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Discussion > Science should play no part in informing government policy on climate

I would like to compare Medicine and Climate Science.

There is no doubt that governments (and businesses) have spent far more on trying to understand and protect the human anatomy than they spent on understanding climate. However we are still dying from cancer and strokes and heart disease in huge numbers. We are running out of antibiotics to treat viral infections and we are still suffering from Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases. Lets not even start on the brain.
However medical research is beneficial, each new discovery has the potential to save lives or reduce suffering.
In Medicine every discovery has incremental value even though we are a long way from the holy grail of eternal life and good health. A little knowledge in medicine has value.

The long term goal of Climate Science has to be to understand our climate then predict it and finally control it. Being able to control our climate would bring unimaginable benefits to the human race.
However unlike Medicine there is no incremental value in each new discovery.
The current hot potato is radiative forcings but what value will total understanding of radiative forcings give us? Can we use knowledge of radiative forcings to understand, predict or control our climate?
the answer is an emphatic no.
Understanding parts of how our climate works has no practical value whatsoever.
In medicine we have at least got a good understanding of areas we need to know more about. In Climate Science we dont have a clue about how many factors influenece our climate, how they influence it and in which direction.
Climate Scientists are too close to their science and too impressed by their pitifully sparse knowledge. To write a huge report which is meant to help policymakers take action is an act of arrogance so enormous as to be beyond description.

Nov 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

While I agree with some of the body, your contentious headline I totally disagree with. Science should always inform government policy wherever possible, it's our only and best tool for survival. Unfortunately, recently it's been informed by activism masquerading as science, and that has hurt my trust in science. What I long for is to be able to again "leave it to the experts to get right". But it'll be a long time coming and science will need to win back trust squandered in a grubby money-grab for grants.

Nov 25, 2011 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I can not believe that you think government should be given advice by people who dont know what they are talking about?
In medicine, aerodynamics and engineering every new discovery improves what we can achieve but in climate science only total knowledge is of any value.
There is no science in which there are experts who "get it right". There is no science in which we know more than a fraction of what there is to know. In some sciences what we know is useful and in others it is useless except as a step along the way to future total knowledge.
If the IPCC were swept away tomorrow and a body of the brightest, honest most knowledgable Climate Scientist on the planet were asked by government to predict how climate will change over the next decade/century/millenium , they would answer "we have no idea".

Nov 25, 2011 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Sorry, you're mistaking Science and 'Climate Science', and yes Science has been hurt by its association with the excesses of Climate Science, but it's far from dead in the water, and nobody should want it to be.

Medicine IS science, those engineering disciplines you mentioned are APPLIED science. You don't get aerodynamic engineering without the science of aerodynamics, and that involves theories, arguing, disagreement, experimentation, and all the human influences of hubris, ego, ambition and laziness you get in any human endeavour. That doesn't make it bad, or unfit for purpose.

Science is what made us, and it'll be what saves us from what is basically an inhospitable universe.

The problem here is that the self-correction mechanisms which make Science work grind exceeding slow, much slower than politicians wanted. The problem isn't that Science got it wrong, Science always gets it wrong - that IS what Science is about - finding out why things don't behave as expected and then work out how to expect it to work in future. The problem is a small niche subject (statistical analysis of paleo records as temperature proxies combined with speculative modelling of chaotic atmospheric systems) was fast-tracked into prominence by politicians who needed a message to drive a particular economic policy. The scientists - many of them with little prospect of making a mark in Science - at the centre of that field at that point in time were seduced by the sudden rise in importance.

The rest is history. But arguing that Science is somehow never to inform government policy is nonsense. That's exactly what we need. What we don't need is what has been happening for 20 years - government policy informing science.

Nov 25, 2011 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Big Yin

I think we are at cross purposes here

My basic suggestion is that Climate is a subject on which no scientist or group of scientists is able to advise government.
The premise for this suggestion is that until we know everything about climate, any advice we give could be proved wrong as we learn more. In terms of the resources involved we are crippling ourselves on the basis of incomplete understanding of our climate.
Science in general is as you say our potential saviour in all things but some sciences are useful even though soo much is still to be learnt and other sciences are useless until we HAVE learnt all there is to know.

Nov 25, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

I agree. Your subject just says "Science" though. If you add "Climate" on the front, I endorse it completely.

Nov 25, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Today from GWPF:

A recent report in the Journal Science identifies atmospheric blocking over the North Atlantic as a major factor in such variability on time scales as short as a week. The correspondence between blocked westerly winds and warm ocean can be seen in recent decadal episodes, particularly from 1996 to 2010. It also describes much longer time scale Atlantic multidecadal ocean variability (AMV), including the extreme northern warming of the 1930s to 1960s, which predates the rise of human CO2 emissions that alarmists are convinced is causing all recent global warming.

This is from way out in left field (sorry, I must have watched too many USA movies). This is yet another alternative explanation for warming that does not recognise AGW.

MY point is that our current understanding of the issues that affect our climate is so "neanderthal" that attempting to predict the future is lunacy. THIS is the point that we should drill home to the government and NOT various attempts to disprove individual scientific papers that blame human activity.

Dec 8, 2011 at 3:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterDung