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What Real Scientists Do: Global Warming Science vs. Global Whining Scientists

According to M. Mitchell Waldrop, editorial page editor for Nature, “global-warming deniers . . . are sowing doubts about the fundamental [climate change] science.” Further, Waldrop argues in his op-ed “Climate of Fear, “scientists’ reputations have taken a hit.”

Let’s ignore the snarky reference to “deniers” and ask: is science and are scientists under attack? The answer is Yes. But in an intellectual sense, isn’t this the essence of falsifiable, non-verifiable  physical science?

Climategate (et al.) is not simply about “deniers” and Waldrop’s complaint that skeptics are “stok[ing] the angry fires of talk radio, cable news, the blogosphere and the like.” It’s much more nuanced than that.

As a quick aside, perhaps Dr. Waldrop can be forgiven for failing to see the big picture. To critics (can he tolerate them?), he is a deer in the headlights of universal, Internet-quick scientific scrutiny. And there are a lot of smart ‘amateurs’ mixing it up with the pros (who likes competition?).  Consider the view of his colleague-in-arms Paul Ehrlich, who profoundly stated in the same March 10th editorial: “Everyone is scared shitless, but they don’t know what to do.”

Perhaps we can help them.

Three Key Issues

Sorting this out, there are three important issues:

(1) Is science under attack?

(2) Are scientists under attack? and

(3) Who is doing the attacking?

The third questions is by far the most interesting, but let us first dispose of questions one and two.

Is Science Under Attack?

To question one, the answer is of course it is. That’s how science works. One of the simplest explanations of this is often used by Martin Hertzberg, a retired Navy meteorologist with a PhD in physical chemistry-–in other words, a real scientist.  He writes:

The difference between a scientist and propagandist is clear. If a scientist has a theory, he searches diligently for data that might contradict it so that he can test it further or refine it. The propagandist carefully selects only the data that agrees with his theory and dutifully ignores any that contradicts it. The global warming alarmists don’t even bother with data! All they have are half-baked computer models that are totally out of touch with reality and have already been proven to be false.

Science is always under attack, and the best science is under attack by the very scientists who construct the hypotheses at issue. Sadly, this is not what is generally going on with climate change.

To help our climate science friends, which would include anyone who worked on the IPCC Work Group I report, here are just two hypotheses that they might wish to diligently examine:

  • There is no evidence of historic temperature increases or temperature levels similar to what we have observed in the past 40 years that could arise from natural causes.
  • The climate models upon which the IPCC reports rely fully incorporate the influences of water vapor, the El Nino southern, the Pacific decadal oscillation, the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation, the Arctic oscillation, and the causes of long-term (1,500, 5,000 and 20,000 year) climate variation, thus eliminating the potential to mistake a natural cause in climate variation with a man-made cause of variation.

If the IPCC scientists were able to falsify either of these, then the entire basis for alarmism about climate change would fall apart, as these are the “fundamental” climate science about which Dr. Waldrop is so concerned.

There is some hope, however. After being bludgeoned by criticism and demands for data from scientists outside his personal circle of climate alarmists, and apparently a scientist within his own offices who released the now infamous Climategate emails, Dr. Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Institute at East Anglia University, and IPCC scion, has admitted the following (as summarized by Indur Goklany):

  • Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional.
  • There was no significant warming from 1998-2009. According to the IPCC we should have seen a global temperature increase of at least 0.2°C per decade.
  • The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both.
  • This also suggests that there is a systematic upward bias in the impacts estimates based on these models just from this factor alone.
  • The logic behind attribution of current warming to well-mixed man-made greenhouse gases is faulty.
  • The science is not settled, however unsettling that might be.
  • There is a tendency in the IPCC reports to leave out inconvenient findings, especially in the part(s) most likely to be read by policy makers.

Are Scientists Under Attack?

It is unusual that scientists fighting other scientists make newspaper headlines. One isn’t supposed to be bludgeoned at all, and the discourse isn’t supposed to be on the BBC webpage, but rather in the scientific literature. Hence, the second question: Are scientists under attack?

Here nuance begins to enter. Some scientists who should be under attack are under attack. Some who should be are not, and some who should not be are. A small number of examples make this point.

Scientists at the East Anglia University’s Climate Research Center (CRU), the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the Pennsylvania State University, to name but three, have refused to respond to Freedom of Information requests seeking data and the code for the computer models they have used in preparation of scientific papers. These scientists deserve to be under attack. As the Institute of Physics explained in its submission to Parliament regarding the released CRU emails:

Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary.

If honest science is to survive, the information underlying scientific studies must be available to anyone seeking to validate or replicate the work. Any scientist who stands in the way of that principle should not only be under attack, they should be cashiered from the profession.

Now, as to those who are not under attack but should be. These are often individuals who have reached emeritus status and are “too big to fail”, one supposes. Let me offer but one example, Professor Steven Schneider. He served as a climate researcher for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado for two decades and is one of the most ardent advocates of the Global Warming Theory. He joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1991 and remains there today. He has stated the following:

  • “It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides [of the global warming theory] as though it were a question of balance.” (Quoted in the Boston Globe, May 31, 1992.)
  • “Looking at every bump and wiggle… is a waste of time…. I don’t set very much store by looking at the direct evidence.” (Quoted in the Washington Times, June 12, 1992)
  • “[We] have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” (Quoted by Dixy Lee Ray in Trashing the Planet, 1990)

Schneider is a Hertzberg propagandist. He and his fellow travelers should be the focus of intense examination as they seek to deflect debate away from the science itself. I don’t, however, see the bastions of science, including the National Academy, cleaning up its own messes. These supposed leaders of science have the rostrum and they are not going to give it up. They control the science purse strings, access to journals, and most of the lay press. They are the emperors without clothing.

These propagandists are not to be confused with the majority of scientists who have no political agenda and who simply want to be scientists. These are often the scientists who are under attack and should not be. Among them are Richard Lindzen, MIT, Roger Pielke, Sr., University of Colorado – Boulder, and John Christy, UAH. These people refuse to go beyond where observation takes them. They are under attack because they refuse to participate in the propaganda campaigns.

Who’s Doing the Attacking?

Now for the fascinating question, who is attacking the “settled science”? The answer reflects an entirely new paradigm.

In the past, adversarial science most often played out in the courts. A perfect recent example is found in the recent matter of Native Ecosystems Council v. Tidwell. The court held that government scientists were arbitrary and capricious in their decision-making because they relied on models instead of actual observation. Specifically, the Forest Service attempted to claim that a 40,000 acre area of sagebrush was a breeding ground for the sage grouse, even though they had diligently looked for these birds and had not been able to find either one bird or one breeding site in over 15 years. Nevertheless, the government scientists claimed that their habitat model suggested that it should be a breeding ground and thus it was one and thus it demanded protection. As the court stated, that “just doesn’t cut it.”

Notably, in dissent, one judge was prepared to rely on the authority of the government instead of the science itself. That is, of course, the crux of the problem. It is time to get past “authority” and get to the science, and that is the new paradigm.

Propagandists like Steve Schneider loudly argue that the “deniers” or “skeptics” should be disregarded. To him the debate should be within the scientific community. The skeptics aren’t scientists but shills for Big Oil. Even Nature editor Waldrop proclaims that “the IPCC error [regarding glaciers] was originally caught by scientists, not skeptics”. (Brit. Spelling).

Schneider and Waldrop are wrong. There is a new breed of scientist in this fray, and they don’t take money from Big Oil (or little oil), and they publish in the peer-reviewed literature and they are not afraid of big data sets or complex computer code. I call them the “mad-as- hell, won’t-take-it-anymore” scientists.

Who are These Guys?

In the main, these are the now retired baby-boomers who have nothing better to do with their time than apply their considerable skills in attempting to replicate or falsify climate alarmism science. Steve McIntyre, working with Ross McKitrick, destroyed Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick”, and in the process demonstrated that data does exist to show that natural causes can result in temperatures higher than what we observed in the 1990’s.

McIntyre continues to seek the data underlying the IPCC reports. Although McIntyre and McKitrick publish in the peer-reviewed literature, their work on the Internet at Climate Audit has been the more powerful driver for scientific openness and honest analysis. They put science on open display in a manner that allows others to replicate or critique their work. Others of this ilk are Ken Stewart, Anthony Watts, S. Fred Singer, Frederick Seitz, Chauncey Starr, and the father of the Gaia theory, James Lovelock.

Lovelock, the 90-year-old British scientist, who has worked for NASA and paved the way for the detection of man-made aerosol and refrigerant gases in the atmosphere, called for greater caution in climate research. Reflecting on the current status of climate science, Lovelock makes the pithy point that “quite often, observations done by hand are accurate but all the theoretical stuff in between tends to be very dodgy and I think they are seeing this with climate change.”

Conclusion

So, what would a real scientist do? Perhaps they should look backward to see what their retired parents are doing and try to do as well. Bit embarrassing when the old man or old woman takes the children to task for abandoning the touch stone of science. Happily, until they are dead, it looks like the grey-haired old biddies are going to look askance at their propaganda progeny.

David W. Schnare, Esq. Ph.D., is director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship, Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. For more biographical information on Dr. Schnare, see here.

17 comments

1 jim { 03.16.10 at 3:15 am }

Climate is Science. Climate Change is propaganda.

Anyone who is serious about climate needs to drop the “change” immediately. Climate has and always will change, “climate change” is a marketing term used by alarmists to convey to people that climate should be realtively constant and any “change” would deemed to be man made. If you can convince people that climate is constant every single weather event triggers the idea that the change is unprecedented and man made.

Stop the propaganda term “climate change” and talk climate, the science that studies the change in weather over the long term.

2 What Real Scientists Do: Global Warming Science vs. Global Whining … | the world cares.com { 03.16.10 at 3:19 am }

[...] What Real Scientists Do: Global Warming Science vs. Global Whining … Tags: climate-change, editorial-page, fundamental, his-op-ed, mitchell-waldrop, the-fundamental, [...]

3 Jack Mildam { 03.16.10 at 9:01 am }

> … Internet-quick scientific scrutiny.

You mean “Internet-quick scientific idiocy”. Because that’s all there is. Thousands of sideshow blogs, like this one, declaring that the planet’s climate scientists are idiots or liars.

Here’s a better article to clearly see what real scientists think: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/peter-gleick-climate-change-deniers-versus-the-scientific-societies-of-the-world-who-should-we-listen-to/

4 Robert Bradley Jr. { 03.16.10 at 10:03 am }

Mr. Mildam:

We welcome strong dissent on our posts such as yours (which is more than you can say about Climate Progress, which to me says a lot).

Dr. Schnare’s post is a strong one, but Climategate pretty much speaks for itself. I’d look to Judith Curry at a minimum to see the cleanup that ‘mainstream’ science needs to do in order to become more credible.

Yes, there is a lot of junk out on the Internet, but it is proven that some star ‘amateurs’ have beaten the ‘pros’ in climate science. Thank goodness for them–and thank goodness for Climategate.

5 David Schnare { 03.16.10 at 10:17 am }

Mr. Mildam:

Here’s the comment I left on the circle of blue blog site to which you refer. Dr. Peter Gleick, whose post you recommend, makes the common mistake so many have made.

Peter:

You make the same mistake many make when thinking about science issues for which you have no first hand knowledge or into which you choose not to inquire deeply. You rely on “authorities” rather than look directly at the science.

You also demand to have an alternative theory before you discount an existing theory that has been falsified by data.

Your approach is not science, it is propaganda.

If you are going to attack folks like McIntyre and McKitrick (who publish in peer-reviewed journals) simply because they have falsified the work that various associations have championed, you have aimed at the wrong target. Aim at the science, not the scientists.

When you actually look at the slovenly science, you too will be a bit more skeptical. And, there’s quite a bit of falsification of the “settled science” going on.

Go ahead and do your homework. Look it up.

David W. Schnare, Esq. Ph.D.
Director
Center for Environmental Stewardship
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

6 Joseph A Olson, PE { 03.16.10 at 12:17 pm }

It is a misnomer to call ‘climatotology’ a science. It is a classification system with virtually NO predictive ability. A three-day ‘guess’ at gross movements of varying temperature and humidity air masses is not repeatable or verifiable. For more on the history of this juevinile branch of science see “The Challenge for the Climate Change Savants”.

For those idle boomers with science training and internet access this has been an intellectual turkey shoot. The failure to provide data, even by FOI request, is just another in the transparent violations of science. For more on the fraud against the English Scientific Method read “East Anglia Even Horizon”, “Nullius In Verba” and “‘Overcoming Climate Inertia” all posted at deniers websites and crosslinked to thousands of web/blogs in a dozen languages.

The ‘deniers’ will not stop until the fundamental failures that have caused this fraud are exposed and corrected. That includes the IPCC players, the defective peer review process and the duplicitous scientific journal editors. The AGW cult movement is dead, the crime scene clean up has just begun. The deniers have beaten a truly evil force.

7 Jon Boone { 03.16.10 at 1:24 pm }

Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.–H.L. Mencken

Science is the disinterested search for the objective truth about the material world. –Richard Dawkins

Theories crumble, but good observations never fade.—Harlow Shapley

The essence of science is methodology, a process that attempts to explain the material world by establishing testable conditionals–if this, then that hypothesis–which predict outcomes. Successful predictions are then repeated continuously and independently by those with no financial or ideological stake in the outcome.

The key to the method is (1) the reduction or elimination of bias in the inquiry, (2) the requirement of falsifyability through independent tests of conclusions, and (3) insistence on performance measurement.

Consequently, the methods of science are always provisional, and its practitioners MUST INSIST ON CONSTANT CRITICAL REVIEW. Otherwise, they’re not practicing science.

8 Interglacial John { 03.16.10 at 6:27 pm }

Thank you David for your thoughtful oped. I really cannot add a thing except, well done.

9 Sam { 03.17.10 at 12:30 pm }

I would just offer one point that needs corrected. The school in question is Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and not the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).

There are some very fine scientists at Penn that shouldn’t be confused with one not so fine responsible for Mann-made warming.

[Corrected--thanks, ed.]

10 GregO { 03.17.10 at 10:39 pm }

Great oped – too bad American MSM is missing out on all the fun. Call me crazy but I think that knowing man-made CO2 is not destroying the planet is great news and after decades of high-profile reporting on this phony science it would sell tons of newsprint if a big popular outfit came out with a thorough well-written summary of this the greatest scientific fraud in history. Oh well, no wonder American MSM is dieing…Keep up the good work, I am always trolling the internet for gems like your article.

11 Chris { 03.19.10 at 11:16 am }

The real issue is the following: can a thousand people be wrong? Anyone who’s studied history to even a minimalist extent knows that the answer is yes. A lot of people are in denial with regard to the answer to the above question. Apparently for some, who have invested themselves heavily into academic groupthink, a positive answer would be too hard for them to fathom. This just makes their fall more worse for them and more enjoyable to me.

12 Jim R { 03.21.10 at 4:09 pm }

I have done a almost 200 pp compendium of quotes, graphs and facts on the fraud of AGW. If anyone there would like to “data mine” it for info you can use, drop me an email.

Keep up the great work!

[Ed: Thank you. Jim's email is jvanne@ameritech.net]

13 Charles A. Berg, Sc.D, PE Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston { 03.23.10 at 9:06 am }

Re Dr. Schnare’s comment, below.

The fault Dr. Schnare points out is one of the informal fallacies of logic: argumentum ad vericundiam, the citation of authority replacing logical form. It is one of the mainstays of politics, one regrets to say. (See Copi’s excellent text on Logic.)

In his reply, Dr Schnare remarks particularly on ,

“thinking about science issues for which you have no first hand knowledge or into which you choose not to inquire deeply. ”

What is a scientist, anyway? Is it enough to get a PhD in, say physics, and then proclaim one’s self a scientist? Definitely not. A scientist must have the necessary training to begin to understand a field of study, and then he/she must practice in that field – first under supervision – sufficiently to gain a depth of understanding, and finally must conduct independent study of the field, all the while submitting his/her work to the scrutiny of others for review, comment, and possible correction. If one does not do this, the result is Lysenko-non-science – possibly supported by some political authority: in Lysenko’s case, Stalin, who found Lamarckian “acquired characteristics” a convenient prop for generalized Marxian theory and forced collectivization.

This is the deplorable situation with the White house Science Adviser, J. P. Holdren. According to his own C. V. Dr. H. has never conducted independent research in physics; on his few papers in his field of study, he appears as a junior co-author. And then, around 1974, he wrote a chapter for Ehrlich’s book, to explain how thermodynamics supports the Ehrlich view of population dynamics. That chapter, if presented in an academic seminar at a reputable University Department of science or engineering, would leave the audience rolling in the isles. It is irredemiably filled with elementary mistakes, even in the expression of the laws of thermodynamics, themselves.

following that, Holdren became the darling of the popularized scientific press, and departed into “Policy Science” what ever that is.

The shame in the situation is that anyone listens to him – especially our national administration – as he preaches an ideology – not a science – and casts aspersions on the serious scientific work of others.

Peter:
Comment by Dr. Schnare, referred to above, follows:

You make the same mistake many make when thinking about science issues for which you have no first hand knowledge or into which you choose not to inquire deeply. You rely on “authorities” rather than look directly at the science.David W. Schnare, Esq. Ph.D.
Director
Center for Environmental Stewardship
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

14 Russell Seitz { 06.02.10 at 6:45 pm }

I vigorously object to Joseph Olsen’s mischaracterization of my European WSJ op-ed, ‘Nullius in verba ‘

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2008/05/nullius-in-verb.html

as part of the canon of denial.

The soundest measure of eminence in any discipline is how often experts are cited by other experts. Some thousands of professionals currently conduct climate science research, with a median of 56 peer reviewed publications each. All their work is indexed and available online, and the genuine expertise behind the IPCC reports is evident in the productivity of its coauthors -they average 93 papers each, and scientists in other disciplines have cited and rechecked their work tens of thousands of times.

This is in stark contrast to the 32,000 ‘scientists’ that signed the Oregon Petition, 99% of whom haven’t published a thing on climate science. Of the relative handful that have, the median publication count is not 93, or 56, but two, so less than 1 in a thousand qualifies as an average, let alone an ‘eminent ‘ climate scientist.

Fox TV’s contrarian talking heads hail largely from the bottom of the scientific minor leagues. Far from being scientific opinion leaders, such No Spin Zone stalwarts as Fred Singer, and Patrick Michaels rank 592nd and 359th in climatology’s bibliometric who’s who. Despite MIT and Harvard connections, Richard Lindzen and Willie Soon are no better, placing 399th & 547th, while the much touted ‘Wegman report’s author brings up the rear in 1,921st place

Heartland’s PR flacks are simply talking through their hats when they boast of hosting “hundreds of eminent scientists, when their K-Street pickup squad is more of an embarrassment than a resource for those raising serious objections to the use of climate hype as a political tool by advocates of carbon taxation.

15 David Schnare { 06.03.10 at 9:37 am }

“Nullius in Verba”, the motto of the Royal Society translates as “on the words of no one.” This goes to the heart of the problem with climate change science and policy, efforts of some to rely on “authorities” rather than observation. Thus, Dr. Seitz’s comment seems confusing. His comment asserts that authorities who publish a great deal are more trustworthy than those who publish less. Yet, when one reads his now discredited screed against the Royal Society, he argues ” don’t let policy proceed from mere perceptions of authority.”

One must think the gentleman protests too much. Nevertheless, one must agree with the point he makes in his WSJ article, to wit, “there is no place in a free society for a self-appointed Central Committee of Scientific Truth.”

16 Russell Seitz { 06.03.10 at 7:13 pm }

David should look before leaping onto his own petard.

He refers to my 2006 op ed chastising the RS for polemics denying the existence of uncertainty in the climate wars as ” his now discredited screed.”

How very odd . Last Thursday the BBC thundered that

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10178124.stm

“The UK’s Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change after 43 Fellows complained that it had oversimplified its messages.”

I rest my case.

17 David Schnare { 06.03.10 at 8:20 pm }

I have oft wondered what it would be like to leap upon my own petard, but I don’t have one, at least in the climate debate. I have only the meager hand weapon called critical thinking. Applied to Dr Seitz’ WSJ article, for which he provided the link in his comment, I see no reason to improve upon my comments, but I welcome Dr. Seitz’ to the discussion.

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