Saturday, September 3, 2011

Economics as science in the climate change discussion

I've been studying the variety of skeptical arguments people use when arguing against the evidence and theory behind anthropological climate change. This has led over the last several months to a summary study of economics and economic philosophy and even political philosophy. This effort has given me an opportunity to fill my bookshelves with interesting and new (to me at least) books and subscribe to a new group of podcasts expanding the horizon for me again. Fun stuff.

I haven't gone through the effort of categorizing all the skeptical arguments like the work done at Skeptical Science. There is no need for duplication and they do a fine job. What I have been working at is grouping the arguments into broad families and looking at how they approach the scholarly divisions between climate science, economics, and politics. I'm beginning to understand that some people object to the political consequences of a remedial policy and fight against any of the supporting arguments for the policy. That means a political objection could turn into a science skepticism even though there is no other connection between them than the fact that a science projection is used to advocate the policy.

I'm doing this because of a discussion I've had with friends that the science is in decent shape and offers good support for the conclusion that humanity is responsible for the most recent warming of the Earth. There is enough good science done to conclude that the correlation between recent human economic output and recent warming is actually a causation. This discussion has led to descriptions of what science actually is (Popper, Kuhn, etc) as distinguished from the dogma that is taught by most teachers who focus upon what science has learned. That finally led me to read F. A. Hayek and see the political distinctions he and others draw between classical liberalism, modern liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism (in a number of forms) and so on. The last 18 months or so has been a journey for me and I've met many people and heard many opinions along the way.

I don't know that shining a light on the groupings of skeptical arguments will make much of a difference, but it has been an interesting effort for me. I will generally argue that a climate skeptic should attack the thing they actually dislike, but since policy advocacy is about winning a negotiation position by forming a large voter block and not about being academically correct I'm probably urging a political impossibility. Democracy is what it is, after all.

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