Climate Change and Bad Science

On Saturday, Feb. 9th 2013, I saw something truly amazing on French-language television: The referee stopped a soccer game between two French city teams because the player couldn’t see the off-play lines on the ground . They couldn’t see the lines because the snow was covering them and it was falling so hard, the stadium cleaners couldn’t uncover the lines fast enough for the game to proceed normally.

As I write this introduction (2/9/13), the Northeastern United States is trying to recover from yet another crippling cold wave.

Now, the cynic in me suspects that this kind of event is going to be exploited by someone or other to claim that it’s another proof of climate change ( the other name for global warming) caused by human activity (and/or by eructing bovines).

And, of course, I know that climate scientists, scientists of any kind, will not make such silly claims. However, I think that people with scientific training who support the general notion: 1 that there are currently unusual weather variations; 2 that we should worry about urgently; and 3 that they are the result of human activity that can be modified, I am claiming that scientists who conform to this description don’t do enough. They don’t do enough to deny or disclaim the stupid statements of their illiterate and innumerate supporters. In many cases, they passively give such supporters material with which to do mischief.

Travis, a modestly self-described “junior” climate scientists at U. of California at Berkeley with a flair for subtle flattery takes me to task for my throw-away lines about climate change in my essay (“What’s Peer Review and Why it Matters,” posted Feb 5/10/10) otherwise dedicated to explaining scholarly reviewing. Travi’s admonition to me on my treatment of climate change research and publication is included at the end of the present essay.

I am glad that Travis gives me a chance to save him from a career shaped to any extent by religious fanaticism. The only reason I have not done so earlier is that did not know him. (We met through the libertarianish blog site “Notes On Liberty.”)

There are thee parts to my response to Travis. (I am afraid I am giving Travis about 500% of the reply he expected.)

1 Climate changists propose or demand that we alter radically our current system of economic production. This current global system of production has saved almost every human being from the misery that was the rule for millenia. (There were never any “good old times” except for brief periods, very locally. Ask me.)

2 The findings on which their proposal for massive societal change is based lack the high level of credibility the seriousness of the changists’ proposal must entail.

3 Climate changism is a religious movement. Like Christianity before it, it is able to incorporate rational and empirically based tenets. In other words, I don’t claim that it’s 100% irrational.

The fact is that our current, global way of doing things has improved radically in a short time the lives of nearly everyone in the world. Our “current way of doing things” is roughly industrial, greatly energy-centered capitalism (not capitalist enough for me, but that’s another story). Nothing else has ever worked since the agricultural revolution of about 10,000 years ago. Climate change believers want us to transform our ways of doing things quickly in major manners that are sure to cause much misery, especially among the poorest of the poor of this world.

How do I know? I was born in 1942. I was well aware of how poor the world was like even in the fifties, even the rich countries. (Please, see my book of memoirs : I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography Excerpts on this blog. Or order at: isuedtobefrench@gmail.com.) Well into the seventies, there was widespread misery in the world. (I was then a specialist in the sociology of economic development.) Climate alarmists simply want us to turn back the clock, I believe. They contemplate different rates of economic slowdown, more or less thorough transformations, implemented in more or less drastic ways, but I have not heard any of them come up with anything but turning back the clock that is even half-way reasonable. (And yes, I too like windmills; they look cute.)

The group’s general unreasonableness with respect to alternative forms of economic systems stands out when you begin to think of what its members do not (NOT) promote: The obvious, simplest, cheapest solution to the putative problem of excess emissions of CO2, one that does not undermine thoroughly our capacity to provide for the many, is nuclear energy (NUCLEAR). Hardly one of them ever mentions this simple fact. It’s not that they are too stupid to see the obvious. The problem is that those who see the obvious are too afraid of excommunication to open their mouths.(Yes, the use of a religious term here is deliberate.)

Climate changists thus demand something very grave, serious, absolutely dangerous. Therefore, their assertions must be held to a high standard. If they simply fought for internal combustion engines that would be 10% more efficient, for example, the standard of evidence in support could be lower. Let me repeat myself and say the same thing in a different way: If the climate changists’ worst predictions are correct then, the prospect of deliberately bringing misery to millions becomes ethically justified. If their predictions are incorrect, bringing such misery would be a crime. If their predictions might be correct then, again, we need a a very prudent approach to potential economic devolution. These simple facts requires that we be very demanding about determining the truth or falsity of the alarmists’ predictions.

Climate changists know full well that very few in the general public are able to assess the quality of the climate scientists’ pronouncements under their own power.(Nor are many able to determine who is a climate scientist and who learned about it in night school at community college.) Their predictions are thus fated to degenerate into absurd vulgarizations unless they take precautions. I am no exception to the general rule of incompetence. So, I use the normal, reasonable shortcuts of the untrained: First I assess the processes that produced the pronouncements and then, I assess the honesty of the gate-keepers, of those who implement the processes. Simple enough, right?

Much of this conversation refers to publications and announcements of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

Of course, I agree with Travis that a few contributions that are not peer-reviewed in the reports of IPCC are not enough to invalidate all the findings (FINDINGS) of many more studies that are peer-reviewed and that contribute to the same reports. But the kind of sickening falsehoods I cite (see below) force me to ask: To what extent were those other statements proceeding from real peer-review? How many studies invoked in the report were peer-reviewed for real? How thoroughly? What percentage? Which?

A real figure that 40% of the Amazon forest will disappear shortly if nothing is done sure would motivate even me to demand change in logging practices. I would want change right now. A mistake, an overestimate, of 300 years about how fast glaciers are melting (an error in the climate changists’ favor, N.S.!) sure makes the merely possible/ maybe look like the real emergency changists’ hearts most fervently desire. The fact that those in charge of the report could allow such gross, stinking mistakes as they did, leads me to suspect that the gate-keepers, are negligent, stupid, or simply moved by fanaticism. (Again, here, I refer here to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC.)

What would Travis have us do when confronted with failings of this magnitude? Does he really expect us to give the gate-keepers, the guard dogs, the benefit of the doubt after they let the fox into the hen-house? How long? How many times? Like my second girlfriend, Marie, after they betray me, they have to work at regaining my trust. It’s now up to them to persuade me that they are not the sluts I suspect they are. They did act like sluts, if only a few times. I can’t simply forget it.

Incidentally, the fact that Travis blames the “federated” process by which IPCC gathers findings for inclusion seems to give simple mistakes a valid explanation. But it’s not a valid excuse. It’s rather an admission of carelessness, at best.

And does Travis know whether the IPCC’s “federated” process includes a safeguard to ensure that contrarian findings are not systematically excluded (EXCLUDED)? And if he does not know, why? And will he try to find out from those better informed than he? And, if not, why? I only ask because my limited personal observation tells me there is a strong anti-contrarian bias even in good scholarly journals. There is an anti-contrarian bias in journals that don’t ask that we stop or reverse progress. I mean that I fear that if there were weak evidence that there is no such thing as a global warming at all, it would likely never be made public by those who control the journals.It would never be discussed. If there were mildly powerful evidence to the effect that global warming is caused to the tune of 95% by solar flare-ups, I suspect the evidence would have trouble finding its way into committed journals. Again, I am referring here to ordinary anti-contrarian bias, not to the naked prejudices of changists. The existence of such bias demands that prudents safeguards be established. Do they exist?

Note that any interpretation of the source of the gatekeepers’ misbehavior that they were impelled by dishonesty instead of mere incompetence, could easily be nullified. One would merely have to point out in any IPCC report a few equally serious mistakes of inclusion that would undermine (UNDERMINE) the global warmist cause. Perhaps Travis has access to free grad student labor he could put to work on this proposal. I hope the results of such effort will appear on my blog soon. You can be completely sure that neither this blog nor Notes On Liberty shelter an anti-contrarian bias. If anyone comes up with any instance of evidence denying climate change appearing in any IPCC report, we will publish if forthwith. (Note: This challenge was first published August 12th 2012. There is still no response on 2/9/13, not from Travis, not from anyone. There is still no response on 10/21/14.)

The fact that IPCC, the most accessible voice of climate change research, is affiliated with the United Nations does not help its credibility among skeptics, of course. That is, after all, an organization whose committee (or commission) on Human rights included both Kadafi’s Lybia and Assad ‘s Syria in the past five years. (Now eight years, still true of Syria, 70,000 dead later, according to the same UN.) A long time ago, the UN even had a cannibal’s government represented. (Another story I will tell on request. And watch the spelling: I wrote “a cannibal’s,” and not “cannibals’ .” I don’t exaggerate)

Global warmists who, claim scientific objectivity and who possess scientific credentials could improve their collective credibility if they would once in a while do the obvious in terms of engaging those not of their church. And I don’t mean adversaries like me. That’s too hard and warmists are mostly too dogmatic even to try it, I think. It’s easier to dismiss reasoning skeptics like me as cranks. I mean relevant voices that do their cause harm without opposing it. Two kinds come to mind. I describe those below.

1 Anyone who reads a little, or who watches television, or who listens to the radio frequently encounters statements of absurd pseudo-facts pronounced in the name of global warming. My current favorite (actually August 2012) I read in the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde. Recently it had a big an article to the effect that the sea level is rising faster – because of global warming – in the Central Pacific than in France, for example. This should thus lead to the following kind of statements: “Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level in Hong Kong and in Le Havre but only 29,017 feet above sea level in the Tuamotu islands.” No one protested, no comment! Of course, it’s the stupid French. One could not find anything of the kind in the world’s English language press, right?

I know climate changist scientists can’t be everywhere. I just think that if theirs were an intellectually honest enterprise, once in a while, one or two of them would feel obligated to smack on the head publicly some of the media morons who contend to speak for them. I think it never happens (NEVER)! This last statement should be easy to contest, of course. It would only take one single instance of smacking.

2 The prolific, statistically trained Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and of Cool It! keeps assuring everyone that he believes that there is man-made global warming that is worth worrying about. However, all of his policy proposals undermine and destroy the credibility of the mainstream changists’ own ideas about what to do next. It seems to me that writing-bulky Mr Lomborg is hard to miss in the general panorama of discourse on the subject. Yet, the main changist scientist church practically never address his raucous views. I believe they ignore him on purpose. Likewise, in medieval times, the Catholic Church pretended that rival Christian movements they could not suppress just did not exist.

Of course, some would object that the warmist movement includes many intelligent, cultured, rational people. In medieval times, intelligent, cultured, rational  intellectuals never countenanced, for example, the burning to death of deviants who stubbornly insisted that during the Eucharist ritual, it is not really the real blood and flesh of Christ that appears on the altar. Or am I confused again? Were the intellectuals actually in charge of convicting and delivering heretics to the pyre?

Of course, climate changism is a religious movement. Specifically, it’s an offshoot of Christianity. It has a doctrine of the Fall (“Original Sin”) the main component of which is hubris ( as in eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). It has an apocalyptic scenario. It developed a hierarchy of sins, very big ones, little ones. It advocates collective guilt, as with God’s decision to destroy the world with the Deluge. It is forever elaborating small and big dogmas many of which are too difficult for ordinary people to understand… “mysteries,” of course. Its priesthood is still ill-defined and struggling against itself – as happened in the first centuries of Christianity. The religious movement holds periodic councils to advance itself, to define doctrine and thus to reject divergent ideas, as the early Church did (in Rio, in Copenhagen; where was the recent one again?)

Those who think they are important members of the Climatechange Church hierarchy do not hesitate to plot and to misrepresent the truth on behalf of the greater good (as show in the leaked emails- affair at two universities, one in the US, the other in England). They merely imitate in this connection what the Jesuit Order did for centuries with no qualms at all.

This religious movement’s central weakness is that its most visible and audible prophet, Al Gore, is both downright grotesque and sinister, as often happens in new cults (But unlike the leaders of the early Christian church who did not hesitate to submit to martyrdom: Al the Martyr, that would be the day!) Nevertheless, the true believers who know better, those who are technically and intellectually equipped to do so, don’t find it within themselves to denounce his ridiculous exaggerations and his many big lies (let alone his small lies).

Personally, I fear the day when rational climate changists do just this, when they actually denounce Al Gore for what he is: a rich but pathetic Daddy’s boy reared in a Washington DC luxury hotel who could not even carry his own state when he ran for president. And when ten climate “scientists” sign even a discrete manifesto denouncing Al Gore’s half of that Nobel Peace Prize as a farce, when that day arrives, it will become more difficult to denounce climate changism as an overgrown middle-class cult.

As in the historical precedent I keep invoking, intellectually sophisticated priests are embarrassed by miracles but not quite embarrassed enough to oppose the movement’s reliance on them to gain adherents and financial contributions from the unwashed masses. (Incidentally, in the 21st century, the Catholic Church cannot quite bring itself to denounce the orgy of horrors of Lourdes miracles. It manifests its rationalist disapproval by recognizing only about one hundred of the thousands of miracles claimed in Lourdes over the years!)

In all of the above, about the religious nature of climate changism, I realize I am probably plagiarizing others, smarter observers, people who described the obvious before me and whose names I forgot, I am afraid. I regret that I cannot give them proper credit.

Thanks again, Travis. I suspect you are personally not guilty of any atrocity, yet. Just watch your steps. Don’t believe everything. In fact, don’t believe anything. The majority is not always right; it’s usually wrong at first. The truth is never somewhere in the middle. Your adversaries are not all stupid although it may be that many are. Some of your adversaries may be smarter than you. Or, they may simply not be blindfolded by faith. If you were so blindfolded, you would be the last one to know it, right? And the effects of the faculty club on conformity of belief are powerful and insidious, always have been. And, finally, keep in mind that the European intellectual class as a whole, and many American intellectuals as well, actively helped murder millions in the Gulag between 1930 and 1955 always in the name of the obvious and of the obviously necessary.

What if I tun out to be completely wrong, you ask? Let someone ask that question openly, without circumlocutions. Ask it openly and I will answer it openly and with all the seriousness it deserves.

Travis, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley, writes the following:

(full disclosure: I am a [rather junior] climate scientist)

I usually enjoy Delacroix’s posts, but this one is absurd, and I think that it suffers from the same sort of cognitive bias that he’s accusing the ‘climate priests’ of the IPCC of using (I use the phrase with full irony here).

Here’s the logic I think I’m seeing: (1) The IPCC used a non peer-reviewed source; (2) peer review is important; (3) therefore the IPCC is untrustworthy. (I recognize that the article basically ends on point 2–I’m extrapolating point 3 from his accusation that climate science is a religion, and from his rhetorical question in the beginning “How long would I continue to patronize a car mechanic who told this level of untruths?”). I agree completely that peer-review is critical, and that policy-influencing entities should only refer to peer-reviewed literature when dealing with scientific questions.

However, one of the major problems with Delacroix’s logic is that it ignores that the IPCC reports are compilations peer-reviewed literature; with few notable exceptions (which Delacroix rightly criticizes), the information in an IPCC report reflects the state of peer-reviewed science related to climate change. The other major problem with this logic is that it ignores the fact that IPCC reports are created in a federated process, in which different chapters are organized and written by different groups of people. I can see Delacroix’s point that a few un-peer-reviewed sources make one question what other sources are also un-reviewed, but it seems absurd to me to throw out all the information in all of the chapters of the IPCC report because it contains one un-peer-reviewed source. The chapter-leads who ultimately allowed the un-reviewed source to enter the IPCC report are not in charge of other chapters, which are essentially independent manuscripts, so why arbitrarily distrust them as well?

At some point, I would also like to dig into your conception that climate science is a religion. If you truly think that the perspective that ‘climate is changing due to human influence’ is not a reflection of our best understanding of the way that atmospheric-oceanic physics works, and of our records of the state of the Earth, then you really ought to abandon all the Sociology-related points of view that you hold that you have derived from peer-reviewed literature. Because our physical understanding (by ‘our’ in this sentence, I specifically mean myself and all of the Earth scientists that I personally know) was built on the same foundation as your understanding of sociological phenomena: peer-reviewed studies.

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About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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15 Responses to Climate Change and Bad Science

  1. Terry Amburgey says:

    What if you turn out to be completely wrong?

  2. What if I turn out to be completely wrong on Satan and he hates beer drinkers. You are in deep doo then, right?

    I don’t see how my skepticism can be completely wrong. I have specific objections. Let the priestly caste answer them and I will make a U-turn.

    Of course, if they cheat, it must be because their religion is false.

  3. Suppose I am wrong. Choose one consequence that I or anyone should worry about and on what time scale. Please, give it your one best shot.

    Please, do not select a likely crash in the price of wheat because of longer growing seasons and because of more arable land coming under cultivation in Canada and in Russia.

  4. Terry Amburgey says:

    “What if I tun out to be completely wrong, you ask? Let someone ask that question openly, without circumlocutions. Ask it openly and I will answer it openly and with all the seriousness it deserves.”

    I asked that question openly without circumlocutions.

  5. Terry: Yes, and I replied, didn’t I? What am I supposed to fear? It seems to me that it’s bad practice to suggest that someone else should fear something without being able to say, or to give an example of what he should fear. I believe that rational people should do their best to denounce vague fears, fear of ghosts, for example.

    And, by the way, in another discussion on this blog (“Liberal Scum….” ) and similarly, you challenged me to justify the cost of the Iraq war but you won’t tell me what the costs are. (I was only requesting an order of magnitude.) It seems to me that there again, I don’t have to answer a vague question such as:

    “What do you think of them things?”

    This matters because I believe liberals can only maintain their frequently mindless, non-factually based positions by changing the subject quickly.

  6. Terry Amburgey says:

    You replied. You did not answer the question. I did not construct the question, you did. Are you really claiming that the question you posed is too vague for you to answer? Since I suspect the answer is yes, let me provide advice. Think back to when you wrote the post. Recreate the question you had in mind when you wrote the post. Answer that question instead of what you wrote.

  7. Terry Amburgey says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network.

    The climate change deniers are funded by fossil fuel plutocrats eh? “What do you think of them things?”

  8. Yes, you asked me and what you asked is an unanswerable question. If I am wrong and the mean global temperature goes up by_______? If the Ocean surface rises by __—? in How long___—/ If all tnis (see above is caused by what human activity _________________?

    Why in the world would I be forced to describe Hell for a false religion? Let them do it so I can make them cry.

    The vagueness is not in my modest essay. It’s in the changist religion.

    Let me repeat an answer I have already given: If am wrong, the worldwide pride of wheat is going to crash, but it will happen gradually. Same with the price of crude oil but only in a minimal way and not for long.

  9. Terry Amburgey says:

    Interesting research from that bastion of liberalism, the Wharton School.

    “The study then presented participants with a real-world choice: With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL), the same kind Bachmann railed against. Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost the same, and even when the CFL cost more, conservatives and liberals were equally likely to buy the efficient bulb. But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says “Protect the Environment,” and “we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,” said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

    Got that? With all other factors being equal, conservatives were less likely to buy the exact same lightbulb if you told them it would help the environment. They didn’t have any more aversion to buying energy-saving lightbulbs than anyone else, unless the package pointed out that this particular lightbulb was slightly less earth-screwing than the other one. Tell them that, and they were more likely to go for the other one.”

    • This is silly. Of course, there are many ill-informed conservatives. The energy saving light bulbs I am forced to buy in California say “57 W.” That would be instead of the 60 W of my childhood. Big frigging deal! IT will save the earth over the next five hundred years.

      People who call themselves conservatives only have lightly less bad taste than liberals.

      I don’t go by tribes anyway but bu what my rationality tells me.

      Your intro: There are plenty of docile liberals on the Wharton faculty, same as in every business school

      • Terry Amburgey says:

        You have an amazing and rare ability to completely miss the point. Does it come in handy with Krishna? I’m wondering if it’s innate or learned & honed over the years.

      • Terry: Perhaps, you are overestimating me.

        What was the point again?

        Try to answer straigthtforwardly, without the mechanical sinuousness of an aged bellydancer.

    • dbjoyce says:

      Of course they were less likely to select the “Energy Star” rated one. God only knows in what ways that label has distorted the market and subverted the market’s ability to produce a product based on reality.

      By analogy, in a world without affirmative action, I am quite happy to see that the brain surgeon operating on my child is black – he must have been more than qualified to overcome the barriers that not doubt still subtly exist. In the current world …

  10. Making a serious attempt to become interested in Terry’ s puny story about silly Wharton research. Whoever did that research had better be an old guy/ old dame with tenure. No one gets tenure based on that sort of light- weight, partisan thing.)

    A test determines that, for a given price, I prefer red apples to yellow apples. The day after the test I see a sticker on red apples. The sticker says, ” Buying this apple will help punish homosexuals for their abominable sins.”

    I dislike intolerance, meanneness, vindictiveness, and above all, ignorance. I switch my preference to yellow apples.

    Where is the story?

  11. Pingback: Climate Change Fiascoes and the Second Amendment | FACTS MATTER

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