How Conservatives Should Engage on Climate

September 26, 2011

Bob Inglis, former Republican House member from South Carolina, has a nice piece up in USAToday, that includes the following-

Aided by energized climate deniers on talk TV and radio, we’re driving a powerful wedge that divides God-fearing, red-meat eating Republicans from the arugula-eating bed-wetters we see on the left. Wedges work. And yet we aspire to bring America together?

Perry asserts, and many conservatives believe, that the flow of grants have produced a corresponding flow of studies indicating human causes of climate change. Skepticism is warranted, but it’s relieved by an observation: Scientists become famous by disproving the consensus, not by parroting it. You don’t get a theory named for yourself by writing papers that say, “Yeah, like he said.” You become famous (and, for the pure of heart, you advance science) by breaking through with new understandings.

Grasping at outliers

In the zeal of our disproof, many conservatives have latched on to the outliers to create the appearance of uncertainty where little uncertainty exists. Accordingly, only 15% of the public knows that 97% of climate scientists have concluded that the planet is rapidly warming as a result of human activity.

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10 Responses to “How Conservatives Should Engage on Climate”


  1. “Scientists become famous by disproving the consensus, not by parroting it. You don’t get a theory named for yourself by writing papers that say, “Yeah, like he said.” You become famous (and, for the pure of heart, you advance science) by breaking through with new understandings.”

    Worth remembering that science doesn’t only progress by scientists becoming famous. Science undergoes revolutions only very occasionally. Mostly, it’s very gradual in how it accumulates knowledge from different fields, and a lot of progress is made there and by stitching the new findings together in an interdisciplinary way. To take one example: how many famous geneticists can you name? If you pay attention, maybe you’ll say Craig Venter or Francis Collins… very rarely people will be able to name a couple others. And yet we’re in the middle of making huge leaps forwards in genetics, medicine, proteomics… the new understanding in these fields is accumulating, not coming through revolution. Lots of new stuff coming through, but consistent with what we already know, not overthrowing it.

    You have to be very careful about revolutions in science (so called “paradigm shifts”). They happen, but when new theories emerge they typically incorporate and expand on past knowledge, not reject it. Classical mechanics, for example, is now a part of modern physics, merely a much smaller one than before quantum theory and relativity came along. Many other examples…


  2. As for the 97% figure on climate scientists’ consensus, it’s worth linking to the original study by Anderegg et al.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

    Other studies corroborate this.

  3. daveburton Says:

    97%, eh? It is typical of climate alarmists to distort statistics.

    Back in 2007, Harris conducted a mail survey of a random sample of 489 self-identified members of either the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union who were listed in the current edition of American Men and Women of Science.

    97% of them believed temperatures are up. So what? I agree.

    85% believed that at least some amount of human-induced warming is occurring. I believe that, too.

    Only a slight majority (54%) believed that the warming measured over the last 100 years is not “within the range of natural temperature fluctuation.”

    57% of those polled thought that climate change poses either moderate danger, or else little or no danger to the earth over the next 50-100 years.

    Only 29% have a “great deal of confidence in our understanding of the human-induced sources of global climate change.”

    Since then Climategate has almost certainly diminished support for climate alarmism even more.

    Additionally, polls indicate that most meteorologists — who are particularly well-suited to tell the difference between climate and mere weather — are skeptical of climate alarmism, and distrustful of the IPCC.

    • philip64 Says:

      In what way has Bob Inglis distorted the statistics, as you claim? The statistics in questions derive directly from a professional poll of scientists working and publishing in climate science. So in what way is it a distortion to report it?

      It is not a distortion in any way. And there are plenty of other polls like it.

      The Harris Poll was a survey of opinion among (self-identified) members of the AMS and AGU – the vast majority of which do not work in the field of climate science. In any case, your reporting of the poll is partial.

      “Eighty-four percent say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that “currently available scientific evidence” substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; the rest are unsure.

      Based on current trends, 41% of scientists believe global climate change will pose a very great danger to the earth in the next 50 to 100 years, compared to 13% who see relatively little danger. Another 44% rate climate change as moderately dangerous.

      Seventy percent see climate change as very difficult to manage over the next 50 to 100 years, compared to only 5% who see it as not very difficult to manage. Another 23% see moderate difficulty in managing these changes.”

      In all areas, the level of ‘skepticism’ was lower than in a similar poll conducted by Harris in 1991.

      Since then, of course, both the AGU and the AMS, at the behest of their members, have issued powerful statements calling for immediate action to curb and the rate of climate change. And so has just about every major scientific body in the developed world.

  4. daveburton Says:

    And, oh yeah, he’s not from North Carolina, either.


  5. “And, oh yeah, he’s not from North Carolina, either.”

    Well, that certainly settles the matter.


  6. Who is the alarmist – the one who puts up the ‘Danger – Flammable – No Smoking’ sign, or the one who yells, “FIRE FIRE” when the fuel depot is engulfed in flames?

    Go read Six Degrees by Lynas. There is no more or no less at stake here than the viability of our species on this, our one and only planet. Am I an alarmist? I sure hope so.

    When it comes to my children’s and grandchildren’s future on a warmer world with a more volatile climate, I’d rather be overprepared and wrong, than underprepared and right!


  7. daveburton said above:

    “Since then Climategate has almost certainly diminished support for climate alarmism even more.”

    The question was about the 97% support amongst climate scientists, not the public. The “climategate” thing, (entirely discredited, btw – see greenman’s own videos, starting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P70SlEqX7oY) has nothing to do with how many scientists climate scientists think climate change is anthropogenic.

    The PNAS study I referred to ignored, predictably.


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