Written by Geraldo Luís Lino, special to Climate Change Dispatch – cross posted at WUWT
The second keyword for the long overdue reassessment of the climatic issues is knowledge, meaning a more comprehensive and better understanding of the climate dynamics.
However, as a prerequisite it is necessary to clear up a concept commonly misused and abused by the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) defenders: the idea that “science is settled” and that the so-called “scientific consensus” on the subject would be objected to only by some handfuls of diehard “skeptics.”
For starters, there is no such a thing like “settled science,” neither in Climatology nor in any other branch of science. The body of scientific knowledge is an open-ended and permanently ongoing construction that is always open to new evidences, new hypotheses, debate, questioning and revision – that’s how real science advances.
Also, “consensus” is a concept alien to science, which is not a “democratic” activity whose advance is driven by the weight of the number of followers of a certain line of thinking or theory – but by a permanent process of convergence between new hypotheses and evidences collected in the physical world.
Perhaps the best symbol of the meaninglessness of such numbers in science was Albert Einstein’s anthological response to the 1931 pamphlet “100 authors against Einstein,” which was commissioned by the German Nazi Party as a clumsy contradiction to the Relativity Theory, that did not fit the canons of the “Arian science.” He said then: “If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.” 
The same distortion has affected the concept of skepticism, which was granted a pejorative connotation in order to label the critics of the AGW – as if a permanent and healthy skepticism were not an indispensable requisite for any scientist worth of his or her salt. As the US National Academy of Sciences felt compelled to remind in a 1995 booklet:
“The fallibility of methods is a valuable reminder of the importance of skepticism in science. Scientific knowledge and scientific methods, whether old or new, must be continually scrutinized for possible errors… Organized and searching skepticism as well as an openness to new ideas are essential to guard against the intrusion of dogma or collective bias into scientific results.” 
It is indeed regrettable that this sober advice has been deliberately overlooked by a good deal of the scientific community involved in the climate research and related themes (beginning with the Academy itself). Perhaps, in many cases this attitude has been motivated by the lure of the incentives offered by the AGW machine – plentiful research grants, mediatic exposition, prestige, the professional pride of making part of a branch of science elevated to stardom, business consulting opportunities and many others.
On the other hand, besides the hundreds of billion dollars that have been wasted with the attempt of imposing a theory that is not supported by the physical world evidences, the “warmist” thrust is harming science in quite dangerous ways. First, it is pushing science aside from the perspective of providing a reasoned and relatively well informed assessment of the climate dynamics that may provide an useful guidance for long-term strategies and public policies – absolutely necessary due to the climate’s enormous importance in the human affairs. Second, it is distorting the public perception of science in such a way that the non-partisan climate scientists will likely have a hard time trying to regain the public trust after the seemingly unavoidable wear and tear of the alarmist outlook.
History offers a gloomy precedent of such poisoning of science by ideology and special interests: the infamous Lysenko affair in the former Soviet Union, the ruthless opposition to genetics headed by Trofim D. Lysenko and his cohorts between the 1930s and 1960s. In addition to the physical elimination of stubborn scientists who resisted the “consensual official line” (the “skeptics” of the time), the price of such an irrationality pandemics was enormous, costing the Soviet biological and agricultural sciences a half a century hold-up whose consequences are felt still today.
The AGW scare and its political agenda of restricting the use of fossil fuels are serious candidates to the condition of post-modern equivalents of “Lysenkoism.” 
As for the IPCC, it has been a political contrivance from the beginning, dedicated to the task of proving “the risk of human-induced climate change.”  So, its methodological procedures are suited to its political agenda of “justifying the greenhouse gases emission control, specially carbon dioxide,” as it was aptly described by S. Fred Singer, one of the deans of the atmospheric sciences still on duty. 
In fact, they are limited to a compilation and review of scientific (and others not so much) climate-related works published in between the issuing of its assessment reports (four so far). While this method may be useful to provide some overview of the state of the art of the climatic research, it cannot be relied upon for providing a more realistic and functional understanding of the climate dynamics.
With the obsessive fixation on carbon dioxide, the AGW thrust inoculated the climate science with the “reductionism virus,” the epistemological concept according to which complex phenomena can be understood by means of the sum of the understanding of their constituent parts, as with the solving of a puzzle game or the assemblage of a complex machine. However, if such an approach is useful for technological and engineering uses or even for some more simple phenomena, it is completely unsuitable in the case of complex, non-linear and chaotic systems like climate.
For this reason, the Apollo Program, the greatest technological accomplishment of the 20th century, could be achieved by NASA with a total computing capacity inferior to a modern cell phone’s – simply because all the scientific and technological requisites for that great enterprise were based on known physical and chemical laws and properties. In contrast, all the world’s computers now existing linked together could not provide a precise simulation of the climate dynamics – because the programmers would lack the proper knowledge of its functioning as a system and of all the interacting factors that influence it.
The present supercomputer-run Global Climate Models (GCMs) so dear to the AGW defenders are quintessential reductionist instruments. In a simplified way, a typical GCM divides the atmosphere in grid “boxes” of hundreds or thousands of square kilometers and some kilometers high, and tries to ascertain and quantify the energy flows and their influences on the climatic parameters in and between the “boxes.” As every “box” comprises several degrees of latitude and longitude and a multiplicity of physical and biological environments (kind of surface, relief, vegetation etc.), one can imagine the complexity of the process – that cannot provide but a very crude approximation of the physical world. Besides, as many factors that influence such flows are poorly known or even unknown, they are usually “adjusted,” “fixed,” (“parametrized” in the jargon) or simply ignored by the modelers. So, no wonder the discrepancies between the models and the real world observations are generally considerable. 
For this reason, it is hard to see how a comprehensive understanding of the climate dynamics could be obtained by putting “atmospheric boxes” together like the pieces of a global scale puzzle – a practice whose uses should be restricted to academic drills.
For that task an “holistic” approach is needed, one that regards the climate as an integral system in itself and study its evolution along the Earth’s geological history thoroughly, taking into account all the astrophysical, atmospheric, oceanic, geological, geomorphologic and biological factors that influence it and their multiple and complex interactions, many of them – it’s worth repeating – are still poorly known.
The model of epistemological approach and international scientific cooperation needed for a serious advancement of the climate science is not the IPCC, but the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year (IGY), the remarkable effort that united tens of thousands of scientists from 66 countries at the height of the Cold War in order to advance the systemic and comprehensive knowledge of the Earth dynamics and its interactions with the Sun and the Cosmos. The motivation and the mood of that great enterprise, as well as the “holistic” kind of approach chosen for its research programs, can be seen in the following passage of one of the many contemporary popular books written to present the IGY to the general public:
“(…) The whole Earth and the ‘laboratory’ of the Solar System are necessary for a comprehensive study of the weather, the air, the oceans and the ice of the Earth; the upper atmosphere or ionosphere; the solid earth; the energy that comes at the Earth from space, and the Sun, the main source of energy. These phenomena are too closely interrelated to be studied separately… All of the great phenomena of the dynamic Earth are being studied at one time, ‘synoptically,’ and the millions of facts being gathered will be compared. The IGY is the largest fact-finding enterprise ever undertaken. It is seeking answers to some of the most important questions that man has ever asked.” 
The IGY still stands as Mankind’s greatest collective scientific enterprise ever. The spirit of global cooperation, the epistemological approach, the methodologies, standards and procedures developed for its coordinated and joint researches, the huge mass of gathered data, the quality of the obtained results and the optimistic visions of science and its role for the progress it helped to instill among the general public were enormous contributions for the advancement of science and brought forth a great deal of benefits for all Mankind – a feat diametrically opposed to the disservice done by the IPCC.
One can only regret that the 50th anniversary of that great endeavor has gone almost unnoticed by the global media and academia.
Perhaps if the development of the “holistic” approach to the geophysical phenomena that inspired the IGY had not been interrupted by the “warmist” tsunami, climate science could be now much more advanced towards the epistemological “quantum leap” needed for the systemic understanding of the Earth’s climate.
In any case, the revival of that pioneering and gripping spirit (and the corresponding dumping of the “warmism”) is a necessity if we really intend to be serious about the climate.
1. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988.
2. National Academy of Sciences, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research. Washington: National Academy Press, 1995.
3. See the Wikipedia entries for “Trofim Lysenko” and “Lysenkoism.”
4. IPCC, “Principles governing IPCC work”, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principles/ipcc-principles.pdf.
5. S. Fred Singer (Ed.), Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate. Chicago: The Heartland Institute, 2008, http://www.heartland.org/custom/semod_policybot/pdf/22835.pdf.
6. For a general overview of the climate models see the Wikipedia entry for “Global climate model.”
7. Alexander Marshack, The World in Space: The Story of the International Geophysical Year. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1958.
Geraldo Luís Lino is a Brazilian geologist and author of the book “The Global Warming Fraud: How a Natural Phenomenon was Converted into a False World Emergency” (published in 2009 in Portuguese and just published in Spanish in Mexico).