On the 19th of July in 2011 the National Press Club of Australia held a debate on climate change. In this video I will be analysing the claims Monckton made during the debate and if they are correct or not.
The reason I’m doing this is that Monckton challenges his critics to check his sources, or like he put it in this debate “to do your homework”. I’m going to follow him up on this to see if the scientific literature, and other available sources, corroborate what he’s saying.
On the 19th of July in 2011 the National Press Club of Australia held a debate on climate change. I will be analysing the claims Monckton made during the debate and if they are correct or not.
In this section of the debate Monckton says the following:
"And the idea that you decide any scientific question by mere consensus is opposed by the philosophers of science[.] ... So merely counting heads, the argumentum ad populum, merely saying that various scientific societies are august, the argumentum ad verecundiam, the arguments from head count fallacy and reputation fallacy respectively, are not proper scientific arguments."
In this video I will be addressing this view on how consensus works in climate research and science in general.
And the idea that you decide any scientific question by mere consensus is opposed by the philosophers of science, from Aristotle 2400 years ago, to Al Haytham, the founder of the scientific method in eleventh century Iraq to Karl Popper in 1934, in the celebrated paper that formalised the scientific method as an iterative algorithm.
In none of these people's opinion is science, or was it, or will it ever be decided by consensus. As Einstein himself said when replying to a book by the Nazi's who regarded his science as Jewish science - and they wished to attack it and they had 100 scientists against Einstein - he said if there is something wrong with my theory, one paper will be enough to set the entire theory aside, you won't need 100 scientists.
So merely counting heads, the argumentum ad populum, merely saying that various scientific societies are august, the argumentum ad verecundiam, the arguments from head count fallacy and reputation fallacy respectively, are not proper scientific arguments.
He's right, science isn't done by consensus, but there is a consensus view on what the science says based on our best understanding of the available evidence. Just like there is a consensus view on the subject of anthropogenic global warming, there is one for evolution, plate tectonics, big bang, germ theory, in all the scientific fields and subjects.
And that is what Richard Denniss was referring to when he said:
[opening statement – Richard Denniss]
So let me start with an analogy.
Imagine that you went to the doctor - and I hope this doesn't happen - but imagine that you were diagnosed with a skin cancer. And the doctor, having diagnosed a skin cancer suggested an intense and rapid treatment. The treatment's unpleasant and potentially expensive, but the prognosis was good.
Now that's bad news. And you might like to - you might wish that it were otherwise, or you might get a second opinion. You go to see another doctor - they confirm the diagnosis. You see a third doctor. You see a fourth doctor. They all confirm the diagnosis.
But after finding it - after shopping around for long enough, spending more time while the cancer potentially spreads, you finally find the doctor who advises you that you don't have cancer - and even if you did have cancer, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are unlikely to work.
There's plenty of evidence on the internet to suggest that herbal remedies would be far more effective.
What would you do?
What would you do?
If there are people out there telling you, don't act. There are people out there saying the solutions won't work. But how would you, as a person, make a decision under such uncertainty?
Now I reckon most people would go with the science. And I think it's - call me old fashioned - but I think it's just common sense. And I certainly suspect that our children and our family would encourage us to take the cautious route and listen to the science - not the optimistic route that perhaps the science is wrong, and anyway, maybe the treatments don't work.
It's not a simple argumentum ad populum if you point out that 97% of publishing climate scientists agree, based on the scientific literature, that we are causing the planet to warm. Also it's not an argumentum ad verecundiam, an argument from authority, when you point out that almost all scientific organisations reflect and confirm this consensus.
If that would invalidate what these scientists and organisations are saying, it would also invalidate the consensus on Evolution. A subject where there is also an almost unanimous agreement that Biological Evolution is a Principle of nature that has been well established by science.
You can disagree with the consensus, but it's then up to you to prove with research why the current understanding of that scientific subject is wrong, and provide a hypothesis that fits the evidence better. Something opponents of the current consensus view haven't been able to do.
And it's not because climate researchers don't listen to criticism, far from it, as Dr. Richard Alley showed with his testimony before a congressional hearing:
[Dr. richard alley climate hearing cspan footage]
REP BRIAN BAIRD, D-WASHINGTON:
How do we know – how do we know it's we not nature?
I mean we we've got the increase in CO2, but the sceptic would argue wait a second I could go back to 1927 and find articles about glaciers retreating. What's the difference? I mean, you know you could look at a football team so well they were losing back then and they are losing now, what's the difference?
DR. RICHARD ALLEY:
Right. So the first one is the physics. We just cannot get away from the warming effect of CO2, it's been known for over a century, it was really clarified by the air force who were actually very interested in what wavelength should I use for the sensor on my heat-seeking missile. But CO2 interacts with radiation and there's enough of it to make a difference. And we just can't get away from that physics.
The second one is... is looking at is there any other possible thing to explain this, and it really took... I'm sorry sir took a few billion dollars of your money and about thirty years just say that there's nothing else that we can find in nature to do this. And this is because the satellites are expensive. But someone says it's the sun, well then you need a satellite to watch if the sun is getting brighter, but it isn't.
And if someone says well it's volcanos so we need a history of our volcanos and we need to
know what they're doing. And someone says it's cosmic rays we need to have cosmic ray
monitors. And has taken sort of thirty years to get to the point of saying no we've looked really hard and we can't find anything else.
Then there's a third piece which is the fingerprinting, which is what Dr. Santer was discussing. If you were to say, okay that, yeah i know we spent a lot of money on satellites and the satellite say the sun is not getting brighter. But maybe maybe maybe the satellites are wrong and the sun is getting brighter and we can't see it. That makes a prediction, it gets warmer down here and it gets warmer way up its top of the stratosphere. CO2 says warmer colder. What's going on? Warmer Colder. So the fingerprinting and in time and in space says
that we got it right on the other two pieces, it's mostly us.
This was a perfect explanation by Dr. Richard Alley about how they have made sure they got it right. And not only that, that they listen to critics and investigate if they have a point. That's how climate research works, that's how scientific research works.
- Doran 2009 - Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
- Anderegg 2010 - Expert credibility in climate change
- IAC Report Executive Summary
- SkepticalScience - Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?
- Skeptical Science - Scientific Consensus on Global Warming
- TimVickers - Collapsed tree labels simplified
- USGS - Tectonic plate boundaries
- NASA – Big Bang
- National Institutes of Health - Escherichia coli bacilli
- CERN - Moving calorimeter side C in the ATLAS cavern
- tk-link - Laboratory
- Nic McPhee – editing a paper
- C-SPAN - Nov 17, 2010 - Panel 2: Scientists testified on public and private sector responses to global climate change. Witnesses addressed a number of issues including the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels and global warming, environmental impacts of climate change, and quality of evidence for climate change.