Friday, April 20, 2018

Nasty trap of mis-stating what you know

Or in other words, bullshit motivated by some combination of career advancement and politics? Garth Paltridge on Judith Curry's site.

In the scurry to find reasons for this ‘pause’ [over about the last twenty years] (it was first acknowledged as a problem in 2009 or thereabouts(33)), and to find reasons for an obvious failure of the models to predict it, about three or four years ago we began to hear from scientists that (among other theories(6, 7)) perhaps the heat of global warming was being hidden in the deep ocean. In other words we were being told that some natural internal oceanic fluctuation may have reduced the upward trend in global temperature. It is therefore a little strange that we were not being told by the IPCC, or at any rate we were not being told very loudly, that some natural internal fluctuation of the ocean (rather than warming by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide) may have given rise to much of the earlier upward trend of temperature.
In light of all this, we have at least to consider the possibility that the scientific establishment behind the global warming issue has been drawn into the trap of seriously overstating the climate problem — or, what is much the same thing, of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problem. If true, it is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it would risk destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty that is the basis of society’s respect for scientific endeavour.
It would seem sensible for the climate-science community to back away from any tacit support for the proposition that ‘the science is settled’.
It is conceivable in circumstances of reduced funding that overall climate research will revert to a situation where the focus is entirely on the easy option of developing more and bigger numerical models. This would be a sterile activity indeed without the input of experimental observation to guide the development of theoretical prediction methods and to keep the relevant numerical models ‘honest’. It would fall foul of a fundamental tenet of scientific endeavour — namely, that a theory without experimental support is little better than guesswork(24). It could stop climate research dead.

Modellers like Michael Mann have always acted as though observations don't really matter. McIntyre made fun of them years ago for never doing field work. They may be happy in a world where the only major funding is for more modelling, not more field work (including observations from space). The bullshit can just keep getting re-cycled, with no real attempt at confirmation from reality. The Polar Bear people are a bit different: they feel superior to Susan Crockford because they do field work in the Arctic, and then rush to a simple minded model linking ice extent to polar bear population. They rushed to judgement, committing bullshit at least in the form of carelessness, and now dishonest rejection of what their critics say, because there are career advantages in linking their work to the larger climate bullshit. One would think there is just an interest in knowing about polar bear populations, whether up or down in particular sub-species, and overall, possible causes of change and so on. If the population is stable or up, as seems to be the case, maybe that is good news rather than bad. It might be bad for seals, for example, but we seem to hear that it is bad for scientists who have staked their reputations on a model and a theory. Susan Crockford is attempting to practice "consilience": the application of the methods of various fields of study to provide a fuller picture of (in this case) an ecosystem.

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