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:
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):
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:
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.”
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.