Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An interesting minority report

The United Nations conference on global warming currently underway in Poland is about to hear a minority report, dissenting from the conventional wisdom, the Al Gore view. I say it's an interesting minority report, because this "minority" outnumbers the "majority" - "The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers."! Some quotes from The US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works :

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical.” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA

“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” - Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh.


Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

What about a competition between the lies of global warming and the Pagan lies about the "prehistorical matriarchal society", the "Old Religion of the witches", the Burning Times, the wise Celtic Druids, etc. etc. I think that the Pagans win.

Joel Monka said...

I wouldn't know- I do't know anyone over the age of 13 who believes that stuff. If you do, send them here for starters; I can suggest more when they finish that.

Steve Caldwell said...

This is related to the recent "Truther" post on your blog.

Given that science is a collaborative enterprise administered by imperfect humans, it's entirely possible for some individual scientists and even some groups of scientists to follow a theory that is less consistent with the world than competing theories.

However, I have my doubts that anyone could sustain a long-term conspiracy to suppress research that refutes man-made global warming. Heck, it wasn't possible to sustain the Watergate conspiracy back in the 1970s (and that was just a handful of small-time political criminals).

As a general principle, I discount any theory that requires a conspiracy because it's so hard to have a long-term conspiracy and keep it a secret. Penn and Teller use this idea as one reason to doubt some of the more popular conspiracy theories like the "9-11 truther" theories and the "NASA faked the moon landing" theories.

From what I've read, the current crop of climate models are not perfect nor do they agree with each other.

By the time we have enough data to know which climate model is correct, it may be too late. Likewise, any action taken using an impefect model may cause harm as well.

It's also important that science is based on findings and predictive theories and not through the polling of opinion.

However, most scientific associations have supported the view that the warming observed in the past 50 years is human-created.

A handful of organizations have taken a neutral or agnostic stand.

The last organization to reject human-created global warming (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) has voted to take a neutral/agnostic view.

There are no major scientific organizations that reject the theory that recent global warming has a human cause.

Scientific opinion on climate change

This doesn't mean the human global warming theory is true.

But if there is some sort of scientific conspiracy going on. And that would be hard if not impossible to sustain.

And that suggests that we are not seeing a conspiracy but rather a complex scientific problem where strong consensus does not exist.

Joel Monka said...

Your logic is impeccable. One of my aphorisms is, "Never attribute to conspiracy anything that can be explained by simple incompetence". I find no evidence of any conspiracy on either side of the argument.

But- and this also relates to our earlier debate, about which I will post soon- there WAS a deliberate attempt by one side to shut off debate, to win by bullying the other side into silence. We had, among others, a former VP and Nobel Prize winner saying that it was established science, and that anyone saying otherwise was a flat- earther or even a Holocaust denier. That is not scientific debate; that is hatemongering.

Steve Caldwell said...

Given the built-in self-correcting mechanisms used by scientists, I doubt that any sort of "bullying," "peer pressure," "hatemongering," etc would last for long in the scientific community.

The closest thing to fame and fortune that science offers is overturning established theories -- for example, the Michelson/Morley experiment and Einstein's work that led to relativity. The experimental and theoretical work led to a rejection of Newtonian physics for the more accurate theories of relativity.

Imagine the fame and fortune that would come to a climate scientist who had clear and convincing evidence against the global warming theories supported by a majority of scientific organizations.

Finally, pressure exerted by former VP and Nobel winner Al Gore isn't "science pressure" by any stretch of the imagination.

Gore's academic and employment background has been in journalism, liberal arts, government, theology, etc -- it's not like he had any training as a professional scientist.

Joel Monka said...

"Finally, pressure exerted by former VP and Nobel winner Al Gore isn't "science pressure" by any stretch of the imagination." Of course it is. In "The Right Stuff" a reporter asks a test pilot if he knows what makes rockets fly. The pilot begins to pontificate, and the reporter cuts him off. "Funding", he says. "No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

The whole world isn't clammering for the services of climate scientists. Corporations aren't breaking their doors down trying to stuff money in their pockets. There are a lucky few, but for the vast majority, they depend on grants. Grants controlled by college presidents and politicians and the like. No grants, and the august climate scientist becomes a P.H.D. waiter, like a liberal arts major. Gore has more influence over whether he will be employed than his peers do.

Steve Caldwell said...

Of course politicians like former VP Al Gore have power in the political realm -- and this power may include who gets funded.

But that isn't a "scientific pressure" on science by fellow scientists. It's political pressure on science by non-scientists.

One would have to be naive to think that there isn't a potential funding source to support legitimate science that refutes human-generated global warming.

Companies that profit under the current fossil fuel economy would have deep enough pockets to fund both legitimate peer-reviewed research and illegitimate pseudo-science that confuses the public debate (a non-climate example of this pseudo-science is the tobacco industry's research into health effects of smoking).

If fossil fuel companies had scientific truth as a defense, don't you think they would be using it. Why are they not funding this sort of research.

There are also other sources of government funding for climate research besides the US Government -- state governments (e.g. coal mining states and oil producing states) and the governments of other nations where Al Gore has no influence.

Frankly, Al Gore just isn't that powerful -- he and other politicians like him cannot unilaterally shut this type of research down because there are other funding sources outside the US government.

Regardless of the minority reports cited, there may be valid scientific reasons for the majority of professional scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Science, the US National Academy of Science, and others.

This consensus in professional scientific groups may reflect a legitimate scientific consensus.