The comment thread following yesterday's "update" on the persistent, and persistently unenlightening, debate over the most recent "97% consensus" study has only renewed my conviction that anyone genuinely interested in helping confused and curious members of the public to assess the significance of the best available evidence on climate change would not be bothering with surveys of scientists but would instead be creating a market index in securities the value of which depends on global warming actually occurring.
I've explained previously how such an index would operate as a beacon of collective wisdom, beaming a signal of considered judgment through a filter of economic self-interest that removes the distorting influence of cultural cognition & like forms of bias.
I just instructed my broker to place an order for $153,252 worth of stocks in firms engaged in arctic shipping. I wonder how many of the people arguing against the validity of the Cook et al. study are shorting those same securities?
One thing occurs to me as worth adding.
The sort of "filtering" that the "market consensus" securities index I am proposing (and that I have described in greater detail previously) performs doesn't presuppose that climate scientists might themselves be "biased" in any way.
I myself don't believe they are.
What I do believe, however, is that in the midst of the sort of culturally polarized science communication environment that surrounds climate change, it is very difficult for ordinary citizens to do what they are normally able to do without difficulty, which is form an accurate and practical sense of what's known to science as it relates to the decisions they need to make, either as individuals or as citizens.
There isn't cultural polarization on the vast run of matters in their lives that turn on their discernment and proper use of decision-relevant science. In those cases, they make use of an abundance of reliable sources to help them figure out what's known to science.
When they try to consult those same sources here, however, they observe the jarring spectacle of cultural conflict.
Members of the public can assume that the relevant scientists are unbiased and know what needs to be known. In fact, they plainly do! The public conflict--on climate change and various other issues--is not over whether to be guided by scientific consensus but over what scientific consensus is.
Under these conditions, a reasonable, curious person who genuinely wants to figure out what is known by science will have trouble not b/c he or she thinks scientists are biased, but because he or she is worried that all the sources that he or she might be inclined to rely on are.
It just doesn't help in these conditions to furnish them with surveys of scientists. Because those doing the surveys, and those criticizing them, will then be the ones accused of ideological or cultural bias. That's what's going on in the endless, unhelpful, boring debate over the most recent "97% consensus" survey.
So if someone is trying to understand what scientists know -- someone who is not in a position to "figure that out directly"; i.e., 99.9999% (+/- 0.0001%) of the population of the world-- tells me he or she can't separate out the science-knowledge signal from the ideological noise -- "noise" in the colloquial sense, which is "bias" in the statistical sense!--I can certainly understand why.
If I really want to help that person, then I will say, "Let's see if we can find a signal that we can be sure isn't influenced by that sort of (ideological) noise/(measurement) bias."
That's where the market helps.
To begin, people motivated to sound off by cultural sensibilities (most of us are!) are less likely to be involved in laying down bets; the bettors are disproportionately motivated by money.
Moreover, those whose investment judgments are influenced by culture/ideology will make bets that cancel out. The market is -- in a statistical sense -- a noise filter.
The price signal that emerges will embody the concentrated collective sense of economically rather than culturally or ideologically motivated people that this is what the weight of the best available empirical evidence signifies.
BTW, the market signal would give the person I'm describing that sort of information even if, unlike me but like many who spend countless hours arguing about whom to count in surveys of "consensus," they do think climate scientists are culturally biased.
Now, the market's judgment, of course, is fallible! I don't deny that!
My point (the point I've now made multiple times) is only that a reasonable person who is genuinely trying to sort things out will view a "market" measure of whether global warming is occurring as relevant and helpful evidence that is entitled to weight in his or her assessment of what the best current scientific understanding of climate chage is.
Indeed, I myself am inclined to think that anyone who wants to argue with that proposition -- who adamantly insists that his or her personal assessment of all the evidence he or she has cobbled together from sources on the internet etc. is so much more reliable than the signal that comes from the market that I should simply listen to him or her & ignore what the market has to say-- is someone whose judgment about the state of the evidence on climate change (and probably anything else of consequence) is entitled to very little weight indeed.
p.s It still shocks me that there isn't an index of this sort already. So as I've said before, please tell me if you know of one! Commentators have referred me to a variety of interesting sources that bear on appreciation of market opportunities-- also market hazards-- associated with global warming. But what I'm saying would be most useful would be an index that aggregates the relevant securities the performance of which is tied to global warming actually occurring, so that its rise & fall could be observed over time & in relation to 'events," including the publication of scientific papers and releases of IPCC assessments and the like. (Indexes that combine securities for "clean energy" alternatives to oil or other ventures the value of which reflects anticipated government regulation are not what I'm talking about; I've explained before why that's a signal of anticipated political action, not anticipated global warming.)
Tyler Cowen, who I figured for sure would know the answer, has turned to his knowledgeable blog readers for an answer to the question whether any extant index functions in the way that I'm describing. Check out the comments at his site--there's already close to a billion.
I'll say something more once I've read through (and made my own investments).