Thank God for Global Warming!
Fear is not an option!

Consensus Means Proof, Right?

The debate about Global Warming is fascinating in so many ways.

For the true believers it is frustrating because some people will not be convinced to accept the believers point of view.

For the skeptics it is frustrating because so many people are convinced to accept the believers point of view even while the evidence is so thin and the conclusions are so far fetched.

For the undecided it is frustrating because the politicians and other powerful people are using the issue for their own agendas. Making it very hard to distinguish between the truth and the lies or errors.

I guess for me, a known skeptic in general, I am most amused by the green movement people who are trying to squelch debate by talking of consensus as proof of their theories of Global Warming. If there is proof, then they should definitely point to it. To say, however, that the matter is beyond debate because so many have been convinced is a nonstarter. It makes me wonder what they know. Are they trying to stop debate out of fear that the data will reverse direction as it did in passed pursuits of great theories of the past.

This reminds me of a small lesson I learned in 5th Grade. All of the students sat in a circle facing inward. The teacher asked a question that required us to express an opinion. There were two choices. The teacher whispered in the ear of one student who immediately voiced an opinion about which was the right answer. Another student, who did not confer with the teacher, disagreed. The class was then asked to chose which was right. After a few minutes, the whole class supported the student who had conferred with the teacher. The teacher then asked if the fact that everyone chose the “more knowledgeable student” made that the right answer. Most said yes. The teacher tried to convince the lone student that they were incorrect. The student swayed a bit but stood her ground. The teacher asked again, does the fact that everyone else agrees the other student is right, make him right. Most said yes it did. Then the teacher let us know we were all wrong and the lone student was correct. Regardless of how many people come to a consensus, it does not prove that consensus is correct.

No matter how many people believe the Earth is flat, or that bumps on the skull can predict a persons personality (Phrenology), or that the “hole” in the ozone layer is getting worse each year and must be dealt with immediately or the Earth will be 😉 irreparably harmed. All of these theories were accepted and had something of a consensus about the respective theory. They were widely accepted and taught. To question or disbelieve made you a laughing stock. These theories also have one other thing in common. They were all disproved and discarded. Consensus is not proof. Anybody who tries to use that argument as a means to “win” the debate, has resorted to the tactics of the lazy or the unsubstantiated.

There is an arrogance that says, inside of the human mind, that we are better now than they were back then. We know so much more now, so we can’t be fooled by the data or our own prejudices again. I say however, that in the centuries to come there will be as many amusing abandoned theories for them to look back at in our time as there are in any other throughout history. Humanity is very consistent in its errors and weaknesses. That is a theory I would bank on.

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4 Responses to “Consensus Means Proof, Right?”

  1. Umm, dude, you might want to think twice about the ozone grumble. Depletion was real and action was taken. The atmosphere did not retain a mostly healthy ozone layer because the whole thing was an alarmist hoax. That layer is recovering (while retaining a human-influenced tendency to admit elevated levels of UV light on a seasonal basis at some extreme latitudes) because the civilized nations of the world came together and radically reduced industrial use of ozone-destroying chemicals in aerosol products.

    If sources have been telling you otherwise, I suggest you turn you keen sense of skepticism toward the piles of male bovine fecal matter they’ve been trying to feed you. Who knows what other nonsense you might be liberated from if you actually were interested in the evidence behind the consensus, as opposed to the satisfaction of aligning closely with a particular political narrative. After all, it’s not like you’re being forced to consider only climate “science” that comes from the goofballs catering to the denial movement. If you really have no experience reviewing the evidence that explains mainstream thinking on this issue, I would recommend starting with . . .

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/earthandsun/climate_change.html

    and surfing as you please from there. If you do have experience reviewing those lines of thinking and the underlying evidence, then how could you possibly find it less credible than the cockamamy stuff “skeptics” routinely pass off as scientific analysis?

  2. First, thanks for the comment Demonweed.

    I am somewhat familiar with the data on the ozone in Antarctica. The point of the piece is that an argument of consensus, regardless of who uses it, is of little or no value unless you are taking a poll. On that maybe we could agree.

    As far as the ozone layer being insufficient at any time we are aware of, I disagree. We saw ozone thinning in Antactica but not in other places. That is because ozone tends to be pushed out of the South by the magnetic forces of the Earth’s magnetic field. Ozone, as I’m sure you know, is a charged particle and is thus affected by the field. It is circulation that makes the Ozone “hole” disappear every year. The data and theories I’ve read indicate that a change in weather paterns was at the root of the larger longer lasting ozone hole seen in the last few decades.

    To say that it was regulatory changes that lead to the Ozone “hole” closing sooner and being smaller doesn’t fly. The scientists have been careful to avoid that mistake. The problem with the idea that we closed the hole is that we are only a small part of the world. The quickly growing new economies of the East are pumping out the emmsions we used to toss out there. So if we closed it then it should be opening back up.

    The ozone hole was the great crisis of over a decade. The fact is that the theory behind the data was half baked, not bad data. Jumping to a conclusion before understanding the causes leads to theories that fall apart when the data contradicts the theories expectations. In studying science, the history of the once accepted and later abandoned theories is quite enlightening when it comes to studying the current theories of the day.

    My point is not that the climate is not changing, my point is that a consensus as to the cause does not prove that it was the real cause. If the temperature starts dropping, are we going to say it was the taxes and regulation that did it? No, that wouldn’t hold water either.

    Debate Global Warming, sure. Throwing out consensus as proof or evidence and it’s a nonstarter. Consensus is not and can not be proof. It may make people more comfortable to know they are in a majority but it’s not the same as being right.

    Skepticism about the motivations and conclusions of a movement should not be confused with denying the existence of the data behind it.

    Brutus

  3. As far as I know, developing economies are not pumping out the sort of emissions that do significant damage to the ozone layer. While it is true that replacements for the really nasty aerosols of the past are compounds that produce atmospheric carbon, that is not the same as mass production of CFC compounds that linger in the high atmosphere and destroy tremendous amounts of ozone. Scientists are cautious to avoid claiming that the “hole is closed” chiefly because it persists today and “hole” was always a crude metaphor. The damage is a function of process lasting more than a few decades, so some of the problem chemicals will continue to deplete ozone for another 20-50 years.

    Perhaps there is also some disagreement about the overall role old aerosol chemicals played in causing the phenomenon, but that is a far cry from confirming an alternate theory. In any case, skin cancer is a serious health problem across the southern tip of South America. It is hard to emphasize the importance of sunscreen when natives lived for generations without such a risk and tourists cannot reconcile typically chilly temperatures with the need for special sun protection. Even granting that human population affected by this is fairly small in number, depleted ozone also means unnaturally large doses of UV radiation for a tremendous array of wildlife inhabiting extreme latitudes. Given that comparatively less harmful alternatives exist to CFC-based aerosols, I support the Montreal Protocol’s global ban (in force everywhere save for a few microstates and Iraq) on non-essential commercial applications of those chemicals.

    Global warming is definitely a seperate issue, but it does seem bizarre to focus on the politics of “the consensus” without acknowledging the politics of “skeptics.” I haven’t come across much science here, and I certainly can’t complain — I favor broad strokes over technical details in my own writing. Yet when I do encounter technical details, invariably the “skeptics” seem to celebrate the flimsiest and most absurd analyses. There is clearly a false narrative at work here, but it is not something to be found in mainstream media, the IPCC, or even the work of Al Gore. Rather it is to be seen in wells of misinformation catering to political conservatives. Perhaps all movements should have their motives questioned, but I find the idea that talk radio ideology, a fake news network, et al. have found yet another bogus method of demonizing the political left much more plausible than the idea that global warming is being exploited to perpetrate the archetypical dittohead nightmare.

    I really advise you to dig deep in terms of the evidence itself. I realize clashing about it can get messy, and for the most part I’ve quit charging and those particular windmills. In my experience climate change “skeptics” would simply rather not get down and dirty with the facts because that gets in the way of maintaining adherence to a particular political orthodoxy. It may be true that people should not embrace a consensus simply because it is a consensus. However, people have even less reason to embrace a fringe simply because it is a fringe. Fortunately there is a middle ground where consensus and fringe beliefs can be evaluated based on observations, measurements, deductions, etc.

    It is a fact that the Earth’s climate has changed in the past, and it is almost certainly the case that natural forces will drive climate change in the future. However, it is also a fact that human activities have increased levels of atmospheric carbon, thus contributing to a greater intensity in the greenhouse effect. What can be done about this, and what should be done about this, are separate questions. Yet there exists this bizarre group, not at all unlike the “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theorists, intent on confusing the climate change issue in public discussion because of a concern about politics.

    If you want to argue against higher taxes or tighter industrial regulation or even increased dependence on fossil fuels then let those arguments stand on their own merits. Buying into the “Al Gore and his kind just want to punish businesses for being so successful” nonsense is either absurdly foolish or deliberately underhanded. Either way, this nation deserves a better level of civic discourse. If anything, embracing that bogus narrative just makes it easier for people who are not pathologically hostile to the political left to dismiss whatever sensible claims you might make as partisan noise.

  4. Thanks for the comment Demonweed,

    The IPCC “Worlwide Ban on CFC’s” would be a good argument for supporting the relationship between the IPCC Montreal Protocol and the disappearance of the “ozone hole” (sorry I agree its a crude term but it is still used by the UN) earlier each year if you look at that statement and the year 1987 and stop right there. 20 years, yeah, that seems reasonable to assume that the worldwide ban of CFC’s could certainly be the root cause of this observation.

    However there are a couple of points I, as a skeptic, would make. First the Worldwide Ban goes into effect in 2010. China, not a microstate, closed its last two plants this year. Good news, that’s over two years earlier than required but it certainly is not 1988. Most of the developing world is still trying to put the pieces together to finish the job. G7 nations of course did this much faster. Europe, whose population largely support the Protocol and its costs, led the way in doing away with CFC’s. The US was a bit slower but has largely gotten the job done. I happened to be working with refrigeration contractors on both new installs and repair work on existing units, in the late eighties and the early ninties. The ban didn’t stop the production of CFC’s in 1988 but stopped production a few years later and stopped the sale of these simple CFC’s a few years after that. So, there was quite a lag between the time the Protocol was agreed to and when it had a significant effect of emmisions. Even today the IPCC estimates that World wide emmissions of CFC’s are still at 20 percent of the estimated peak emmissions in 1988.

    This cuts the timeline from 20 years to about 10 or so. We are not looking at a point in history where we can see a near stopping of CFC emmissions, only a gradual decline. When you take these facts with the added fact that the ‘Ozone Hole” argument was built on the idea of a crisis that would take 100 years or so to fix and that doesn’t jive very well with fact that we are seeing more ozone in about 10. Either the original threat was misrepresented, misunderstood, or wrong. That is the point of bringing it up in conjunction with the current “crisis”.

    I agree, by the way, that skepicism belongs on both sides. The Right is just as guilty of the lazy habit of latching on to what fits their worldview as the Left is. That is why I am skeptical. That’s why I bring up motivations and agendas. We see in Europe how every new tax seems to be sold as needed to combat Global Warming and how, here and around the World, every weather event is caused by Global Warming. Most of this is intellectually dishonest. Let the burdens and tax increases stand on their own merit without a claiming a crisis to try and gloss over the criticisms.

    Consensus is not proof.


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