[Vision2020] Climate Science: Introduction to Feedbacks: 150 Responses "...exactly the right level for interested laymen."

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Tue Sep 28 12:51:00 PDT 2010

Some people will argue that climate science is too complex and specialized
for an educated layperson to comprehend, so the subject should be left to
those with PhD level knowledge.

Of course, such an argument, when applied broadly, is a major blow to the
democratic principle that an educated public can make informed choices at
the ballot box regarding the positions politicians assume on domestic
economics, education, international politics and war, gender, "race" and
sexual orientation equality, freedom of religion, and so forth; and any
scientific issue that effects the public: stem cell research, genetic
engineering of plants, animals or perhaps human beings, the safety or not of
new IV Gen. fast nuclear reactors, the brain development of a human fetus
regarding how this impacts the ethics of abortion, whether anthropogenic
climate warming has a high probability of being a significant problem in the
future, and so forth.

If a layperson, meaning someone who is well educated but not at the PhD
level on a given issue, cannot conduct an informed broad survey of expert
opinion, to arrive at a rational objective assessment of the likelihood of
there being a consensus view, then perhaps society should be managed by
committees of PHd level experts, not by elected politicians, given many
politicians and the public at large simply cannot comprehend highly
technical problems sufficiently enough to make rational informed
decisions.  Perhaps this argument has some similarities to the argument of
Plato in the "Republic" (
http://faculty.frostburg.edu/phil/forum/PlatoRep.htm : "This rule by
society’s best minds is the core concept of Plato’s so-called “philosopher
kings.” )

Committees composed of PHds in ethics, law, religion, economics,
international politics, military strategy, education, numerous specialized
scientific fields, and so forth, would make the important decisions
governing society for us... Perhaps in some sense this is happening now,
given the US Congress', and the US public's, manipulation by powerful
economic and political interests.

Regardless of the truth of this admittedly thorny question, I assume that,
given the possible planetary altering magnitude of anthropogenic climate
warming, for centuries and potentially millennia, that will profoundly
impact the US, it behoves every citizen, every voter, to educate themselves
as much as possible regarding the climate science involved, because the
problem boils down to whether the science is reliable or not.  Anthropogenic
climate warming is not similar to many other pollution or industrial
development problems, where we can pollute or impact an ecosystem with
future plans to realistically recover the ecosystem.  Once powerful climate
feedbacks begin to accelerate impacting global climate (albedo reduction
from ice loss, ocean warming and carbon sink reversal, etc.) the problem is
likely to be significantly out of humanity's control, unless by extreme and
untested geo-engineering.  There is no compromise or negotiation with the
physics of Earth's climate system.

Regardless of how emotionally politicized this issue has become (rather
irrationally political, it seems), it is fundamentally a scientific
question, that should be resolved first, if possible, before assuming that
strong action is indicated to address the problem, involving economics,
technology, lifestyle and the political arena.

The following scientific presentation on climate feedbacks can perhaps be
understood by an educated layperson:

Introduction to feedbacks

Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
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