Considerations Informing Climate-Change Policy – Part IV

Politicians Interpreting Science is Cause for Trouble

When politicians deal with nominally science-based issues, there is too often a gap in understanding of the science.  This can lead to malicious exploitation.  Trivially false narratives believed by non-scientists serve to reassure non-scientists to the detriment of their judgment.  The climate system is dauntingly complex, with unstable variables, some having time spans of an “instant” and others in millennia.  Not considered by non-scientists are variables below the Earths mantel and from outer space.  Some non-scientists claim there is scientific consensus about their narrative.  Here is a different narrative supplied by Richard Lindzen, extracted from an address he delivered to the World Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2018.

“Here is the currently popular narrative concerning this system. The climate, a complex multifactor system, can be summarized in just one variable, the globally averaged temperature change, and is primarily controlled by the 1-2% perturbation in the energy budget due to a single variable – carbon dioxide — among many variables of comparable importance. 

“This is an extraordinary pair of claims based on reasoning that borders on magical thinking. It is, however, the narrative that has been widely accepted, even among many skeptics. This acceptance is a strong indicator of the problem C.P.Snow identified in his book, Two Cultures

“Many politicians and learned societies go even further: They endorse carbon dioxide as the controlling variable, and although mankind’s CO2 contributions are small compared to the much larger but uncertain natural exchanges with both the oceans and the biosphere, they are confident that they know precisely what policies to implement in order to control carbon dioxide levels. 

“While several scientists have put forward this view over the past 200 years, it was, until the 1980s, generally dismissed.  When, in 1981, the NASA scientist, James Hansen, testified to the US Senate that the summer’s warmth reflected increased CO2, even Science magazine reported that the climate science community was skeptical. The establishment of this extreme position as dogma during the present period is due to political actors and others seeking to exploit the opportunities that abound in the multi-trillion-dollar energy sector.  One example was Maurice Strong, a global bureaucrat and wheeler-dealer (who spent his final years in China apparently trying to avoid prosecution for his role in the UN’s Oil for Food program scandals). Strong is frequently credited with initiating the global warming movement in the early 1980s and he subsequently helped to engineer the Rio Conference that produced the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This was the agreement that endorsed the CO2-climate narrative, and initiated the series of international meetings (that continue to the present) to plan the control of climate. However, others like the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, and his friend and science advisor, Bert Bolin, who was the first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), had also begun exploiting this issue as early as the 1970s. Their motivation was to overcome the resistance to nuclear energy by demonizing coal.  Political enthusiasm has only increased since then.”                                                                                             January 21, 2020