Friday, February 27, 2009

What The Caine Mutiny Can Teach Us about Global Warming Scientists

One thing about blog articles is they are designed to make the reader think.  This characteristic sets them apart from the majority of academic journal articles that are written largely for career advancement, to satisfy grant requirements and/or to parade the sheer brilliance of its authors (a feature that is usually somewhat more illusory, presumptive and self deluding).
Typical journal articles do not invoke the classic Bogart movie The Cain Mutiny in their title, as this blog posting does.  It does so to raise an important question about the status of scientific knowledge and the dangers posed by appeals to authority as a determinant of "truth" and trust in matters of scientific knowledge.
This is a topic familiar to anyone following the ongoing saga of climate politics.  Almost weekly, aspects of existing authoritarian "consensus" science are challenged by empirical evidence that should see such tyranny vanquished, e.g. the latest data on "disappearing" Arctic Sea Ice.
But sadly, this kind of appeal is usually heavily vested in the political rhetoric of politicians impoverished for substantive ideas, a clear understanding of economics and public policy and integrity -- o.k. that's just about all politicians, but one can hope.  Thus, the appeal to scientific authority is a common ruse amongst green-washing policies and the type of environmental dogma that heavily promotes such programs as wind turbines, but fails to address issues of cost competetiveness, need and alternatives.
So, the logical question is why does this appeal to scientific authority persist and why is it endemic to all ecomyths?  The answer is simple: it is a concerted and standard. ideological strategy employed by activists to promote environmentalist dogma. 
Conversely, we can seek to have public debate over such topics, free of the politicization of science.
But just not in a world that hands the mantle for advice to a bureaucracy such as the IPCC, and not under the present US regime which seems to view activism as science and vice versa, but then it is an administration well steeped in Orwellian usage of the English language.  Change is apparently now a slogan and not an action or a process of improvement.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What do healthy eating and lifestyles have in common with woo?

All bad science is not confined to the area of climate nor to environmental policy issues: it proliferates in areas of medicine, especially those intended to "correct" lifestyles and enforce authoritarian lifestyle changes on the populace.
Recently, Sandy had this excellent post on the latest science on "healthy" lifestyle modifications, which have been shown to have:
  • ...little to no effect on reducing premature deaths from all causes or in reducing hospitalizations, but it didn't matter because it's really about getting people to change their lifestyles.
  • Perhaps, it's little wonder, then, that the results of every major randomized, controlled clinical trial of healthy eating and lifestyles to date have been ignored, downplayed, or explained away... or their benefits greatly overstated.
  • As incredible as it seems, they have failed to demonstrate significant benefit in preventing chronic diseases of old age, like the big three diabetes, heart disease or cancers, or in living longer.
  • Nor has any healthy eating intervention been credibly shown to give everyone a government-approved BMI.
The key is that:
  • The preventive health movement has become a major industry,... and the healthy eating and lifestyle ideology has been an easy one to sell.
This is another area where science is used as the rationale to sell the public on an ideology that has large aspects of social engineering as an integral component of its dogma, but where the science fails to sustain either the certitude of that ideology or its prescribed behavior modifications.

But no amount of refutation of the science seems sufficient to overcome the axiomatic status such junkscience has been accorded within government circles and ideological programs for social reform continue unabated: e.g. here and here.

Of course, indoctrination is easier when you are the government and can use the apparatus of the state to impose your message.

The Collapse of Climate Policy and the Sustainability of Climate Science

Roger Pielke,Jr. has another in his series of insightful posts on the direction of climate policy and the future prospects for climate science here.
He writes:
  • The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon. The collapse is not due to the cold winter in places you may live or see on the news. It is not due to years without an increase in global temperature. It is not due to the overturning of the scientific consensus on the role of human activity in the global climate system.
  • It is due to the fact that policy makers and their political advisors (some trained as scientists) can no longer avoid the reality that targets for stabilization such as 450 ppm (or even less realistic targets) are simply not achievable with the approach to climate change that has been at the focus of policy for over a decade. Policies that are obviously fictional and fantasy are frequently subject to a rapid collapse.
As always, Piekle's argument is well written and provokes a myriad of responses, although I am not sure in this instance why people find his analysis controversial: he seems to be one of the few people who consistently grasps the real world dynamics of politics and how they do, and do not, mesh with the environmental ideology of many advocates and science activists.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What You Ought To Know : Global Warming

This video is a simple, direct exposition of climate realism. I like it, as it talks to the target audience of the AGW zealots -- high school kids, in a media they understand: video.

For those who still insist its about the science, check
this update on how the measured heat content in the oceans bears no resemblance to the values included in all those wonderful climate models projecting future doom and gloom.

And for those interested in the economics argument,
here is a wonderful dismissal of the science fiction nature of economics embedded in the promotion of AGW.

Over at Climate Audit a lively debate erupted over the latest embarrassing actions of those whose careers are inextricably intertwined with promotion of AGW. Its a long series of posts but from it I gleaned this quote:
  • Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic.
    William E. Gladstone
Took me right back to my own high school history classes with Mrs. Hughes and her lessons on Disraeli and Gladstone -- times when politicians were both statesmen and leaders, not marionettes spouting speechwriters drivel and platitudes.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Apply the precautionary principle to the precautionary principle

Every year I have one of my classes engage in a discussion around the premise of applying the precautionary principle to the precautionary principle: does its use and invocation do more harm than good? Can any benefits from the use of the precautionary principle be demonstrated?

To assist you in this contemplation, here are two excellent posts from Samizdata on the topic, first
this and then this.

Not to pre-empt your thinking, but here is one very rational conclusion:
  • The people advocating the precautionary principle adopt it because it is a neat encapsualtion of the preconception that all change is danger, or because it is a procedural pretext for change to be subject to approval so that it not be permitted to disrupt social order. That is how it is a principle so completely incapable of application. It is not intended as an axiom of rational construction for policy but to legitimate an approach.

The primacy of the precautionary principle as the bedrock to ideological environmentalism is inherent in its dogma and in the infiltration of austerity chic within the present dialogue on all things economic:
  • Although the green champions of poverty unwittingly exposed the black heart of environmentalist thinking, they also helped to popularise a malign framework through which the recession is now being discussed.
  • Of course, anti-consumerism and anti-mass sentiment have been around for a long time. But it is one thing to sound off about the ugliness of the high street and the shopping mall in broadsheet newspapers, and another thing actually to advocate poverty as a solution to the apparent problem of runaway climate change.
  • Increasingly, even outside of the world of saloon-bar class prejudice, the idea that poverty has certain 'benefits' is increasingly seen as commonsensical.
Choice comes with responsibilities and, hopefully, accountability. Poverty is usually accompanied by a lack of choices.

It occurs to me, that we who are blessed with choice should not suborn our responsibility and in a paean of
political correctness and fear, use the precautionary principle as an anvil to craft the framework of self-destruction. We must work to find ways to make wealth sustainable for more people in more places.

Wealth has to be created. Poverty is not created: it is the default condition of society in the absence of sustainable wealth creation.

Does the precautionary principle help or hinder wealth creation?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Science, falsification and activism

Environmental news has been slow over the past couple of weeks for two main reasons: the excitement, apprehension and/or anticipation surrounding any possible pronouncements of action from the new US administration (as opposed to rhetoric and motherhood on environmental issues) and the continued presence of a real winter in the Northern hemisphere -- takes the steam out of the fear of global warming when temperatures are consistently freezing. In gross terms, hot weather makes people uncomfortable: cold weather can kill you. Most people recognize this as common sense and are, thus, rightly reluctant to fall prey to warmist fear mongering at times of persistent harsh, cold weather.

So the news has not been alarmist, but is has been there.

this post summarizes, two pre-eminent scientists issued separate statements that reinforced the fact that there are no scientific forecasts to support global warming.
  • One major factor in the lack of scientific basis for AGW forecasts, is that modelers have "resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists".
  • This deficiency is exacerbated by the fact that the expert forecasting that has been used is invalidated by the complexity and uncertainty of the climate system.

Both these faults underlie the continued efforts of a small group of climate modelers to
structure the politics of climate science. Their approach continues to be one of creating the "right" data if data do not exist and to claim that any contradictory empirical data remain consistent with modeled projections, which can then be somehow validated by the creation of virtual data by the models themselves.

What these advocates had underestimated is the increase in scrutiny and awareness that now greets proclamations of climate breakthroughs in the service of environmental activism.

Be under no illusion, contemporary environmentalism is an
unhealthy alliance of supplicant intellectualism, scientific modernism and political ideology:
  • There was a time when the social sciences felt it necessary to scrutinize the natural sciences, on the basis that scientists weren't quite as objective as they liked to think they were. They had a point, even if the scientists were probably more objective than the sociologists thought they were. It was a good fight. Now, however, the starting point of centrally-funded social science is that it accepts unconditionally that not only is there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but there is an economic one, too. Aren't new-fangled scientific practices like consensuses and pseudo-scientific creations like 'sustainability' precisely what the social sciences should be scrutinizing?
  • The environmental orthodoxy is a tangled web of corporate interests, policy-makers, -movers and -shakers, academics, NGO's and activists - all pushing in the same direction. Which would be just fine if the idea had been tested democratically. But it hasn't. We've said it many times… environmentalism has not risen to prominence through its own energies: it has not developed from a mass movement; it isn't representative of popular interests. It is useful only to various organizations that have otherwise struggled to justify themselves over the last few decades.
So why is this such a big issue? Because when science becomes supplicant to activism, issues of falsification and politicization become recurring problems.

Update: words like libel are beginning to surface as the wagons of denial are circled by those with most to loose.