While this week’s Senate Climate Action Task Force all-night marathon may seem like the ultimate comedy, real climate scientists are crying over the event. It’s not just because of the numerous basic science mistakes made by the senators.
Scientists are also concerned that most of the media and public will fail to realize that many of the senators’ absolute assertions are simply science fiction.
The senators repeatedly argued that the science of climate change is “settled.” Scientists supposedly know with certainty that our carbon-dioxide emissions are causing a climate crisis.
There is no further need to investigate the validity of the theory or to consider alternative evidence, the senators asserted. Rather, we must take action to stop the unfolding human-caused climate catastrophe.
Like children frightening each other with ghost stories, senators seemed to be competing for the most alarming forecasts of eco-disaster.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, easily took first place with his warning: “The science proves there is a danger . The planet is running a fever, but there are no emergency rooms for planets.”
Professors Chris Essex of the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph classify this sort of remark as part of the “Doctrine of Certainty” that has ruined the climate debate.
In their book “Taken by Storm,” they explain, “The Doctrine is a collection of now-familiar assertions made about climate, all of which must be accepted without question.”
If one dares question the Doctrine, the reaction from true believers is immediate: You are a denier, an enemy of nature, a pawn of big oil — and you must be silenced.
The senators did not even consider the possibility that, as Mr. Essex and Mr. McKitrick say, “The Doctrine is not true. Each assertion is either manifestly false or the claim to know is false.”
Besides the Democratic senators who took part in Monday night’s event, America’s leading “Doctrine of Certainty” campaigners include former Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and President Obama himself.
Following Mr. Obama’s assertion in January’s State of the Union address that “the debate is settled,” Mr. Kerry told Indonesians last month that the science backing what he called “the greatest threat that the planet has ever seen” is “something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science.”
In reality, trying to unravel the causes and consequences of climate change is arguably the most complex science ever tackled. Mr. Essex and Mr. McKitrick explain: “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”
One of the reasons the Senate Climate Action Task Force can get away with their exaggerations is that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and other national science bodies are not doing their jobs.
Rather than working to help to defeat the anti-science “Doctrine of Certainty” distorting the climate debate, these scientific bodies and others who should know better engage in propaganda, making absolute assertions concerning topics about which we have little knowledge.