Part 5. No awards and no allowance for willful ignorance
“A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.”
—Bertrand Russell, On the Nature of Acquaintance: Neutral Monism (1914)
Bertrand Russell was a philosopher, a pacifist, anti-Stalinist, anti-Nazi, anti-religious, and anti-Vietnam War. He was also a prisoner of conscience.
In these key cases, more damaging than the misinformation about one scientific issue can be the grave damage to public understanding of the legitimate, constructive roles of science in society. Science and its applied engineering offshoots (along with the labor and entrepreneurial spirit of millions of citizens and the vision of many leaders) are what built America and other modern developed nations. Science and engineering have propelled America and the world into the age of planetary exploration, where planetary climate change (all natural, of course) is one of the driving scientific foci of exploration. The same methods of analysis, but with a far deeper database of observations, are utilized to understand climate change on Earth, where causes in recent decades are clearly both natural and man-made. The man-made component of climate change on our planet is rising above magnitude of the natural oscillations in many parts of the world. If there is one thing that planetary science has taught us, it is that planets have many climate tripwires, many nonlinear forcing-and-response functions, many climate change mechanisms that are a challenge to understand from the past and even more difficult to predict. The ones we know about and understand, when put into physics-based global climate models, are doing a pretty good job replicating the actual recent climate trends; the same models project more rapid and severe climate changes in the future. Empirical models based on climate and CO2 levels of the geologic past suggest that, compared to baseline models presented by the IPCC, far more severe climate change could be in store for us. The heat storage capacity and heat conveyance of the oceans, for example, are loaded with both slow and rapid climate change mechanisms, and the slow ones are apt to cause climate to keep warming for centuries even if we could stop greenhouse gas emissions.