Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Climatologist Assess "Climate Science"

Here is a paper given in 2008 at a Euresis conference and released onto the Arxiv by Richard Lindzen. It is concerned with a corruption of science from an free interplay between observation and theory into something manipulated by funding and technology into directed research and simulation. This channels 'discoveries' and put blinkers on the process. It opens the process to political manipulation by interest groups and by funding agencies. This creates corruption in climate science and more broadly in all of science. Consequently it is changing people's perception of science.

Here is a bit from the conclusion:
As concerns the specific dangers pertaining to the climate change issue, we are already seeing that the tentative policy moves associated with ‘climate mitigation’ are contributing to deforestation, food riots, potential trade wars, inflation, energy speculation and overt corruption as in the case of ENRON (one of the leading lobbyists for Kyoto prior to its collapse). There is little question that global warming has been exploited [by] many governments and corporations (and not just by ENRON; Lehman Brothers, for example, was also heavily promoting global warming alarm, and relying on the advice of James Hansen, etc.) for their own purposes, but it is unclear to what extent such exploitation has played an initiating role in the issue. The developing world has come to realize that the proposed measures endanger their legitimate hopes to escape poverty, and, in the case of India, they have, encouragingly, led to an assessment of climate issues independent of the ‘official’ wisdom (Government of India, 2008). For purposes of this paper, however, I simply want to briefly note the specific implications for science and its interaction with society. Although society is undoubtedly aware of the imperfections of science, it has rarely encountered a situation such as the current global warming hysteria where institutional science has so thoroughly committed itself to policies which call for massive sacrifices in well being world wide. Past scientific errors did not lead the public to discard the view that science on the whole was a valuable effort. However, the extraordinarily shallow basis for the commitment to climate catastrophe, and the widespread tendency of scientists to use unscientific means to arouse the public’s concerns, is becoming increasingly evident, and the result could be a reversal of the trust that arose from the triumphs of science and technology during the World War II period. Further, the reliance by the scientific community on fear as a basis for support, may, indeed, have severely degraded the ability of science to usefully address problems that need addressing. It should also be noted that not all the lessons of the World War II period have been positive. Massive crash programs such as the Manhattan Project are not appropriate to all scientific problems. In particular, such programs are unlikely to be effective in fields where the basic science is not yet in place. Rather, they are best suited to problems where the needs are primarily in the realm of engineering.
My particular bugaboo is with climate modeling. Simulations are tricky to create. For well understood phenomena with limited dynamics and plausible benchtop validation and verification, simulations are an excellent mechanism for carrying out detailed studies. But for complex and incompletely understood systems like climate with non-linear dynamics over many different time and geographic scales and a wide number of interacting subsystems, simulations don't provide much useful information. In fact they are misleading because they give a confidence which isn't justified.

Lindzen is looking at an even bigger picture, the corruption of science and the role that simulations play.

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