General Question

trolltoll's avatar

Do you believe, as I do, that the scientific consensus on global warming is itself evidence of global warming?

Asked by trolltoll (2570points) April 14th, 2016

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. What if they’re all wrong (it’s a possibility, but not a likelihood)?

Please note that I said “evidence,” not “proof.” We all know what the difference is.

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35 Answers

dappled_leaves's avatar

It’s a good argument that global warming is a real phenomenon, because scientists have the skills and knowledge needed to assess the evidence. But it’s not evidence per se, no. The studies that they base their conclusion on are the evidence.

CWOTUS's avatar

There’s no doubt that the planet is in an interglacial period. No one who knows about ice ages and the planet’s geology would doubt that. So in that sense “it’s warmer than it has sometimes been”. But it’s also not as warm as it has been at other interglacials.

Now that we have that established… those were periods of time measured not in years, decades or even centuries, for the most part, but time measured in eons: thousands to tens and hundreds of thousands of years… or more.

Trying to determine from year to year whether “the planet is warming” is a pretty hopeless endeavor, even if the present trend of a few years or decades might be trending in some direction. And in point of fact, by the generally accepted measures used by most climate scientists, there has not been appreciable warming over most of the past couple of decades. Which also indicates… nothing.

So… is the planet warming? Ask again in a thousand years or so.

si3tech's avatar

Science is NOT a consensus!

kritiper's avatar

It seems to me that some who think that the people who say climate change is fact are assuming that climate change is all Man’s fault with no natural conditions applying, and that Man can do nothing, or should do nothing, to stop it or even slow it down. I believe that climate change is a fact and that Man is adding to what might also be a natural change, and that anything we can do to stop it or slow it down can’t hurt.
Scientific consensus is enough to prove that climate change could and should take place, but isn’t all that is required to prove the actual existence of climate change. The evidence is out there if one chooses to look.

cazzie's avatar

How is this for a couple hundred thousand years of evidence for showing differences of man-made climate change due to fossil fuels? Things were up and down, but never before have CO2 levels looked like this.

trolltoll's avatar

@cazzie oh yes, the Mauna Loa Observatory data is hard to argue with. Good example.

trolltoll's avatar

@si3tech you are correct, it absolutely is not. But does that mean that consensus is not worth anything?

stanleybmanly's avatar

I mean the circumstantial evidence is now beyond overwhelming. Melting ice sheets and polar caps, disappearing glaciers, tropical plants and animals moving North, rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures. People who don’t want to be considered fools no longer bother to dispute global warming. The obfuscation tactics now lie in disputing the causes, and denying the severity of the upcoming consequences.

ucme's avatar

Of course, by definition it has to be
If you throw enough mud at something then some is bound to stick

josie's avatar

No. Ad populum fallacy. The jury said OJ was not guilty. Is that evidence that he did not commit murder?

Kropotkin's avatar

I don’t know if it is strictly “evidence”—but it is completely rational to accept the opinion of expert authorities in a matter, and especially so when the expert authorities overwhelmingly reach the same conclusion. It should at least be persuasive, and one can say that it must be probably true.

It is not, as @josie stated an “ad populum fallacy”. Since an ad populum fallacy is based on regarding something as true just because most people think it is true, or on its popularity. Even the jury example doesn’t hold. A jury isn’t “most people”. And a jury does not represent a body of experts, but random lay people.

flutherother's avatar

The evidence comes from measurements of temperature which show a rise in average global temperatures since industrialisation. How much of this effect is natural and how much is man-made we can’t say for sure but man is undoubtedly pumping lots of CO2 into the atmosphere and this tends to increase temperature on the Earth. Science is conducted openly, it isn’t the pronouncements of a closed cabal sitting in secret session. The reasons for the scientific consensus are there for all to see and to discuss.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Josie To bolster the solid argument from @Kropotkin, the comparison is flawed from the outset since in the OJ case, the jury rendered no decision whatever on whether or not the death of Nicole was a fact.

dxs's avatar

How else can I, a lay person, justify it?
I have no expertise on this issue. I can’t see for myself. I could say that the weather’s been strange these past few years, but there’s no scientific procedure there.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

There is “consensus” the problem is is nobody really asks the people who form that “consensus” what their “consensus” really is. I don’t care how right or wrong science gets this they are just doing the best they can but this is political. That being the case you can bet your bottom dollar that you are highly unlikely to find any real hard science about this that has not been tainted one way or the other through normal outlets. The scientific process is not uncorruptable either, it’s actually vulnerable. It should be a red flag to everyone that there are two extremes fighting it out. On the left “oh my god the sky is falling! Humans are a disease!” ...on the right “meh, we need a warmer planet anyway besides it’s getting colder” The truth is there is no hard consensus this is a new science… a very very complicated one. I worked in environmental monitoring for years where we had networks of all manner of environmental monitors spread out across states. You can pretty well throw out any idea that we even have the capability to determine what amount of warming is human caused. All we have are trends and models that are not very mature. What we do know is that the CO2 increase is ours because of the isotope profile. We need to do something about that but to speak of the extent of the problem we can’t. We don’t have the ability yet. Using global warming as a policy machine is not the best idea. Simply doing the right thing and siding on caution with anything environmental related is.

Rarebear's avatar

Of course not. Just because a large majority of people have an opinion on something, it doesn’t mean that that something is true.

A large majority of people believe in God. That doesn’t mean God exists.


si3tech's avatar

@trolltoll No, it does not mean that consensus means nothing. Lots of room for consensus in many areas. Good question. Many people admitted to having falsified their figures. I believe it is a gigantic fraud to further rip off the tax payers. Along with numerous other frauds currently being perpetrated on tax payers. (IMHO)

Kropotkin's avatar

@si3tech ” Many people admitted to having falsified their figures.”

Name even one.

ibstubro's avatar

Honestly, I don’t really care if mankind is responsible for global warming.

It’s past time that we concede our war with nature and start the peace process. If not global warming, the slash-and-burn approach was sure to eventually cause something else equally dire (or worse).

si3tech's avatar

@kropotkin Both NASA and NOAA admitted they falsified data. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@si3tech Okay show me the data that was falsified.

dxs's avatar

@ibstubro Amen, I think. (slash and burn?) We should respect nature either way.

cazzie's avatar

What the heck are they telling you in America?

trolltoll's avatar

@Rarebear “Of course not. Just because a large majority of people have an opinion on something, it doesn’t mean that that something is true”

Not a large majority of people. A large majority of experts on the subject of climate change. There is a fundamental difference.

cazzie's avatar

People who confuse facts with opinion aren’t reading the scientific papers correctly.

Rarebear's avatar

@trolltoll It doesn’t matter. In my field (medicine), there is often a situation where a “large majority of experts” agree on something and they turn out to be completely and utterly wrong. The data is the data. If the data is good, then you trust the data.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the experts and global warming is a real and present danger. But the fact that the experts agree on the evidence is not evidence in itself—which, I believe, is what you were asking.

trolltoll's avatar

@trolltoll but for someone who doesn’t know how to interpret the data, (i.e. most people) can’t the scientific consensus act as a proxy?

Rarebear's avatar

@trolltoll I think you meant to tag me, not yourself, but the answer to your question is yes, of course. I’m a doctor, not a climate scientist (heh), so I have to trust their interpretation of the data. But just because they agree on the data is not data itself. Am I making my point of view clear?

Oh, I’ll just add that I do that in medicine too. I know a lot about ICU medicine—my knowledge is reasonably encyclopedic. But I don’t know crap about, say, oncology. So if someone asks me a cancer question I know just about as much as they do; often less since they have read about it and I haven’t. So I have to trust the experts there.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@trolltoll People throw around “consensus” without defining what it is. It’s a cheap way to end real conversation about climate. I personally don’t think there is a real hard consensus about our role except for “we are probably causing some harm” One of the biggest problems with climate science that I can see myself is that the people creating the data trends and models don’t have the foggiest clue how their raw data is really generated. One thing I understand really well and have made a good living with is sensors and data acquisition. Much of it is actually used in climate science, some of the data likely made it’s way into some of these climate predictions. I guarantee you that the folks using the data don’t have a clue about the accuracy, precision, resolution or circumstantial caveats of the measurements they are using unless they limit the data they are using…which is well, limiting. That’s just one problem. There is soooo much that goes into this that any individual “climate scientist” cannot grasp all of the details. Getting this right is probably the hardest job in the world, literally. I would love to have this job too With so much going into these models and trends where the smallest perturbations can cause massive differences in outcome it’s no wonder that the models generally fail to predict what happens. Physical observation is the best thing we have, really the only thing we have. Where I think we actually have that consensus is that the observations are showing a warming trend and the actual CO2 measurements are showing a man-made increase. Nothing really beyond those two things though. That is alarming enough for me but we don’t have true consensus about what that means for the future. It’s a moot point too like @ibstubro mentioned. What difference does it make if it is our fault or not when we don’t do anything. If we don’t become a little more harmonious with mother nature she’ll kill most of us one way or another be it climate or something else anyway. We just need to manage our resources and habitat better. Eventually I actually do think we’ll be able to model climate reliably, we are still learning though. This is in no way an established and squeaky clean science yet, it’s actually kind of a mess.

Kropotkin's avatar

@si3tech I know what you think you’re referring to. Unfortuntely, you’ve no idea what you’re talking about, and you’ve run along with the tropes and falsehoods of various denialist and right-wing blogs and publications.

What NOAA and NASA do is regularly callibrate and adjust data for perfectly banal and benign reasons. Things like deterioration of monitoring equipment, and in the case of satellite data—orbital decay.

Now, if you can actually present a specific case of fraud or manipulation by even one scientist that passed peer-review—I am very interested to see what you can come up with.

si3tech's avatar

@Kropotkin I defer to your superior knowledge since I “have no idea what I am talking about”.

cazzie's avatar

There is a really good example of a political piece and NOT a scientific paper.

Why does the government where I live understand and believe climate change due to CO2 levels as well, then? I live in a country that completely depends on oil for its way of life, yet, they don’t write and propagate articles like the one linked above. Twisted, arrogant, ignorant to argue about facts, but I guess people like to let their flag and their ignorance fly in good ol’ USA.

Kropotkin's avatar

@si3tech Indeed, it is apropos. It’s exactly the sort of manipulative piece of disininformation I referred to earlier.

I find it ironic that it refers to “manipulation of human emotions” and talks about climate science as if it were some sort of nefarious campaign to deceive people. The projection is as breathtaking as it is ironic.

Here’s an idea for you. Try looking at the actual science and learning a little about the pretty simple physics that fundamentally underpins climate change. And stop with badly written blogs, third-rate opinion pieces, and denialist publications.

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