Where\'s The Debate?

A long time ago Science to me was this great place. A land (so to speak), of great intellect, of stimulating ideas, and developing technologies. A place where ideas were tried and tested, concepts and creatures were discovered, and every interpretation of data, whether it be from scientific observation or experimentation, was thoroughly scrutinized and rigorously debated.

Of course this is a fairly idealized view of science, there is plenty of un-stimulating, and uninteresting science out there, regardless debate is something I have always considered to be necessary in science. The more complex the phenomenon being observed, the greater the necessity of debate and the more credible debate (as in debate by scientists/experts in the field with knowledge of the subject in question) there should be regarding the different aspects of that phenomenon.

Consider the climate of Earth. It is a huge, complex, dynamic system. Predicting, for example, a day in advance what the result will be of a given weather front on a given geographic area, or even what areas will be impacted (i.e. change in temperature, or precipitation) is not something we can do with great accuracy. The further away the front or weather event is, the less precise our predictions tend to be.

I realize climate change is not the same thing as day to day weather, but it is a significant part of the same system. The same dynamic system that often gives us unpredicted rain, and unexpected sunshine.

Tell me then that there is going to be a system-wide change in earth's climate. The physical cause of this change is X. The physical result will be Y, that result will necessarily be a disaster, and there is no credible debate disputing any of these claims.

I have heard this again and again as of late. Most notably on an Abcnews special about a month back in which 4 different experts, including Mr. Al Gore, insisted that there was no credible debate disputing that global warming was human-caused, and would bring about world-wide disaster. They also likened dissenting scientists and pundits to the tobacco executives who claimed they did not believe nicotine was addictive. This was presented in a special on the top 7 phenomenon that could destroy the planet.

Personally when I hear there is no "credible debate," on global warming I do not hear a call to action, in spite of the obvious attempts to make it such. I hear a failure, a huge indictment of our world's scientific communities. I know you cannot put the earth into a controlled laboratory, and we cannot accurately simulate all the factors impacting our climate in a computer (this is in part because we don't actually know what all those factors are).

So where is the debate? Where is the honest disagreement, the dissenting views, and the divergent interpretations of data? Have we become masters in understanding the dynamics of our own planetary climate, thus making such debate unnecessary? Or is it more likely that this issue has evolved into something not like science at all?

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