ultimately a distraction from the public acceptance for policies to confront climate change.

As per Roz Pittock, climate scientists don’t pay much attention to the idea of consensus in context of their research.

As per Victor Venema, scientists don’t like the consensus on climate change, but presumably have been sold a bill of goods that consensus is needed for ‘action’?

So . . .  why all the angst about ‘consensus’?   We have Sir John Houghton and Steve Schneider to thank for this, the idea being one of ‘speaking consensus to power.’  Most of the so-called climate change consensus is a second-order consensus; relatively few scientists actively work on problems of climate change detection and attribution.

From my paper No Consensus on Consensus:

The climate community has worked for more than 20 years to establish a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.  The IPCC consensus building process arguably played a useful role in the early synthesis of the scientific knowledge and in building political will to act. We have presented perspectives from multiple disciplines that support the inference that the scientific consensus seeking process used by the IPCC has had the unintended consequence of introducing biases into the both the science and related decision making processes, elevating the voices of scientists that dispute the consensus, and motivating actions by some consensus scientists and their supporters that have diminished the public’s trust in the IPCC.

The growing implications of the messy wickedness of the climate change problem are becoming increasingly apparent, highlighting the inadequacies of the ‘consensus to power’ approach for decision making on the complex issues associated with climate change. Arguments are increasingly being made to abandon the scientific consensus seeking approach in favor of open debate of the arguments themselves and discussion of a broad range of policy options that stimulatelocal and regional solutions to the multifaceted and interrelated issues of climate change, land use, resource management, cost effective clean energy solutions, and developing technologies to expand energy access efficiently.

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