Saturday, June 27, 2009

If you claim to be scientific, then be so

When I was taught basic science and engineering it was understood that if you proposed a hypothesis, or theory, and ran an experiment where the results went against the theory, then the theory was wrong. It is a precept I have used all my professional life to help lead a technology from being some lab curiosity to the point where it is a multi-billion dollar industry, with still more potential applications poised to move it into a second generation of growth. We did this by getting some ideas, and then running experiments to see if they worked, and then, when the results showed the original idea wrong, modifying our ideas, and then trying another experiment.

Under the modern penchant for description it is a process that is being referred to as the “scientific method,” albeit to us it was just a logical way of making progress. To make progress one must constantly be willing to look at the data, and re-analyze the underlying concept you have been applying as more data becomes available. Sounds logical doesn’t it. And yet that is not what one has seen, or is likely to see in the future, when folk discuss the drivers for what may, or may not be, the warming of our planet.

Back 20 years ago Dr Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) gave testimony before Congress that suggested, given the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that the world temperature would continue to rise, as this gas forced retention of a greater percentage of the solar radiation that the Earth was receiving. Spring forward a decade and that warming is no longer occurring. Proponents of the idea have gone from touting each year as being hotter than the last, to muttering that the last 10 years have been the hottest on record (while failing to mention how short that record really is) and with global temperatures falling even that “ten-year” ploy is likely soon to be no longer accurate. But does that cause the world to pause and consider that, perhaps, the global warming theory is wrong. Not at all, suddenly scientific thinking on the subject is closed. That step, and the unwillingness of the AGW proponents to engage in open rational debate, with all relevant data available for public scrutiny, should begin to get you worried.

Just this last week there are reports of an EPA official suggesting that perhaps the EPA should consider what has happened in the last three years, not just the information available from before that time. And, in the mode of the Administration practice, he was of course quietly told to shut up and get on board with the plan. How easily we slip from outrage when this was suggested to be done to Dr Hansen, to accepting when it is done, and apparently got away with by the current EPA Administration.

The argument that is made at the “Real Climate” types of website is that all these issues have been raised and answered before, and that therefore, inter alia, no new information, except that supporting their arguments will be tolerated. And yet there is no scientific rebuttal given, no “here is the graph that proves you wrong!” No instead there are the ad hominem attacks that the proponent of this new question is not a “climate scientist.” The Wegman report noted how small the group of climate scientists are that seem to control the literature, and how incestuously they have interacted in writing papers and conducting research. Heaven forbid, apparently that anyone with an ounce of scientific training be able to look at a graph and determine whether it is rising or falling. We are however, literate and can read graphs that show among other things that Alaskan glaciers are advancing, but discussion of that is improper apparently without the right qualification.

But even with the right qualification, if your ideas on global warming are incorrect, then regardless of qualification and the knowledge that you have, your presence is unwelcome in the company of your peers. So it appears is the case of an expert on polar bears.
But one of the world’s leading experts on polar bears has been told to stay away from this week’s meeting, specifically because his views on global warming do not accord with the views of the rest of the group.

Dr Mitchell Taylor has been researching into the status and management of polar bears in Canada and around the Arctic Circle for 30 years, as both an academic and a government employee. More than once since 2006 he has made headlines by insisting that polar bear numbers, far from decreasing, are much higher than they were 30 years ago. Of the 19 different bear populations, almost all are increasing or at optimum levels, only two have for local reasons modestly declined.

Dr Taylor agrees that the Arctic has been warming in the past 30 years. But he ascribes this not to rising levels of CO2 – as is dictated by the computer models of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and believed by his PBSG colleagues – but to currents bringing warm water into the Arctic from the Pacific and the effect of winds blowing in from the Bering Sea.

I begin to become quite concerned that we are starting to see the deliberate suppression of scientific views and information, a deliberate withholding of information from the public on the realities of climate change, as opposed to what those now in power want us to believe, regardless of fact. There is a denial of the latest information, and a distortion of the record, such that folk don’t have to face the reality that the original hypothesis, that increased carbon dioxide levels produce accelerating global warming, is wrong.

We have just seen the Waxman:Markey bill pass the House with the prospect of a myriad regulations that will likely, despite the claims of the legislation, likely reduce employment in the county. Why, because as the regulation forces renewable energy sources not just to supply an increased demand for energy but to displace existing energy sources then we lay off those now working to supply that energy. Once a wind turbine is erected it does not take a climate scientist to realize that the number of folks employed from that point in feeding that power into the grid is close to zero. Contrast that with the miners who mined the coal, the railway workers who transported it, and the power station employees that ran the plant that converted it into electricity, all of whom now get laid off. Common sense tells you that this is a job reduction program, but then who said this whole effort was about logic and rational discussion?


  1. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask the head of the IPCC a question, and get a sensible answer from him.

    Despite being the head of the UN's climate change body, he regards the doom and gloomers as both wrong and unhelpful. That is not to say that he doesn't believe in AGW, but that the media do not reflect the science as he sees it.

    I follow clean tech closely, and there are a huge number of ways in which we can become more efficient and make better use of our resources. Such a change would be of benefit, even if we later discover that AGW is a con. Unfortunately common sense does not have a lobbyist, whilst the more expensive solutions do.

  2. The primary focus of this site is built around the notion that fossil fuels are finite, and are starting to run out. We are likely to need all the different viable energy producing technologies much sooner than most folk realize. The emphasis on getting these new technologies up and running is something I applaud.

    My concern is that there is now a move to close down or restrict fossil fuel systems at a time when we are going to be needing more power from coal, for example, rather than less and the inertia in the system will mean that those resources will not be ready when needed.

  3. Nice to feel a breath of fresh air amidst
    the mostly-fetid swamp gas of "scientism".
    When you start to realize what the trading
    of "carbon credits" might do to Goldman-Sach's
    bottom line, then it starts becoming clearer why there is so much politicizing and obfuscation about the facts.

    I have weighed in heavily myself on the side of "global cooling", mostly because I run across
    a whole lot of folk who don't even realize that there is more than one viewpoint on the subject. Philosophically, I wold contend, that "we just don't know." the best single statement I've seen on the subject (sorry, I do not know who to attribute this to) is that,
    heck, we do not trust the weather department's models predicting tomorrow, how in the world are we going to believe what they say about twenty years from now????

    Anyway, thanks ...