A remarkable bit of science policy ignorance

Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute has clearly not thought terribly hard about the use of science in supporting policy decisions. If he had, he would not have said this (the subject is climate science, but you can substitute anything you want here):

The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Because if he had thought about this, he would have realized that he is arguing here that no science can ever be used in any public policy decision, because, you know, if serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then they can question X, where X is any science at all.


  1. You seem to be the one saying “no science can ever be used in any public policy decision” if the debate isn’t closed. All he is saying is that it is hubris to claim the debate on something of the complexity of the climate is closed.

    The physicists don’t feel a need to run around claiming the debate on relativity is closed, of course it was already a patched up affair with inflation, dark energy and dark matter holding it together. The next patch may be “c” is the speed of neutrinos, 300,007 km/s.

    Of course, with no model independent evidence that climate sensitivity to CO2 forcing in the current climate regime is in the range of the climate models, and with correlated bias in the climate models, larger than the less than 0.8 W/m^2 energy imbalance (globally and annually averaged), climate science is far from settled.

    Since the direct effects of CO2 can only explain about a third of the recent warming, and would be less than natural variation over the next century, the key scientific area to watch is whether the net feedback to CO2 forcing is positive or negative, or more specifically strongly positive as implemented in the models. What model independent evidence there is, indicates that the net feedback may be negative, which would put climate sensitivity at less than 1 degree C.

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