Sunday, December 04, 2011

Should someone who writes on the ethics of science know some science?

Prof Donald Brown appears not to. He is an ethics "expert" who writes below in the most scathing terms about climate skeptics -- but he is a very poor moral philosopher as well as demonstrating no knowledge of science.

Moral philosophers discuss at great length what the basis of their ethical position is. They ask, for instance how notions of right and wrong originate and what they are based on. Comrade Brown does nothing like that. His very first sentence is a mere assertion and a highly dubious one at that. He assumes what he has to prove. He says: "Because climate change is an ethical problem....".

Had I been writing on the topic, I would have said "Because climate change is a non-existent problem..." -- and the evidence for my statement is pretty obvious, as even Warmist scientists admit that the tiny amount of warming seen in the late 20th century has ceased, and ceased around 12 years ago.

So does Comrade Brown take any account of that scientific fact? Not in the least. He mentions a few scientific claims in his article but gives references for none of them, let alone looking at the factual basis for them. The essential basis he gives for his position is that various science bodies have pronounced in favour of global warming. But that is neither a scientific nor a philosophical approach to truth. It is a bureaucratic approach to knowledge and before Galileo that approach would have yielded the "truth" that the sun revolved around the earth. Anybody who knows about intellectual fashions would regard a bureaucratic warrant of truth as worthless. The best face one can put on his assertions is that he is a dupe. I reproduce an excerpt from his hate-speech below

Climate change must be understood at its core as an ethical problem because; (a) it is a problem caused by some people in one part of the world that are hurting poor people who are often far away and poor, (b) the harms to these victims are potentially catastrophic, and (c) the victims can't protect themselves by petitioning their governments- they must hope that those causing the problem will see that their ethical duties to the victims requires them to drastically lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

However, I will in a minute review the tactics of the climate change disinformation campaign. We think you will agree that these are not acceptable ways of acting skeptically but malicious, morally unacceptable disinformation

To understand the full moral depravity of the climate change disinformation campaign, one must know something about the state of climate science. There is a "consensus" view on climate science that has been articulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. This consensus is not a consensus on all scientific issues entalied by climate change; it is a consensus about the fact that the planet is warming, that this warming is largely human caused, and that under business-as-usual we are headed to potentially catastrophic impacts for humans and the natural resources on which life depends. Furthermore, these harms are likely to be most harshly experienced by many of the Earth's poorest people.

Every Academy of Science has issued reports supporting the consensus view including four reports by the US Academy of Science. Well over 100 scientific organizations with expertise in climate science have also issued reports or statements in support of the consensus view. At least 97% of all scientists that actually do research in climate science support the consensus view according to two recent surveys in respectable scientific journals.

There are six recent books that have investigated the disinformation campaign on climate change science. (See references below) What follows is an ethical analysis of the disinformation campaign based upon the findings in these books.

The disinformation campaign began in the 1980s when some of the same scientists and organizations that fought government regulation of tobacco began to apply the tactics honed in their war on the regulation of tobacco to climate change. For almost 25 years this campaign has been waged to undermine public support for regulation of greenhouse gases.

The organizations trying to undermine public support on climate policies by exaggerating scientific uncertainty have expanded over the last few decades to include think tanks, front groups, astroturf groups (that is groups pretending to be bottom-up citizen responses), PR firm led campaigns financed by fossil fuel interests and free-market fundamentalists philanthropic funding organizations. Much of the funding support for these efforts has come from some fossil fuel interests.

The tactics deployed by this campaign are now all well documented including in the six books mentioned above. These tactics have included:

A. Lying. Some of the claims made by some of those engaged in the disinformation campaign have been outright lies about such things as the claim that the entire scientific basis for human-induced climate change is a hoax or that there is no evidence of human causation of climate change Given that every Academy of Science in the world has issued reports in support of the consensus view, it is a clear lie that the basis for human-induced warming is a hoax and that such claim is preposterous. This is far from reasonable skepticism but a lie.


Another "adjustment" to the data

Sea-level expert Nils Axel Morner writes:

The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment claimed that “there is strong evidence” of sea level rising over the last few decades. It goes as far as to claim: “Satellite observations available since the early 1990s provide more accurate sea level data... This decade-long satellite altimetry data set shows that since 1993, sea level has been rising at a rate of around 3mm yr–1, significantly higher than the average during the previous half century.”

Almost every word of this is untrue. Satellite altimetry is a wonderful and vital new technique that offers the reconstruction of sea level changes all over the ocean surface. But it has been hijacked and distorted by the IPCC for political ends.

In 2003 the satellite altimetry record was mysteriously tilted upwards to imply a sudden sea level rise rate of 2.3mm per year. When I criticised this dishonest adjustment at a global warming conference in Moscow, a British member of the IPCC delegation admitted in public the reason for this new calibration: “We had to do so, otherwise there would be no trend.”

This is a scandal that should be called Sealevelgate.


A referee's report on a paper by Hulme of the UEA

Mike Hulme is a professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA). In October 2000 he founded the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. So he is a big star among Warmist scientists. The review (apparently by Keith Briffa) of one of his papers is therefore revealing. The review could scarcely be more scathing, ripping apart Hulme's analytical methods and accusing him of "massaging" the data. That is the character of a man upon whom Warmist place much reliance.

The review has come to light courtesy of email 977 in the Claimategate II release

Review of "1000 years of rainfall variability in the Sahel: an evaluation of a long-term climate model simulation against observational data", by N. Brooks and M. Hulme.

This paper deals with a clearly defined topic, but has several shortcomings that make it unacceptable for publication. These are

1) inadequacy of the model for studying the Sahel,

2) poor validation of the model, and

3) arbitrary and unjustified statistical analyses. I am also uncomfortable with their interpretation of results. Finally, and this is a minor issue, I think better literature could be cited. When several papers were available for citation about a certain point, the choice was generally a minor paper, with the most important papers being omitted. There is a tendency to cite "soft science" literature in places where more technical literature is appropriate.

1. Model and Model Validation: A validation attempt was made via comparison of statistics such as the mean, season cycle, and time spectra. However, in doing so the authors compared statistics for this century with those for a 1000-year model run. There is no reason to assume that these periods are statistically comparable. Indeed, the results suggest they are not.

However, some aspects of the climate can be considered fairly stable, such as the summer rainy season. The model produces less than 50% of its rainfall in July, July, August, compared to about 80% in the "real world".

It also shows many years in which rainfall approaches zero in the rainy season. The proper validation approach would have been to compare a 20th century simulation with the observed statistics. Further, it is important to show that the model can capture the mean spatial pattern and the real temporal variability of the observed data. This was not done.

2. The model results are extensively "massaged", using what appear to be arbitrarily chosen filters of 9 years, 25 years, 45 years, 96 years and 101 years. This is compared with unfiltered observational data. What is the justification of these particular filters, how do they affect the results. Is it appropriate to do statistical analyses, such as spectra, on the filtered series?

3. As a result of all of this statistical manipulation, it is difficult to follow what the authors do. It is even more difficult to judge their results and its statistical significance. This is particular problematic when a major results is correlations for thousands of grid points (Fig. 8.).

If this work were to be revised, much more attention would have to be paid to the statistical approach and to validating the results. At the moment I have no confidence in any of the conclusions draw from this simulation.


A very shaky hockeystick

The "hockeystick" picture of past temperatures was based on "reconstructions" of temperature from proxy data such as tree-rings. But tree rings are a very poor index of temperature and the excerpt from a Cimategate II email shows that the Warmist scientists knew that. Tom Wigley is writing to Michael Mann:

"A word of warning. I would be careful about using other, independent paleo reconstruction work as supporting the MBH reconstructions. I am attaching my version of a comparison of the bulk of these other reconstructions. Although these all show the hockey stick shape, the differences between them prior to 1850 make me very nervous. If I were on the greenhouse deniers' side, I would be inclined to focus on the wide range of paleo results and the differences between them as an argument for dismissing them all."


The Age Of Superstition And Ignorance

If you pave over rural lands, you get floods. When rain falls on impermeable ground, it runs off into rivers. One hundred twenty-one experts in New Jersey were too dense to figure this out, and instead blame their recent floods on CO2.
Some New Jersey communities are already suffering from the changes. While no single storm can be attributed to the changing climate, the two largest recorded floods on the Raritan River are Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Irene this year, said Anthony Broccoli, a director of Rutgers’ Climate and Environmental Change Initiative.

“From 1902 to 2001, there were 18 recorded flood events of the Delaware River at Trenton,” Broccoli said. “From 2002 through this year so far, there have been nine.”

There has been no increase in heavy rain events near Trenton. Irene barely made the top twenty. Hightstown is the closest USHCN station to Trenton.

We truly live in an age of superstition and scientific ignorance.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Absolute Certainty Is Not Scientific

Global warming alarmists betray their cause when they declare that it is irresponsible to question them.

By DANIEL B. BOTKIN (Botkin is president of the Center for the Study of the Environment and professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara)

One of the changes among scientists in this century is the increasing number who believe that one can have complete and certain knowledge. For example, Michael J. Mumma, a NASA senior scientist who has led teams searching for evidence of life on Mars, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Based on evidence, what we do have is, unequivocally, the conditions for the emergence of life were present on Mars—period, end of story."

This belief in absolute certainty is fundamentally what has bothered me about the scientific debate over global warming in the 21st century, and I am hoping it will not characterize the discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, currently under way.

Reading Mr. Mumma's statement, I thought immediately of physicist Niels Bohr, a Nobel laureate, who said, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." To which Richard Feynman, another famous physicist and Nobel laureate, quipped, "Nobody understands quantum mechanics."

I felt nostalgic for those times when even the greatest scientific minds admitted limits to what they knew. And when they recognized well that the key to the scientific method is that it is a way of knowing in which you can never completely prove that something is absolutely true. Instead, the important idea about the method is that any statement, to be scientific, must be open to disproof, and a way of knowing how to disprove it exists.

Therefore, "Period, end of story" is something a scientist can say—but it isn't science.

I was one of many scientists on several panels in the 1970s who reviewed the results from the Viking Landers on Mars, the ones that were supposed to conduct experiments that would help determine whether there was or wasn't life on that planet. I don't remember anybody on those panels talking in terms of absolute certainty. Instead, the discussions were about what the evidence did and did not suggest, and what might be disprovable from them and from future landers.

I was also one of a small number of scientists—mainly ecologists, climatologists and meteorologists—who in the 1970s became concerned about the possibility of a human-induced global warming, based on then-new measurements. It seemed to be an important scientific problem, both as part of the beginning of a new science of global ecology and as a potentially major practical problem that nations would have to deal with. It did not seem to be something that should or would rise above standard science and become something that one had to choose sides in. But that's what has happened.

Some scientists make "period, end of story" claims that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn't happening. For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, "Betraying the Planet" that "as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason—treason against the planet." What had begun as a true scientific question with possibly major practical implications had become accepted as an infallible belief (or if you're on the other side, an infallible disbelief), and any further questions were met, Joe-McCarthy style, "with me or agin me."

Not only is it poor science to claim absolute truth, but it also leads to the kind of destructive and distrustful debate we've had in last decade about global warming. The history of science and technology suggests that such absolutism on both sides of a scientific debate doesn't often lead to practical solutions.

It is helpful to go back to the work of the Wright brothers, whose invention of a true heavier-than-air flying machine was one kind of precursor to the Mars Landers. They basically invented aeronautical science and engineering, developed methods to test their hypotheses, and carefully worked their way through a combination of theory and experimentation. The plane that flew at Kill Devil Hill, a North Carolina dune, did not come out of true believers or absolute assertions, but out of good science and technological development.

Let us hope that discussions about global warming can be more like the debates between those two brothers than between those who absolutely, completely agree with Paul Krugman and those who absolutely, completely disagree with him. How about a little agnosticism in our scientific assertions—and even, as with Richard Feynman, a little sense of humor so that we can laugh at our errors and move on? We should all remember that Feynman also said, "If you think that science is certain—well that's just an error on your part."



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