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House Science Committee Hearing on Climate Science

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 29, 2017

My testimony at the House Science Committee Hearing on Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications and the Scientific Method.

The text of my written testimony is here [Curry house science testimony mar 17]. I really enjoyed preparing this testimony, it provided me an opportunity to reflect on my writings over the past 7 years and synthesize them into an essay on the philosophy of climate science, including what went wrong and why, and some suggestions for fixing these problems.

I realize that this essay is a bit esoteric, but in my opinion these are the kinds of issues that need to be understood and confronted.

My verbal testimony attempted a simplified synthesis. The text of my verbal remarks:

I thank the Chairman and the Committee for the opportunity to offer testimony today.

Prior to 2010, I felt that supporting the IPCC consensus on human-caused climate change was the responsible thing to do. That all changed for me in November 2009, following the leaked Climategate emails, that illustrated the sausage making and even bullying that went into building the consensus.

I came to the growing realization that I had fallen into the trap of groupthink in supporting the IPCC consensus. I began making an independent assessment of topics in climate science that had the most relevance to policy. I concluded that the high confidence of the IPCC’s conclusions was not justified, and that there were substantial uncertainties in our understanding of how the climate system works. I realized that the premature consensus on human-caused climate change was harming scientific progress because of the questions that don’t get asked and the investigations that aren’t made. We therefore lack the kinds of information to more broadly understand climate variability and societal vulnerabilities.

As a result of my analyses that challenge the IPCC consensus, I have been publicly called a serial climate disinformer, anti-science, and a denier by a prominent climate scientist. I’ve been publicly called a denier by a U.S. Senator. My motives have been questioned by a U.S. Congressman in a letter sent to the President of Georgia Tech.

While there is much noise in the media and blogosphere and professional advocacy groups, I am mostly concerned about the behavior of other scientists. A scientist’s job is to continually challenge their own biases and ask “How could I be wrong?” Scientists who demonize their opponents are behaving in a way that is antithetical to the scientific process. These are the tactics of enforcing a premature theory for political purposes.

There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves. Reinforcing this consensus are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests. Owing to these pressures and the gutter tactics of the academic debate on climate change, I recently resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

The pathology of both the public and scientific debates on climate change motivated me to research writings on the philosophy and sociology of science, argumentation from the legal perspective, the policy process and decision making under deep uncertainty. My analyses of the problems in climate science from these broader perspectives have been written in a series of posts at my blog Climate Etc. and also in 4 published journal articles. My reflections on these issues are summarized in my written testimony.

The complexity of the climate change problem provides much scope for disagreement among reasonable and intelligent people. Why do scientists disagree about the causes of climate change? The historical data is sparse and inadequate. There’s disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence, notably the value of global climate models and paleoclimate reconstructions. There’s disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence. And scientists disagree over assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance.

Policymakers bear the responsibility of the mandate that they give to panels of scientific experts. In the case of climate change, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change framed the problem too narrowly. This narrow framing of the climate change problem essentially pre-ordained the conclusions from the IPCC assessment process.

There are much better ways to assess science for policy makers than a consensus-seeking process that serves to stifle disagreement and debate. Expert panels with diverse perspectives should handle controversies and uncertainties by assessing what we know, what we don’t know, and where the major areas of disagreement and uncertainties lie.

Let’s make scientific debate about climate change great again.

This concludes my testimony.

March 30, 2017 - Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | ,

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