The Australian Environment Foundation had its first conference and AGM last weekend.* There was some discussion on the subject of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
In my talk I suggested that in the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ Al Gore took away the potential for dissent by making global warming a moral issue. I suggested he turned it into an issue of faith.
I quoted Thomas Huxley (a colleague of Charles Darwin) who once wrote something along the lines of “religion is for morality, science is for factuality”.
I went on to suggest that there is no ‘truth’, however inconvenient, that should not be exposed to the blow torch of healthy skepticism and there should be no claim, however morally appealing, that we are not prepared to test against the available evidence.
After my paper there was some discussion about semantics, in particular, David Tribe made comment that it is important to be clear about the distinction between skepticism and being an AGM skeptic.
He made the same point as a comment at another blog post this afternoon:
“This is a good a place as any for me to repeat my view said previously directly to Jen Marohasy that it’s highly important to be clear about semantic distinction between scepticism and being a sceptic on AGW. The later implying you reject well established findings.
I consider that it is part of scientific ethics to always be upfront about the limitation to current data and theories. That is, to know and freely state where certainty and range of precision lie, and to never have to apologise for expecting that, because to fail in doing this do so is professionally unethical.
To demand clearer statements from IPCC about the validity and uncertainty range of their claims is not necessarily to be in disagreement with the validity of parts of their model, but normal ethical practice in science. For example IPCC clearly failed ethically in the hockey stick episode. The computer model has numerous complex assumptions that are empirically unproven.
I note also there is substantial empirical evidence for solar forcing processes whose mechanisms are uncertain. That does not mean I am an AGW sceptic: I want to see those aspects of the IPCC model tested against this recent interesting solar driving hypothesis as it could mean all the CO2 efforts being advocated (Kyoto etc) are completely unnecessary or indeed counter productive.”
Does David make an important point? Most so-called AGW skeptics are not AGW skeptics. They do not deny that C02 causes warming, but rather recognize the limitations of the current data and theories.
In calling us AGW skeptics, are the AGW alarmists suggesting we deny the physics of carbon dioxide based forcing?
So is my recent blog post entitled ‘How to Become a Global Warming Skeptic’ misleading, because while I accepted the label, and encouraged others to nominate for the label, I also explained that I don’t deny global warming or climate change or that increasing levels of carbon dioxide may drive warming.
Should we reject the ‘global warming skeptic’ label? What would George Orwell of said?
* I’ll do a summary of the AEF conference for this blog in due course and link to the conference papers which should be up at the AEF website by the end of the week. In the meantime you can see some of the photos from the conference at
http://www.aefweb.info/display/con2006gallery.html . Some regular contributors to this blog were at the conference including David Tribe and Walter Starck.