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The Science is Settled?

January 17, 2010

I’d like to make some observations regarding the ‘science is settled’ debate. I think there is considerable confusion between the political and scientific approaches to this issue, but if we don’t distinguish between the two both science and politics become harder to understand .

In terms of science, it is entirely correct to state the science is not settled. No science ever is, because such a claim is tantamount to saying we ‘know everything’. Perhaps one day we will be gods, but until then, claims to absolute knowledge are absolute bollocks – and never more so than when discussing a set of related natural phenomena as complex, delicate and intertwined as the earth’s non-linear climate. We’re talking chaos, which I think rules out any kind of definitive understanding. Climate has changed, is changing, and will continue to do so – which makes the study of it either a moving feast or moving goal-posts, depending on one’s objectives.

But in the social and political sphere, we obviously cannot wait until all the science is in, done and dusted – since it never will be. But when it is said the ‘science is settled’, I take this to mean the aggregate of evidence is so overwhelming, and contra-evidence in such short supply, that those with either the responsibility to act, or vested interest in the matter, can no longer procrastinate. For my own part, I am a layman, but the sheer weight of research, theory, models, the physics and chemistry and all the work and data provided by the vast cross-disciplinary studies that underpin the theory of anthropogenic climate change and the physical evidence that is wholly congruous with this theory, leads me to the inevitable conclusion that to back any other horse is a wilful failure to bet wisely on our future.

So, for me, the science is settled – in that from the lay perspective the sheer weight of it, backed up by observation, and a strong consensus in the scientific community, for this poster to accept without reservation that the theory is sound and growing in strength. I do not believe the matter is a closed book – far from it – but I do accept there is currently no alternative theory that works, and there is no evidence at all that the theory is wrong. (All the predictions are crap of course – people who put dates on the end of the world, or who predict exact phenomena as a result of this or that change are just barking and should keep their mouths shut, for they help nobody to sort out the wheat from the terrified chaff. 100 months? Death trains. Idiots!).

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