I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Collapse of the Global-Warming Fraud?

The Times of India reports that the rising Asian powers have decided to reject the attempts by the United States and Europe to stifle the global economy in the name of the global-warming fraud:
In an unprecedented move, India on Saturday joined China and two other developing countries to prepare for a major offensive on rich nations at the Copenhagen conference on climate change next month.

The four countries, which include Brazil and South Africa, agreed to a strategy that involves jointly walking out of the conference if the developed nations try to force their own terms on the developing world, Jairam Ramesh, the Indian minister for environment and forests (independent charge), said.

“We will not exit in isolation. We will co-ordinate our exit if any of our non-negotiable terms is violated. Our entry and exit will be collective,” Ramesh told reporters in Beijing…
The developing nations will also not accept any pressure from developed countries to establish legally binding emission targets at Copenhagen.
No “legally binding emission targets” means, of course, that they will wait and see if global warming turns out to be a real problem (and, yes, that is possible) or if it turns out to be of little consequence (and, yes, that too is possible) before agreeing to any action of any real substance.

Until there is real scientific evidence – all we have now are the results of deeply flawed computer models – that is the only sensible approach.

The times they are a’changin’ – who’d have thought, a few decades ago, that India and China would be teaching the West the virtues of common sense and the dangers of over-regulation of market economics?

I also recommend a wonderfully fair and balanced discussion of Climategate on the Freakonomics blog: Steve Dubner points out that, quite aside from all the sound and fury over the whistleblower's publishhing of the CRU e-mails, “the central scientific issue here” is:
that the most prominent climate scientists’ computerized models may be neither as robust nor as predictive as many people think…
He goes on to quote from my fellow physicists Nathan Myhrvold (of Microsoft fame) and Lowell Wood, explaining why the computer models should not be trusted.

At The Atlantic, Clive Crook explains why he is more outraged now that he has waded through the leaked CRU e-mails than he expected to be:
The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. And, as Christopher Booker argues, this scandal is not at the margins of the politicised IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process. It is not tangential to the policy prescriptions emanating from what David Henderson called the environmental policy milieu [subscription required]. It goes to the core of that process.
I'm also surprised by the IPCC's response. Amid the self-justification, I had hoped for a word of apology, or even of censure. (George Monbiot called for Phil Jones to resign, for crying out loud.) At any rate I had expected no more than ordinary evasion. The declaration from Rajendra Pachauri that the emails confirm all is as it should be is stunning. Science at its best. Science as it should be. Good lord. This is pure George Orwell. And these guys call the other side "deniers".
Perhaps what Crook had particularly in mind was CRU head Phil Jones' allegedly declaring:
The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone...
The “two MMs” are mathematician Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick, two Canadians who have been trying to uncover the details of the global-warming fraud for the last several years

Now, reports indicate that the original raw data, absolutely vital to judging the scientific validity of CRU's global-climate work, have been either "lost' or, possibly, intentionally destroyed.

Obviously, the e-mail from Jones raises the possibility that he carried out his plan and actually did intentionally delete the vital information, perhaps to cover up scientific malfeasance.

If anyone ends up going to jail for all this, the destruction of data to illegally evade "freedom of information" requests may be the reason.

Anyone who wants to get their hands dirty actually digging through the leaked documents might start at the blog Shadow of the Olive Tree, which has kindly posted the infamous "Harry Read Me" file for everyone's enlightenment.

Let me emphasize once again that of course the CO2 we have dumped into the atmosphere will almost certainly make the world at least a bit warmer than it otherwise would have been. And, yes, this might be a big problem.

But, it might not be a problem at all. It might even be beneficial if, perchance, we are entering a natural cooling period.

We just don’t know.

The fraud comes not from those who claim that global warming might happen and that it might be a problem. The fraud is from the handful of scientists, and the large number of scientific illiterates in the mass media, who keep saying that it is “settled science” that global warming will be huge and hugely damaging.

That is not settled science. The fraud of global warming consists of the false claim that global warming will be a major problem when neither the empirical data nor the deeply flawed computer models are yet able to indicate how large global warming will actually be.

In a way, the CRU gang have become the fall guys for a much larger scandal: yes, we know from the published e-mails that the CRU guys played nasty little unprofessional games to silence their critics, that they were more concerned with protecting their turf than with advancing science, and that they are incredibly poor computer programmers.

But the real scandal is the larger group of climate modelers around the world who have falsely claimed to know how big a problem global warming will be when they do not really know at all but are simply relying on very dicey computer models.

Over my career, I have been involved with numerous computer simulations, ranging from elementary-particle physics detectors to satellite-communication systems. No responsible scientist fully trusts such simulations until they have been well validated by experimental data.

The global-warming simulations are more speculative, less embedded in accepted science, than the simulations I have worked on. Yet, the global-warming simulations have not been validated by making detailed, unambiguous predictions and then rigorously checking those predictions against reality.

This is not science: it is pseudo-science.

The real fraud in the area of global warming is the covering up of this fact by the mass media, by the political establishment, and by so many climate scientists themselves.

(See also my September post, published before the current scandal broke, explaining why the global-warming scam is fraudulent, and my previous post on the Climategate scandal.)


  1. Dave: I've got a post in draft for my blog I'd like to show you, since it's a reformulation of some of your objections.

    It is not, specifically, a refutation of those objections. You raise some excellent, and valid points. But I want to make sure I didn't miss something subtle as I explored them in text.

    Feel free to email me, and I'll bounce a copy of it over to you for approvals.

  2. Hi, Ken!

    I should mention for the benefit of anyone else who reads this that you and I have been part of a larger discussion/free-for-all over at Eric Raymond's site (the link provided by silvermine in an earlier comment thread – silvermine, it’s your fault I got into the debate over there!). You and I have somewhat different perspectives on the climate-modeling issues, but, as you imply, we are actually not diametrically opposed. In particular, I think I am accurate in saying that we are both distressed by some of the less than honest behavior that has come out recently.

    I’ll try to drop you an e-mail as you suggest. Of course, also feel free to link to this blog or to the free-for-all in Eric’s comment section.


  3. Dave: I enjoyed your comments over at ESR and even think I learned a few things!

    I'm a programmer, not a scientist. I've made some attempt to get up to speed as an intelligent layman, including working my way through a set of The Teaching Company's pro-AGW lectures on the Earth's Climate.

    Beyond the straight greenhouse effects of CO2, I consider myself agnostic on AGW. I don't understand how people are so certain either way that dangerous AGW is or is not happening.

    I read someone like James Lovelock who says that not only is AGW happening but it's too late to do anything beyond plan a "sustainable retreat" to northern latitudes as the tropical and temperate regions become Saharan.

    I read the IPCC summaries (yes, I read them but I don't insist you should) and find a bewildering range of scenarios, more with each report version, plus weird probability estimates (such as likely, very likely corresponding to 80% and 90%) that seem based as much as politics as anything else.

    Gavin Schmidt keeps claiming that no scientist is saying, "The science is settled," but then in other comments he says that when the IPCC says that it is very likely (90% certain) that GW is anthropogenic, they really meant to say 100% certain but couldn't for political reasons.

    What I am trying to say is that this is very confusing as a layman. I don't have your command of math and physics -- the ultimate languages of climate science -- but something sure smells about the arrogance I sense from AGW advocates, their various mistakes that skeptics have busted, the current Climategate scandal, and the failed predictions of AGW for the past decade.

    Yet I worry what if they are right in the general sense, that the climate will keep warming in zigs and zags over the century?

    Thanks for listening.

  4. huxley wrote:
    >What I am trying to say is that this is very confusing as a layman.

    The main point I am trying to make is that this is very confusing to everyone, not just laymen.

    It is very hard science: the data gathering and analysis is extremely difficult, understanding the basic physics is very hard, and creating reliable computer models of the climate system is simply overwhelming (maybe impossible with our current capabilities).

    I don’t blame the global-climate-guys for stumbling around, making mistakes, etc. I’m not at all sure I could do better.

    What I hope I would do better is be more open and honest than a lot of those guys have been. “A thousand eyes are better than two” (the mantra, I hear, of the open-source movement). If the global-climate guys had been more open with what they were doing, they might have made fewer mistakes, or at least caught those mistakes faster.

    And, the public would have a clearer picture of the enormous difficulties and huge uncertainties in global climate modeling.

    Tomorrow, I’m posting some stuff discussing some recent essays by Richard Lindzen, Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT. Check out that post (and more importantly the links to Lindzen’s stuff). Lindzen is upfront about the incredible difficulty of all this: if everyone had followed his example, I think everyone would be better off.

    You also wrote:
    >Yet I worry what if they are right in the general sense, that the climate will keep warming in zigs and zags over the century?

    I worry, too – which is why I think it is time to start doing good science by following Lindzen’s example and by stopping the sort of nonsense we’ve seen from the CRU Team.

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.


  5. That was a gracious comment -- rather different from the ridicule and censorship I received from Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate when I dared to say that all the data and the methodology on AGW needed to be released so that others could inspect and replicate AGW results.

    If AGW advocates are so certain of AGW as a reality and as a threat it seems to me that they would make their work as accessible as possible and defend their findings in open, honest debate. However, they will do neither.

    I've read Lindzen and he's a breath of fresh air, in tone and in substance. I look forward to your comments at ESR.

    P.S. Is cut-and-paste editing turned off in this comment editor? That's what I'm experiencing in Firefox running on Windows.

  6. huxley wrote:
    >If AGW advocates are so certain of AGW as a reality and as a threat it seems to me that they would make their work as accessible as possible and defend their findings in open, honest debate. However, they will do neither.

    Yeah, that's the real issue. They've "poisoned the well" and made it more difficult to get solid scientific results: I ran across a news story that the UK Met (Meteorological) Office is going to redo the CRU work -- they said it would take two years. That is probably overly optimistic. Much of the work on global climate for the last couple decades is now destroyed because of the CRU guys and the other people in the field who behaved in much the same way.

    That is an inexcusable waste of time and human effort.

    Incidentally, I am not claiming that Richard Lindzen is some unique genius who is right about everything, but only that he is a credible guy who has disagreed for a long time with the now-discredited "consensus." That alone should have been enough to keep people from saying that the old "consensus" view was "settled science." If serious people with excellent credentials, such as Lindzen, had serious objections to the supposed "consensus," then it was not "settled."

    As to cut-and-paste, I just checked on my machine (an old Win 98 machine), and it is working for me. Blogspot does have some interesting "features" from time to time, but then again, it is free.


  7. Thanks again!

    I can understand the AGW crowd's desire, in Tom Friedman's terms, to be Red China for a day and dictate the terms of AGW remedies, but that's not how the free world works. Hence, they resort to playing their cards close to the vest and cheating if necessary. Not good.

    If catastrophic AGW turns out true, they have done themselves and humanity a terrible disservice.

    I'll leave you to your work and homeschooling, and check for your comments at ESR. I wish you well.

    BTW -- cut-and-paste works fine with IE 6.0 on Windows XP.

  8. huxley wrote:
    >I can understand the AGW crowd's desire, in Tom Friedman's terms, to be Red China for a day and dictate the terms of AGW remedies, but that's not how the free world works.

    One of the strange things about all this, and one of the reasons I actually have a teeny bit of sympathy for the CRU guys, is that it is all too easy to see how they got themselves in this mess.

    The science is really fascinating, though extremely difficult.

    What anyone interested in this field should be doing is coming up with hypotheses, models, etc. and then doing his best to shoot down his own hypotheses and models. But that is really hard, and, for obvious reasons, rather disheartening (“Drat! – proved myself wrong again!”).

    Especially since I am a theoretical physicist, I can easily understand how tempting it was to sit back at a computer console, tweak the free parameters in your models to eliminate any inconsistencies, and then figure you’d done a good day’s work.

    That is an awful lot more pleasant than actively gathering data trying to shoot down your own model!

    And then of course, you can go testify before Congress on the dangers of global warming, jet-set to Copenhagen and elsewhere for some deep and profound pow-wows, etc.

    I really understand the appeal of all of that – even as am I typing this, the thought goes through my mind: “Gee, that would be fun!”

    But it is not science.

    Everyone in the global-climate community should have viewed the GCMs as guides to the serious research that needed to be done. They should have been open to criticism and aggressive in criticizing themselves. And they should have had the honesty to treat the GCMs as what we physicists call “toy models” – i.e., as sources of intellectual stimulation, not as serious scientific results with any real predictive power.

    They failed in all of that.

    And, they have seriously damaged science as a result.

    I really can empathize with them, but, still, what they did was wrong.

    All the best,