Declaring the Science Complete Before It Was Even Started

Many of us who hear the frequent phrase "the science is settled" understand that no such thing is true.  We barely understand much, if anything, about climate.  We have been studying it seriously, with modern tools like sattelites and historical proxies, for perhaps 30 years.  From a historical perspective, no system as complex as science was cracked by man in as little as 30 years, but it is not unusual that people try to declare that the debate is over (The phlogiston theory of combustion is settled science!)

However, I found this article by Richard Lindzen in 1992 particularly fascinating.  I don’t think any serious climate scientist today would say that we really understood much about climate in 1989.  But that didn’t stop folks from calling it settled:

By early 1989, however, the popular media in Europe and the United States were declaring that "all scientists” agreed that warming was real and catastrophic in its potential.

In the meantime, the global warming circus was in full swing. Meetings were going on nonstop. One of the more striking of those meetings was hosted in the summer of 1989 by Robert Redford at his ranch in Sundance, Utah. Redford proclaimed that it was time to stop research and begin acting. I suppose that that was a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make, but it is also indicative of the overall attitude toward science. Barbara Streisand personally undertook to support the research of Michael Oppenheimer at the Environmental Defense Fund, although he is primarily an advocate and not a climatologist. Meryl Streep made an appeal on public television to stop warming. A bill was even prepared to guarantee Americans a stable climate.

Hat tip to Tom Nelson who is doing as good a job as any skeptic site of providing links to interesting articles every day.  I hope he can keep up his early blistering pace.

  • OzJuggler

    “no system as complex as science was cracked”

    Just a typo, I’m sure you must mean:
    “no system as complex as global climate was cracked”