Don’t Forget Climate Change: Chapter 10 Garth Paltridge is demoted by the IPA below cat astrology

I’m still slogging my way through a bad book on climate change by a right-wing think tank.

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, Ch6, Section 1, Ch7, Another Aside, Ch8, Ch9, …

Garth Paltridge has an impressive background in atmospheric physics. Indeed, at first sight, it is odd to find his essay in the ‘Economics and Politics’ section of this book rather the science section. The essay starts off sounding like it will be a bit of a science takedown. Yet even the editors of this book felt the science in the essay wasn’t strong enough to contend with the cat-astrology of chapter 6.

Paltridge doesn’t mention ‘paradigm shift’ unlike previous essays and perhaps for good reason. In Khun’s model, these shifts in dominant theories occur partly through generational change – as an old guard who adhere to the previous model gradually retire or move out of positions of authority. Paltridge was an early sceptic of global warming – not that he says that it isn’t happening just that he doesn’t expect it to be very big and he has been saying so since the 1980s at least. He has written his own ’skeptic’ book The Climate Caper: Facts and Fallacies of Global Warming The book has a foreword by Christopher Moncton – who we may talk about more later.

For an essay on his views that covers substantially similar territory (actual probably a better read than the essay in the book) there is a reprint of an article from the Financial Review at Judith Curry’s blog:

“The broad theory of man-made global warming is acceptable in the purely qualitative sense. If humans continue to fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, there can be little doubt that the average temperature of the world will increase above what it would have been otherwise. The argument about the science is, and always has been, whether the increase would be big enough to be noticed among all the other natural variations of climate. The economic and social argument is whether the increase, even if it were noticeable, would change the overall welfare of mankind for the worse.”

In short, Paltridge takes the line that while the fundamental science is correct (which it is) all the other aspects of uncertainty mean we really can’t be sure what is going on and so we just shouldn’t worry about it.

Judith Curry also published a reply to Platridge by Andy Lacis  that is worth reading

“However, none of these uncertainties materially alter the fact that the global temperature continues to rise unabated (with some unforced natural variability superimposed), as the direct result of continued increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Policy makers should take heed to act responsibly and start taking positive steps to curtail the growth in atmospheric greenhouse gases. To not act is to continue playing Russian roulette until climate disaster  eventually hits home.”

Put another way – consider almost any other area of government policy and think whether we have anything like the degree of information that we have with climate change. If you are a conservative and think that tax cuts will boost prosperity, for example, or a leftist advocating deficit spending, you simply do not have anything like the degree of evidential rigour behind your position as there is around climate change policy.

Uncertainty isn’t a good excuse for avoiding an issue.