Between Scientists & Citizens

citizens push back against authority

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Here’s foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Mead explaining the point I was trying to say yesterday, better than I probably managed to.  If the press had been doing its job, he explains in a recent blog post:

Climate scientists would have realized long ago that if they hope to convince a skeptical world they need to be ultra-careful, ultra-cautious and even ultra-conservative in their public statements and recommendations. They would have understood long ago that because their science is important, they have to do it more carefully and more publicly than other people. That may be harsh and it may be ‘unfair’ in some sense, but when you are dealing with the interests of billions of people you have to expect a little bit of scrutiny.

And expands in a recent television interview (starting at 25:05) with an example from the IPCC’s recent troubles:

What I was thinking of quite specifically there was that Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, used that glacier example constantly.  He used other things in his speeches that had  had to be taken back.  And when the head of the IPCC harps on a particular point, it becomes an important point when it turns out that it’s not correct.  And I think what happened is that there was particularly at the IPCC and at the top leadership there was really a lack of awareness of just how tough this is.

The climate science–the implications of climate science are that every country in the world is going to have to make fundamental changes in its economy.  When you think about the interests that are ranged on the side of the status quo, they’re enormous.  You think about the size of the winners and the losers that these changes might produce.  They’re enormous.  Of course, there’s going to be incredibly well-funded, incredibly disciplined, incredibly strategic push-back….

I wouldn’t disagree that the climate science consensus is what it is.  But they have been a little too careless–particularly a very few high-profile people. And as a result the public confidence in the IPCC process has been, I think, effectively destroyed in a lot of countries.

“Destroyed” is a strong word–we’ll see if it turns out to be justified.

Written by jeangoodwin

March 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

Posted in stray remarks

Tagged with , ,

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