Global Warming: Save the hypothesis!

December 29, 2010

Christmas Day delivered a special present to critics of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) point of view:  an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Judah Cohen – Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming.  One couldn’t ask for a better example of an intellectual house of cards being passed off as science than this wonderful essay.  Like George W. Bush, for whom the answer to any economic problem – slow growth, budget deficit, budget surplus, whatever…  was always to cut taxes, for Mr. Cohen, all observations lead to global warming as an explanation.

Anyone who seriously thinks about climate change understands that weather and climate are not the same, and that  just as a few cold winters don’t disprove AGW, neither do a few hot summers prove it (although that latter point is not often heard from AGW advocates!)  Nevertheless, the record cold in Europe and North America seems to fly in the fact of the AGW theory.  Why the freeze if the Earth is getting warmer?  So, Mr. Cohen leaps into the fray to answer just that question…Of course, one wonders why he feels he must address this ‘question’ if weather is not climate..?

Mr. Cohen is a forecaster for a firm (AER.com) that sells information, or rather, data, to firms that need to estimate their exposure to climate-based risks.  Certainly a reasonable service, but it’s not the same as science.  And like all forecaster/modelers, he must have an explanation for everything, or his credibility falters.  In this regard, he is like a conspiracy theorist, the type of person who has a theory that explains everything!  To leave any question unanswered is to invite a withdrawal of confidence.

Cohen presents a complicated explanation for how the earth can be warming and yet experience colder weather in the northern hemisphere.   It’s very logical, and even plausible…but it’s all speculative.  There is no proof for any of it, and he offers none.  It also happens to be derived from his pet theory that he has modeled and flogged before.  Time will tell if the Earth continues to behave in a manner that could be explained by his notion.  Meanwhile, his ideas offer no proof at all for the AGW theory, but simply constitute an example of “saving the hypothesis.”

Saving the hypothesis is the tactic one takes when observed phenomena seem to invalidate one’s theory:  Construct another theory to “save” the original one!  Blaise Pascal exposed this tactic brilliantly in his epistolary debates on the vacuum, although he did not give it that name.  Aristotle, and centuries of his successors said that Nature could not “tolerate” a vacuum, so all evidence that a vacuum can be created was explained away with new substances, ethers, compounds, etc. that we can not see or measure, etc. etc.  No matter what evidence one presented from direct observation, there was always a reason why one was not observing a vacuum.  So, today, no matter what the evidence – and the recent weather is not evidence of much of anything either way! – it must support the accepted idea that AGW does exist.

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About that scientific consensus…

February 27, 2010

The British Parliament has begun an investigation into the meaning of the East Anglia CRU e-mails, and part of that process is a form of peer review, in a sense.  Their Science and Technology committee has welcomed commentary from the scientific community, and among those members is the non-profit charity, the Institute of PhysicsIn their submission, the IoP says that the UEA CRU e-mails don’t just indict East Anglia, but the entire AGW industry — and that “science” wasn’t what they were doing at all (via Watts Up With That and Mike Ross, emphases mine):

What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?

1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.

2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself – most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change.

And as far as the science being settled, or even “science” as understood by the public as conclusory data, the IoP has issues with that characterization as well:

4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.

5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.

In other words, the claims made by AGW advocates didn’t match the data available elsewhere.  When challenged on this, the AGW advocates refused to release the data to other scientists, and finally refused to release it under a Freedom of Information demand.  When it looked as though the government would get their hands on the data anyway, the CRU conspired to destroy the data, along with other AGW advocates around the world.

The IoP doesn’t trust East Anglia to restore confidence in the AGW movement’s claim to science, either, because the fraud went well beyond the boundaries of the University of East Anglia:

Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?

10. The scope of the UEA review is, not inappropriately, restricted to the allegations of scientific malpractice and evasion of the Freedom of Information Act at the CRU. However, most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other leading institutions involved in the formulation of the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change. In so far as those scientists were complicit in the alleged scientific malpractices, there is need for a wider inquiry into the integrity of the scientific process in this field.

11. The first of the review’s terms of reference is limited to: “…manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice…” The term ‘acceptable’ is not defined and might better be replaced with ‘objective’.

12. The second of the review’s terms of reference should extend beyond reviewing the CRU’s policies and practices to whether these have been breached by individuals, particularly in respect of other kinds of departure from objective scientific practice, for example, manipulation of the publication and peer review system or allowing pre-formed conclusions to override scientific objectivity.

Excerpt from here.


Four Seasons

February 26, 2010

I grew up in southern California, but I never liked the weather.


Wow!

January 10, 2010