February 15, 2010

The Little Pictures in the Big Picture

Justin Katz

In part to give my credulous environmentalist friends a reason for their daily exclamations about our lack of credibility and in part because it relates to points that I've made before about the construction of consensus on global warming, I thought I'd quote from a story in National Review about the two most prominent climate change skeptics, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick:

McKitrick is not particularly worried about being on the minority side in the global-warming debate. For one thing, he says, he has "the privilege of being a tenured professor at a university." And, as an economist, he has other fish to fry than global warming. But also, is his side really the minority one? McKitrick says that there are plenty of scientists and other well-informed people who are skeptical of the big IPCC claims. "I'm convinced that the numbers on our side, and the credentials on our side, are just as impressive as on the other side." The problem is that the global-warming red-hots have the funding, the influence, and the media. They also tend to be in control of the professional societies and journals. They can claim to represent thousands and thousands of scientists. But are their pronouncements ever put to a vote of those multitudes of scientists? McKitrick makes a further point: Many scientists, in many disciplines or subdisciplines, have a finger in the climate-change pie. They tend to say, "In my own particular field"--be it sea ice or solar physics or what have you--"I don't really see evidence for global warming. But I of course accept the consensus view." This calls to mind one of (Robert) Conquest's Laws: "Everyone is a conservative in his own field of expertise."

However far one's willing to sympathize with the skeptics, it is at least reasonable to suggest that the alarmists make claims that none of their specialized supporters can verify on their own. In other words, their claims filter a broad array of information through a relatively narrow (and politically manipulable) funnel.

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At this time, after the whistleblower's leak of HADCRU data and some of the other recent disclosures, I think you are being too polite. I no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. Their means and methods look like fraud or at the very least self delusion on a massive scale. There is a legal term for what Jones et al did with the raw data - it's called spoliation and it's a misdemeanor if intentional. That doesn't even cover the UK and US FOI disclosure avoidance.

From a commentary by Willis Eschenbach

....the issue is not Trenberth or scientists talking smack. It is the illegal evasion of legitimate scientific requests for data needed to replicate a scientific study. Without replication, science cannot move forwards. And when you only give data to friends of yours, and not to people who actually might take a critical look at it, you know what you end up with? A “consensus” …

Posted by: chuckR at February 15, 2010 3:32 PM

Ummmm, "they tend to say..."? Well, OK, who says that?

I hear "they" tend to say McKitrick is engaging here in wild conjecture (sure to be picked up by the wingnut echo chamber as "proof").

Posted by: Russ at February 16, 2010 11:12 AM

Climate change debate overheated after sceptic grasped 'hockey stick'

What counts in science, however, is not a single study. It is whether its finding can be replicated by others. Here Mann has been on a winning streak. Upwards of a dozen studies, using different statistical techniques or different combinations of proxy records, have produced reconstructions broadly similar to the original hockey stick. These reconstructions all have a hockey stick shaft and blade. While the shaft is not always as flat as Mann's version, it is present. Almost all support the main claim in the IPCC summary: that the 1990s was then probably the warmest decade for 1000 years.

A decade on, Mann's original work emerges remarkably unscathed. Briffa's more recent reconstructions are closer to Mann's than those he had in the late 1990s. Folland says: "The Mann work still stands."

The hockey stick, a pioneering piece of work in progress, became victim of the notoriety it gained from being included in the IPCC summary. And of course its catchy title.

"The label was always a caricature and it became a stick to beat us with," Mann said later. Was it flawed research? Yes. Was it hyped by the IPCC? Yes. Has it been disproved? Despite all the efforts, no. So far, it has survived the ultimate scientific test of repeated replication.

Posted by: Russ at February 16, 2010 1:14 PM
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