Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Am A Global Warming Doubter And A Believer In Science

One of the favorite slurs of those that ardently believe in global warming is to demean and slander those of us that have our doubts by declaring that heathens like myself must not believe in science. No discussion, no debate, just a gross lumping of us into one uneducated grouping. We must be uneducated slugs if we do not believe what they believe, namely that man made activities are warming the earth's surface which will eventually result in cataclysmic weather and environment disasters.

But are all doubters non-believers in science? I for one am a great believer in science and scientific approaches and integrity and I still consider myself a doubter. In fact, it often appears to me that those that so emotionally believe in global warming are the most anti-science of all of us. Let me explain.

Scientific methods and procedures can take several approaches but they all involve the integrity of the information and data collected and the objectivity of the analysis.  As a believer in science, I generally classify the search for information and knowledge into two categories. The first category is the classic test/control approach to scientific research. In this approach, the scientist sets up a baseline situation as the control segment of the scientific experiment. All of the attributes of the baseline segment are measured and quantified in order to accurately describe the baseline/control reality.

The scientist then changes one of the factors in the baseline view, observes what happens to the situation, quantifies what happened as a result of the change, and then reaches a logical conclusion of cause and effect. In other words, one factor is changed, that results in a change in the baseline situation, and the assumption is that the change to one of the factors resulted in a changed baseline environment.

In this scientific approach, the scientist has direct control over much of the environment and can manipulate pertinent factors to see the resultant effects. This process is repeated often with different factors changed by different levels to try and understand the true cause and effect. Results are documented and reviewed by peers, in journals and at conferences, to have others check the validity of the scientist's logical, scientific approach.

The second approach is more difficult to control since the factors the scientists are dealing with cannot be easily replicated in a test and control manner. In this case, the scientists are likely to make a lot more assumptions about impacting factors and build mathematical models to explain and forecast results based on observations rather than experiments.

There is nothing wrong with this approach since it may be the best, or the only, approach available. The problem is that the scientist does not control the environment, he or she is at the mercy of how things unfold and then tries to explain them indirectly with assumptions and models.

The drawback is that the scientist is never quite sure if the relationships they are looking at are correlated or causative. What's the difference? An example.

I recently went on a weight reduction program and in the midst of the program, my golf game improved. If one just looked just at the data, it would appear that my golf game improved as a result of my losing weight, the two events are highly correlated. However, the fact that I took some golf lessons, bought new equipment and changed my swing probably had much more to do with my better golf scores than my losing weight. But I did not do a test/control experiment here, I changed many factors at the same time.

While the dropping of weight was highly correlated to an improvement in my golf score, the two events are highly correlated but not causative. A good scientist would understand that much more work had to be done to fully understand what caused the drop in my golf scores and ensure it was not a spurious correlation.

This second approach is the challenge that has faced climate scientists in their study of potential global warming. They cannot do a true test and control scientific experiment. They have to observe changes in the environment, changes that could be caused by a number of factors or interactions of factors, and try to decide what are only correlated and what are only causative. They then try to predict what will happen using the mathematical models they develop.

Which is where by doubts start to come into play when discussing the validity of those models, the underlying use of the data to build those models and the underlying integrity in those numbers:

1) Several years ago the Environment Protection Agency suppressed a report from one of its own employees that called into question and raised doubts about the validity of the global warming theory. The author, Alan Carlin, an EPA employee, was told not to release his findings and was also told to discontinue working on climate change issues entirely.

Carlin and his co-authors accused the EPA and other government agencies of ignoring scientific analysis that is casting doubt on global warming and for relying too much on the work of outside organizations that "have tended to accept the findings reached by outside groups, particularly the IPCC and the CCSP, as being correct without a careful and critical examination of their conclusions and documentation." Their report also went into some degree of detail which contests the global warming claims of these organizations.

Very serious charges. If the Obama administration and global warming supporters were really serious about science, wouldn't they have welcomed the publication of this report so that its accusations could be rebutted directly? If the Obama administration and global warming supporters were really serious about science, wouldn't they recognize that peer review and comment is the best way to move their argument forth? If the Bush administration had suppressed an EPA's report proving that global warming is a legitimate concern, wouldn't the global warming advocates, in the name of science, be clamoring for the release of the report?

I have no idea if Carlin's accusations and report are accurate and valid. But as someone who believes in the scientific process, the report should have been released and rebutted on a factual, peer reviewed, scientific basis. Instead, he was told by his boss at the EPA, Al McGartland, "Please do not have any direct communications with anyone outside of (our group) on endangerment. There should be no meetings, e-mails, written statements, phone calls, etc." Not very scientific, and very suspicious, when you suppress data, research, and analyses just because it conflicts with your view. That is not science, that is politics.

2) An article in the December 9, 2012 issue of The Week magazine reviewed how a recently released set of illegally hacked emails, taken from the leading global warming science establishments, cast doubt on whether those scientists believe man made activities are causing global warming and whether those scientists are actually being unbiased in their work. According to the article, the emails reveal:

  • Phil Jones, who is the director of the influential Climate Research Unit, is quoted in the emails as saying that the "basic problem is that all of the (climate prediction) models are wrong."
  • He urges his peers, via his emails, that "inconvenient date are 'well hidden' through various 'tricks.'"
  • An email from another British scientist warns Mr. Jones that "the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it."
  • Christopher Caldwell writing in the Financial Times, after reviewing at least some of the emails, found that the scientists "openly discuss how to make the threat of climate change seem as urgent as possible and how best to wage a political and PR campaign against their perceived enemies."
It gets very scary, and very suspicious, when scientists admit that their models do not work, their science is being manipulated, and they are just as involved in PR campaigns and politics as they are in research. Hardly a scientific approach or mindset.

Although I will not go into details, a similar scandal arose a few years ago in New Zealand. Apparently, the New Zealand Government’s chief climate organization, NIWA, came under fire for allegedly manipulating raw climate data to show a global warming trend that did not exist in the raw data. Details of this unscientific use of scientific data can be found in various Web reports.

3) According to a recent article in the Boston Globe by Jeff Jacoby, Ivar Giaever, a Nobel laureate, recently quit as a fellow of the American Physical Society over the Society's unequivocal position that man made global warming is "incontrovertible" and his personal position that no "scientific assertion is so sacred that it cannot be contested."

As a Nobel laureate, I am assuming that Mr. Giaever is well aware of unbiased scientific research protocols and procedures in order to find the truth. I am also assuming that that the accusations he puts forth against the  American Physical Society are based on data, reports, or actions he witnessed and were not made up. If they were, I am also assuming that a reputable paper like the Boston Globe would not have published them.

Are we seeing a pattern here? Scientists that are so wound up in their theories, research, careers, and reputations, are they the ones that may have lost sight of how science is supposed to be used?

4) All of the global warming work and model building so far has been based on observing multiple factors at work and trying to determine what are correlated and what are causative. But what if you could do a real test/control experiment that examined the global warming issue? Wouldn't that be the best way to finally determine if man made activity is causing global warming? Wouldn't that be the truly, classic approach to solving a scientific problem?

Well, that exact same scenario has already occurred. This past summer, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) conducted just such an experiment. Before going into their findings, let's talk a little about CERN. 

It is my understanding that CERN is comprised of some of the top physics scientists in the world. I could find no source that disparaged any work that CERN scientists had previously done. CERN is the organizations that is primarily responsible for the development of the World Wide Web and it built the multi billion dollar Large Hadron Collider in Europe. It is affiliated with 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities in 60 countries. I do not think there is any doubt that CERN is the epitome of scientific research.

Back in the summer, CERN scientists conducted experiments where they actually modeled global warming conditions in a lab environment where they "built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the earth's atmosphere."(Source: European Union Times, September 3, 2011).

The experiments they conducted were carried out by 17 European and American institutes and 63 CERN scientists. Their findings were then written up and published int he highly acclaimed scientific publication/journal, Nature.

Their findings and conclusions: the sun's cosmic rays and their role in cloud formation, rather than man made emissions, are responsible for the earth's warming temperatures. Wow, real scientists working at a prestigious research facility using scientific means concludes that global warming is not caused by anything man is doing.

All of those people who believe that science is a great way to learn, even if it upsets their belief that man is causing global warming, should have been hungry to learn about this new, scientifically derived knowledge. However, I could not find mention of these findings in any main stream media. Al Gore has not embraced this new scientific information. The EPA has not announced it is reconsidering its position its position on global warming, given this new scientific information and data.

In fact, the follow up controversy to these findings is the belief of some of the scientists involved that the Director General of CERN, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, was trying to suppress the findings, wanting "the results to be presented clearly, but not to interpret them."

But isn't that what trained scientists do, develop experiments and interpret results? Is this another case of suppressing information and findings that are not coherent with man made global warming side? If so, isn't this a misuse of science, scientific principles, and scientific integrity?

Comments blasting this attempt at suppression of results came from many CERN scientists:

  • Nigel Calder: "CERN has joined a long line of lesser institutions obliged to remain political correct about the man-made global warming hypothesis. The once illustrious CERN laboratory ceases to be a truly scientific institute when its Director General forbids its physicists and visiting experimenters to draw the obvious scientific conclusions form their results."
  • Lobos Motl: "However, the main problem is that many people who are trying to work on different phenomena in the climate are not prevented form interpreting - and, indeed, over interpreting and misinterpreting - their results that are often less serious, less reliable, and less rigorous, perhaps by orders of magnitude than the observations by the European Organization For Nuclear Research."
  • Lawrence Solomon: "The hypothesis that comic rays and sun hold the key to the global warming debate has been Public Enemy No. 1 to the global warming establishment ever since it was first proposed by two scientists from the Danish Space Research Institute at a 1996 scientific conference."
Seems like there is a lot of science that backs us global warming doubters. To disrespectfully call global warming doubters ignorant of science is a despicable and obviously gross mistake.

CERN proves there is great validity to the fact that man made global warming is potentially a myth. Global warming advocates misuse scientific principles and fail to admit when their models are wrong. The U.S. Federal government represses the scientific principle of peer review when it suppresses taxpayer funded work from its own employees.

So please, believers of global warming, a little sensitivity to those of us that feel, based on scientific processes and violation of scientific processes, that there is a valid scientific reason to doubt global warming. Yelling at us and calling us ignorant is no way to arrive at a conclusive consensus of what is going on in the environment and what to do about it.

Oh, and one last thing. I am not an expert on global warming, I need to be able to trust people in the climate field that are far smarter than me. But please do us all a favor. Please tell Al Gore to be quiet. When he tells us, in quite unscientific terms, to all stop eating meat in order to combat global warming, he makes all of you look like you are ignorant of science.

If we all stopped eating meat, more plants and crops would have to be grown, more forests destroyed to make room for more plants and crops, more water would have to be used to grow the plants and crops, more gas powered machines would have to be employed to sow and plow those plants and crops, and more dangerous pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides would be employed in order to grow more plants and  crops. How that would scientifically reduce global warming is certainly beyond me.

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