This is not a science blog. I am not a scientist. Although I have an undergraduate degree in science, I do not do “science” nor do I claim any scientific expertise or in-depth knowledge.
Instead, this blog is about about science — discussing and exploring the war over the science being waged by those hoping to influence public policy. At times, I take a critical stance towards the climate wars, and at other times I employ sarcasm and humour.
I feel more like a war correspondent, if I can lay claim to that venerable profession without any training. I am not a journalist trying to provide an objective “fair and balanced” account of the war. I am a partisan who is writing a personal chronicle of my observations about the climate wars, and I invite others to offer their own observations and conclusions.
I claim that climate science is an inconvenient science. Its findings suggest that if we don’t want to disrupt our climate, we have to change one of the most central parts of our civilization — the form of energy we use to power our technology. Fossil fuels have been the engine of our amazing economic development and growth, but the best science tells us that if we don’t limit our emissions of CO2 soon, we face climate disruption with unknown consequences.
The best science also challenges the political institutions of which we are familiar — the nation state with its simultaneous political independence and economic and environmental interdependence for climate crosses these abstract borders and affects us all. Addressing climate change, if we choose to do so, will demand we act in ways that may not be natural to this political reality in which we live. This inconvenient science presents us with evidence of considerable threat if we do not act, and that evidence suggests that we need to respond to the threat it describes, but it doesn’t tell us how to respond. That is for politics. The responses proposed by political partisans tend to fall along political lines. Those on the left advocate government intervention in the market while those on the right advocate letting the “free” market decide how best to respond.
I am trained in social research methods and analysis. After finishing my BSc I did an Honours BA and then an MA and am ABD PhD in social science. I’ve studied political science, sociology, social history, psychology and economics. Although I started out in science, I developed an unquenchable interest in humans, our societies and history and so that is where my graduate work focused. I don’t claim to be fully up to speed with the science in climate science as it is beyond most of the science I took as an undergrad. Despite taking courses in graduate statistics, I can’t judge the value of certain statistical methods for analyzing tree rings, or judge the worth of climate models, or draw conclusions about the soundness of derivations of climate sensitivity as most of my own research has been qualitative, hermeneutical, historical and has only used simple statistical methods.
Like Joe and Jane Public, I have to rely on the scientific experts to have it right, or as close to right as can be expected at this time. I have to trust the scientific method and peer review system to have come to the best possible conclusion about the science. It may be incomplete, it may be wrong about some things, but as a layperson, I have no real other choice but to trust the consensus science and peer-reviewed science — unless I want to go back to university and get a PhD in some related field so that I can judge myself.
I’ve read many papers since I stumbled onto the climate wars — all the main papers in the hockey stick controversy, papers on dendroclimatology, some on sea ice, polar bears, even a few on the sun’s role in climate change. I’ve read peer-reviewed science and blog science, skeptic papers and consensus science papers. I’ve read climate change journalist pieces, congressional reports and watched videos of climate change hearings. Almost 4 years in and I am still in no position to evaluate the literature as a peer, since I am not one. So until the peer reviewed literature changes, until the consensus changes, trusting the mainstream peer reviewed consensus view of climate science is really my only option as a layperson.
To some, taking this position goes against their grain. They want to know for themselves that the equations work or that the methods are appropriate or that the conclusions are valid. That’s fine — but only for a limited group of people with adequate background or time to get it. For the rest of us, it’s either trust the consensus science and peer review system, or fall into cynicism.
The only real options that I and the lay public has are political ones. How do our societies, both as individual nations and as a world community, most effectively respond to what the best science tells us is happening and may happen? At some point, I do hope to discuss policy options, but despite being a policy analyst and consultant by profession, climate policy is not my area of expertise. My current work is in health policy and programs although I have also worked as a Senior Researcher in social policy.
I don’t like what I see happening to science in this current war. I believe that people are so cynical and self-interested that they are willing to sacrifice science on the altar of financial gain or political purity. It does not bode well for our civilization. I am trying to be as honest as I can about what I see going on. Sometimes my posts are pure polemics and sometimes, I may appear dismissive and sarcastic but it is only because sometimes, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. At all times, I try to call ’em as I see ’em.
Note on blog policy: Please moderate yourself so I don’t have to.
Nope. Not really interested any longer in engaging skeptics because it is an epic fail and a waste of time.
Note: The name “The Policy Lass” originated with Kenneth Fritsch over at Climate Audit, who referred to me that way when I used to be a regular “troll”. I liked the name, found it quite amusing since I didn’t actually talk about policy but instead tended to question Steve about his actions. Regardless, the name stuck and so I adopted it.