Monday, February 05, 2007

Not Everyone Agrees with Al Gore

Every time I see self-appointed prophet Al Gore on T.V. pushing his global warming gospel, I roll my eyes. He never fails to say, regarding the question of human-caused global warming, that the scientific debate is over. Gore and other like minded people often demonize people that disagree with them. The news media (including the editorial pages of my beloved Science magazine) rarely shows both sides of the debate, but constantly shoves it's own point of view in our faces. Nothing makes my B.S. detector ping more than when the proponent of one side discourages debate, and actively attacks those that disagree with their point of view.

I'm agnostic on global warming. It could be happening, and it could be a result of human activity, but it could also be a natural cycle. I haven't decided yet because I feel that I haven't gotten the full picture because the pro side obviously has a political agenda. I thought it was interesting to see on Drudge an article written by a scientist on the con side of the debate, Dr. Timothy Ball of The Natural Resources Stewardship Project. The poor guy's email box is probably jammed full of hate mail, but he doesn't pull any punches.

Global Warming, as we think we know it, doesn't exist. And I am not the only one trying to make people open up their eyes and see the truth. But few listen, despite the fact that I was the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology and I have an extensive background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition.“Few listen, even though I have a Ph.D, (Doctor of Science) from the University of London, England and was a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.” . For some reason (actually for many), the World is not listening. Here is why.

Now I don't know this guy from Adam. I don't know anything about his scientific reputation nor have I read any of his prior publications, so he could be full of it as far as I know. But he does makes some good points.

I think it may be because most people don't understand the scientific method which Thomas Kuhn so skillfully and briefly set out in his book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." A scientist makes certain assumptions and then produces a theory which is only as valid as the assumptions. The theory of Global Warming assumes that CO2 is an atmospheric greenhouse gas and as it increases temperatures rise. It was then theorized that since humans were producing more CO2 than before, the temperature would inevitably rise. The theory was accepted before testing had started, and effectively became a law.

As Lindzen said many years ago: "the consensus was reached before the research had even begun." Now, any scientist who dares to question the prevailing wisdom is marginalized and called a sceptic, when in fact they are simply being good scientists. This has reached frightening levels with these scientists now being called climate change denier with all the holocaust connotations of that word. The normal scientific method is effectively being thwarted.

Meanwhile, politicians are being listened to, even though most of them have no knowledge or understanding of science, especially the science of climate and climate change. Hence, they are in no position to question a policy on climate change when it threatens the entire planet. Moreover, using fear and creating hysteria makes it very difficult to make calm rational decisions about issues needing attention.

Gore is obviously not a scientist and apparently knows little about the scientific method or scientific philososphy. Scientific "facts" are rarely ever set in stone-- our body of knowledge is constantly changing, and only someone with a politically or personally motivated agenda would make that claim.

Another problem with many scientific studies, especially those in the the softer sciences, is that they are mainly correlational, not causational. That is, one might discover a correlation between 2 or more phenomenon through observation, but one cannot prove that one phenomenon causes the other. Often, it is difficult to prove causation because there are too many uncontrollable variables. Psychological and health studies often suffer from this problem and that's why one year you hear that a medical study shows that eating X causes Y and the next year you hear about another study that contradicts the first one.

Climatological studies can also be prone to this flaw. But probably the biggest problem is that climatologists rely too much on models, which are built on assumptions. If any one assumption is wrong, then the whole model is faulty. When I went to conferences on biophysics, scientists that relied only on modeling for their research were often mocked for making "pretty pictures" that contained little real data.

But the biggest point I think Dr. Ball makes is regarding the behavior of some global warming proponents when they attack skeptics. Basically, skeptics are equated with Holocaust deniers and some even threaten to take away their livelihood for disagreeing.

Personal attacks are difficult and shouldn't occur in a debate in a civilized society. I can only consider them from what they imply. They usually indicate a person or group is losing the debate. In this case, they also indicate how political the entire Global Warming debate has become. Both underline the lack of or even contradictory nature of the evidence.

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