Inescapable truths

Inescapable truths via The Economist points to the National Academies of Science and the Royal Society’s position on climate change:

Feb 27th 2014, 15:12 by O.M.
THE National Academies of Science (NAS) and the Royal Society—the elite scientific fellowships of America and Britain, respectively, respectively—
released today a rather handy “Frequently Asked Questions” resource on climate change (

It seems designed to act as a sort of counterbalance to op-ed pieces like this one by Charles Krauthammer ( of the Washington Post, which take aim at “those scientists who pretend to know exactly what [carbon-dioxide emissions] will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years.”

The scientists of Mr Krauthammer’s scorn don’t actually exist: No one pretends to such precision. But no matter, Mr Krauthammer’s real complaint is more general. His target is anyone who believes that “science is settled”—a belief he tries to ascribe to Barack Obama. “There is nothing more anti-scientific,” he says, “than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge.”
This sounds good in a Popperian way ( ; but it is not really true. While science is more unsettled than some feel comfortable admitting, it nevertheless depends on some things being settled irrevocably. The earth has a crust, a mantle and a core. Plants photosynthesise. Air is made of molecules. All these things were once not known and are now accepted as fundamental. And it was in among such fundamentals that the president put climate
change when he said during his state-of-the-union speech that “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”

This view is confirmed by the authors of the Royal Society/NAS FAQ. “Y es,” they answer the first question on their list. “Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8°C since 1900.” Mr Obama is also joined by the vast majority of climate sceptics, let alone climate scientists. As Matt Ridley, a climate sceptic who was once the science editor of The Economist, and who writes much better op-eds than Mr Krauthammer (
are-right-don’t-scapegoat-them.aspx) , puts it: “No climate change sceptic that I know ‘denies’ climate change, or…