Emil A.Røyrvik: The Debate on Man Made Global Warming

Posted: April 23, 2013 by tallbloke in alarmism, Analysis, Dataset, Philosophy, Politics

This is a sensible document: H/T to Gabe Rychert at Climate Realists

climbabelConsensus and Controversy

The Debate on Man Made Global Warming
Emil A.Røyrvik

Technology and Society

To illustrate the way that scientific, political and ethical concerns are mixed in the debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming this report used the by now famous quote from Gro Harlem Brundtland , that ”doubt has been eliminated”, and that it is ”irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation ” as a point of departure. The goal of the report was to enter this debate and “ battlefield ” of arguments and take stock of the debate about anthropogenic (man – made) global warming. Based on the present review of this debate there are several conclusions to be drawn. The first and simplest one is that considered as an empirical statement, the assertion that “doubt has been eliminated” on AGW is plainly false. Although as documented the level of agreement in the scientific literature that AGW is occurring is quite extensive, the magnitude of dissent, questioning and contrarian perspectives and positions in both scientific discourse and public opinion on the question of AGW evidently contradicts such a proclamation.

The second conclusion is that the scientific debate may be considered healthy. The levels and types of disagreement crosscuts most camps and categorizations, so that a presentation of two – sided war with a 97 – 98 % majority consensus and 2 – 3 % group of sceptics and “deniers” is flawed . A t the level of scientific exchange, there is in the climate science s an ongoing discussion and organized critique that seems to a large extent (with arguably some major exceptions as highlighted in the “climategate ” affair) to be working as “normal science” should. The allegation that the science of AGW is settled to such a degree and cohesion that the debate can be closed, contradicts the findings in this report. There are multiple on – going debates and questioning , also in mainstream scientific outlets, even on such fundamental issues as whether the greenhouse warming effect is a reality or a fiction; if it is scientifically meaningful at all to talk about a global temperature; if the significant warming that seem s to have happened since the Little Ice Age in the perspective of longer timescales can be considered extraordinary ; the significance of other sources, such as the sun, on climate change; if warming means better or worse conditions on earth; and the extent to which man contributes to the changing climate of earth.

The scientific debate has not yet been “black boxed” in the case of AGW, and the case illustrates a general argument made that the more “upstream” into the specific details of the diverse topics scientists dive, the more technical and controversial the issues become (cf. Latour 1987). It is not uncommon to seek to close scientific debates prematurely (ibid.), but although seemingly substantial efforts are being made to do so in the case of AGW, they have not fully succeeded. W e might add, in light of the findings in this report the scientific debate should (and most likely will) continue on its own terms , unhampered to the extent possible by ideological constraints . Thirdly , we see that the normativity in the Brundtland statement has several problems w hen interpreted as a general statement about the practices, authority and truth claims of science in the context of science . In this context t he form of dogmatism expressed by Brundtland, even explicitly asserting that raising further critical questions is immoral, is itself unscientific and contrary to the norms of the scientific institution from which she lends her authority in this case. Such a position then rather seems to represent a form of quasi – religious faith in science (cf. Strand 2012).

T he general questions about the justification and legitimacy of the authority of types of perspectives and positions have received massive attention in philosophical and epistemological discourse, and they have no easy answers , yet Brundtland’s and other similar statements, carries with it an inherent contradiction that undermines its legitimacy. If, as we have shown earlier , science is defined epistemologically as fallible and as a practice “that embodies norms of doubt and self – criticism, the belief in Science cannot be too dogmatic and too hostile towards criticism raised against it without becoming unscientific” (Strand 2 012: 58). This problem is undoubtedly something we can observe in the quote from Brundtland , and as shown in the case of “climategate” and other examples used in this report, it also arguably applies to some extent to parts of climate science more in general. Indeed, the Norwegian Research Ethics Committee for Science and Technology (NENT) processed a complaint about Brundtland’s speech in 2009, and gave an answer including these comments: “Traditional academic norms allow and encourage doubt and critical questions. Doubt may in such contexts be well or ill founded, but not irresponsible and immoral by itself” (NENT 2009). NENT concluded that Brundtland’s speech differed from “accepted language use in scientific contexts” (ibid.), implying that they violated the ethos of science.

As a response to this critique one might argue that Brundtland not at all was representing the voice of science, participated in the context of science, or was trying to be a philosopher of science, but rather communicated as a concerned citizen and public official that sought to spur the public to action based on the precautionary principle and broader beliefs (not only based in scientific beliefs) about the looming dangers of global warming. Based on all the diverse experience of Brundtland, this caveat is not entirely unlikely. Nevertheless, her statement, and the similar voices of the “consensus camp”, to the extent that they solely rely upon, represent or construct more or less dogmatic or relatively “undoubtful” truth claims adopted or adapted from IPCC and other science – based institutions, they are simultaneously undermining the authority and legitimacy of their broader concerns by expressing this unscientific faith in Science (with capital S as the one and only Truth). By insisting on scientific consensus and the “elimination of doubt”, seeking to declare the science of AGW settled once and for all, and imbuing this putative settlement with highly normative and pejorative allegations (to question is “irresponsible, reckless and immoral”), the consensus approach clings to being (solely) “science – based” , but its position is at the same time implicitly in direct opposition to the ethos of “normal science”. It is not supported, justified or endorsed by science in its canonical expression, where science, based on thinkers such as Kant, Popper, Merton and Polanyi is seen to be constituted on continued discussion, open criticism, anti – dogmatism, (self)critical mindset, methodological doubt, and the organization of scepticism.

In the more prosaic words of novelist Michael Crichton , from a 2003 talk he held at the California Institute of Technology, the critique against this anti – scientific science can be expressed in the following way:

“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had. Let ‘s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.” 61

It is not difficult the consent to the comments by Mike Hulme, professor of climate change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when he states that:

“The three questions … What is causing climate change? By how much is warming likely to accelerate? What level of warming is dangerous? — represent just three of a number of contested or uncertain areas of knowledge about climate change” (2009: 74).

Related to IPCC Hulme also noted that “It was to be governed by a Bureau consisting of selected governmental representatives, thus ensuring that the Panel‘s work was clearly seen to be serving the needs of government and policy. The Panel was not to be a self – governing body of independent scientists.” (2009: 95). If this is correct it arguably stands in some tension to Polanyi’s defence of the autonomy of science. In open societies where both scientists and the general public are equipped with critical skills and the tools of inquiry, not least enabled by the information revolution provided through the Internet, the ethos of science as open, questioning, critical and anti – dogmatic should and can be defended also by the public at large. Efforts to make people bow uncritically to the authority of a dogmatic representation of Science, seems largely to produce ridicule, opposition and inaction, and ultimately undermines the legitimacy and role of both science and politics in open democracies

  1. oldbrew says:

    Comedians take aim at warmists – ‘nutters’.


  2. Bebben says:

    Røyrvik also has an excellent opinon piece in the major Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten about his report, under the title “The doubtful undoubtfulness – A major problem with the climate debate is the unscientific belief in science. Doubt and skepticism should not be undercommunicated”


    Rasmus Benestad, of Real Climate fame and apparently self-appointed head of the Norwegian Climate Inquisition, writes about Røyrvik on the forum “Nye meninger” (“New Opinions”):


    Benestad’s main points seems to be that it was wrong of the newspaper to bring/print the article, that the author is not to be trusted and that the report was commissioned by an oil company (OMG) – he insinuates that Røyrvik delivered the goods that the company ordered. It all amounts to a shameless ad-hom, a call for censorship and little less.

    The reason is clear: Benestad (and other activists) don’t want people to know that there actually is a scientific debate going on in all areas of climate science, including the “basics”, something that by itself could cast doubts about the “consensus” or shall we say the “party line”.

    Benestad’s behaviour is simply outrageous. I can think of no other public service where you could act like that (and this is far from being the first time) and still keep your job. It’s “remarkably” unprofessional, and his actions bring shame over the traditionally highly respected Meteorolgisk Institutt.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Bebben: Thanks for your report and links. Benestad was co-author with Gavin Schmidt on a solar paper shown to be fatally flawed by Nicola Scafetta. He still cites this paper. He is not a scientist in my opinion.

  4. Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
    “Those who call themselves „Green planet advocates‟ should be arguing for a CO2- fertilized atmosphere, not a CO2-starved atmosphere…Diversity increases when the planet was warm AND had high CO2 atmospheric content…Al Gore’s personal behavior supports a green planet – his enormous energy use with his 4 homes and his bizjet, does indeed help make the planet greener. Kudos, Al for doing your part to save the planet.” — Renowned engineer and aviation/space pioneer Burt Rutan, who was named “100 most influential people in the world, 2004” by Time Magazine and Newsweek called him “the man responsible for more innovations in modern aviation than any living engineer.”