Confidence is what we expect from the experts

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When listening to the alarmists panel in the UK Parliamentary Inquiry on the science of IPCC AR5, I noticed a clear difference to the skeptics panel. The witnesses in the alarmists panel were very sure about themselves. The science was clear. There was a consensus. Climate scientists were skeptical themselves and keeping science sane. There is uncertainty, but it is small and is accounted for. The models were reliable and could give valuable answers. They said all those things with much confidence.

How could there be such a large contrast with the skeptical panel? I think it certainly has to do with the role they are playing. As John Robertson said:

I like the idea that science tells us something and we have to agree because science says that is it.

Some sites made fun of this statement of John Robertson, but I think it is right in the heart of the issue. The politicians like simplicity from scientists. They like them to say if global warming is really happening, yes or no. If it changes our climate. If there is a need for action and what that right action then should be. There is no shame admitting that. For several decades now we are being told an extremely simple story:

We emit CO2 → Being a greenhouse gas, it warms our atmosphere → Bad things happen.

It is simple and straight forward. So we also expect the same confidence from those who study it. They are considered the experts. This means they could not possibly backpedal now and say there are still huge uncertainties, that the models were way of with reality. That is what the skeptics are saying and it doesn’t serve them well. Therefor they avoid the inconvenient parts like the standstill in temperatures, the many uncertainties they face, the failing models,…

Let’s face it. People are attracted to confident statements from those they consider the experts. This is how issues are communicated most efficiently. That’s why the “consensus” is so important and alarmists put a lot of effort into declaring it. It is not because it is part of the scientific methods or important in science. It is because people, especially those who don’t want to look into the issue, are biased to the side of the largest group. Thinking that “They can’t all be wrong”.

But isn’t that a problem for the scientists involved? Sure, it is. If their predictions/forecasts/projections don’t materialize, they lose credibility. But the projections are way ahead in the future. Many of the projections of the IPCC are for 2100, more than 80 years ahead of us. There is no doubt all the current experts will be long gone before any of those predictions can be verified or falsified. So at this point it doesn’t even matter what they project.

But shouldn’t we respect our experts? Sure, but we should keep being skeptical, especially in areas where there is little data and high uncertainties. The fact that scientists try to declare a consensus and high certainty in a complex system with little data should be a clear warning sign.

The alarmists panel in the inquiry knew what was being expected from them. They delivered. They likely will be asked again.

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