Before I address my nameless critic, a recap:
2. Me and my horse…well, one can read the comments themselves.
3. Whether or not global warming exists, big oil companies don’t want it to exist, and since big oil companies run the American government, the globe shall warm. (Take note that the article linked in the opening statement discussed the lack of economic feasibility for the Europeans in following the Kyoto treaty).
My verbose critic does not deny that climate science, in modern terms, is in it’s infancy, a statement which is fairly value neutral, but central to my argument. Every science starts somewhere, and every scientist gravitates to his field for some reason. The eugenics movement was an influence on Nazisms ethnic cleansing policy doesn’t mean that Gregor Mendel was anti-semitic or a “doo-doo head”. However, ivy league scientists used the science of eugenics to force sterilization in blacks, in Appalachia, etc. My main point there is that sometimes the federal government can use scientific findings as leverage for horrible policy.
Which brings me to my second point. These days, scientists are under a lot of pressure to produce, and to produce quickly. Sometimes this leads to academic fraud, as was the case in South Korea recently. More often it simply requires a reader to read 4 or 5 papers to get the gist of a scientists work, as opposed to 1 paper back in the 70s.
That’s why the review process is so integral to good research. If a spectacular finding is run up the flagpole without critical review, bad research is disseminated throughout the public. If the right people pick up on it, then bad research can lead to horrible public policy. Consider Michael Mann ,(not the guy who created Miami Vice), who I’m sure is a nice guy. In 1998, not long after the introduction of the Kyoto protocol, Mann, as an adjunct faculty member and PhD candidate published an article in Nature claiming that the world was on an incredible warming trend in the last hundred years. Mann’s Hockey Stick had become a rallying point for environmentalists , and the IPCC, an intergovernmental agency devoted to studying climate change, had pointed to his work as definitive. Before his work was published, many climate scientists believed there were variations in the global warming and cooling periods in the last 1000 years. The Hockey Stick was a good story, however, and the fact that those cycles hadn’t shown up in his model didn’t stop the reviewers at Nature from publishing.
There are some problems with Mann’s findings however. Most glaringly, Mann spliced two data sets into his principle components analysis , and failed to run control data. He relied on tree ring data for the first 900 years worth of data, and then added in surface temperature for the last 100 years. If tree rings are such good indicators of temperature, why mess with the PCA? Wouldn’t adding factors into your data set need to be carefully controlled, and certainly not represented in a single figure? Speaking of which, a simple control proposed by critics of Mann points out the main methodological flaw , namely, random noise thrown into the PCA produces the same results as Mann’s (primary literature here).
In a serious review process, editors would note that work in this manner would need to be controlled, which it obviously wasn’t. Mann issued a retraction, but his academic post is still nice and cozy.
Certainly oil companies have money and power, but just because they disagree with a policy doesn’t make it right. People may not like the fact that other people drive big cars and live in big houses, but before we decide to impose energy rations, the science should be airtight. Scientists have agendas, too.
I didn’t mean to trash climate science. But the media really trumpeted this story, and I think once scientists stray too far into activism, their science suffers (baloney science). There is plenty of this in drug research too, by academics and drug companies. A recent article on heat islands caused by pavement provides some insight on the warming phenomena.
Posted at 08:27 pm by Johnny B