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The Collapse of Climate Policy and the Sustainability of Climate Science February 8, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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The Collapse of Climate Policy and the Sustainability of Climate Science

Roger Pielke Jr

Roger Pielke Jr

By Roger Pielke Jr., Prometheus

The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon. The collapse is not due to the cold winter in places you may live or see on the news. It is not due to years without an increase in global temperature. It is not due to the overturning of the scientific consensus on the role of human activity in the global climate system.

It is due to the fact that policy makers and their political advisors (some trained as scientists) can no longer avoid the reality that targets for stabilization such as 450 ppm (or even less realistic targets) are simply not achievable with the approach to climate change that has been at the focus of policy for over a decade. Policies that are obviously fictional and fantasy are frequently subject to a rapid collapse.

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The current shrillness that has been observed by many politically-active climate scientists and the feeding-frenzy among their skeptical political opposition can be explained as a result of this looming collapse, though many will confuse the shrillness and feeding-frenzy as a cause of the collapse. Let me explain.
If you think that the current consensus on climate politics rests on a foundation called the scientific consensus, you might see signs of weakening in the political consensus as prima facie evidence that the scientific consensus must be itself weakening, or if you�d prefer, that people are making it look to be weakening, regardless of the reality. Thus, like the apocryphal Hans Brinker (pictured above), the politically active climate scientists are actively trying to plug holes in the dike, as the skeptics try to poke more holes. The climate scientists (and their willing allies) have taken their battle to the arenas of politics, waging a scorched earth campaign of bullying, name calling, threats, and obnoxiously absurd appeals to authority. The skeptics participate in similar fashion, and the result is an all out brawl that we see escalating still before our eyes. The skeptics think they are unraveling a mythical scientific consensus imposed by an evil elite, while the climate scientists think they are waging an all out battle of righteousness against know-nothing hordes. They are both wrong.

Climate politics is collapsing because of political realities, and not real or perceived changes in how people see the science. As I have often argued, in the ongoing battle between climate scientists and skeptics there will be disproportionate carnage, because the climate scientists have so much more to lose, and not just as individuals, but also for the broader field, which includes many people simply on the sidelines.

The collapse of the political consensus surrounding climate could well be an opportunity to recast decarbonization of the global economy and adaptation to climate impacts in a manner that is much more consistent with progress toward policy goals. If climate science can be saved from itself, that would be a bonus. However, for climate science I fully expect things to get worse before they get better, simply because the most vocal, politically active climate scientists have shown no skill at operating in the political arena. The skeptics could not wish for a more convenient set of opponents. Read more here.

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