Salon liked my post “How do we really know humans are causing global warming?” but wanted something more in-depth and … serious. The result is “The cold truth about climate change: Deniers say there’s no consensus about global warming. Well, there’s not. There’s well-tested science and real-world observations [that are much more worrisome].”
James Hansen read the first draft and wrote me back, “Very important for the public to understand this — why has nobody articulated this already?” I don’t know the answer. All I can say is that while I was writing the article, the central point dawned on me:
The more I write about global warming, the more I realize I share some things in common with the doubters and deniers who populate the blogosphere and the conservative movement. Like them, I am dubious about the process used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to write its reports. Like them, I am skeptical of the so-called consensus on climate science as reflected in the IPCC reports. Like them, I disagree with people who say “the science is settled.” But that’s where the agreement ends.
The big difference I have with the doubters is that they believe the IPCC reports seriously overstate the impact of human emissions on the climate — whereas the actual observed climate data clearly show they dramatically understate the impact.
I point out many instances of this in the article. For instance, “The recent [Arctic] sea-ice retreat is larger than in any of the (19) IPCC [climate] models” — and that was a Norwegian expert in 2005. Since then, the Arctic retreat has stunned scientists by accelerating, losing an area equal to Texas and California just last summer
The Salon article also discusses why I think “the scientific community, the progressive community, environmentalists and media are making a serious mistake by using the word ‘consensus’ to describe the shared understanding scientists have about the every-worsening impacts that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are having on this planet.” Part of the reason is that “When scientists and others say there is a consensus, many if not most people probably hear ‘consensus of opinion’ ” whereas, as I explain, “science doesn’t work by consensus of opinion. Science is in many respects the exact opposite of decision by consensus.”
Another reason is that the IPCC ‘consensus’ clearly understates what we face from uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions. As the article concludes: