Willis Eschenback has a post onWatts Up With That (WUWT) about what we don’t know. The post discusses various things that we either don’t yet know (what is dark matter and dark energy and do they actually exist), the possibility that solar neutrinos can influence radioactive decay on the Earth, that lightning strikes can accelerate particles that end up in the Earth’s radiation belt.
In some sense this post is fine. It is indeed true that there is much that we don’t know and there are things that we think we understand that turn out to be wrong (or at least to be different to what we once thought). The problem I have with this is that it is almost always true and so isn’t particularly meaningful. The implication of Willis’s post is that because there are things we don’t know, we should continue to question science (climate science in particular I assume) and, hence, should not jump to any conclusions just yet. The issue, though, is when do we start to take it seriously? What Willis says will almost always be true, so – by this argument – we should never really do anything. In my opinion, we should base our decisions on the strength of the evidence. Whatever you may read on WUWT, there is a strong evidence that global warming is happening and there is a general consensus that continuing to add energy to the climate system will lead to changes to our climate that may significantly influence our ability to survive on this planet. Suggesting that we should ignore this because it “might” be wrong is a very weak way to argue against acting to mitigate against the impact of climate change.
Here is something that I think is relevant. If we act to mitigate against climate change it will clearly influence the fossil fuel industry’s business model. Either they will lose business to the renewable sector or they will have to engage in the renewable sector themselves. Willis Eschenbach (according to what I have found on deSmogBlog) has a massage certificate and a B.A. in psychology. His most recent job was as Accounts/IT Senior Manager with South Pacific Oil. Not only does he have no explicit science qualification he has worked in the oil industry. Of course, my information is from another blog, so if anyone would like to correct this, feel free to do so. I should add that I don’t think that those who’ve worked in the oil industry should not engage in the debate about climate science, but I do think their credentials are relevant. Given that one of the main themes of those skeptical of climate science is that climate scientists can’t be trusted because they somehow benefit from proposing the possibility of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (cAGW), it would seem fairly crucial to also know the backgrounds of those arguing against the significance of anthropogenic climate change.