This post will build on previous post. I ended that post saying that trust is key. It is not possible to comprehend the complete climate change picture, so in the end we will all have to trust, skeptics and alarmists alike. That trust is (mis)used in the doctor analogy. It goes like this:
Premise 1: You trust your doctor on health issues
Premise 2: Climate scientists are the doctors of the climate
Conclusion: You should trust climate scientists on climate issues
There are several problems with this analogy as I explained in some previous posts on this topic. The two sciences are actually not comparable, nor quantitatively, nor qualitatively. The doctor’s analogy therefor gives a false sense of certainty. In those posts, I focused on premise 2, making the case that both can’t be compared and therefor the analogy doesn’t fly in reality.
This time I will focus on premise 1, by looking at climate change communication by the experts and exploring whether this would warrant the same trust as we have in doctors. I will do this by invoking the doctor’s analogy myself, but this time in skeptic style…
When I looked at the stats of my previous post a couple days ago, I noticed that there were quite some visits coming from Twitter. However, when I looked at the tweet linking to my post on my own twitter account, I didn’t see that many views and hardly any engagements, so only few clicked the link. These stat views definitely didn’t come via my own tweet. This prompted me to search for the distribution of the link to my previous post on twitter.
I quickly found some twitter accounts that picked up the link to my previous post. Two of them were interesting, these are both replies on tweets about (alarmist) articles from the Guardian and the Independent.
This is the tweet that originated from the Independent:
The tweet stated that a sane person would not need more convincing than the 11,000 scientists backing up the “report” (it is actually a viewpoint). He took the list of 11,000 “scientists” as a confirmation that we are in a climate emergency (and maybe even are too late already). I am pretty sure that the tweep didn’t look at that list…
There was quite some fuss in the media about a paper claiming there is a climate emergency, supported by a list of 11,000 signatures of scientists. I didn’t had much time back then, so I just downloaded the list of signatories to look at it later.
The petition was held at the site of the Alliance of World Scientists and it links to the article World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (where the list of signatories is downloadable). There are five authors and at the Alliance of World Scientists web page, the petition list is put right behind the authors. suggested that all those signatories are scientists on par with the authors:
The number of signatories is not shown anymore because there was an issue with, ahem, “invalid signatures”. That is a nice way to say that some crazy input were found in that list. In the meanwhile I also read a CBC news article in which the lead author was asked about the inclusion of a certain “Micky Mouse” as one of the signatories. This was his answer:
The doctor’s analogy is frequently used in climate change communication. In most cases, it goes like this: “Wouldn’t you go with the advises of your doctor when he tells you …?” or “When you have cancer would you go to a cardiologist?”. Last Sunday I saw that doctor enter the analogy in a different way in the interview of Nic Balthazar in the current events program “De 7de dag” (see previous post) (translated from Dutch):
Screenshot of “de 7de dag” of December 16, 2018. Nic Balthazar: making the doctor’s analogy
You should really have to compare to, an unpleasant comparison, the doctors come and they say, madam and sir, your child has cancer. At the moment, it could still be contained, we can operate, do chemo therapy, everything. It is going to cost, it will be difficult, hard and all, but we can get that child to recover. And when you now talk about our economy, we can really come out of this better. We can, with renewable energy, cleaner air, end up in a much safer life in geopolitics. But it will be difficult. Would that father and mother then say, yes but, pfff, it’s a bit too expensive? No, they will not do that. We [sic] are going to say: whatever it takes. Just look at Music for Life, everything is possible at that moment. And yet we do not do it, and an annoying comparison, one single child that have cancer, but we are talking about all the children of the world.
and also later this emotional appeal (translated from Dutch):
Some believe that we, due to rising temperatures as a result of our emissions, might be close to a tipping point and will experience irreversible changes for the worse. One of those is Nic Balthazar. He made the claim as a guest in the current affairs show “De 7de dag” (the 7th day) of last Sunday. He was invited there to comment on the COP 24 climate conference in Catowice. Nic Balthazar, a Belgian film director and a TV/radio personality, is also a co-founder of “Klimaatzaak” (an organization that filed legal action to force the federal and regional governments to improve their climate policies). The latter position is why he was invited.
He had mixed feelings about the conference. On the one hand, he was glad that some agreement was made, considering how many countries were present and all had to come to a consensus. On the other hand he was disappointed (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
On the other hand, it is the again incomprehensible that they didn’t want to listen to what all the scientists say today.
A new communication handbook for IPCC scientists is published. It is compiled by Climate Outreach and was commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I Technical Support Unit. They want this handbook out “ahead of the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees special report later this year”.
The handbook also comes with a video explaining the 6 principles to help IPCC scientists better communicate their work. They already lost me in the second sentence in that video though:
The facts are there, thanks in great part to the IPCC – the world’s leading scientific body on climate change
It was quite hectic in the last month. Now the dust is slowly starting to settle, I will try to pick up blogging again. The subject of previous post was the statement that climate scientists are as certain about climate risks as oncologists on cancer risks that come with smoking. I ended that post being confused whether the authors meant that the evidence of climate risks is as strong as the evidence of the link between smoking and cancer or that there is the same “overwhelming” consensus as the medical scientists have on the link between smoking and cancer.
Scientific American seems to suggest the former, the scientific paper that was linked to in Scientific American the latter. This post will explore the case that they meant that the “evidence of climate risk is as strong as the link between smoking and cancer”, so this post will be about the evidence of the cancer risks linked to smoking and whether the evidence of climate risks is in the same ballpark.
Before I look into this, I can somehow understand the comparison between medical science and the climate science. Both study a very complex system. Medical sciences study the human body and climate scientists study the Earth with its climate system. The complexity of the human body and its interactions means that there is not one conclusive proof, but there are multiple lines of evidence. We hear the same thing about climate science.
So far, so good.