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How is a layperson to assess climate change?

A layperson is a non-expert who isn't well-versed enough in a topic -- since becoming well-versed requires years of specialized training and thinking -- to be entitled to much of an opinion on a topic.  The layperson has a cognitive need to look to experts as guides.  One thing the layperson can do is to make some meta-level assessment as to the state of the debate among experts.  One can, for instance, seek out persons routinely cited or touted as the leading proponent of a position and then see how the opposition responds to that leading proponent's arguments.

(One area of expertise I have is on Ayn Rand's philosophy.  I've spent over two decades studying these ideas, listening to several Peikoff courses multiple times, getting familiar with much of the secondary literature.  I've published in that literature myself.  I know who the experts are.  Do Rand-bashers engage in a debate of any form or other with the experts?  No, not in the least.  But that hasn't stopped them from boldly opining that Rand isn't worth taking seriously.  I don't take Rand-bashers seriously; they're ignorant fools.)

For instance, let's say one isn't an expert in all the arguments about the existence of God.  One does know that there is disagreement among experts about any number of facets of such a debate.  One should also have at least a minimal awareness that such a debate isn't going to be settled by science or a debate among scientists but among philosophers.  Philosophers don't take naturalism as a settled metaphysical thesis even if a philosophically-illiterate 'New Atheist' typically does.  (See David Bentley Hart's smackdown of these illiterates.  [What, then, to make of self-identifying 'philosopher' A.G. Grayling, one of Hart's targets?])  So 'New Atheists' wouldn't be the experts to seek out for input.

A non-expert in theology or the dialectical state-of-the-art in debate about God-related topics does usually have enough minimal human skill in the art of research to be able to do a bit of search on the topic.  Say that one wants to find a book where two authors debate the subject thoughtfully and indepth, being duly responsive to the other side's arguments.  Well, such a book isn't hard to find.  Say that one goes to goodreads and searches for "god debate."  Lo and behold, at least one significant result appears right near the top of the search results: God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, co-authored by William Lane Craig (longtime well-known pro-God arguer) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, philosophy professor (then) at Dartmouth, an Ivy-League School, and (now) at Duke, a prestigious university.  (It helps even more as a quality-signal that it's published by OUP.)  Going in, a layperson should expect a fruitful discussion at the very least of the issues, challenges, and problems that arise for experts in the debate.  Somehow, the caliber of the debate that occurs in this book isn't well-reflected in many popular, lay-level discussions one is likely to encounter (where, e.g., 'New Atheists' as well as opposing fundamentalist-theists take up a lot of the airspace).  But at least the layperson has somewhere to go to find something that can aid in making some assessment of the quality of the arguments on a difficult topic.

I don't find (so far) any such promising avenue of lay-research for someone wanting to get the best, most high-profile dialogue available on whatever there is to reasonably disagree about on the climate change issue.  I'm a layperson to the issue -- I possess neither the expertise nor the time to go through the peer-reviewed literature, for example.  My best epistemic assessment of the issue that I can muster at this point is: there is a modest risk of modest damage from climate change, assuming present trends continue.  There are good reasons to believe that present trends won't continue as we approach an increasingly singularity-like future.  As far as we know, humans will come up with technology to mitigate or reverse any damaging climate change.  But not knowing what that technology is right now, we face a situation of uncertainty and risk.  (We might do as Nietzsche advises -- Live dangerously! -- and test our worthiness as a species, that is, to face and perhaps overcome obstacles even to our very existence.  What won't kill us will only make us stronger, etc.  If we can't overcome this challenge, then what ultimately is the point of our continued existence?)

As a layperson on climate change I came to hear about -- I don't remember how -- Richard Lindzen (MIT, atmospheric physics) as "a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy."  I know about leading climate-change "orthodoxy" proponent Michael E. Mann (Penn St., climatology and geophysics) from a recent book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.  Now, ideally, for the intellectual enrichment and edification of the lay-public, I imagine these two people duking it out in a well-publicized debate so that us layfolk can have some idea of where reasonable disagreement among established experts occurs on this subject.

But that duking-out hasn't happened, and if no such sort of duking-out as ever happened, then the state of public layfolk knowledge or dialogue on the climate change issue is almost sure to be impoverished.  So a next step might be to do the same kind of goodreads search I did on the God subject in hopes of finding a case comparable to the Craig-Armstrong book: "climate change debate".  But the results there aren't promising.  I don't find any such book.  What now?  Perhaps try another search at another book source: Amazon.  There do appear to be a couple books that look promising but they're expensive and not reviewed.  (In one case, it's a more than $60 book from a publisher I've never heard of, one participant is a professor of geography, and I'm not even sure I've heard of the universities that either of the participants is affiliated with.)   What now?  How about a youtube search on "climate change debate."  The videos less than ten minutes in length are utter shit for my purposes.  How about the modified search for videos longer than 20 minutes.  I'm not seeing promising leads here, either.

How much more digging do I do given my limited time and mental resources, and where?  I'm not looking for any number of climate-change websites, many with flaky-sounding names, that push one side of the argument or the other, I'm looking for a debate between well-vetted experts.  Maybe there really isn't a debate to be had at that level, maybe there really is a "consensus" among the well-vetted experts.  (97 percent can't be wrong, right?  What role does Lindzen play here, then?  What about Condorcet-like reasoning applied to a community of experts?)  But how is the laypublic to know this?



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