Settled Science

Al Gore may have been the first to say “The Science is Settled” back in 2007. Big Al made the claim in the Senate, implying that there really isn’t anything more to know about the science of climate change. Al is a lawyer and politician, who is involved in a number of businesses related to Carbon trading. I have not researched, but I doubt that any serious scientist would ever think such a dumb thing. It goes against every principle of the scientific method. Yet somehow this soundbite has become a standard putdown for anyone who dares to question any aspect of the orthodoxy of climate change.

Unfortunately science has become inextricably mixed with policy debate, and I feel that the real science is hijacked. How has it come to this? How settled is the science? Sadly, “the science is settled” has been adopted by an inner circle of scientists who appear to want to see a certain set of policy responses to the issue of climate change. This ball was started rolling by James Hansen, lead scientist at NASA Goddard Institute in the mid-eighties. It continues, particularly in the UK, with the Guardian newspaper and their op-ed column “97% consensus” (or as it is alternatively called”nonsensus”). In this forum, or many others the knee jerk response to any question whatsoever about science or data, is to be labelled a “denier” or “denialist” (deliberately provocative terms), a liar, a shill and so on. The level of discourse is appalling, and I have decided to stop engaging.

My view, as an earth scientist, is that there is no end to the search for better understanding of the planet. It is incredibly complex, and to say that anything is “settled” is an insulting joke to those researching the earth. I agree that we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but are we really at the stage of understanding of our earth that we can say anything in the science is “settled”? I don’t think so, there are plenty of flaws and much room for improvement.


Welcome to woobblog

I am a seasoned geologist, concerned about lots of things and interested in many more. In this blog I might explore interesting things from the world of earth science, climate change and the environment. I think geologists have the perspective to take the really long view on subjects such as climate change. Fundamentally science stands or falls on making quality observations to test hypotheses. Data are sacrosanct, models are used to explain data, forecasts should be treated with care.