Guest post by Pat Frank
Most everyone at WUWT knows that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has turned their mission into an irony by a big-time entry into AGW-alarmism. They’ve hired Mark McCaffrey as their climate program director. Mark has degrees in education and worked previously at the “Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was Associate Scientist III,” and where he apparently took a “leadership role in the development of Climate Literacy” Mark’s background makes him not particularly trained in climate science itself, but distinctly trained to promulgate his views about it.
Mark is probably responsible for such scientifically indefensible NCSE statements that,
“Many independent lines of evidence show that human activity is responsible for most of the climate change in recent years, particularly the warming of the atmosphere and ocean in the last 150 years,… that we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in … climate and … ecosystems, including the distribution of rainfall, storm activity, extinction of plant and animal species, and seasonal change.”
Not to mention responsible for factually indefensible statements such as that,
“climate change deniers [are] people and organizations who deny or doubt the scientific consensus around climate change, [in] order to derail, delay, or degrade public policies on climate [and who] frequently seek to obscure or disparage the scientific consensus around climate change.”
Anyway, Volume 31(5) of the NCSE Reports, NCSE’s house journal, featured an article by Dr. David Morrison, modestly titled, “Science Denialism: Evolution and Climate Change.”
I’ve been a member of NCSE for many years, and that issue of NCSE Reports was my first notice that they had drunk the AGW kool-aid. “Shocked and dismayed” insufficiently conveys my feelings.
David Morrison is Director of the SETI Institute, and is a very reputable astronomer with a distinguished career. Nevertheless, his article is 4.5 pages of sloshing through the scientific shallows concerning climate (such as “today’s warming is taking place far faster than any historical cycles” and “we don’t need numerical [climate] models to tell us that the world is rapidly warming”), followed by another 4.5 pages of ankle-deep polemics equating AGW skeptics with creationists and tobacco lobbyists (such as, “The counterpart of the Marshall Institute … is the Discovery Institute” [a creationist organization – PF] and “strategies used by the opponents of both evolution and global warming are based on sowing misinformation and doubt… often called the “tobacco strategy”.” The article is full of global warming “denialists,” “denialism,” and “denial.” Dr. Morrison tells us that, “The only way [warming denialists] can make their case is to deny the international scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.” I’ll bet no one at WUWT knew that.
After reading so much misinformation, and after exchanging got-nowhere emails with Eugenie Scott (Executive Director of NCSE) and Andrew Petto (Editor of NCSE Reports), I decided to submit a letter to “NCSE Reports” in response to David Morrison’s article.
It went in on 16 January, 2012 and was rejected on 14 March. NCSE editor Dr. Petto wrote that, “Our decision is to: decline the piece as a response to Morrison’s piece, since it does very little to engage or refute Morrison’s main argument in the case which had to do with how those who opposed current climate change models present their information to the public and government officials.”
With extensive quotes to back me up, I pointed out in response that, “Dr. Morrison’s main argument is about climate science, and only secondarily about “denialists” who are then said to misrepresent, ignore, or lie about it. My submission concerns the first part — the main part — of Dr. Morrison’s thesis; which is a valid restriction of focus.” And that, “if Dr. Morrison’s science is false, his thesis about communication is pointless and irrelevant.”
Dr. Petto was not moved.
That’s the background. Here’s the (rejected) letter, forthwith. Honestly? I think it was rejected on a pretext. You’re invited to decide for yourself whether it “does very little to engage or refute Morrison’s main argument.”
When is Purported Science not Science?
by Patrick Frank
In his excellent book, “Galileo,”  Stillman Drake points out Galileo’s very modern understanding of science praxis, writing, “In his book on Hydrostatics, Galileo remarked that the authority of Archimedes was worth no more than the authority of Aristotle; Archimedes was right, he said, only because his propositions agreed with experiments.” Galileo, writing this in 1612, conveyed an understanding of science identical to Einstein’s, expressed almost exactly 300 years later: “If the red-shift of spectra lines due to the gravitational potential should not exist, then the general theory of relativity will be untenable.”
Einstein’s statement about theory and observation is recounted by Karl Popper in his autobiographical “Unended Quest,” . Popper goes on to say that Einstein’s critical observation was a revelation, and opened the way to his own career-spanning argument that science is the interplay of falsifiable theory and empirical results (conjectures and refutations). Theory must produce unique and falsifiable predictions by way of analytical deductions. Data, replicable by any and by all, pronounces its verdict. Only those two activities together constitute valid science. Either apart, is not science.
A corollary to this relationship is that the meaning of empirical data is found only within the context of a falsifiable theory. This is true, even if the meaning is that the data contradict the prediction and refute the theory. Only a falsifiable physical theory distinguishes the meaning of lightning away from the hand of god. Only the capacity of falsification produces a unique prediction and provides an unambiguous meaning to the data. 
In a recent NCSE Reports, Dr. David Morrison wrote an essay  about “Science Denialism,” which was one long effort to equate evolution deniers with AGW skeptics (Anthropogenic Global Warming). There was very little science in Dr. Morrison’s essay. Here’s most of it: “Climate models are indeed complex, and they do not always agree on details such as the timing of future warming. However, the evidence for warming is empirical, and its future trends are anchored in basic physics, such as the greenhouse effect and the heat capacity of the oceans.”
Those cognizant of meaning in science will immediately see the weakness of Dr. Morrison’s position: he grants causal meaning to climate warming while admitting the absence of a climate theory. The evidence for warming is certifiably empirical. But the meaning of that warming can come only from a falsifiable theory that makes unique predictions about climate. Is the warming due to the extra atmospheric CO2, or not? No amount of empirical data shuffling can answer that question.
Dr. Morrison claims that the greenhouse effect (a misappropriation of terms but let’s leave that alone) and heat capacity are enough to predict how the climate of Earth will react to rising levels of atmospheric CO2. But “the greenhouse effect” — essentially radiation physics — and heat capacity are not an adequate theory of climate. They predict nothing of how increased energy in the atmosphere will distribute itself into the all the climate modes, such as the ENSO cycles, and especially into the global hydrologic cycle of melting, evaporation, cloud formation, and precipitation.
Dr. Morrison made a remarkable demurral that, “we don’t need numerical models to tell us [that increased CO2 is] a harbinger of much worse climate disruptions to come.” But of course we do indeed need climate models to tell us that. How else are we to know? Climate models represent the physical theory of climate. It is only their predictive power that gives causal meaning to increased atmospheric CO2. This is the bedrock of science, and Dr. Morrison got it wrong.
Let’s take a short look at climate models. They do much less than, “do not always agree on [the] details” of future climate. They do not ever agree with the realities of past climate. For example, Demetris Koutsoyiannis and his group evaluated the advanced general circulation climate models (GCMs) used in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report issued by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). [5, 6] The IPCC used these GCMs to “retrodict” 100 years of 20th century climate, at all the points on a global grid. The reproduced trend in global average temperature looked great. As it should do because GCM climate models are adjusted to reproduce the known global average temperature. 
But the Koutsoyiannis group used the IPCC’s gridded 20th century global climate to reconstruct what these climate models said about the 20th century temperature record of the continental US. The GCM climate models got it very wrong. They also used the GCM retrodiction to reconstruct the 20th century temperature and precipitation records at 58 locations around the world. The reconstructions failed badly on comparison with the real data. This is a basic test of GCM reliability of that no one thought to carry out during 20 years of climate alarm; climate alarm ostensibly made credible by those very GCMs. Climate models cannot reproduce the known climate. Why should anyone believe they can reliably predict an unknown climate?
Dr. Morrison mentioned that climate models do not get clouds right, and then quickly dismissed this problem as irrelevant. But tropical and subtropical clouds strongly affect the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere.  Clouds have a net cooling effect on Earth. [9, 10] I evaluated the GCM cloud error as reported by the scientists of the “Coupled Model Intercomparison Project,” and found that the GCM cloud error, averaged over the globe, was at least ±10.1 %. 
This cloud error translated into a GCM error of at least ±2.8 Watts/m2 in energy. That ±2.8 Watts/m2 error equals all the extra forcing by all the extra greenhouse gases liberated into the atmosphere during the entire 20th century. That is, GCM cloud error alone equals ±100% of the increased “greenhouse effect.” It doesn’t take a very astute person to realize that when the error is as large as the effect, the effect itself becomes undetectable.
The scientists who use GCM projections to predict future climate do not take cloud error into account. Competent scientists would propagate that error into their predictions. But climate modelers do not. Neither does the IPCC. Propagating the cloud error would show that the growth of error quickly makes climate predictions no better than a random guess.  GCMs can’t predict the global temperature even one year ahead, much less 10 years or 100 years. But Dr. Morrison tells us that’s irrelevant, because rising CO2 is enough all by itself to certify a catastrophically disrupted climate.
Remember the criterion of science? Only falsifiable predictions yield the meaning of observations. Climate models do not give falsifiable predictions, especially not at the resolution of CO2-forcing. Therefore, they can give no causal meaning to increased atmospheric CO2. They cannot explain the warming climate. They can not predict the future climate. The observation of rising atmospheric CO2, alone, is not enough to certify anything except a rising level of atmospheric CO2. Knowing causality and predicting outcomes requires a falsifiable theory. Dr. Morrison hasn’t one, and neither does anyone else. Those who predict torrid climate futures literally do not know what they’re talking about. But that hasn’t stopped them from talking about it anyway. Dr. Morrison’s position on climate is indistinguishable from an intuitive alarm grounded in subjective certainties.
Like the wages of sin among the believers.
A review of the scientific literature reveals plenty of papers testifying to the unreliability of GCMs. But those papers don’t play into alarm. A responsible scientist would study the relevant literature before making declarative public statements. AGW-conclusional studies are mere causation-mongering because there is no falsifiable scientifically valid uniquely predictive theory of climate.
Much more could be written. But the general message should be clear so I’ll stop here. The answer to the question, by the way, is, ‘When it’s tendentious.’ Such is AGW science, and that includes the surface air temperature record, [12, 13] on which Dr. Morrison puts such stock.
1. Drake, S., Galileo: a very short introduction, Oxford University, Oxford 2001.
2. Popper, K.R., Unended Quest, Open Court (pbk), La Salle 1976.
3. Frank, P. and Ray, T.H., Science is not Philosophy, Free Inquiry, 2004, 24 (6), 40-42.
4. Morrison, D., Science Denialism: Evolution and Climate Change, NCSE Reports, 2011, 31 (5), 10.
5. Anagnostopoulos, G.G., Koutsoyiannis, D., Christofides, A., Efstratiadis, A. and Mamassis, N., A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data, Hydrolog. Sci. J., 2010, 55 (7), 1094–1110; see also http://www.itia.ntua.gr/en/docinfo/978/ Last accessed 13 March 2011.
6. Koutsoyiannis, D., Efstratiadis, A., Mamassis, N. and Christofides, A., On the credibility of climate predictions, Hydrolog. Sci. J., 2008, 53 (4), 671-684; doi: 10.1623/hysj.53.4.671.
7. Kiehl, J.T., Twentieth century climate model response and climate sensitivity, Geophys. Res. Lett., 2007, 34 (22), L22710,1-4; doi:10.1029/2007GL031383.
8. Hartmann, D.L., Tropical Surprises, Science, 2002, 295 811-812.
9. Chen, T., Rossow, W.B. and Zhang, Y., Radiative Effects of Cloud-Type Variations, J. Clim., 2000, 13 (1), 264-286.
10. Hartmann, D.L., Ockert-Bell, M.E. and Michelsen, M.L., The Effect of Cloud Type on Earth’s Energy Balance: Global Analysis, J. Climate, 1992, 5 1281-1304.
11. Frank, P., A Climate of Belief, Skeptic, 2008, 14 (1), 22-30; open access: http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_climate_of_belief.html.
12. Frank, P., Uncertainty in the Global Average Surface Air Temperature Index: A Representative Lower Limit, Energy & Environment, 2010, 21 (8), 969-989; open access: http://meteo.lcd.lu/globalwarming/Frank/uncertainty_in%20global_average_temperature_2010.pdf.
13. Frank, P., Imposed and Neglected Uncertainty in the Global Average Surface Air Temperature Index, Energy & Environment, 2011, 22 (4), 407-424; open access: http://multi-science.metapress.com/content/t8x847248t411126/fulltext.pdf (1 MB).
- NCSE accepts Gleick’s resignation (wattsupwiththat.com)
- Comments On “Defending Climate Science” In The January 31 2012 Issue Of EOS (pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com)
- Gleick and the NCSE (climateaudit.org)
- My warning about Gleick to the NCSE (noconsensus.wordpress.com)
- Why is NCSE Now Concerned with Climate Change? – – – National Center for Science Education (richarddawkins.net)