To put it bluntly, climate science has become less about understanding the complexities of the world and more about serving as a kind of Cassandra, urgently warning the public about the dangers of climate change. However understandable this instinct may be, it distorts a great deal of climate science research, misinforms the public, and most importantly, makes practical solutions more difficult to achieve.
Here’s what I discovered: Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The results from many different climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations. In short, the science is insufficient to make useful predictions about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.
In the seven years since that workshop, I watched with dismay as the public discussions of climate and energy became increasingly distant from the science. Phrases like “climate emergency,” “climate crisis” and “climate disaster” are now routinely bandied about to support sweeping policy proposals to “fight climate change” with government interventions and subsidies.