Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Did Climate Science Get It So Badly Wrong?

Here is a great summary post from Al Fin on climate science and its politicization.  It provides both a great overview that ties together various elements of climate realism (with links), and a link to the latest pdf paper from Richard Lindzen.

Rational Environmentalism

When one rejects the dominant ideology of contemporary green environmentalism, it is common to be pressed (attacked?) to espouse the principles of an alternative ideology. Those in thrall to the prevailing dogma, have a hard time conceiving of what an alternative perspective might be, let alone viewing such an alternative with respect.

This post nicely encapsulates many of the key precepts of rational environmentalism as an alternative to green dogma. The predominant areas of difference are:
  • a belief that free-market capitalism provides a solution to environmental issues rather than their cause
  • that limits to growth are ideological constructs and not a physical reality
  • an emphasis on sustained globalization rather than global sustainability
  • that hysteria and politicized science are devices to obscure and dissuade widespread debate of public policy options
  • global warming is a myth that detracts attention from real issues, and
  • there are no environmental problems that are beyond our capacity to resolve.
Rejecting the prevailing dogma is not an act of immorality nor insensitivity. Disagreeing with dogma does not preclude one from being an active and passionate environmentalist. It does, however, require greater resolve and personal responsibility, not least of which is the willingness to think and act independently of the herd.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ten of the Best Climate Research Papers

One of the most common retorts to climate realism is the assertion that skepticism about AGW has to be validated by peer review for its publication to be worthy.  Anything not vetted by the scientific elite is by implication, merely biased, industry-funded hokum: if it was true, refereed journals would be publishing it.  These claims reveal a self-serving naiveté about the veracity and impartiality of the peer review process and ignore the fact that many significant advances in science throughout history have occurred outside the control of peer review.  That aside, the claims miss the point that much of the contemporary focus on climate realism reflects the use of new media, especially blogs, precisely because the peer review process within climate studies was neither impartial nor open to all viewpoints (see Wegman). 
In direct response to consistent taunting for realists to cite published, refereed publications that challenge the omnipotence of AGW theory, respondent Cohenite has posted these papers at the Jennifer Marohasy's blog. Not supringsingly, the list has generated a reactive list of counter sources. 
[Interesting question: how many of those in opposition to a particular viewpoint, have actually read the contrary perspective? On the basis of many blog postings and comments, it is clear that many people react rather than respond to views they disagree with, and many fail to understand where and how dominant constructs differ that might lead them to different conclusions about information, especially "scientific" data)].
To Cohenite's list, I would add any of Richard Lindzen's comments on climate change (e.g. this or this) and his other studies, Kristen Byne's excellent summation of the available sources and the ongoing deconstruction of the implied certitude of AGW statistics at the Climate Audit blog.
But citing a blog to answer assertive claims that science can only be science if it is published in refereed journals seems to be missing their point isn't it?  Yes, it is, because I do not accept that truth is subject to majority vote, nor disciplinary censure.  Truth is not decreed by elite groups.  Truth is determined by the veracity of its claims, the conformity with life experience, with empirical measurement and the strength of its logic -- all of which can be more immediately assessed, discussed and deconstructed within the structure of a blog much more readily that the strictures of academic convention, including peer review. 
Information and understanding are no longer confined to the hallowed walls of academia.  They never have been.  Its just that now, the information media available to the mass public allows anyone to publish and to publish directly without the control and intercession of self-interested intellectual elites. 
Get over it.  Embrace the new media and focus on the substance of the message, not its origins.  Validity and veracity will stand the test of scrutiny -- something an audit of environmental science reveals many published works of research fail.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The authorities have lied, and I am not glad

Why do ecomyths persist long after empirical data invalidate their claims of scientific veracity?
This is one of the questions Fitzpatrick touches on in his excellent review of two new books detailing how the AIDS epidemic was largely a myth.
Myths are infused with political moralism and opportunism.  Science is suborned to political and agency agendas, and the media enlisted to generate widespread public fear that is then used to justify ideological interventions that fit the world view of those profiting from the hysteria:
  • This sort of opportunism is not confined to AIDS: in other areas where experts are broadly in sympathy with government policy – such as passive smoking, obesity and climate change – they have been similarly complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda.
That's just about a defining statement:
  • Ecomyth: the prostitution of science to propaganda

Sun spots and shifts in climate understanding

The latest data show that the sun went the past month without a single visible sunspot: for the first time in over 100 years.  In the past, extended periods of low sunspot activity have coincided with historic low temperatures. Many scientists recognize that the magnetic effects of the sun directly affect cloud formation on earth and thus influence the earth's climate to a significant extent.
Here is an excellent explanation of the present data and some possible implications.
AGW is one theory of climatic change.  One not substantiated by empirical data.  The influence of the sun offers a different approach to understanding climate change: one that does accord with the empirical data.
One offers unlimited political prospects for economic regulation, social engineering and empire building.  The other suggests the cosmos is still beyond our attempts at management.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Correlation is not Causation

There is a fundamental difference between correlation, two or more things appearing together, and causation, item A causing item B to occur. As shown by Levitt and Dubner, there are many examples in public policy where items correlate but there is no causative relationship between the variables despite common acceptance that there must be a relationship, such as homes with books in them and academic achievement (correlation but no causation).

But surely in science, causation can be identified, related mathematically and there can be no confusion between correlation and causation: right? Well, yes -- except where the science does not show a causative relationship, one can not be demonstrated in the language of science (mathematics) and indeed, what we have is not causation, but correlation.

Examples abound in environmentalism, but the most commonly asserted relationship that is not causative is that between temperature increase and anthropogenic greenhouse gasses: the whole theory of AGW rests on the presumption that there is indeed a causative relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and temperature change.

Well, that's easy, everyone knows that there is scientific consensus on this. O.K., if that's the case, then citing a refereed journal publication that shows this causative relationship should be simple. Unless of course, there isn't one. Which is the gist of a series of posts by Jennifer Marohasy who posted a request on a couple of blogs requesting citations of research papers that show a causative basis for AGW.
  • There are of course the voluminous reports from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with their findings and theories on popular Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory. The content of these reports, endorsed by governments around the world, have been repeated over and over, for example, in the recent influential report by economist Ross Garnaut to the Australian government.
  • It is apparent, however, that a body of science published in peer-review journals, establishing a causal link between anthropogenic carbon dioxide and warming and quantifying the extent of this warming, is lacking but would be expected to exist to support popular AGW theory.
Asserting that a relationship exists is not the same as substantiating one. The IPCC was not established to see if AGW exists: its mandate is to examine what is to be done about AGW -- a causative relationship is presumptive within the IPCC mandate.

Again, if something is so basic and so clear, providing a concise citation for supportive documentation should not be that taxing.