The Little Pictures in the Big Picture
In part to give my credulous environmentalist friends a reason for their daily exclamations about our lack of credibility and in part because it relates to points that I’ve made before about the construction of consensus on global warming, I thought I’d quote from a story in National Review about the two most prominent climate change skeptics, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick:
McKitrick is not particularly worried about being on the minority side in the global-warming debate. For one thing, he says, he has “the privilege of being a tenured professor at a university.” And, as an economist, he has other fish to fry than global warming. But also, is his side really the minority one? McKitrick says that there are plenty of scientists and other well-informed people who are skeptical of the big IPCC claims. “I’m convinced that the numbers on our side, and the credentials on our side, are just as impressive as on the other side.” The problem is that the global-warming red-hots have the funding, the influence, and the media. They also tend to be in control of the professional societies and journals. They can claim to represent thousands and thousands of scientists. But are their pronouncements ever put to a vote of those multitudes of scientists? McKitrick makes a further point: Many scientists, in many disciplines or subdisciplines, have a finger in the climate-change pie. They tend to say, “In my own particular field”–be it sea ice or solar physics or what have you–“I don’t really see evidence for global warming. But I of course accept the consensus view.” This calls to mind one of (Robert) Conquest’s Laws: “Everyone is a conservative in his own field of expertise.”
However far one’s willing to sympathize with the skeptics, it is at least reasonable to suggest that the alarmists make claims that none of their specialized supporters can verify on their own. In other words, their claims filter a broad array of information through a relatively narrow (and politically manipulable) funnel.