11 December 2009
Climate Change: what would change my mind?

I hate arguments.  Especially political ones.  They almost invariably end up in a slanging match.  Lots of heat and very little light.  Which is why, when I get the opportunity - which is becoming increasingly rare these days - I like to ask the question: “What would change your mind?”  Because it gets to the point.  If the guy I am arguing with can come up with some reasonably plausible answer to this then I know he’s being rational.  If not then it’s a religious belief and there’s no point in continuing.

However, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  If I demand rationality in everybody else then I have to demand it of myself.

So, let’s try it out.  What would change my mind when it comes to Climate Change? 

What is my mind for that matter? 

I think I am neutral.  I really have no idea whether climate change is happening or not, if it is whether it is caused by man or not or even if it’s a bad thing.  And I have no real way of finding out.  I don’t know enough about the physics, the measurements, the models or the statistics.

I am not, however, neutral on the politics.  The idea that state violence - for that is what it is being proposed - is going to succeed here when it has failed everywhere else, is absurd.

And the fact that I have such a downer on state violence tends to colour my opinions on the science.  Most of that - at least the warmist stuff - is funded by the government.  So I have two problems.  First, that it’s not independent (just imagine what would happen to their funding if they came out saying that everything is just fine).  Second, that it’s done by the state (effectively) so it probably isn’t being done very well - something that the Harry_Read_Me.txt file would appear to confirm.  [Hmm, climate science: the Austin Allegro of our age.  Heh!]

So, there are almost no circumstances in which I would believe the output of government scientists, statisticians and modellers.  However, if it were being done by people with no particular axe to grind and little or no political or profit motive then that would be a different story.  If Steve Macintyre or this guy going through the code or, possibly, Bishop Hill came out and said: “I think it’s happening.” then I might well start to change my opinion.

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  1. Presumably actual catastrophic global warming would change your mind?

    But come to think of it, not necessarily.  Maybe the catastrophic warming would perhaps be being caused by something else, not CO2, and there would still be room for fierce debate, while we all fried.

    I recently read that CO2 causes heat to bounce off or leave the atmosphere, or something.  So maybe catastrophic global warming will happen, but will be caused by the attempts now being made to prevent it.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 13 December 2009 at 06:13pm

  2. You asked me this once and I didn’t give you a very good answer, so I’ll have another go.

    I want to see some science done that Popper would approve of.  I’ll believe anyone who can make predictions with an accuracy significantly better than chance.

    But in order to trust that it isn’t all just made up (anyone can claim they predicted the past, or fiddle the measurements to match their predictions), I want to see your source code and know that I could run it on my own computer and see the same predictions and verify them myself.

    Posted by Rob Fisher on 17 December 2009 at 02:29pm

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