Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cargo Cult Science? Global Warming Gets Shrill.

Global Warming appears to be Al Gore's latest political ticket, as he poses once again. I recall when he ran for Prez in the New York primary in 1988, he postured as Israel's greatest defender and was rarely photographed without a yarmulke. In 2000, he mutated so often that between earth tones and finger-wagging, he couldn't quite find out which brand of imposter he thought the voter would like best. Now he preaches Global Warming like a Savonarola of Big Science. But here are some alternative views:

Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an editorial last April for The Wall Street Journal:

"To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 [carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere have increased by about 30 percent over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming.

"These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming."

Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, in an email interview:

"Climate change is a real problem, partly caused by human activities, but its importance has been grossly exaggerated.

"It is far less important than other social problems such as poverty, infectious diseases, deforestation, extinction of species on land and in the sea, not to mention war, nuclear weapons and biological weapons.

"We do not know whether the observed climate changes are on balance good or bad for the health of the biosphere. And the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide as a fertilizer of plant growth are at least as important as its effects on climate."

William Gray, hurricane expert and head of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, in a 2005 interview with Discover magazine:

"I'm not disputing that there has been global warming. There was a lot of global warming in the 1930s and '40s, and then there was a slight global cooling from the middle '40s to the early '70s. And there has been warming since the middle '70s, especially in the last 10 years. But this is natural, due to ocean circulation changes and other factors. It is not human induced.

"Nearly all of my colleagues who have been around 40 or 50 years are skeptical as hell about this whole global-warming thing. But no one asks us. If you don't know anything about how the atmosphere functions, you will of course say, 'Look, greenhouse gases are going up, the globe is warming, they must be related.' Well, just because there are two associations, changing with the same sign, doesn't mean that one is causing the other."

Patrick J. Michaels, professor of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech, State Climatologist for Virginia in an email interview:

"In climate science, we only have two things: data (the past) and models or hypotheses (the future). The data show us that distribution of warming since the mid-1970s is consistent with what one would expect from an enhanced carbon dioxide-related greenhouse effect. The ensemble behavior of our models is that, once this warming is initiated, it tends to take place at a constant (rather than an ever-increasing) rate. Indeed this has been the case for the last three decades.

"Consequently we know, with considerable confidence, the rate of warming for the policy-foreseeable future, and it is about 0.85 degrees Celsius, [1.53 degrees Fahrenheit] per half-century. This is near the low end of projections made by the United Nations. However, there is no known suite of technologies that can affect this rate significantly, so the proper policy is to invest in the future rather than to waste money today in a futile attempt to significantly reduce warming."

But wait, there's a new boy on the block, who got into Harvard, but couldn't get into Harvard Law. And this guy is the reigning expert on the subject, having by his own admission invented the Internet. Freeman Dyson was formerly the scientist a la mode for the fashionable left, but the chattering classes abandoned him for the trendy Gore, whose credentials are absolutely fabulous in the cargo cult science department.
Gore said. "We face what I think should be described as a full-scale planetary emergency."

While aware such a phrase sounds shrill to many ears, Gore added that "unfortunately, I believe it is exactly dead-on accurate."

Gore cited increases in carbon dioxide, the thickening of the atmospheric blanket enveloping Earth, rising sea levels and the increased acidification of the world’s oceans that could completely disrupt the marine food chain.

"We have a climate crisis," Gore said.

Although Gore forgot to enumerate the coming storm drain crisis, otherwise his true-believer Chicken-Little The-Sky-is-Falling hysterics have recently pretty much covered the landscape with horrific scenarios of doom and devastation unless the world adopts Luddite measures against the internal combustion engine, which limousine-driven private-jet user Gore claims is "ridiculously inefficient." As Richard Feynman might have paused to note:
"Cargo cult science".... has the semblance of being scientific, but is missing "a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty".

Stalin's favorite environmental "scientist" Lysenko would have been proud of Gore.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup Dave.

Climate science is complex. Be skeptical of everything you see and hear. Listen to all opinions, not just the ones you choose to believe in.