In the public climate change debate, one often hears the argument that scientists are making hysterical claims about climate change in order to get funding. I already blogged about how the argument fails the “common sense” test, but I think this issue deserves another post.

Kerry Emanual and Chris Landsea, two of the major players in the debate over the connection between climate change and hurricanes, have visited A&M in the last three weeks and both gave seminars in my department. It is clear from their two talks that there is a vigorous scientific debate going on about the connection. After seeing both of them present their case, it is clear that this is an incredibly difficult problem and that no firm conclusions can be drawn at the present time. I certainly expect future research will shed more light on this question.

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So let’s evaluate the hypothesis that the scientific community is fabricating hysterical and frightening results to bump up funding. If that were so, why is there an active debate about the climate change-hurricane connection? Shouldn’t the hurricane community fabricate the result that hurricanes and climate change are related? According to the skeptics, this would result in increased funding.

Here is what I conclude about this:

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  1. The scientific community is split on the question of whether hurricanes and climate change are related because there is legitimate scientific uncertainty on the point. This can be seen in the noisy, ongoing debate in the scientific community.
  2. The scientific community is not split on the question of whether humans are warming the climate or not because the evidence supporting this conclusion is overwhelming. This can be seen by the lack of a noisy debate.

Interestingly, Chris Landsea went out of his way today during his seminar to say that he agreed with the conclusions that the Earth is warming and that greenhouse gases are playing an important role. Chris also has the questionable distinction to be a member of the “Inhofe 400” — so here’s another one on the list who’s not actually a skeptic.