Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kuhn was right: AGW theory will persist until it is replaced by something else

I encountered the same in social science.  Leftists need their explanations and theories so attacking those explanations without replacing them will have nil effect

Written by Dr Jennifer Marohasy

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC9) in Las Vegas. If you ever doubted scepticism towards man-made global warming as a growing social movement, well, you couldn’t after attending that conference with hundreds of enthusiastic doubters in attendance and some 6,000 watching online. Kuhn

But I came away wondering about the culture that is developing around the movement, and whether it is truly one of enlightenment.

Most of us share enlightenment values. And skepticism is historically associated with the Enlightenment. But it should be skepticism of entrenched dogmas, not an automatic opposition to every new big idea. Indeed the enlightenment saw big ideas progress; ideas that once realized, dramatically improved the human condition.

Many sceptics apparently think that we have won the scientific argument, and that our next objective should be the dismantling of climate policies and climate research. But they are wrong. We have not won the scientific argument and we won’t, if we continue down the current path of suggesting that we can’t forecast weather or climate. This suggestion, that we can’t forecast, was often made at the conference and made again just last week by Jo Nova quoting Don Aitkin.

The history of science suggests that paradigms are never disproven, they are only ever replaced. Physicist and philosopher, the late Thomas S. Kuhn, also explained that competition within segments of the scientific community is the only historical process that ever actually results in the rejection of one previously accepted theory or in the adoption of another.

In short, if our movement really wants to see the overthrow of the man-made global warming paradigm, it needs to back alternatives and promote new research.

Assuming we are indeed a movement with a desire to contribute in a tangible way to climate science, and a movement looking for viable alternative paradigms, then we need a way of sorting through incommensurable perspectives, and also a way of ensuring that the most promising research is promoted.

Let me make these points in a bit more detail:

1. We have not won the scientific argument.

It was repeatedly suggested at the ICCC9 conference that those sceptical of man-made global warming have some how won the scientific argument. This is nonsense.

On my arrival back in Australia I was forwarded yet another letter from an Australian government official reiterating that: “The Australian Government accepts the science of climate change and takes its primary advice on climate change from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. This advice aligns with information provided by the IPCC and national and international organisations such as the Australian Academy of Science, World Meteorological Organisation, the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, and the National Academy of Sciences, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States.”

The letter goes on to state that, “The world’s leading scientific organisations have found that the Earth’s climate is changing and that humans are primarily responsible…”

Not only do these esteemed organisations accept anthropogenic global warming theory (AGW), they also work actively with the mainstream media to crush, ridicule or quarantine any criticism of AGW.

If those sceptical of man-made global warming can be accused of denial, it is of this fact. We might be having some impact on the political process, even achieving repeal of the carbon tax in Australia, but the science of anthropogenic global warming remains as firmly entrenched as ever especially amongst the media, academics and legislators.

2. Rebuttals don’t overthrow established paradigms.

Anthropogenic global warming is a fully functional, well-funded scientific paradigm that is having a major impact on social and economic policy in every western democracy.

As I explained in session 13 at the conference: Scientific disciplines are always underpinned by theories that collectively define the dominant paradigm. In the case of modern climate science that paradigm is AGW. It defines the research questions asked, and dictates the methodology employed by the majority of climate scientists most of the time. AGW may be a paradigm with little practical utility and tremendous political value, but it’s a paradigm none-the-less. The world’s most powerful and influential leaders also endorse AGW.

In a lecture to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in September 2003 Michael Crichton said: “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.”

Scientists are meant to know the difference between fact and fiction and as a first check of the reliability of a source of information they will often ask if it has been “peer-reviewed”. Peer-review means that research findings are conducted and presented to a standard that other scientists working within that field consider acceptable. This is normally achieved through publication in a scientific journal and involves the editor of the journal asking for comment on the validity, significance and originality of the work from other scientists before publication. In short, the system of peer-review means scientific research is subject to independent scrutiny but it doesn’t guarantee the truth of the research finding.

In theory rebuttals play an equal or more important role than peer review in guaranteeing the integrity of science. By rebuttals I mean articles, also in peer-reviewed journals, that show by means of contrary evidence and argument, that an earlier claim was false. By pointing out flaws in scientific papers that have passed peer-review, rebuttals, at least theoretically, enable scientific research programs to self-correct. But in reality most rebuttals are totally ignored and so fashionable ideas often persist even when they have been disproven.

Consider, for example, a paper published in 2006 by marine biologist, Boris Worm, and coworkers, in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science. The study was based on the meta-analysis of published fisheries data and predicted the collapse of the world’s fisheries by 2048. Publication of the article by Worm et al. was accompanied by a media release entitled “Accelerated loss of ocean species threatens human well-being” with the subtitle “Current trend projects collapse of all currently fished seafoods before 2050”.

Not surprisingly, given the importance of the finding, the article attracted widespread attention in the mainstream media and also within the scientific community. But not everyone agreed with the methodology used in the Worm study. Eleven rebuttals soon appeared, many within the same journal Science, and within months of the original article.

The rebuttals, however, scarcely altered the scientific perception of the original article.

In a comprehensive study of this, and six other high-profile original articles and their rebuttals, Jeannette Banobi, Trevor Branch and Ray Hilborn, found that at least in marine biology and fishery science rebuttals are for the most part ignored.

They found that original articles were cited on average 17 times more than rebuttals and that annual citation numbers were unaffected by rebuttals. On the occasions when rebuttals were cited, the citing papers on average had neutral views on the original article, and incredibly 8 percent actually believed that the rebuttal agreed with the original article.

Dr Banobi and coworkers commented that: “We had anticipated that as time passed, citations of the original articles would become more negative, and these articles would be less cited than other articles published in the same journal and year. In fact, support for the original articles remained undiminished over time and perhaps even increased, and we found no evidence of a decline in citations for any of the original articles following publication of the rebuttals…

“Thus the pattern we observed follows most closely the hypothesis of competing research programs espoused by Lakatos (1978): in practice, research programs producing and supporting the views in the original papers remained unswayed by the publication of rebuttals, thus significant changes in these ideas will tend to occur only if these research programs decay and dwindle over time while rival research programs (sponsored by the rebuttal authors) gain strength.”

Indeed it is the naive view that scientific communities learn from obvious mistakes. And as past failures become more entrenched it can only become increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from propaganda, including in the peer-reviewed literature.

3. Paradigms are never disproven: they are only ever replaced.

Since my return from the conference, it has been suggested to me that the ‘new paradigm’ for climate science is the one described in the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) reports, in particular the ‘null hypothesis paradigm’ that according to many skeptics, is far better at accounting for climate phenomena than are the General Circulation Models. I disagree.

The null hypothesis refers to the general statement or default position that there is no relationship between two measured phenomena. In the case of NIPCC the claim is that “nature not human activity rules the climate”. But this tells us almost nothing. In many ways it’s a cop-out. It’s like a theory of electricity without any explanation of charge, voltage or magnetism.

A good test of the value of any scientific theory to those external to the discipline is its utility. For example the calendars that were developed based on Nicolas Copernicus’ Heliocentric Theory of the Universe were better calendars than those based on Ptolemy’s Handy Tables. The new calendars, based on a new theoretical approach, more precisely predicted the position of the sun and the planets and thus the seasons, which, of course, influence the weather. In the same way, those who want to see AGW theory discarded need to increase their expectations of climate science and in particular demand some practical benefits. The most obvious would be better weather and climate forecasts.

Last year, aversion to a new theory attributing solar variability to gravitational and inertial effects on the sun from the planets and their satellites, not only resulted in the premature termination of a much-needed new journal (Pattern Recognition in Physics), but was also mocked by leading skeptical bloggers. More recently leading skeptical bloggers, Willis Eschenbach and Lubos Motl, were far too quick to attack a new notch-delay solar model that David Evans and Jo Nova developed in an attempt to quantify the difference between total solar irradiance and global temperatures and in the process forecast future climate.

In attempting to understand Dr Motl’s issues with Evans and Nova’s model, I was told that my work with John Abbot forecasting rainfall was also no better than “a sort of magic” because, like Evans and Nova, I was describing relationships “without a proper understanding of which variables are really driving things”. To the layman the few paragraphs of relevant jargon that Motl posted at his blog may have given the impression of some special knowledge, but in reality he was just repeating prejudices including the popular claim that climate is essentially chaotic.

Over the last few years my main focus of research has been on medium-term monthly rainfall forecasts. Not using General Circulation Models (GCMs) that attempt to simulate the climate from first principles, but rather using artificial neural networks (ANNs), which are a form of artificial intelligence and a state-of-the-art statistical modeling technique. John Abbot and I very quickly established that our method – which relies on mining historical climate data for patterns and then projecting forward – could produce a much more skillful medium term rainfall forecast than the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s best GCM.

Of course the use of statistical models for forecasting is not new, nor is pattern analysis. Many long-range weather forecasters and astrophysicists rely on lunar, solar and planetary cycles to forecast both weather and climate.

So, I was somewhat surprised to hear so many big names at the conference claim from the podium that it would never be possible to forecast weather more than a few days in advance, some going as far to suggest, like Lubos Motl, that climate is essentially a chaotic system.

Such claims are demonstrably false. Indeed that our ANNs (see Atmospheric Research 138, 166-178) can generate skillful monthly rainfall forecast up to three months in advance, is evidence that we are not dealing with a chaotic system.

Until skeptics start thinking about these issues and the need to back something, rather than perhaps always being too keen to knock the next big idea, we won’t truly make progress towards replacing the current dominant paradigm in climate science.


Global Warming Alarmist Sues Think Tank for Disputing his “Facts”

This article appeared on TownHall.com on August 13, 2014.
What’s worse than a public policy debate that turns bitter and impolite? Well, for one, having the courts step into the marketplace of ideas to judge which side of a debate has the best “facts.”

Yet that’s what Michael Mann has invited the D.C. court system to do. In response to some scathing criticism of his methodologies and an allegation of scientific misconduct, the author of the infamous “hockey stick” models of global warming — because they resemble the shape of a hockey stick, with temperatures rising drastically beginning in the 1900s — has taken the global climate change debate to a record low by suing the Competitive Enterprise Institute,National Review, and two individual commentators. The good Dr. Mann claims that some blogposts alleging his work to be “fraudulent” and “intellectually bogus” were libelous. (For more background on the matter, see this excellent summary by NR’s editor Rich Lowry; linking to that post is partly what led Mann to target CEI.)

The D.C. trial court rejected the defendants’ motion to dismiss this lawsuit, holding that their criticism could be taken as a provably false assertion of fact because the EPA, among other bodies, have approved of Mann’s methodologies. In essence, the court seems to cite a consensus as a means of censoring a minority view. The defendants appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals (the highest court in the District of Columbia).

Cato has now filed a brief, joined by three other think tanks, in which we urge the court to stay out of the business of refereeing scientific debates. (And if you liked our “truthiness” brief, you’ll enjoy this one.)

We argue that the First Amendment demands that failing to leave room for the marketplace of ideas to operate stifles academic and scientific progress, and that judges are ill-suited to officiate policy disputes — as history has shown time and again. The lower court clearly got it wrong here — and there are numerous cases where courts have more judiciously treated similarly harsh assertions for what they really are: expressions of disagreement on public policy that, even if hyperbolic, are among the forms of speech most deserving of constitutional protection.

The point in this appeal is that courts should not be coming up with new terms like “scientific fraud” to squeeze debate over issues impacting government policy into ordinary tort law. Dr. Mann is not like a corner butcher falsely accused of putting his thumb on the scale or mixing horsemeat into the ground beef. He is a vocal leader in a school of scientific thought that has had major impact on government policies.

Public figures must not be allowed to use the courts to muzzle their critics. Instead, as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly taught, open public debate resolves these sorts of disputes. The court here should let that debate continue outside the judicial system.


Proposed EPA Regs Would Affect Climate by Eighteen-Thousandths of a Degree by 2100 — and Cost U.S. Economy $51 Billion Annually

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposed rules, which seek to limit carbon emissions from power plants, would cost the American economy $51 billion, as well as 224,000 jobs, every year through 2030, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates.

With that significant of an economic impact, one would hope the EPA had a pretty good justification, right?

But I write today:

As the Cato Institute recently noted, the agency forgot to include one very important calculation in the information they released about the proposed rules: whether or not they will actually affect climate change.

“There’s really no reason to go after carbon emissions unless you think they cause climate change,” Chip Knappenberger, assistant director for Cato’s Center for the Study of Science, tells me. The impact on climate change is key. But the EPA hasn’t publicized any finding on that supposed link.

Knappenberger and his colleague Patrick J. Michaels crunched the numbers using an EPA-developed climate-model emulator. They found that the regulations would somewhat affect the climate — by eighteen-thousandths of a degree Celsius by 2100.

“We’re not even sure how to put such a small number into practical terms, because, basically, the number is so small as to be undetectable,” Knappenberg and Michaels wrote when they released their findings. “Which, no doubt, is why it’s not included in the EPA Fact Sheets. It is not too small, however, that it shouldn’t play a huge role in every and all discussions of the new regulations.”

That’s not the only time the EPA has used some suspect math. A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the EPA was calculating how its regulations would affect employment using a study outdated by 20 years that had, even when current, looked at only four industrial sectors. You can read about even more about the agency’s number-fudging here.


EPA goes from Environmental Protection Agency to Extremist Political Agenda

During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held hearings in four cities: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to have their voice heard about the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut CO2 emissions by 30%.

Many, including myself, believe that these rules are really an attempt to shut down coal-fueled electricity generation and implement a cap-and-trade program that the Administration couldn’t get through Congress in 2009, when cap-and-trade’s obvious allies held both houses of Congress.

If the EPA’s plans were clear, direct, and honest, the public would likely revolt outright. Instead, the intent is hidden in pages of cumbersome language and the messaging becomes all about clean air and water—and about the health of children.

Because I was in the area—speaking a few hours from Atlanta on Sunday—I took advantage of the proximity and signed up to speak at the hearing. When I first attempted to sign up, day one was already full. The EPA had so many people who wanted time to share their opinions, a second day was added, and I was put on the schedule.

The first day, Tuesday, July 29, included competing rallies held in near-record-low temperatures for Atlanta in July. Supporters of the EPA’s plan—many of whom were bussed in from surrounding states—gathered in Centennial Olympic Park. I spoke at the rally, made up of plan opponents, that was organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center—where the hearing was originally scheduled (before a power outage forced a move to the Omni Hotel).

I spent the rest of the day at the hearing. It had a circus-like atmosphere. With tables of literature, people carrying signs, and many of the plan’s supporters identified by their matching pale-green tee shirts emblazoned with:

  Protect our communities


Once I had a taste of what to expect the next day, when I was to present my comments in the five minutes allotted, I prepared what I wanted to say. The following is my original text—though I had to edit it down to get it within the allowed time frame. For presentation here, I’ve also enhanced my comments with some additional insights from others. The verbiage that is not a part of my original testimony is included in italics.

* * * *

I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well-intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed: “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will?”

I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.

One woman claimed her neighbor had gotten asthma from global warming.

Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue could be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.

An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog-covered city.”

The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge, as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.


India deals a blow to climate negotiations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world's third-largest greenhouse gas-emitting nation, won't join his U.S. and Chinese counterparts at a United Nations climate summit next month in New York.

Modi will skip the Sept. 23 event, according to the Economic Times, thwarting a potential meeting between the heads of states for the three largest greenhouse gas emitters — arguably the nations that will drive international negotiations next year in Paris.

Modi's absence is a bit of a blow to the summit, as India hasn't made the type of ambitious gestures that China and the U.S. have floated.

China, the world's top greenhouse gas emitter, has intimated it might make sizable commitments to curb carbon pollution — state media reported earlier this month that Beijing plans to eliminate coal use by 2020 in six major districts. The U.S. is pushing ahead with a proposal to slash power-sector emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, an effort that Obama said can secure buy-in from other nations.

Elected in May, Modi has fancied himself a climate champion, helping spur renewable energy adoption when he was chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. But he is considered a nationalist, and his campaign centered on economic revival. Much of India's rural poor still lack access to electricity — and the country happens to have a significant amount of coal.

The Economic Times noted that Modi has a Sept. 30 meeting with Obama. The publication said that if Modi attended the climate summit, the Indian leader "would have nothing to do" during the intervening week.


Australian Greens in bed with thug union

In a last-minute bid to prevent the election of Liberal Senate candidate and former ACT leader Zed Seselja in 2013, the ACT Greens received the largest donation in the history of the party branch from the pro-Labor Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU).

Fairfax Media can reveal a $50,000 donation was made to the ACT Greens federal account, which can only be spent on federal elections or administration, on September 3 last year, in the dying days of polling. It was by far the largest single donation ever given to the ACT Greens party and was more than twice as much as was given to the Labor Party over the same period.

It was also four times as much as a 2012 donation from the CFMEU's ACT branch, which made a few Greens members ''uneasy'' at the time.

CFMEU ACT division secretary Dean Hall said the donation had not come from the Canberra branch but from the national division, meaning he had no direct knowledge of it.

But he said it would have been donated to keep the Senate balance of power out of the hands of the Abbott government.

"It was more about the balance of power in the Senate. We tried to find a situation where we didn't have extreme right-wing legislation being passed," he said.

"[The donation] would have been for the Senate campaign. At the time there was a chance that senator Seselja wouldn't get elected [and] I think that's what it was about, trying to secure the balance of power."

He said a very small amount of the donation would have been funded by ACT voters.

ACT Greens convenor Sophie Trevitt acknowledged the party had recieved a donation from the national branch of the CFMEU but would not say where the money had gone and what it was spent on.

She said they had accepted the donation on the basis it came from the construction division of the CFMEU, compared to the mining or forestry divisions, and was derived from union member fees.

She said the ACT Greens had a lot of common ground with the CFMEU in Canberra.

"[We] have supported their calls for safer and fairer workplaces and we have worked closely with the CFMEU to improve safety in the building and construction industry," she said.

When asked whether there had been any conditions on the donation, Ms Trevitt said the Greens did not accept donations with ''strings attached''.

"All donations go through a vetting process to ensure that donations are not accepted from organisations whose principles and ethics conflict with the Greens," she said.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU's national office said all the union's donations were published appropriately and they donated to a number of parties that supported workers' rights.

She also said she wanted to stress the union did not agree with all of the ACT Greens' policy positions.

Former ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said there was a donations reference group within the party who veted every major donation and rejected it if it was inappropriate.

She said the Greens had tried to pass donation reform legislation through the assembly which would have only allowed donations from ACT electors, but it had been rejected by the Labor and Liberal parties.

Ms Le Couteur said after all, the Greens were a political party that wanted to get its candidate elected.

"Obviously we don't have anything like as much money as the Liberal or Labor parties [so] if they're playing by rules which allow donations from non-individuals then [refusing those donations] is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face," she said.

"We'd like it to be otherwise but ... it isn't,"



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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