Anthropogenic Global Warming: The Greatest Fraud in History?
The credibility of science may never recover. (Also read Roger L. Simon: The Gore That Came In from the Cold.)
January 30, 2009 - 12:51 am
Albert Einstein and Nils Bohr spent decades debating quantum mechanics. Neither side tried to criminalize the other. Einstein’s stubborn skepticism actually led to spectacular new findings. Skepticism turned out to be one of his great gifts to the world.
Today’s public attack on skeptics should trigger loud alarm bells in the minds of scientists. It is indecent as well as dangerous.
Pop media hype.
AGW is heavily promoted through the popular media. But the pop media are utterly incompetent when it comes to any scientific or technical question. An English or journalism degree just doesn’t prepare you; nor do news editors want you to tell the truth. In the media a good story always beats out technical facts.
But in reputable science nothing is published without careful peer review, and the more spectacular the hypothesis, the more intensive the reviews are going to be. That’s why peer-reviewed journals are so vital to a healthy science, and why the constant evasion of peer review by global warming fanatics is a sign of their scientific weakness. If the evidence was solid, they would not have to run to the nearest headline-hunting journalist.
Bad data without apology.
In AGW bad data has been very widespread, and judging by past performance, it may still be endemic. Thermometers are placed in hot areas in the cities, and the data is shamelessly generalized to the whole world. The infamous “hockey stick” temperature diagram has been exposed. James Hansen has brought NASA to its lowest point ever by repeatedly endorsing false data.
In any healthy field of science, that disastrous empirical record would have discredited the hypothesis. But while the data seems to crash periodically, the models don’t change in their catastrophism.
Read the headlines in SCIENCE magazine any week, and you can see that grinding process of doubt, clarification, and constant revision going on. In real science researchers can be forgiven for making a few errors, but not many known or suspected frauds are denied tenure or fired. They are essentially blacklisted for the rest of their careers. The process is utterly Darwinian, and it works.
Except for the global warming hype. Here, we’re supposed to accept the word of media types who know nothing about science, and care only about the next big headline.
Here are seven more fundamental violations of scientific integrity in the AGW game.
1. Never confuse lab results with nature. Richard Feynman said that the physics we know is the simple part; natural physics in the real world is far too simple for blind generalization.
2. In real science we never label a speculative idea to be true by fiat. Ordinary scientists would lose their reputations simply by mislabeling a wild hypothesis as the truth. They would be isolated like a cyst in the human body, blocked from spreading the infection.
2. In real science the burden of proof is always on the proposer, never on the skeptics.
3. In real science ‘data surrogates” are never accepted without long-term testing.
Until a decade or two ago we didn’t have satellites to measure global temperatures. Before that time we had to rely on very spotty and locally distorted surface thermometers, or even worse, ice core surrogates for real world temperatures. But those core samples take decades of testing and open debate before we know what they really measure. It took centuries for the mercury thermometer to be adopted. Can we really believe the story that ice cores and tree cores tell us the truth about global temperatures eons ago? I don’t know, but in a toxified field of research, I don’t trust it.
4. In real science we never smuggle untested premises into the words we use.
The very term “greenhouse gas” is an unproven assumption. Don’t even use it unless you are prepared to prove that C02 and methane actually raise world temperatures. So far the evidence doesn’t look good.
5. In real science we never corrupt the integrity of research by slanting grants toward any preconceived idea. Nor do we allow ourselves to be rushed into making huge claims without adequate testing and debate. Political deadlines mean nothing in real science.
6. In the real world, much less real science, we never, never believe politicians when they claim to know a scientific truth; they are unqualified, and they are professional liars.
Al Gore is a sick joke. The same can be said about the establishment media, and yes, even about scientist-politicians.
Scientists are as corruptible as anybody else. Good scientists do have a conscience, but it’s the double-checking mechanisms of science that makes it trustworthy. We routinely see corrupt accountants and clergy in the news, and the news business itself is deeply corrupted and untrustworthy. The question is, do you build in checks and balances? Reporters are always rushed and deadline-driven, and they always trade off their integrity against the daily pressure for headlines.
All this affects you personally. Don’t doubt that your life and mine depend upon healthy science and medicine, and yes, even on honest journalism.
7. Finally, in real science we never confuse an infant research effort with a mature science that has been checked and triple-checked over decades.
Climate modeling is just a toddler science, barely able to waddle around the living room. It’s a nice idea to try modeling the earth’s atmosphere. But nature is inconceivably more complex than what we ever see in a laboratory jar. There are no proven “greenhouse gases” in the real atmosphere, just as there are no proven causes of alcoholism or obesity. Alcoholism is an incredibly complex mix of nutrients, heredity, epigenetics, exercise, lifestyle, early learning, puberty, social support, economics, food availability, optimism, toxins, sunshine, interactions, feedback loops, and all the unknown unknowns.
Try to build little computer models of alcoholism and you learn nothing new — because it’s the evidence that’s missing. Computer models of the atmosphere are just as premature. Climate modeling is a baby “science” just like the quack cures for alcoholism or obesity.
Most scientifically savvy people understand this perfectly well. It’s not news — except to the news media, who just don’t want to know. They will never ruin a good story with facts. Journalists don’t get fired for being wrong.
AGW therefore looks to be the biggest fraud in the history of science. The AGW hype machine may signal the worst breakdown ever in the normal, healthy process of open debate and endless testing that makes for good science. It’s pathological science — which is not science at all.
What’s happening today is very dangerous. It can infect other parts of the sciences, medicine, and technology. If honest scientists cannot stand up to the pressure we are in deep, deep trouble as a society. Bad science kills people.
That institutional breakdown could spread — perhaps it has already spread — to other fields that have been politicized. This is very bad.
Ultimately the only solution may be to cauterize the proliferating mass of corruption. That can only be done by the new media, which are not playing footsies with political frauds.
All we can do is keep telling the truth, and listen to honest debate. Keep on doing that, and this sickness may yet pass, without killing the patient.