How the dissenting scientists should be treated depends on the answer to a basic question. Are they engaging in honest science? Or are they engaging in a political campaign hidden behind a sham of science?
Difficult question to answer and we should apply the principal of innocent until proven guilty.
For myself, having followed climate science and the debate around climate science for quite a few years, including such things as contrasting how the statements made and positions taken by the 'dissenting scientists' differ significantly depending on the venue and target audience, I have come to the conclusion that very few of the dissenting voices are honest. They may be contrarians, delusional or mendacious, they may even being paid to say what they do - they certainly seem to be highly linked together through a network of think-tanks and advocacy groups around the world. To be honest, I have seen very few examples of honest skepticism.
For example, Richard Lindzen has testified before Congress that water vapour is 95% of the GH Effect. But even the most cursory examination of the Earth's IR Spectrum as observed from space by satellites shows a major section of that spectrum altered substantially by CO2. Lindzen is a Professor of Atmospheric Physics so understanding what that spectrum means is at the very heart of his discipline. So for him to get something this wrong, under oath, means that he is either incompetent, senile, or one of the other descriptions i gave above applies. Take your pick.
http://www.realclimate.org is also a fairly technical but interesting blog run by some of thew major climate scientists. Read back through the articles and comments. Also lots of links to published scientific papers.
Try also http://www.skepticalscience.com which is better for a middle of the road technical level discussion of the science, again linking to the published papers.
Personal declaration. I am an occassional contributing author to http://www.skepticalscience.com and a part of it's author community.
@Charles: While there is certainly disagreement, very little of it seems to be "respectful disagreement." The people who signed the Wall Street Journal editorial accuse those who disagree with them of being the equivalent of Stalinists, and strongly imply that scientists who believe in anthropogenic global warming are probably motivated by greed. I don't see why this is morally any better than what their opponents say about them. (In fact, it's basically the same thing their opponents say about them, except maybe substitute "flat earthers" for "Stalinists"). They are certainly entitled to their opinion -- but it's not as though they are behaving in a high-minded and scientifically objective way, while their opponents are not. The editorial was full of inflamatory language, and to expect that it wouldn't provoke an equally inflamatory response would be unrealistic.
OtherThoughts: Should I assume you are in agreement with those who say that these scientists should be "laughed at and scorned?" Do you believe that the concerns about dithering are greater than the concerns over respectful disagreement in science?
I don't see anything that we do as sustainable. Too many people using finite and dwindling resources at the expense of non human animals and human poor. I was always hoping that rational people, as I thought engineers were, would find the solutions that we need. But no. Too many people are quite happy to delude themselves through their beliefs that we don't have to do anything when we are facing catastrophe.
I suppose when the costs are borne by others, and one's personal economics discounts those one doesn't value, there's no impetus to act well or be rational. Global warming is but one consequence of our behavior that few have had to deal with, with the exception of those caught in extreme weather events and changing weather patterns.
Yes, I think you've hit the nail on the read about what is happening and why. It's only bevcause of a longtime interest in this area that I have actually read a good number of papers on the mechanisms behind the warming we are seeing, and it's clear from that that there is no doubt over the broad mechanisms, only an ongoing resolution of the finer granarities.
As an engineer with a spouse in conservation biology, I've also had the opportunity to read quite a few papers on the outcomes side, from which I can say with equal confidence that species are shifting in precisely the ways you'd expect given the above mechanisms.
The ridiculous amounts of attention paid to such skeptics, and its effects on the legislative process, are indeed painful to watch. We need to move much faster than we have been!
Good post. The problem as you've stated is is the current state of the United States in general. I am truly amazed at the sad state of the engineering community in which the "skeptics" don't appear to have actually read the source research papers but have relied instead on "skeptics" that I can only guess are aligned with their ideological slant. And, what is additionally amazing is the lack of understanding of fundamental climatological issues, which indicates that absolutely no effort was made to learn!
I really shouldn't be surprised that the political divisions seen in society in general are active within engineering to this extent, but I am.
Have you ever noticed that when "distinguished scientists" decide to weigh in on climate science, they are usually not scientists in that field? Look at your own list to see what I mean. I see physicis (Cohen, Happer, Shaviv), genetics and metabolism (Breslow), technology (Kelly), spacecraft affiliations (Rutan, Schmitt), engineers (Armstrong, David). Given the narrow focus of scientific training these days, it makes little sense to consider their "opinions" about atmospheric trends and modelling to hold any more weight than that of any other person - which is to say, they can just as easily be swayed by the natural tendencies to want to find reasons not to need to make lifestyle changes as the rest of us.
Now look at who you have left: 1) Claude Allegre. From wikipedia: "In 2010, more than 500 French researchers asked Science Minister Valérie Pécresse to dismiss Allègre's book L'imposture climatique, claiming the book is "full of factual mistakes, distortions of data, and plain lies"."
2) William Kininmonth. Recently presented his ideas at an Exxon-sponsored conference...
...and on and on (search out the rest if you like). 7 of the 13 have been funded directly by the fossil fuel industry. Only 4 have ever had a peer-reviewed paper published in the field of question, and only two of those have published in the past three decades. Hardly a group of experts in the field, and not even untainted at that.
But by your posting of this "Global Warming: Are the Skeptics Right?" article from the perspective of 'shouldn't we listen to these well-resopected researchers', you're giving them and the fossil fuel industry exactly what they are looking for - just enough doubt and (manufactured) clout to avoid making any progress towards the collective needs we have for a stable climate, as any such progress would put a dent in fossil fuel industry profits. I would strongly recommend digging into your research before offering these folks such a lofty platform next time.
And when is the endless dithering enough, anyhow? You can see how eagerly the comments section gets filled with armchair climatologists proving for all the world that global warming is or is not real. But in the journals where science as opposed to opinion is what is on display, there is no such debate. It's time the rest of us took note of that and pushed for the type of action that is required, before it is too late (or too costly) to have an effect.
Misinformers realise that turnover from natural sources is large in relation to anthropogenic sources. However, nearly all of the net addition is man-made as evidenced from the inexorably increasing CO2 concentrations year after year as well as the isotopic analysis which betrays its true source, fossil fuel.
They have compiled a small armoury of these myths to con the unwary, at least 173 at the last count!
Google "carbon cycle" for the requested "diagram that lists all CO2 sources by percentage, as well as all of the CO2 consumers by percentage, along with yearly overall flow rate between the two processes". There are, however, many more than two processes involved.
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