09.27.2016

The Limits of Knowledge and the Climate Change Debate

Cato Journal, Vol. 36, No. 3, Fall 2016). The question of whether climate change is produced by anthropogenic global warming (henceforth AGW) has triggered an increasingly contentious confrontation over the conduct of science, the question of what constitutes scientific certainty, and the connection between science and policymaking. In a world in which we seek to understand complex, multifaceted phenomena such as climate (and to extract from this knowledge appropriate policy responses) the enduring epistemological question arises: What do we know? Logical inquiry might be expected to help resolve this knowledge problem (Hayek 1945) but is confounded by the assertion that the “science is settled,” by condemnation of those who disagree as “deniers,” and even by proposals that they be prosecuted as RICO offenders.1 There is increasing talk on the left— and even among Democratic state attorneys general and the highest levels of the Obama administration—of criminalizing the very effort to rebut the climate change orthodoxy (Gillis and Schwartz 2015, Moran 2016). This article is available at http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2016/9/cj-v36n3-7.pdf [pdf_attachment file=”1″ name=”The Limits of Knowledge and the Climate Change Debate”]]]>

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