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Prayer to God: on the Climate Debate…

…please protect me from my friends. I can defend myself from my enemies

(original quote attributed to Voltaire, Claude-Louis-Hector de Villars.  or Jean Hérault, sieur de Gourville)

Just to point out a disastrous attempt at demonstrating the lack of scientific consensus about Global Warming. The attempt, by a group including

Dr. Frederick Seitz, now deceased, and […] now led by Dr. Arthur Robinson and his son, Dr. Noah Robinson, both members of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM)

is torn apart decisively and conclusively by Gary J. Whittenberger Ph.D. in this week’s eSkeptic, the weekly newsletter the Skeptics Society.

As Roger Pielke, Jr. wrote a few days ago:

What is it about the climate change debate that causes previously excellent scholars to go absolutely insane and disregard all standards of research integrity? 

Yes, one should always call things for what they are, independently from which side the person saying them is. Otherwise there is no chance to learn anything, and it’s not even a debate, but some kind of stupid shouting match.

Hats off to William Connolley then for doing the same with Naomi Oreskes et al.’s  “wrong, or overblown” attack against William A.(Bill) Nierenberg.

0 replies on “Prayer to God: on the Climate Debate…”

A few observations on the Gary J. Whittenberger article:

“Since Robinson chose to conduct a petition project rather than a well-designed scientific survey, he cannot reach valid conclusions about any consensus, and he should not have attempted to do so.”

While it seems reasonable to agree that the petition project is not a valid scientific proof of anything it is nonetheless suggestive of something significant that should perhaps encourage a more robust investigation. Would 30,000+ scientists sign a petition disagreeing with the core set of ideas in cosmology? (Expanding universe/big bang), genetics? (Natural selection.)

Whittenberger rubbishes the project which is fair to the extent that it does have problems, but oddly it does not lead him to ask a few basic questions about what it might point to with further study? Until a 100% well designed research study is done, nothing of value can be derived from the project? It’s a bit of a stretch to assert this isn’t it? This is a limitation of reaching a conclusion and then building an argument around it.

“For the main hypothesis concerning human-caused global warming, it would be desirable to know the opinions of scientists with doctoral degrees in climatology or Earth science who had spent most of their lives studying the relevant phenomena.”

This would be interesting, but if there are financial and prestige issues to consider, how would one control for bias? Would one ask petroleum executives for advice on the implementation of carbon taxes? As they are experts in this field also, this would probably lead to useful information, but doesn’t the issue of bias arise once again? This is the difficult problem of trying to get a fair answer when science and politics are intermingled.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the consensus argument only makes sense for either side to use if the consensus is over a mature and well established scientific field. Otherwise a consensus is nothing more than a measure of betting odds on who currently has the best climate theory. So is climatology a mature well grounded science or is it like many other relatively new scientific fields, still in its early development stage? The predictive accuracy (or lack thereof) of climate models should allow us to answer this question empirically.

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