Friday, November 27, 2009

The global warming thing...

Here's how it's gone down so far. I posted this at my Facebook:

What the Global Warming Emails Reveal - -- Wow. The rock is lifted and beneath…. This is why, as always, you should read "Science tells us…" as "Certain humans occupied as scientists tell us...". The plot thickens!

Then I got this reply:

I think 3 facts are sufficient to motivate a change in the production and consumption of (at least) petro-chemicals:

1) the gas/diesel engine is on average 25-30% efficient (" Gasoline engines are typically 25% efficient while diesel engines can convert over 30% of the fuel energy into mechanical energy."

2) There is a limited amount of it, regardless what that amount is, the rate at which we consume vs. the rate at which the earth "produces" is nearly infinite....

3) If I leave the engine on in my closed garage, my car will kill me.

Time for a new technology. These points are provable, they are non-partisan and (for me) compelling.

I replied:

... [Leaving aside fuel and engines,] my beef with the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) movement is threefold: earth cycles are most likely much bigger than us and so "anthropogenic" is a quaint term. Only two decades ago the big scare was a global freeze [cf. "The Ice Age Is Coming"]... but now... WTF? Big Science like climate modeling is inherently partisan and profit-driven, which is precisely why a "consensus" can be generated where maybe it shouldn't be said to exist; I'm uncomfortable with the population control ideology connected with AGW phobia. [Cf. this article via Concerned Women for America. Cf. also this expose of John Holdren and his quasi-eugenic views on "ecoscience." Cf. also this excerpt from Wiki on methods for mitigating AGW. All of this should make exquisitely ironic China's presentation of one the worst pollution records combined with one of the most aggressive population control platforms in the world.] I'm not being dogmatic but I am skeptical by default; the AGW movement seems too "cinematic" and too handy a "global narrative" to be driven purely by the contested and highly complex claims of climate modeling. ...

The discussion is a bit wobbly since we're addressing at least two (maybe three) technically distinct issues. First is the reality or falsity of the climate science "consensus" in light of the recent emails. Second (or First-b) is the truth or falsity of AGW. Third is the course of public energy consumption based on both market trends and fear of AGW. I'm all for fuel efficiency, since that's an intrinsic trend of technological development itself. What I'm much less "on board" with is basing radical and prompt technological changes across the board based on fear of AGW. All natural resources are finite (unless they're supernatural), so that point is kind of a non-starter. Even by 2020 the projected usage of hybrid cars in the USA would only skim off a few million barrels of oil consumption per annum. In order for those tech changes to really make a major impact on Oil, Inc. AND (hypothetically) to "save the planet," pretty much every engine in the world would have to be converted. What will such a change require-- and who will get the shaft in via?

Anyway, as a would-be historian of science, what I'm particularly interested in with this news is how it reveals the often all-too-human character of science. That's why I find it interesting that you commented on the news by implying that even if the AGW "consensus" is obviously manipulated in striking ways, yet we still have to fall in line with the energy-tech changes AGW seems to require-- but the whole point is establishing just how legitimate it is to base such major changes on AGW. As soon as scientific "models" become social "messages" or "visions," science is no longer science but propaganda, if not modern mythology.

Then I followed my skeptical sacrilege up with another link:

"CLIMATEGATE" -- This is what I mean about the "all-too-human" character of science. And why I'm very wary of the "consensus."

A friend replied:

I think these emails are entirely blown out of proportion -- given the climate skeptics' strategy of exploiting any appearance of debate within the community as a lack of consensus on the overall concept of anthropogenic climate change it makes sense that there would be attempts to fuzz over the edges of debate in public, nor to ignore journals that you think aren't upholding standards of peer review. As for the 'destruction of evidence', I don't know, maybe they were afraid of people hacking into their email and getting them? It's not really paranoia if they're really out to get you. :)

I replied:

As I'm sure you know, AGW is distinct form global climate change as such. I agree the latter has occurred, and is always occurring. I'm simply not as "sold" on the anthropic part of it all. Finding over a thousand emails by leading AGW proponents to the effect that fudging data to "save the model" is hardly a peripheral issue, since the debate consists of how/whether the data fit a projection-model, not how the model can "deselect" pertinent data. E.g., how the CRU code was manipulated for mid-C20 data. Whatever happened to falsification? It baffles me that vigorous agonistic critique should be scolded, when in fact "skeptical inquiry" is the heart of science. Based on my reading of the hx of sci, "scientific consensus" is virtually an oxymoron. Paradoxically, science exists rather by making itself defunct.

He replied:

Sure, but paradigms shouldn't be thrown out because the model is off a bit -- which is what the blogger you posted is implying should be done. What is 'false' is a socially produced category -- how far 'off' does your model have to be before you decide the model is 'false', or just needs to be tinkered with? My impression is that skeptics make that window of 'non-falseness' very small given that, as you say, science is an iterative process. I should be up front and say that my sympathies are with these scientists, who have to work in a highly-politicized environment that prevents them from being as open and transparent as they perhaps would like to be. E.g., the kind of environment where people hack their email accounts.

I answered:

The degree of falsity is relevant to the total relevant data. And what creeps me out about the 3000+ documents that were hacked is that the relevant data are considered "relevant" precisely by being filtered through a regnant model. Kuhnian cognitive dissonance only lasts so long and these documents indicate just how conscious some of that dissonance has become. Referring to the larger background of the "peer-reviewed" consensus misses the point in this kerfuffle, since the emails indicate just how much of a wax nose "peer review" is. I feel for the scientists too, but not so much that I condone blatant confabulation in key modeling. The woes of being hacked remind me of the woes an adulterous husband feels when he finds out his wife had his phone tapped. I'm perfectly willing to accept the idea in principle that AGW is true, but so far I am unconvinced on empirical grounds and the latest "apocalypse" only weakens my confidence.

Meanwhile, another friend objected, "Does it matter? Pollution is bad anyway for so many reasons." I replied:

Does it matter that a scientific model which shapes global energy policy might be confabulated? I think so. Reducing pollution is an intrinsically valuable goal in its own right, and shouldn't need the "big stick" of AGW doomsdayism to make it worthwhile. Pollution is an inevitable by-product of human productivity. It's as old as the mythical "ecological Indian", as only one example. It's just life in an entropic world. So the only way to completely stop pollution would be to so radically alter our way of life that we couldn't even be having this discussion (by means of tech, leisure time, etc.). There's a big difference between saying "pollution is bad for the local environment and society's health" and saying "pollution is inevitably going to destroy the entire ecosystem in a decade or so." What I gather from the climate science scene is this: the earth has natural periodic cycles of heat and cold and human pollution seems to be exacerbating those tendencies. But could an immediate halt of all industrial activity STOP the cycle? That seems absurd and so any global policy driven by that premise seems just as absurd. (Cue charges of flat-earthism, crude creationism, superstition, obscurantism, etc. ;) )

I think these current events shed fascinating light on the nature of science in general. Moreover, I think they greatly compromise the climate modeling behind AGW, which in turn basically calls for a moratorium on energy policy. For details, read the following to see how "wonky" the CRU's (Climate Research Unit's) data-analysis code is for climate projection:

The Real Problem...: "Sexing up a graph is at best a misdemeanor. But a Declan McCullough story suggests a more disturbing possibility: the CRU's main computer model may be, to put it bluntly, complete rubbish."

CRU Data Dump: "I'll tell you what it looks like to this ancient, gray-bearded software who has constructed many software models in his career: this looks like someone manipulating the input to a model to get the desired results."

Smoking Gun...: "I have seen inklings of how bad the CRU code is and how it produces just garbage. It defies the garbage in-garbage out paradigm and moves to truth in-garbage out. I get the feeling you could slam this SW with random numbers and a hockey stick would come out the back end. There is no diurnal corrections for temperature readings, there are all sorts of corrupted, duplicated and stale data, there are filters to keep data that tells the wrong story out, and there are create_fiction sub routines which create raw measurements out of thin air when needed. There are modules which cannot be run for the full temp record because of special code used to ‘hide the decline’."

CRU Smoking Guns...: "...the minor problem for the AGW alarmists was dealing with the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods. The big headache was the warm period prior to 1960, which we can see in the CRU data was equal to or higher than today. This warm period in the first half of the last century is a real problem for the theory of CO2 driven, man-made warming."


Anonymous said...

Climategate Foretold...
“• What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann.]
Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”
AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation.

mightygreekwritingmachine said...

"However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

BUT, isn't lying from the start, or a false-beginning, or from adjusted (devious) paths along the way, already a destruction of credibility? If you want to work with truth, why model it out of your process? Why tweak what was not credible? Hiding from public scrutiny or fearing politicization should never be the path true science should take. Deception will nearly always be necessary (and secretly acceptable) when lies or false models are involved. And, once found out, credibility will take years to mend.