An article from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, via Watts Up With That, indicates that cycles in solar radiation that were not accounted for in the CO2-driven climate models may have an influence on climate. The sun? Who knew?
The news got Halfwise here thinking about our thinking, so I posted the following comment in the comments thread at WUWT:
Chaos-rich systems, for example climate or stock markets, invite mortals like us to proclaim that we finally understand the system based on a new model that explains its behavior over some limited time period, at some selected scale.
Then when some other mortal adds to our model or (worse for our ego) debunks it with a different and better model, we are usually tempted to defend our model and diminish the importance of others' findings rather than thank them for their insights. Our natural human tendency is to focus on our feeble explanations rather than on the marvelous complexity and uncertainty that we are attempting to model, denying that we are inevitably doomed to be passed by a better model.
The whole AGW debate has, in my view, been sidetracked into a debate about what to do as a result of the predictions of a generation of models. We forget that all models intrinsically have fatal limits as to scale and time period. This memory lapse is convenient if it supports the agendas of some and touches on the psyche of others, which can certainly be said about the Green movement in general these days.
The latest research on solar radiation feels to me like a step towards greater understanding of reality. But I am sure that CO2 felt to many others like a step towards greater understanding of reality too, so it is not time to proclaim that the tide has turned and the latest model is finally comprehensive enough to be believed by all. As noted, typically what happens now is intense defense of previous models, not gratitude for new insights.
Just as with the stock market, climate will assert its own complexity and uncertainty, and honest people will come to regret their allegiance to a wrong model.
I have one prediction: three years from now, we will all be less confident in our beliefs about our abilities to understand complex systems. It will be a kind of "scientific agnoticism" and will be part of a societal movement away from being swept up in the expensive collective, moving instead towards individual rights and obligations. We can thank the Green movement for reminding us of our obligation to sustainability; we need not thank them for Cap & Trade.