I suppose a temperature-related word is best to describe the climate change debate.
It is frozen.
Skeptics focus on one set of measurements and evaluations, the Konsensus on another and in the middle are the climate scientists. Where skeptics look at a decline in storm frequency and intensity, the Konsensus focuses on increasing heat waves and the number of floods. The scientists try to point out to both sides that there are alternative measurements that cast current interpretations into doubt, but nobody listens.
Current warm temperatures in the northern hemisphere are either the resumption of warming and the end of the pause–or summer in an El Nino year. And scientists who say it could be either, both or neither are not heard.
Increases in agricultural productivity and decreases in human mortality are either proof positive of the error of the Konsensus or the last dying gasp of technological innovation before the Fall.
Every measurement becomes a Rorschach test, where what you glean from data is predetermined by the policy you favor.
The President of the United States is a diabolical schemer who has unleashed the EPA upon his country, determined to take us back to firewood and whale oil–or he’s a climate change denier, too cowardly to take the steps needed to save our planet.
We know our historical climate records must be adjusted as new information about the past is digitized or revealed, yet we don’t trust the adjustments. New proxies come along to show warmer temperatures in Greenland in years when it was not supposed to be warm there and others that reinforce the conventional assumption that the current warming is dramatic, if not unprecedented and we don’t trust them either.
Konsensus atheists praise the Pope because he favors immediate and large-scale action to combat climate change, and Catholic skeptics mourn his encyclical. We now choose our heroes and heroines not based on their accomplishments or clarity of thought, but on their affiliations.
Past actions associated with either tribe condemn advocates to be summarily pigeon-holed, as politics offers nothing like the mercy available to science, where new data can prove you wrong without rebuke.
This Lukewarmer still leans towards the consensus on science and (some of) the skeptics on policy. The Konsensus has changed what the consensus has said–when temperatures stalled, they denied it and then came up with a thousand explanations of what they had denied. When observation-based measurements provided lower values for atmospheric sensitivity they began to focus on Xtreme Weather events that became a tautological proof of their assumptions.
The Konsensus continues to focus on outlier prognostications to fuel their love of fear, now embodied in RCP 8.5, previously in SRES that exaggerated population numbers, climate refugees and costs related to climate change, while ignoring the potential of technology to aid in mitigation and adaptation.
Skeptics have their own flaws and my sympathy for them doesn’t obscure them. They are dogmatic. They are too often wrong about important things. They have taken the misbehavior of some scientists and turned it into a blanket condemnation of a field of study that has the potential to make this world a better place through an improved understanding of the forces that shape our climate.
Perhaps this is just the summer silly season. Perhaps this is just a pause in between bouts of more reasonable conversation.
Perhaps August will bring the end of winter.
One can hope.