Is the problem alarmism, or prestige-seeking?

We all make mistakes. Sometime we exaggerate the risks, and sometimes we foolishly blunder into situations we regret. Climate skeptics often characterize their opponents as ‘alarmist’. But is the real problem a tendency for climate scientists to be ‘nervous ninnies’?

I was intrigued by the recent verdict in the case of the scientists before an Italian court in the aftermath of a fatal earthquake. Roger Pielke Jr. relates that all is not as it seems.

There is a popular misconception in circulation that the guilty verdict was based on the scientists’ failure to accurately forecast the devastating earthquake.

Apparently the scientists were not charged with failing to predict a fatal earthquake, but with failure of due diligence:

Prosecutors didn’t charge commission members with failing to predict the earthquake but with conducting a hasty, superficial risk assessment and presenting incomplete, falsely reassuring findings to the public.

But when the article then goes to motivation, it is not laziness, but prestige.

Media reports of the Major Risk Committee meeting and the subsequent press conference seem to focus on countering the views offered by Mr. Giuliani, whom they viewed as unscientific and had been battling in preceding months. Thus, one interpretation of the Major Risks Committee’s statements is that they were not specifically about earthquakes at all, but instead were about which individuals the public should view as legitimate and authoritative and which they should not.

If officials were expressing a view about authority rather than a careful assessment of actual earthquake risks, this would help to explain their sloppy treatment of uncertainties.

So there are examples both of alarmism and failure to alarm by the responsible authorities. Both, potentially, motivated by maintenance of their prestige. Could the same motivations be behind climate alarmism? After all, what gains are there from asserting that ‘climate changes’.

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17 thoughts on “Is the problem alarmism, or prestige-seeking?

  1. Well worth exploring, these notions of ‘nervous ninnies’ and of ‘prestige-protection’.  The remarkable political success of climate alarmism is not based on good scientific theory, nor on observations of the climate system.  Therefore other factors are and were at play.

  2. It strikes me as a combination of both. The more alarming the claims, the more publicity, attention and prestige these individuals receive. They would otherwise be unknown and largely unimportant.

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