BattleMoose wrote:Or we could talk about the science behind it in a rational way and leave the politics behind. This seems like a perfectly reasonable and rational thing to do.
The issue is largely its an incredibly complex problem and the science behind it is also complicated and for the most part out of the reach of the average lay person. So people generally listen to and believe pretty much anyone who says things that they would like to believe.
Talking about the science in a rational way is of course what the scientists do, through the scientific literature.
You can also find rational discussions of the science among lay people who accept the science and have an interest in this issue, although there of course some people will tend to be hyperbolic. A good example is Neven's Arctic Sea Ice blog: http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/
The science, I would argue, is like any science: you can begin at a basic level which is not too difficult, and it of course gets more complicated as you go on.
I think it is controversial not because the science is out of reach of the average person -- so is most of medical science, for that matter, but people get on OK with that, for the most part -- but because denial of global warming has become an ideological tentpole and a cultural signifier.
I agree with you that many people set out to confirm the story they already believe, and those lacking a strong science background find it easy to elevate various crackpot theories.
My problem is that I can not find rational debate or research addressing these apparently contradictory findings. To my mind, either:
• The data that Best and others quote is incorrect or has been adjusted to suit requirements,
• The data that Pielke and others quote is incorrect or has been adjusted to suit requirements,
• The IPCC models are incorrect and don’t concur with observational data, or
• The situation is more complex than that, and ‘global temperature’ is an unhelpful indicator of a complex global phenomenon
Let me say one or two little things about this.
* I think you will find it enlightening to read about the various choices and compromises made by the five major global temperature indices: RSS, UAH, NCDC, GISTEMP, and HADCRUT. Particularly the coverage maps. In brief, if you don't cover the poles, where some of the strongest warming trends are, you get a lower trend: http://www.skepticalscience.com/gistemp ... ncool.html
* The time frame you are looking at is too short to really validate/invalidate the models. The last ten years have seen an extremely long and deep solar minimum and a couple of significant La Nina events, which may be the reason that the last few years of temperature data is running a mite cooler than most of the models predicted.
* If you want to talk validation, you should look at the individual models in the papers cited. There aren't really "IPCC models" any more than there are "Google Images photographs." The IPCC does calculate multi-modal averages among a lot of estimates, but that's not a model but more like a democratic compromise -- more Intrade, less fivethirtyeight. But in the end we will find some approaches work better or worse.
* Warming may turn out to be faster or slower the multi-modal projection, but the practical importance of this is questionable. Say on a business-as-usual path we estimate 4-5C of warming this century and 2-3C more by 2300. That's a disaster. What if it were faster? That would of course be a disaster. What if it were only half as fast? (That would be comparable to warming continuing at the rate of the last thirty years with little or no acceleration.) That would leave us with 3-4C over the next few centuries. That would still be a disaster, just a slightly slower one.
Not that it isn't interesting if climate sensitivity turns out to be 2C/doubling instead of 3C or 4C/doubling. It's very interesting and very important. It's just not particularly relevant to whether it is safe to burn fossil fuels in the way we have since the start of the Industrial Revolution. So it's perfectly possible that "the models are wrong" (more correctly, that the multi-modal average of the modals is wrong) and we will have more or less warming than predicted. But it doesn't change the overall reality that burning fossil fuels in the way we have up to now will result in disaster. That conclusion is robust to a wide range of climate sensitivities.
"Reasonable – that is, human – men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life."
-- Alan Watts, "The Way of Zen"