One of my arguments against Chris Mooney’s thesis (“The Republican War on Science“) is that all disputants in scientized political debates cherrypick. Chris has argued from the specific – Well-documented examples in which conservatives have done this. – to the general – The problem is that conservatives do this.
My view is that we have a different problem to cope with: the fact that both sides in most interesting science-politics-policy debates do this, and we’ve got to call bullshit on it wherever it happens. With that in mind, I’ll call bullshit on this:
Oceans worldwide are projected to rise as much as three feet this century, and much higher if the Greenland ice sheet melts away. (emphasis added)
It’s from an op-ed in the Washington Post by Mike Tidwell of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous grassroots action in the fight to stop global warming and promote a clean energy future.”
People who want to do what Tidwell is advocating – use climate change science as a basis for energy policy action – can, if they are careful, speak from the high ground, basing their call to action on a strong scientific consensus on climate science. But as soon as they cherry-pick science that goes beyond the consensus, they are implicitly justifying all such cherry-picking, and we devolve into a he-said she-said argument with the Roy Spencers of the world.
So what’s the best available consensus statement on the subject of sea level rise? From the IPCC:
Global mean sea level is projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 metres between 1990 and 2100.
As you can see, Tidwell has picked the most extreme sea level rise scenario identified by the IPCC (“.88 meters” ~ 3 feet). This is epistemologically identical to picking the other end of the IPCC range and arguing that sea level rise will be negligible and can therefore be ignored. Sea level rise is a significant issue, and it’s important to incorporate the best available science in underpinning the discussion, including a recognition of the genuine uncertainties. As soon as Tidwell picks an outlier on one extreme, he sanctions his political opponents’ choice of the opposite, and gridlock is ensured.
(Hat tip Roger Pielke Jr. for the link, with a lot more interesting discussion there.)