25 June 2010

Levi Gets the Last Word on PNAS

Writing at Slate, Michael Levi cogently summarizes the broader issues associated with the PNAS paper.
The evidence that we are running dangerous risks with the climate is overwhelming. In their zeal to convince the public of this fact, environmental advocates sometimes hype sensational studies and predictions that rest on weak or ambiguous logic. Every time they do, their opponents have a field day.

This week the greens have played right into that trap. . . .

he paper, entitled "Expert credibility in climate change," was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Within hours, a host of progressive and environmentalist groups were loudly touting its conclusions, and sympathetic articles appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, and Time. On Wednesday morning, the White House drove the message home with an official tweet: "Scientists agree on climate change...the few that don't? not cream of crop." . . .

All of this would be academic quibbling if it wasn't so consequential. The authors of the paper are right that the world is running dangerous risks with the climate system. They are right to be angry at those who claim that climate change is a hoax, and at those in the media who give them a platform to confuse the public. But the way to confront those skeptics is to show that they're wrong—as many dedicated climate scientists have done, again and again. Hyping this paper, instead, simply reinforces the dangerous perception that climate activists will credulously push any news that might further their case. For those who care about this issue, that's tragic.
What is more damaging to efforts to implement policies to accelerate decarbonization of the global economy, climate skeptics, or the clumsy efforts to delegitimze them?

Levi is right on the mark when he writes:
. . . the advocates have used bad social science to show that the science of climate change is sound.
And that is a fitting last word on PNAS, at least for this blog. But feel free to continue the discussion in the comments if you'd like. I'm returning to more important topics, like energy policy and soccer ;-)