The public policy discussion around the issue we have come to call "climate change" boils down to a two word question: who knows? When discussing the issues of the day people tend to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about motivations. Motivations matter of course. If someone is deliberately and knowingly spreading falsehoods, it’s valuable to understand why they are doing so. But, at another level motivations don’t matter. Science is about honest results. It doesn’t care whether those results were obtained by a rogue or a hero.
So let’s put aside the question of why people say what they say and spend a little bit of time considering what they say. It’s not so much that people who discuss "climate change" claim to be experts themselves. Quite the opposite is true. It’s incredible how many people in a position to influence public policy don’t understand even a modicum of climate science. Instead, most people rely on that group of "influencers" who are the bane of modern times: “the experts.”
Before we examine what the experts think they know let's consider those aspects of climate change about which almost everybody agrees. Everyone agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Everybody agrees that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been rising since the dawn of the industrial era. Everyone agrees that mean global temperatures have risen a bit in the course of the last century, though there is much disagreement about how significant that rise is in the grand scheme of things. For while it is true that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can bump up the atmosphere’s ability to retain heat a bit, it’s equally true that increases in atmospheric temperature tied to other causes (e.g.: solar activity) tend to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Out of the mouths of babes...
These facts are fairly well known to everyone, no matter what one thinks about the severity of climate change and the need for humans to attempt to change it. There are other facts that aren’t in dispute but are rarely talked about. For example, everyone agrees that China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases and that greenhouse gas emissions from China continue to increase. Everyone agrees that emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States have been steadily dropping for over twenty years and in all likelihood will continue to do so whether even more draconian measures are taken to further reduce those emissions. Most on the left don't like to talk about the relative importance of China and the United States in the "climate change" debate but the data is pretty damned clear.
Back to that initial question: who knows? Who really understands the way climate models work? The answer is very few people. Of those there are climatologists such as Gavin Schmidt who are certain that the models are virtually infallible and correctly predict catastrophe. There are other climatologists like Judith Curry and Roy Spencer who have their doubts. I don't know any of these people personally, but I know they are all academics and many academics tend to fall in love with their work and to disregard the opinions of those who disagree with them, especially if the critic doesn’t sport their particular academic credentials. I sometimes think a course in hubris is a necessary part of obtaining a PhD.
Because I understand dispersion modeling, a simpler but still complex form of atmospheric computer modeling, I'm in a better position than most to discuss the validity of climate modeling data. There are three important things to remember when we consider climate modeling data. One, there is not just one model yielding one result, there are many dozens of models some of which agree and some of which don't. Two, carbon dioxide concentration is but one of dozens of data fields that are entered into climate models. The degree to which tweaking this or that field can alter results is mind-boggling. Three, the models predicting catastrophe have consistently overestimated the magnitude of climate change.
When Al Gore or AOC or Joe Biden confidently assures us that climate catastrophe is just around the corner they don't know that it is true. They are being told by others that the experts believe it to be true. Most all the people who identify as experts for policymakers have no qualifications to do so. So far as I can tell they have no interest in increasing their personal knowledge so that they can accurately and unbiasedly identify experts and understand their arguments. Most journalists and political staffers are solely interested in finding someone who agrees with a chosen narrative and who can be stamped with the label “expert” without generating too many snickers.
This is why the chant “97 percent of scientists agree” about the causes, severity and importance of climate change was first popularized and remains a fact that people supposedly know even though this statement is demonstrably false. There is a wide range of opinions in the scientific community about climate change, what causes it, how important is it, whether mitigation measures are needed and if so what's the best strategy, etc.
In that case, nukes are the answer.
If the people who claim to be so desperately concerned about "climate change" really wanted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly they could do so very quickly. They could do so without massive investments in ridiculously inefficient windmills and solar farms. We know how to do nuclear power safely and nothing beats nukes for generating large amounts of cheap energy. We can build combined-cycle gas-fired power plants that would take advantage of our massive natural gas reserves and cut down carbon dioxide emissions by around 50 percent compared to coal-fired power plants.
The people who have spent the last thirty-odd years telling us doomsday is just around the corner used to know these things. Some of them even had the temerity to call out the worst of liberal “scientific” mythology. Today, they don’t feel the personal need to know anything. The coming “climate crisis” has been around so long, it has to be real! So, we must do anything and everything we can to avert it. We must never, ever question the narrative.
So what’s the answer to the question “who knows?” Nobody knows. Nobody cares to know. After more than three decades of assertion, no further proof is necessary. All that’s required is that you believe and do as you're told. For even if nobody knows, you better start caring. If you don’t start caring, you will suffer. And if that sounds more like simplistic theology than science, that’s because it is.