View Full Version : More 'lukewarming' in the mainstream media

04-06-10, 07:17 AM
Besides Der Spiegel, now the FT chimes in.

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Cooler on warming

Published: April 4 2010 18:50 | Last updated: April 4 2010 18:50

It has been a bad winter for climate science. This is not simply because a severe cold snap in Europe and North America has given ammunition to those who question whether the climate is really getting hotter. Climate scientists have had to weather the failure of the Copenhagen summit (http://www.ft.com/indepth/copenhagen-climate-conference), the “climategate (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3420e1d0-17d8-11df-a74d-00144feab49a.html)” e-mail scandal at the University of East Anglia and unearthing of dodgy claims (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/43400b1c-11d6-11df-b6e3-00144feab49a.html) in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report. Polls in the US and UK have shown that these blows have eroded trust in their work and their good faith.

This is troubling. These events have not disproved the scientific findings. The consensus remains that man’s activities are contributing to climate change (http://www.ft.com/indepth/climatechange) in ways that may be disastrous. What they undermine is the ability of policymakers to act on the scientific advice. Climate scientists must address doubts about their integrity. Three things are needed.

First, they must be open about sharing the data that underlie their findings. The most damaging thing about climategate was the discovery that scientists at UEA (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ba3f3740-1732-11df-94f6-00144feab49a,dwp_uuid=728a07a0-53bc-11db-8a2a-0000779e2340.html) had frustrated requests for data because they did not want them to fall into the hands of sceptics (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/340e65d0-d865-11de-b63a-00144feabdc0.html). Scientists should be willing to have their data analysed by others – including critics. This is how science advances. Some have argued that the raw data are too complex, but this is bunkum. The research project funded by the Wellcome Trust and others into the human genome puts its raw data onto the internet straight away. Climate scientists should do the same.

Second, scientists should devote more effort to observation. While one cannot reconstruct the past without inferring from patchy historic data, this is not the case with the present. The scientific community has been worrying about global warming for more than two decades, yet the temperature of the world has not been taken in a sufficiently rigorous way. The quality of the raw data from weather services around the world differs considerably. This allows sceptics to attack recent temperature data. A more systematic approach would offer less room for the critics.

Lastly, scientists should give weight to all the evidence, not just the consensus. The IPCC (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f38bb5d8-1691-11df-aa09-00144feab49a,s01=1.html) is particularly guilty of this. It is harmful because it gives the impression that dissenters are being suppressed. It also treats the public as fools. If opinion on climate science is to thaw, practitioners need to respond to public concern. This means reforming the way they investigate our changing climate.
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Gee, where have we heard this before?

And of course the Wall Street Journal continues its position:


Climategate: Science Is Dying

Science is on the credibility bubble.

Surely there must have been serious men and women in the hard sciences who at some point worried that their colleagues in the global warming movement were putting at risk the credibility of everyone in science. The nature of that risk has been twofold: First, that the claims of the climate scientists might buckle beneath the weight of their breathtaking complexity. Second, that the crudeness of modern politics, once in motion, would trample the traditions and culture of science to achieve its own policy goals. With the scandal at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, both have happened at once.

I don't think most scientists appreciate what has hit them. This isn't only about the credibility of global warming. For years, global warming and its advocates have been the public face of hard science. Most people could not name three other subjects they would associate with the work of serious scientists. This was it. The public was told repeatedly that something called "the scientific community" had affirmed the science beneath this inquiry. A Nobel Prize was bestowed (on a politician).

Global warming enlisted the collective reputation of science. Because "science" said so, all the world was about to undertake a vast reordering of human behavior at almost unimaginable financial cost. Not every day does the work of scientists lead to galactic events simply called Kyoto or Copenhagen. At least not since the Manhattan Project.
What is happening at East Anglia is an epochal event. As the hard sciences—physics, biology, chemistry, electrical engineering—came to dominate intellectual life in the last century, some academics in the humanities devised the theory of postmodernism, which liberated them from their colleagues in the sciences. Postmodernism, a self-consciously "unprovable" theory, replaced formal structures with subjectivity. With the revelations of East Anglia, this slippery and variable intellectual world has crossed into the hard sciences.
The Climate Emails

This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and "messy" as, say, gender studies. The New England Journal of Medicine has turned into a weird weekly amalgam of straight medical-research and propaganda for the Obama redesign of U.S. medicine.

The East Anglians' mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming's claims—plotting to shut them up and shut down their ability to publish—evokes the attempt to silence Galileo. The exchanges between Penn State's Michael Mann and East Anglia CRU director Phil Jones sound like Father Firenzuola, the Commissary-General of the Inquisition.
For three centuries Galileo has symbolized dissent in science. In our time, most scientists outside this circle have kept silent as their climatologist fellows, helped by the cardinals of the press, mocked and ostracized scientists who questioned this grand theory of global doom. Even a doubter as eminent as Princeton's Freeman Dyson was dismissed as an aging crank.
Beneath this dispute is a relatively new, very postmodern environmental idea known as "the precautionary principle." As defined by one official version: "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically." The global-warming establishment says we know "enough" to impose new rules on the world's use of carbon fuels. The dissenters say this demotes science's traditional standards of evidence.
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<CITE>Getty Images</CITE> What would Galileo do?


The Environmental Protection Agency's dramatic Endangerment Finding in April that greenhouse gas emissions qualify as an air pollutant—with implications for a vast new regulatory regime—used what the agency called a precautionary approach. The EPA admitted "varying degrees of uncertainty across many of these scientific issues." Again, this puts hard science in the new position of saying, close enough is good enough. One hopes civil engineers never build bridges under this theory.
The Obama administration's new head of policy at EPA, Lisa Heinzerling, is an advocate of turning precaution into standard policy. In a law-review article titled "Law and Economics for a Warming World," Ms. Heinzerling wrote, "Policy formation based on prediction and calculation of expected harm is no longer relevant; the only coherent response to a situation of chaotically worsening outcomes is a precautionary policy. . . ."
If the new ethos is that "close-enough" science is now sufficient to achieve political goals, serious scientists should be under no illusion that politicians will press-gang them into service for future agendas. Everyone working in science, no matter their politics, has an stake in cleaning up the mess revealed by the East Anglia emails. Science is on the credibility bubble. If it pops, centuries of what we understand to be the role of science go with it.

Ouch! Climate science is moving all of science into post-modernism...