Climate Change proponents and real Science are often at odds.
Periodically I’ll republish something I wrote prior to my Substack starting, that is currently relevant, In this case, a few years ago I was asked to write a commentary about the appropriateness of industrial wind energy for the Adirondack Park in upstate NY (the largest protected geographic area in continental US). Here it is… That quickly resulted in a well-known local college professor’s (a climate alarmist) attack… My public response to him is below. (FYI, I never heard back from him again.)…
I was rather surprised to see the Adirondack Almanac piece by Professor Curt Stager, for several reasons. For example: a) I have had multiple polite exchanges with Curt in the past, and he never said any of these things directly to me, b) his commentary included multiple misdirections, and c) that he would so openly disavow real Science.
I find item “c” the most surprising and disconcerting. Carefully consider this superior quote from Curt eight years ago (I bolded the most important parts):
“Scientists are human beings who reflect a diversity of opinions and attitudes. Of course, most of us are fed up with this ridiculous situation, so it’s not surprising that you hear from so many who express those concerns. I’m fed up, too, but I’m also not alone in my preferences for refraining from “aggressive activist stances.” I do so because I value Science itself more than any individual topic that it addresses.
“I consider Science to be one of the most valuable inventions of human civilization, and I recognize how precious and vulnerable to corruption it is as one who believes in objective reality, the fallibility of human perception, and the need for objective methods of seeking truth. I also recognize that public trust in Science itself depends heavily upon trust in the objectivity of those who pursue it. We must walk a fine line between defending truth and trying to force it on other people, and I personally choose to take a cautious approach in walking that line.”
This is a well-phrased, important statement — and I would agree with every bolded word. However, since that time Curt has apparently been radicalized. As his Adirondack Almanac commentary indicates he appears to have abandoned his earlier commitment to his profession, and has proudly become a card-carrying political science activist.
To properly respond to all the monkeyshines in his Adirondack Almanac article would take longer than the space allowed here, so I’ll just address some of them. Hopefully discerning readers can then extrapolate the rest on their own…
What we are discussing here is called “Anthropogenic Global Warming” (AGW). Basically, that is the belief that catastrophic global warming is caused almost exclusively by man-made influences (e.g., burning fossil fuels).
The gist of the problem is that Curt has chosen to impale himself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, he wants us to believe that his opinions about AGW are based on real Science — but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to be burdened by the constraints of following the protocols of real Science! Put another way, his comments show a clear distinction between genuine science and political science. Consider some examples:
#1 — If two professional scientists have a disagreement, each one politely puts forth the best empirical (i.e., real-world) evidence that they believe supports their case. At no time does one disparage the other’s motivations, past associations, beliefs, mother-in-law, etc. — as those are irrelevant to the discussion at hand. If Curt was so confident in the scientific proof of his claims, why would he waste a single word of his space-limited op-ed to deprecate me? That is a political tactic, outside the realm of real Science.
#2 — Curt then inaccurately asserts that the only people competent enough to assess the validity of the AGW matter, are “truly qualified climate scientists.” Whether the AGW hypothesis is true or not rests on the Scientific validity of its proponents’ claims. Any competent scientist can see whether other scientists (in their field or otherwise), have followed Scientific Protocol… Interestingly Curt undermines his own assertion (that AGW is the exclusive realm of climate scientists) by citing “physics” (i.e., my field) as the basis for some of his AGW claims.
#3 — Curt mischaracterizes a Scientific hypothesis by disparagingly calling it “mere guesswork.” Here’s a reasonable definition:
“The formulation and testing of a hypothesis is part of the Scientific Method — the approach scientists use when attempting to understand and test ideas about natural phenomena. The generation of a hypothesis is a creative process, based on existing scientific knowledge, intuition, or experience. The two primary features of a scientific hypothesis are falsifiability and testability.”
OK, now we understand that, here is the really important part: what does it take for a scientific hypothesis to become a scientific theory, the next step up the ladder? According to UC Berkeley:
“Theories, are broad explanations for a wide range of phenomena. They are concise, coherent, systematic, predictive, and broadly applicable…. and has proven itself in thousands of experiments and observational studies.”
However, in this case, the Global Warming promoters have simply decreed that their AGW hypothesis has been elevated to the level of a Scientific theory — but without adhering to the necessary scientific protocol! Such proclamations are the tactics of activists and political scientists — not real scientists.
#4 — Professor Stager knows this very well but is averse to admitting that the AGW matter is a hypothesis — as he does not want to comply with most of the traditional burdensome Scientific methodology. Why not?
Some of the excuses put forward by AGW advocates, are: a) it’s too time-consuming, b) AGW is too complicated to be analyzed by traditional Science, c) AGW is not falsifiable (see above), and d) the traditional science methodology casts significant doubt on the AGW hypothesis. In other words, Curt is saying let’s skip over all this annoying Science stuff, and cut to the chase. Again, that is the perspective of a political science person: let’s get on to changing policies!
#5 — The AGW hypothesis is almost entirely based on computer models. But computer models are not something magic: they are the results of data plus numerous assumptions by people.
But if AGW is too complicated to be analyzed by traditional Science, how is it that certain individuals are able to accurately decipher what data is pertinent and exactly how it all inter-relates? Rephrased: if accurately assessing the validity and results of AGW is too complicated for traditional Science, then it is also too complicated for computer models. BTW, real scientists focus on empirical data. Political scientists prefer computer models as it is child’s play to manipulate them (without citizens being aware), so that any desired outcome can be generated…
#6 — Unfortunately, Curt did not acknowledge that we have HUGE gaps of knowledge in our understanding of climate.
For example, the AGW matter appears to rest on a very basic equation: the global CO2 balance. On one side are “CO2 Sources” which are either natural or man-made. On the other side are “CO2 Sinks” which are mostly natural. When the Sources exceed the Sinks, we have a resultant net CO2 increase. One of several problems is that as much as 30% of the Sinks side of the equation is not well understood. How accurate can computer models be when there is such a substantial unknown involved? Real scientists are very clear about exactly what we know and do not know. Political scientists, on the other hand, glaze over the unknowns.
#7 — There are multiple references to “peer-review” in Curt’s commentary. Two comments about those. First, it’s puzzling that Curt fails to inform readers that there are some 2000 peer-reviewed papers that contest his AGW position (e.g., see here). A real scientist objectively presents both sides of any dispute. (Note Curt’s quote about that at the beginning!) A political scientist solely promotes his own agenda, pretending that there is no other reasonable conclusion than theirs.
#8 — Second, the intention of his “peer-review” insertions is to convince the casual reader that Science has put its imprimatur on Curt’s AGW hypothesis. That is not so. What laypeople need to know is that the peer-review process has NOTHING to do with ascertaining the validity of any study’s conclusions. For example, in the peer-review process, NO ONE repeats any experiment done in a study, to verify the results.
To get a better picture of what peer-review is all about, carefully read the statement made by one of the major players in the peer-review process, the editor of the world-renown medical journal, the Lancet:
“The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer-review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding.
“Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer-review. We portray peer-review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller.
“But we know that the system of peer-review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.”
In other words, references to peer-review to support one’s claims are based on the premise that the reader is not educated about peer-review realities. This is a strategy used by political scientists: to take advantage of what citizens don’t understand, to promote their own objectives and policies.
#9 — Along the same line are Curt’s references to “consensus.” Oh dear! If Curt has irrefutable Science to support his AGW hypothesis, why would he waste time by talking about such unscientific matters as consensus? Look closely at the Scientific Method. Is there anything there about consensus? NO!
What is also indisputable is that there have been numerous cases in the past where the consensus of what scientists believed, was subsequently proven to be wrong. Real scientists are well aware of that reality, so they would never — ever — try to justify their hypothesis by referencing other scientists’ opinions. On the other hand, political science is all about getting a consensus.
#10—Despite his 1300± word commentary, Curt didn’t actually address the primary points I made in my earlier Adirondack Explorer article. Instead, he waxed eloquently on AGW — which was not the topic I was asked to write about. Renewable energy in the Adirondack Park was my assignment. He didn’t say anything about that! Have you ever noticed that when a politician is asked a question they don’t like, they smoothly change the topic? That’s another stark difference between real Science and political science.
#11—Curt’s remarks about skepticism are also interesting. He understands that skepticism is the hallmark of a real scientist — so he makes sure to point out that he once was an AGW skeptic. Although I couldn’t find any AGW skeptical papers he wrote during that time, I’m willing to take his word for it. However, his position is now that he has been satisfied, why isn’t everyone else? Indeed.
If he had put forth a learned position: a) that followed the conventions of real Science, b) that honestly acknowledged how much we don’t know about AGW, c) without ad hominems, d) without references to such unscientific matters such as consensus, and e) without making false implications about the veracity of peer-review — then we could see that he was making a strong case based on real Science. Instead, we got a political science response, which does not inspire confidence.
#12—It’s quite clear from all this that the AGW issue is not really about CO2. Instead, this is just a convenient vehicle for those who want to radically alter our American way of life — to literally convert us to an agrarian, Marxist society. Don’t take my word for it, but just closely examine the elements (and consequences) of the Green New Deal, which is just a trial balloon for what’s really the agenda being promoted here.
The bottom line is that Curt and other similar advocates, want us to fork over $100± Trillion dollars: a) to accept their AGW hypothesis when they have not bothered to follow traditional Science protocols, and b) to implement “solutions” (like industrial wind energy) that are scientifically unproven. What could possibly go wrong?
PS — A profoundly important problem that is going on here, is that real Science itself is under attack by anti-American progressives. For example, see this earlier commentary for just one part of what is transpiring.
©2023. John Droz, Jr. All rights reserved.