Gambling on a Lie

All right, here it is. A list of professional scientific organizations that have issued statements saying that humans are causing the Earth to warm. Thanks to Logical Science for helping in the creation of this list. Keep in mind that, since the list is several years old, it is probably longer today.

  • Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias
  • Académie des Sciences
  • Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
  • National Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Society of Canada
  • Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
  • Science Council of Japan
  • Academy of Science of South Africa
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Indian National Science Academy
  • Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
  • Royal Society
  • Australian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for  Sciences  and the Arts
  • Caribbean Academy of Sciences
  • Indonesian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Irish Academy
  • Academy of Sciences Malaysia
  • Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Woods Hole Research Center
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate  Change
  • United Nations Framework Convention  on Climate Change
  • American Association for the  Advancement of Science
  • American Meteorological Society
  • National Research Council
  • Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
  • Federal Climate Change Science Program
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration
  • UN Project on Climate Variability and Predictability
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Geological Society o f America
  • American Chemical Society
  • Geological Society of London
  • Institution of Engineers Australia
  • American Association of State Climatologists
  • US Geological Survey
  • National Center for Atmospheric  Research
  • NASA
  • World Meteorological Organization
  • United Nations Environment Program
  • Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
  • International Council on Science
  • State of the Canadian Cryosphere
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • American Astronomical Society
  • Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
  • American Institute of Physics
  • Pew Center on Climate Change
  • InterAcademy Council
  • World Health Organization
  • American Quaternary Association
  • Network of African Science Academies
  • European Science Foundation
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Public Health Association
  • World Federation of Public Health Associations
  • Institute of Biology
  • Society of American Foresters
  • The Wildlife Society
  • European Federation of Geologists
  • European Geosciences Union
  • International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
  • American Physical Society

As of 2007, no professional scientific organization in the world publicly disputes that humans are causing the Earth to warm. (No, the Heartland Institute is not a professional scientific organization.)

As we discussed in Making Up Your Own Science, whatever objections an individual holds to the theory of anthropogenic climate change have almost certainly been addressed by the folks metioned above. They know that the climate has changed in the past. They know that the urban heat island effect can cause regional warming. They know that volcanoes emit carbon dioxide. And yet they are still saying that humans are causing the Earth to warm. What does this tell you?

1) They could be right. They could have satisfactory explanations for all of these objections.

2) They could be ignorant. You, the average individual who thinks global warming stopped in 1998, might be smarter and more thorough than 97.4% of climatologists and all of the aforementioned organizations put together.

3) They could be lying. The entire scientific community might be composed of liberal extremists who are plotting to destroy capitalism and free trade.

Which of these outcomes seems most likely?

How sure are you? What if you were wrong?

Are you willing to gamble that the entire scientific community is incompetent or lying?

Are you willing to bet your life, your civilization, and your species on it?

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7 thoughts on “Gambling on a Lie

  1. Thanks for the list. I was making one my self (I like the arguement from authority for establishing a presumptive conclusion) and it is a pain in the tuchas. This is the mother of all arguements from authority.

    Pat

    • Hi there Pat,

      This list is no doubt incomplete. I excluded organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund which could be seen as advocacy groups. Again, the list is dated 2006-07, so there’s probably more since then. Pretty impressive though, isn’t it? Although it only really works on people who have some humility in their scientific capabilities….all too many are still clinging to the idea that scientists are incompetent and they, average laypeople, know more than all the scientists put together. Their arguments aren’t too good. But they can still convince others of their cause, which is what worries me. We need to give the undecided people tools such as credibility assessment and risk management before they try to navigate climate science and policy.

  2. I was reading the article on Richard Lindzen’s testimony to the House of Lords on the RealClimate web site. And a point was raised (in the comments section were a speech by Linzen was quoted) which I have seen raised by the opposition, that trust in the scientific consensus is a religious belief. Lindzen made these comments in a speech sponsored be the George Marshal Institute (No doubt most people concerned by this issue will have heard of these people) as reported by CNSNews.com December 2, 2004. Specifically Lindzen said:

    “you never have to defend this belief except to claim that you are supported by all scientists — except for a handfull of corrupted heritics”.

    He then goes on to say,

    “With respect to science, the assumption behind the [alarmist] consensus is that science is the source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists [who agree.] But science is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science — consesus is foriegn.”

    This is an arguement which I have seen more than once although Lindzen states it more clearly than others.

    When I have made the consesus arguement it has generally been answered in two ways. On one hand I have been told that arguements from authority are a logical fallacy. And on the other hand I have been told that truth does not arise from consensus. The latter of these arguements can and should be answered by the credibility spectrum in one form or another. Though this is only a preliminary answer. The ultimate scientific test is repeatable results either in the field or in the lab. The assertion that some people make that climatology is not a science because it can not be tested is a canard. One example of this (real world evidence that supports a part of climatological thought) can be seen in the talk that David Keith gave at TED, which is available on You Tube (and is one of my favorites). While it is true that we don’t have a dozen earths to play with, we can and have tested AGW theory and models. A further example is Lindzen’s own IRIS hypothesis which has been challenged in the literature and by satalite data.

    The Logical Falacy arguement is also fun. Because it has a grain of truth. But it is helpfull to remember that we are occupying two realms. In one we are in the court of public oppinion and political action. And there it is proper to impeach the credibility of a witness. Just as in a court of law, it is still necessary to provide further evidence. But in citing the statements of credible individuals and organizations the burden of proof is properly placed on the shoulders of those who are in the minority and have been consistently wrong.

    In a scientific paper reference will be made to relevant work of other scientists though the work itself is judged on its own merits. And a syllogism aught to be judged by what is asserted not by who does the assertion.

    But as you note we are not all experts in this field. And even the experts trust the work of other scientists. People making climate models don’t independently devolop all the information that is used in the model. There are limits to skepticism. Further examples of this will easily come to mind to anyone who gives the matter thought.

    Peter Sinclair made the point to me that Richard Lindzen is a crank. That is a harsh thing to say about anyone. But Lindzen, in saying that “consensus is foreign” to science, IS being annoying eccentric, which is the very definition of being a crank. Lindzen is wrong. An example which has some bearing is engineering. Engineering is completely dependent on science and experience, and on scientific consensus. Any action based on scientific opinion is necessarily based on consesus opinion.

    To me some of the opposition do seem corrupted.

    Pat

    Sorry about the length of my post. I like thinking about this stuff.

    • Hi Pat, thanks for all your comments.

      The argument from authority doesn’t work if you’re a scientist. If you have the education and expertise to understand the topic at hand, what others say shouldn’t be too influential on your work. It shouldn’t pressure you to believe the mainstream view, but it should also not pressure you to go against it. A lot of skeptics seem dedicated to disproving everything that IPCC et al says simply because they don’t like their conclusions.

      However, for the general public, arguing from authority does work. How many of us can understand the technicalities of climatology? And in a risk-management scenario, the amount of scientific agreement on an issue is a good indication of an event’s probability.

      Hmm, maybe I’ll write a post about this….

  3. I loved the way you wrote this. It’s very well done. I have two questions.

    1. Does this list include any scientific societies not mentioned on logicalscience.com?

    2. What about the JSER? I found very little information about them on the web. I was in an online debate with someone else (http://www.debate.org/debate/8399/) and he brought up the JSER, claiming that it was a Japanese scientific society that endorsed the falsity of global warming. I did find a source saying that the JSER is disreputable, but it was very low on the credibility spectrum. So what do you think?

    • 1) Logical Science was incredibly thorough; I couldn’t really find any that they hadn’t mentioned! The joint academies’ statements were probably the most important to me. However, I didn’t use all of Logical Science’s list, as it included a lot of sources lower on the credibility spectrum, such as professional individuals, industries, etc.

      2) The JSER has a fairly large chance of bias. It is made up from representatives from the energy industries. Right now, that means fossil fuels. It looks much more like an Exxon-Mobil-esque club than a reputable scientific organization. Its statement that climate change is “ancient astrology” shows their complete lack of scientific analysis. I wouldn’t pay much attention to them.

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