Friday, March 5, 2010

Toeing the Line

The Institute of Physics made a submission to the British House of Commons' Select Committee on Science and Technology. Some key points:

1. "The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change."

2. There has been a lack of transparency as to the methods that were used--especially for reconstructions that go back before the era of actual temperature readings.

Then, about a week later, the IOP issued a "clarification":

In a statement issued today the institute said its written submission to the committee "has been interpreted by some individuals to imply that it does not support the scientific evidence that the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming."

It says: "That is not the case. The institute's position on climate change is clear: the basic science is well enough understood to be sure that our climate is changing, and that we need to take action now to mitigate that change."

So the larger statement indicates that there is substantial room for doubt about the evidence of warming, especially when it comes to reconstructions, and this doubt affects the IPCC, not only the CRU, i.e. it is doubtful whether there is a group known as "climate scientists" who have used methods which are wholly independent of those that have raised doubts. Then the short statement says: nevertheless, we are sure the climate is changing (presumably warming, and because of man-made CO2), and something must be done. So: there are doubts, but we already know the doubts don't affect the big questions? How could that be?

It sounds like an assertion of faith to me. I know the arguments to the effect that the earth orbits the sun, but I nevertheless believe as I have been taught that the sun orbits the earth.

There are questions as to who exactly wrote the long IOP document, claiming to speak for 30,000 people, but as Bishop Hill says, such questions could be raised about many documents--including IPCC reports.

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