Examining science, part 2

The Red Flags of Climate Change

One of the oft repeated stories in the skeptic’s arena is the person who became a skeptic after watching the Al Gore movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”. While I was questioning man made climate change at that point, attempting to watch the movie convinced me if Al Gore was the poster child for AGW, the science was shaky at best, fraudulent more likely. The graphs Al Gore used bore a striking resemblance to graphs drawn with “created” data. They seemed so perfect—something one does not find in actual data. I just stared in disbelief at the obvious dishonesty.

I began to research in ernest. In the beginning, there was some civility in the blogosphere. It had not escalated to name-calling and dismissive behaviour on both sides. The science itself was difficult to find. Most journal articles are behind paywall. Articles reported about the news could not be trusted to leave out slant. For example, the recent confirmation of the discovery of the Higgs Boson had a headline in one magazine: “Higgs Boson Discovery=Cosmic Doomsday?”

While the studies themselves were tough to find, the behavior of climate scientists had become less than stellar. As more and more questions arose and doubt in the general public took hold, the responses were less than scientific: name-calling, claiming skeptics were part of the oil industry’s lobby and were well-financed, insistence that everyone outside their circle was incapable of understanding, claiming consensus was the basis for believing, not the too-complex-to-understand science. As time went by, the claims moved up in seriousness. Skeptics were accused of threatening climate scientists to suppress the movement. Climate scientists started referring to anyone questioning the science as “deniers” and saying these people were against science. They found conspiracy ideation in their opponents and tried to capitalize on that. This behaviour is a huge red flag. None of their responses were appropriate to professional scientists. Science should be objective when confronted with question, straight-forward answers are the appropriate response. Even when there is complexity, scientists seek to educate, not berate. Why, then, was the response to questioning climate change anger and indignation? Climate change is a very important issue that seems to have slid into politics and activism, leaving the science lacking. It is no wonder people came to equate AGW with politics and not science.

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of climate scientists to publicly engage skeptics in debates/discussions. The few “debates” I have seen consist of a skeptic and a writer or a grad student sent in to cover the climate science advocate side. Unfortunately, questions on the science are only addressed by the skeptic side. There may exist useful debates, but I have not seen one. I would love to see a climate scientist and a skeptic scientist actually debate the science.

Climate change science giver the impression of moving the goal posts. This may in part because of the insistence the science is settled. Lay people believe settled means completely figured out and proven as far as science can. Climate scientists such as Hansen and Mann do little to correct this idea and far more to embrace it. In reality, there seems to be very little that is “settled”. First It’s the atmosphere that is warming, now it is the deep ocean. The amount of warming varies widely and is frequently revised. None of this indicates “settled”. If the amount is unknown, the place where the heat is going is unknown or changing, this looks like a barely tested hypothesis, not a settled theory.

Another red flag is how evidence of wrongful behaviour is handled. The “climategate” emails are pretty much glossed over as “irrelevant” (Reading them, they do not look “irrelevant”.) . Behaviours like fudging the data and perpetuating beliefs that are proving to be in error or refusing to consider theories that are equally likely are bad scientific behaviours. There are claims that skeptics don’t understand the hypothesis. When one looks, there are varying hypotheses discussed or the hypothesis is modified. This latter behaviour would actually be correct for science if it were not coupled with “settled”. Science is about coming up with an hypothesis and then testing it and revising it if needed. This is not settled, however. It’s science in its infancy.

What I found when I looked at the “science” of climate change was a spokesperson willing to do whatever it took to sell the theory (and while not a scientist, I hold science accountable for not correcting the errors Al Gore makes and not coming out against the bad science), very poor presentation of actual data by the science community; unprofessional, unscientific behaviours, refusal to openly discuss/debate the science due to labeling it settled, and attacking critics. All in all, this added up to very serious reasons to question the truth and accuracy of the science. It is still possible that the theory could be right, but none of the behaviours of these scientists indicate there is sound, settled science. This is what one looks at when “the science is too complex to understand”. The actions of the scientists speak volumes about their work and none of it is good in the case of climate change advocates.


(I will note that skeptics often behave in the same ways: name-calling, misrepresenting statements made about themselves, etc.  It is not acceptable there, either.)


Next: Claims in question and why


3 comments on “Examining science, part 2

  1. Thank you. I will provide more examples in my next posting to help make my point.

  2. Your pointing out Hansen’s claim about the possibility of the earth going into a runaway grenhouse effect that is a very valid issue. Pointing out that sort of thing as being unscientific is importnat and i support challenging that sort of talk.

  3. Comments should be addressed to one issue at a time. Long comments addressing multiple issues are being moderated out.
    Tony: I added “Claims in question and why” to note that examples will be presented in the next part. Please be patient.

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