“About” clarified and expanded upon

After much consideration, I have decided to limit the length of comments (no essays) and to be more strict in the use of moderation.  I truly would like to have an open blog, but that seems very difficult when discussing climate change.  My decision is based on the policies of blogs that discuss climate change and other controversial topics in a relatively civilized manner.  People are allowed to ask questions, point out links, etc.  If you have questions on what I write or links to articles that might prove me wrong, please be as specific as possible and I will try to answer.  My answer may be “I don’t know–I have to research this.”  I write these questions down and try to address them over time–please be patient.

When I began this blog, it was a response to the website “Watching the Deniers”.  It was my intent to comment on that blog’s content.  The blog has virtually NO math.  The articles are on “March Heatwave: New Normal”, “Three graphs” (close to discussing the math), cherry -picking complete with a photo of a science fiction television character to illustrate the frustration, articles on “extreme” weather with lots of pictures, and a statement that leaked climategate emails are meaningless (so scientists spend a lot of time emailing about nothing?).  You get my drift.

The major claim of climate science is that we must follow consensus.  How can I ignore that claim?  I can’t.  Believing in something you don’t understand because people you have decided are experts is no different that rejecting the “something” because different experts say there are serous problems in the theory.  It all boils down to who you call an expert.  There are tens of thousands of scientists who do not subscribe to the theory of AGW.  It’s statistically improbable that all these scientists do not understand the math and science or that none of them based their opinions on science.  There is no reason to exclude them from the debate, other than to create a false consensus.  I have studied this in detail and no one has presented an argument that I find believable.  Mostly, the response is “this is complicated and requires years of study”.  Perhaps it does.  However, if you are going to sell this as anything other than “faith-based” the scientists need to find a way to make their science understandable.  They must address the disagreement instead of dismissing it.  Until that happens, my position stands.

It is not possible to respond to the “Watcher’s” blog without dealing with a broad number of issues in climate science and the blogosphere.

If you are interested in the math and theory only, http://scienceofdoom.com is a site that discusses the science in detail.  This is a site that looks at the theory and what it means in a much more technical way than I have the time to address in every post on this blog.   My interest is not only in the math and science, but in the politics, presentation and public relations involved in the issue.

Examining authority

I am going to continue with the medical specialist analogy. I read another climate change news article saying you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist if you needed a cardiologist. This seems to be the new “now we’ve got you” answer to objections about the argument from “appropriate” authority.

It is true that one does not go to a podiatrist for heart failure. Is this because the podiatrist doesn’t know what a heart is and how it works? Did the podiatrist just study feet in medical school? Of course not. A podiatrist should be able to recognize heart problems is the patient shares enough information with him. A cardiologist can recognize problem feet. Neither treat the condition, but they can recognize problems. Perhaps not with the same level of accuracy, but that is a matter of experience. (If experience is what makes climate scientists experts, then bringing in questioners for a year or two should convert them, should it not?) Should a podiatrist be able to understand a cardiologist’s explanation of heart disease? Both have exactly the same training up to specialization. The cardiologist could have chosen the same path as the podiatrist or vice versa. These two specialists posses the same fundamental knowledge. There should be understanding.

Why, then, are climate scientists the only ones who can understand climate science? Many of those in disagreement with climate science have degrees in physics, meteorology, and so forth, the same as the climate scientists. Yes, there are years of study in climate science that those not in the field may not follow. These studies are well-documented (we hope) or published. I cannot see why a physicist or meteorologist outside the field would not be able to follow the studies. They possess the same basic qualifications.

One way that published, peer-reviewed scientists could be the only group to understand the science is if the climate scientists withhold information from those who do not agree with the theory. This does seem to be some of the problem, since FOIA requests are sometimes needed to get to the data and studies.

If individuals with equal qualifications outside the peer-reviewed group are given access to the data and the scientists who created the research articles are available to answer questions, it should be simple to teach these people how climate science works. There is often the claim that climate science is based on simple physics so teaching someone with a PhD in physics how the science works should be no problem.

There is another difference. I have not seen one medical specialty having physicians from other specialities complaining that a specific specialty (e.g. cardiologist saying podiatry is seriously flawed) is actually pseudo-science or erroneous science. If a podiatrist were to look over the cardiologist’s training, he probably would not question the accuracy of the information. Physicians do object to homeopathic medicine, but not to specialties outside their own. This seems uniques to climate science, where meteorologists, physicists and many others do no agree with the “specialists” interpretation.

Why this apparent disconnect between climate change science and other scientists with equal training continues to occur, I do not know. With something as important as climate change, the studies should be given to as many scientists as possible. The studies should show sufficient evidence of a change and the ability of these studies to prove the reality of climate change should certainly be worth the effort to share the knowledge. This is how science works.

Examining science, part 1

We will be starting with definitions and other such things so hopefully the discussion will progress more smoothly if we are all using the same terminology. Please feel free to comment and let me know if the definitions are not clear.

Climate change: The theory that humans are contributing to changes in the climate through CO2 and feedback mechanisms. The theory is generally associated with James Hansen and the IPCC

Natural climate change: The variations in the climate that have always existed, with or without human CO2 contributions

The following terms refer to changes due to human activity, mostly CO2. If I am referring to these phenomena as part of a natural cycle, I will use the modifier “natural”
Sea level rise
Glaciers melting
Extinctions
Temperatures rising
Coral reefs dying
Ocean acidification

Settled science: I have been told these two points are settled: 1. CO2 raises temperatures and 2. Humans are causing global temperatures to rise due to the CO2 put into the air.
I accept that CO2 raises temperatures and that humans contribute to this phenomena. I do not accept that this means a catastrophic rise in global temperatures will follow and do not consider this settled.

To be clear, I do believe the temperatures rise, glaciers melt, coral reefs die, but I do not find the evidence that human beings are the main cause of this, nor is there cause for alarm. This series covers the reasons why.

Logical Fallacies:
I am including a section on logical fallacies to pre-empt (hopefully) the use of these arguments. Such arguments, if presented, will be dismissed immediately.

A. Ad Hominem—name calling, personal insults and attacking the speaker
Example: You are so stupid. You know nothing. My dog is smarter than you (unless you can prove your dog is smarter than me.) Flat-earther. You know nothing about science.

B. Poisoning the well: using one belief a person has in an unrelated area to dismiss everything the speaker says
Example: You cannot believe John’s work on paleoclimatology because he believes there is a conspiracy surrounding 9/11. His beliefs on political conspiracies does not mean his work on climate is suspect. This is a common fallacy thrown at both climate change advocates and questioners.

C. Argument from authority. As a deductive argument, it is always a fallacy. There is currently an informal use that an appropriate authority is acceptable for common usage. My belief remains that “argument from authority” is a fallacy, even where the authority is an expert. One may use the authority as a guideline, but that is all. Authority is not the definitive proof of a scientific theory, the data and methodology are.

D. Straw Man: Using a larger, more outrageous belief or idea to impugn someone’s beliefs
Example: Skeptics question climate science. Therefore, skeptics refuse to believe science.
Using the broader statement is designed make the disagreement irrational.
These arguments are often used in conjunction with ad hominem attacks.

E. Argument from persecution: This fallacy most often shows up in religious arguments, but Michael Mann seems to have found it worth a try:

Attacks (i.e. persecution) do not prove you are right. In fact, if we follow that logic, skeptics are attacked too, so this proves two mutually exclusive ideas (AGW and lack of AGW).

screen-shot-2013-03-21-at-9-13-53-am

 

While not a fallacy (at least not as it generally stated) there is the “follow the money” argument. While it is always prudent to check out all sides of a debate, including who paid for it, it is NOT automatically proof that the speaker lacks a valid argument. This is very popular for dismissing anyone who questions climate science, and I have seen it applied by skeptics. (Advocates say oil money, questioners say government money. However, I have seen oil companies pay for research into wind energy storage, so the money is not always an indicator.)

Correlation:
Correlation does not prove causality, but causality does require correlation.

Proving a negative:
One cannot prove negatives such as “Prove ghosts do not exist” or “Prove there are no unicorns”. However, finding a ghost or unicorn proves the statement false.

One can indirectly prove a negative such as: I am housebound so I did not steal the car. In this case, one proves the premise (that I am housebound) and the conclusion follows (I did not steal the car).

I include this because I am often confronted with a misunderstanding of how scientific methodology works. A scientist presents an hypothesis, the data to support it and then awaits comments and questions. It is the responsibility of the scientist to answer these questions. It is not his responsibility to point out possible errors or alternative theories. Demands to prove that humans are not the cause of climate change are asking one to prove a negative. The only thing science can do is show one theory, humans or nature, has the higher probability. That is how science works. If sun activity shows higher correlation to temperature increases than does CO2, the CO2 is a less likely cause. Remember, causality requires correlation. The item with the lower correlation is less likely to be the cause.

Climate science presents some unique problems. Much, if not most, of climate science is based on mathematics. Actual readings of temperatures, sea level, etc are used, but subjected to a great deal of statistical manipulation before a conclusion is reached. This makes it much more difficult to understand than say, gravity. Gravity is a physical phenomena that is clearly demonstrable. Climate change is not. We have limited data, various models and a system so complex a super computer is required to run the data. All of which can introduce error and serial error. While climate science likes to say it is “certain”, it is anything but certain. The only result one can produce is a probability coefficient or a confidence interval. These may be as high as 95%. They may be much lower. Results can fall outside the interval and the theory still be true, but not over and over again. It’s so much more difficult than dropping a hammer.

I will cover these items in more detail in future postings.

(Comments and ideas are welcome if presented in a polite, respectful tone.  This is science.)

How does a person decide what is good science?

In the comments section, there is a continuing demand for peer-reviewed articles to “prove” claims (some of which are not actual science claims, but rather reasoning and logic). Rather than continuing to answer in the comments section, I have decided to write a series of posts on how one can evaluate scientific claims. The criteria is not related to “peer-reviewed journal articles written” or other methods generally used by the climate change advocates.

Please be patient. There are other projects I have to complete, so the series may take a bit to produce.

An Invalid Analogy

In our paper, a professor from our university claimed our congressional representative was ignoring the science on climate change.

He first makes the tired 97% agreement claim. Yes, 97% of the 79 people who wrote the most peer-reviewed articles in peer-reviewed journals. Translation: 97% of 79 people who’s fellow climate scientists agreed with what they wrote think climate science is true. Of course, consensus does not determine truth in science, so even if 99% of 3000 scientists agreed, it would not make the hypothesis or theory true. Only evidence and testing and open review can do that.

Then came the now standard “If you had cancer, you would go to an oncologist, right?” The clear implication is you must have a specialist or appropriate authority for scientific decisions. Thus, you need the IPCC (which is not science organization, but rather a political one that decides what the whole world needs to do) and James Hansen to tell you about climate change.

There is a serious flaw in this claim—or maybe it’s a deliberate slight. Yes, you do go to an oncologist for treatment of cancer, but very often a family doctor or even a dentist makes the referral. This means a non-specialist can recognize cancer or potential cancer. The understanding of what cancer is is present in these “non-specialists”, unlike climate science where anyone outside the elite peer-reviewed are often ignored or downright vilified. Can you imagine an oncologist refusing to see you because your lowly GP thinks you have cancer? Who is your GP to make a diagnosis like that? If the oncologist said you did not have cancer but your GP did, would you seek a second opinion or just go with the specialist who is the authority and ignore the non-authority GP?

There are many different ways of treating cancer and a recognition that there is much more to be learned. There is no consensus in what will work because consensus is not important—results are. Money is always being raised for new studies on cancer and treatments for it. It is not “settled” science.

The second problem with the comparison is oncologists success is measured by remission and cure rates. No one checks for how many articles the oncologist has published or is his cure rate is peer-reviewed. This is because there are concrete, testable practices in oncology. If a treatment fails, it is evident in a short period of time. Contrast this to climate change which is mostly mathematics and computer modeling. There is no immediate, concrete verification of the theory. Much of the damage is forecast decades out. How can a person have any idea if a theory that cannot be verified for 50 years is even close to accurate? To be science, the theory has to be testable and falsifiable. Climate change theory is neither. Oncology is.

If oncology worked like climate change, an oncologist would do a few tests of how you are feeling and feed the information into a computer program to produce a graph that show possible outcomes. He cannot use any empirical information outside of a biopsy to diagnose the cancer. Everything else is a CI or probability graph. If the graph says “treat now and agressively” and that translates to “cut the limb off or the cancer COULD spread”, you would have to amputate the limb because it COULD save your life.

In reality, an oncologist would do empirical tests, then give the patient choices for treatment. The patient may opt to go for amputating the limb to avoid the possibility that he could die if he does not. In oncology, that is a choice. In climate science, it is not. The treatment is prescribed for the world and there is NO discussion in any of it.
If your oncologist treated your cancer using computer models and decided FOR you the treatment, then and only then could going to an oncologist for treatment be somewhat comparable to going to an expert in climate science to get the diagnoses and treatment for the planet.

Empirical science is not the same as theoretical. Biopsies are not the same as inputting “average” temperatures from various places around the globe and manipulating the data, the declaring the earth is warming. The comparison is invalid and climate scientists should be looking for something that is similar if they want to get climate science questioners to consider their behaviour and analogies to be scientific.

Not again…

Climategate 3.0 has hit the blogosphere. Not much information at this point–mostly one article repeated on multiple blogs.

My only comment: Go back to using paper. It’s harder to smuggle out.

Additional ideas

Today’s posting is links to articles I have found interesting:

NEW PAPER: ARCTIC WAS UP TO 3.8°C WARMER ~3000 YEARS AGO A paper published on 4 March in Quaternary Science Reviews reconstructs Arctic temperatures in Kamchatka, USSR over the past 4,500 years and finds the highest reconstructed temperatures were about 3.8°C warmer than modern temperatures. The authors find ”the highest reconstructed temperature reaching 16.8 °C between 3700 and 2800 years before the present,” about 3.8°C above “modern temperatures (13 °C).”

continued: http://www.thegwpf.org/paper-arctic-3-8c-warmer-3000-years/

For a further look at the use of the term “denier”, an older post from Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/05/definative-denier.html

One more:

Changing sun, changing climate by Bob Carter, Willie Soon & William Briggs March 8, 2013 Scientists have been studying solar influences on the climate for more than 5000 years.Chinese imperial astronomers kept detailed sunspot records, and noticed that more sunspots meant warmer weather. In 1801, celebrated astronomer William Herschel, the first to observe Uranus, noted that when there were fewer spots the price of wheat soared. He surmised that less “light and heat” from the sun resulted in reduced harvests.

http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2013/03/changing-sun-changing-climate