Imagine my surprise upon reading a shocking entry on Sen. Inhofe’s EPW blog: the scientific consensus on climate change is cracking!
That blog provides a long list of names of people who disagree with the consensus, and I have no doubt that many on this list are indeed skeptics. The question is: does their opinion matter? Should you revise your views about climate change accordingly?
Considering the source, I think we all know the answer to that. To understand why Inhofe’s claims are fundamentally bogus, consider the following scenario: imagine a child is diagnosed with cancer. Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment?
Most people would take the child to a specialist. Not just someone with a PhD in a technical subject, but an actual medical doctor. And not just any medical doctor, but someone who was a specialist in cancer. And not just any specialist in cancer, but someone who was a specialist in pediatric cancer. And, if possible, not just any pediatric oncologist, but someone who specialized in that particular type of cancer.
Expertise matters. Not everyone’s opinion is equally valid.
The list of skeptics on the EPW blog contains few bona fide climate specialists. In fact, the only criteria to get on the list, as far as I can tell, is having a PhD and some credential that makes you an academic. So Freeman Dyson makes lists. While I’m certain he’s a smart guy, I would not take a sick child to him, and I won’t take a sick planet to him either. In both cases, he simply does not have the relevant specialist knowledge.
That also applies the large number of social scientists, computer programmers, engineers, etc., without any specialist knowledge on this problem.
The bottom line is that the opinions of most of the skeptics on the list are simply not credible.
So given the critical nature of the climate change problem, who should we listen to? My opinion, and the opinion of all the governments of the world, is that we should listen to people who specialize in climate science. That’s the IPCC.
And as detailed by the IPCC, the conclusions that the climate is warming, humans are very likely now the dominant driver of climate, and that future warming holds the risk of catastrophic impacts are as strongly supported as ever.
Finally, you often hear skeptics make the argument that, “science doesn’t work through consensus,” and “consensus doesn’t prove anything,” etc. That argument rings hollow, however, when you consider the amount of effort Inhofe and Co. are going through to try to disprove the existence of the strong consensus. Clearly, the scientific consensus is crucially important.