Climate Science and Special Relativity

Guest post by Andi Cockroft

One cannot help but notice the events of the past few weeks (nay months if you include Climategate II), and the ad hominem attacks on both sides.

Fred Singer in his recent post here would have us place Climate Science advocates into three groups; deniers, sceptics and warmistas – but why the need for demarcation?

Way back in 1879, it may not have been evident to Pauline and Hermann that their new-born son would progress through his teenage years as a school drop-out – using a forged Doctor’s note to do so. Although later in life at the age of 16 he did enroll in a Polytechnic – but again failed in just about every subject.

At 17, he and his sweetheart enrolled again at the Polytechnic, stimulating the interest he held about electromagnetism

Married, divorced, married again, he couldn’t even get a job teaching, so ended up working as a clerk in the local Patent Office reviewing patent applications pertaining to electromagnetism. But boredom led to many thoughtful reflections on life, the universe and everything.

In 1905, by thesis, he obtained a Doctorate, and that same year published not one, but 4 ground-breaking papers.

His name of course is Albert Einstein – the amateur who proclaimed to the world the nature of matter, energy and relativity.

image

OK, so what has this little biography got to do with Climate Science – well I say it should teach us 2 things:

Firstly, an amateur working as a clerk is just as able to present the truth as the most gifted professional. The truth is the truth no matter who presents it. The unwillingness of many main-stream “Climate Scientists” to engage with alternate viewpoints sets them apart from “Science”. To many the science is not settled, and needs a full open and honest public debate.

Of course building on Einstein’s work, a humble Belgian priest Le Maitre (another gifted amateur) proposed a theory now well established regarding an expanding universe. I well remember a revered astronomer from my old school in Yorkshire, England – a certain Fred Hoyle who unwittingly creating a phrase bandied about to this day – in an attempt he states never meant to mock relativity and/or expansionism – he jokingly referred to a “big bang”. That particular phrase seems to have stuck with us somehow.

More recently, over on the Swiss border, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produced some unexpected results when Neutrinos were observed to be apparently travelling faster than light – something Special Relativity states is impossible.

Although I saw some rejection of this notion in various Fora, I saw no ad hominem attacks – simply a startled disbelief and a raging curiosity – could we be wrong after all these years? Do we have to rewrite the physics?

As we now know, a computer cabling glitch has been blamed for the neutrinos apparent haste – but hey – for a moment there it looked real cool – most physicists I know were both incredulous and incredibly excited at one and the same time.

So, my second point – true scientists – in this case physicists – are willing to be sceptical. They are willing – nay eager – to look at new possibilities and alternate explanations.

Compare that to the theatre that is “Climate Science”

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

For the general public that does not have an objective scientific bend, how do you tell vertual reality from the real thing?

Doug Jones

Fred, here’s a good tongue-in-cheek answer for you:
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2535#comic

The good part is that politicians have been using the false results of big-budget science (not just climatology, but economics, sociology, military technology) to starve their own countries.
There’s no money left.
Advocates of big-budget science are screaming louder than ever to claim their pieces of the pie because they know the pie is shrinking. Sooner or later their screams and pranks won’t matter. You can’t divide a nonexistent pie. 0 / 1000 = 0.
The BEST part is that small science is proving its worth, especially in biology. You can learn more about bacteria with a microscope and an open mind than you can learn with a billion dollars and a closed mind. You can learn more about climate with a single good thermometer and an open mind than you can learn with a billion dollars and a closed mind.

Let us not confuse climate modeling with climate “science”. The models are so crude and structurally incomplete in their present form, they are proving incapable of both predicting the future and replicating the past…. and have in fact been woefully inaccurate most of the time. And virtually 100% of the climate hysteria is coming from climate models, not climate “science”. Calling a climate modeler a climate “scientist” is like calling a garbageman an environmental engineer. The fact is, there is nothing in the climate of the present or recent past that lies outside of the normal variability of natural climate change. Pounding the climate hysteria drum in hopes of forcing the death of conventional, on-demand power systems in favor of solar and wind pipe dreams is as absurdity for which we will dearly pay for in the not distant future.

G. E. Pease

Hoyle was almost certainly mocking “expansionism” when he dubbed the Expanding Universe hypothesis “The Big Bang.” Hoyle is best known for his Steady State Universe hypothesis, which contends that the universe is neither expanding or contracting.

John Greenfraud

Hominine got by spell check. 🙂 Good article.

Ian W

The answer of course is that climate ‘science’ the way it is practiced is not science. I find it interesting that popular science magazines and the media have no problem reporting the neutrino faster than light story, or pro vs con on string theory, or reversals in medical research yet can only see ‘the one true god CO2’ when it comes to climate ‘science’.
They appear to have no cognitive dissonance in doing so either so they will praise the skepticism of science in one field yet condemn skepticism on climate ‘science’. The logical inference from this support unabated by facts is that they don’t see climate ‘science’ as a science either – it is a tenet, a mark of faith – hence a religion,

Andi writes “True scientists … are willing to be skeptical.” Alas, my reaction to the revelations regarding the neutrino experiment were thus:

When an error goes against our assumptions, we investigate thoroughly until the cause is found. When an error confirms our assumptions, it is published, funded, and promoted.

Too many scientists are willing to overlook potential or actual errors when they support a pet hypothesis.

Truthseeker

Fred H. Haynie says:
March 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm
I for one do not know what “vertual” reality is, but the difference between subjective opinion and objective science is language and content. Objective science defines context (limitation on what is being discussed), process (how things were done), observations (what data was actually obtained) and conclusions (qualified by context, process and observations). Subjective opinion is emotive, ill-defined and has only those observations that support the opinion.
We only need people to use their brain when they read stuff. That is a problem given that children are not taught to think for themselves and that has been true for a while.

Truthseeker,
The general public is presented subjective “vertual reality” of what if models by “climate scientist” and objectively observe their own environment and don’t know what to believe.

Camburn

One of the most basic problems with climate science, as presented today, is the concerted effort to blame all weather, flucuations, etc on CO2.
There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. There is every effort to portray it as a dominant GHG. The pure physics of the bands of absorbtion of CO2 show that H2O vapor not only nullifies CO2 in the lower to mid atmosphere, but makes it irrelevant.
The findings that there is H20 vapor in the upper atmosphere has changed the dynamics of models using CO2 as a major source of radiation control.
It is obvious that the models are projecting a higher degree of sensativity that reality is showing.
What mainstream climate scientists are doing is looking at climate as a whole. The literature is starting to be presented showing the influence of the sun. The sun is composed of much more than a flat TSI. The hydrological cycle has been known to be influenced by the sun for decades. Stream flow analysis corresponds to sun cycles. This suggests that clouds are affected by the sun, that evaporation rates of the oceans are affected by the sun etc etc. A long list.
Literature has been out there but ignored by the vocal few who try and control the science.
LIterature such as:
http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~ashworth/webpages/g440/ndas.html
Here we have a paper that finds previous estimates of the heat imbalance to be too high:
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1375.html
And of course, we have the Mississippi flow data, the Nile flow data etc.
Lots of interesting items coming back to light, being discussed. And a lot more to learn, refine, and extrapolate to mans benifit.

Curiousgeorge

Scientists are very naive. National – or even tribal- leaders always use whatever advantages they can find for their own benefit. Science is no different than proclamations from a Delphic Oracle from the perspective of National Grand Strategy of every country and culture. And if a discovery can be used as a weapon against adversaries, so much the better. “Benefiting Mankind” is a ridiculous soundbite. The objective is much narrower. Grow up.

John F. Hultquist

– but why the need for demarcation?
A. Al Gore,
B. Maurice Strong,
C. Barack Obama,
D. Rajendra Pachauri,
E. Albert Einstein
Place a check by the non-scientists.

Truthseeker says:
March 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm
We only need people to use their brain when they read stuff. That is a problem given that children are not taught to think for themselves and that has been true for a while.

There emerges in present times the collapse of what Ayn Rand termed ‘psychoepistemology’. That is, one’s own self-view as regards one’s ability to think. Many laypeople defer to authority with the assertion: “how could I ever understand something so complicated?” That is the result of accepting one’s own self view as being somehow incapable of doing so. Independent thought presupposes that one is indeed capable of it…or more-so in possession of the self-confident attitude that anything is possible. The modern bell-curve teaching culture basically destroys that faculty. Hence the near-idiocy of ‘teaching’ climate change in schools…especially to young students in lower grades, whose formative years are wasted–ruined–by meme-recitals.

A. Scott

In my opinion, as I watch them with some regularity, weather models cannot predict with accuracy what the weather will be tomorrow.
They have evolved to where than can provide us a good guess and most will be at least somewhere in the ballpark with accuracy up to 4 to 7 days out. They can sometimes be generally close as much as a couple weeks out.
These are models designed to address only a small part or section of the Earths climate.
Yet climate “scientist’s” expect the public to believe they can forecast the world climate with a high degree of accuracy. This despite an admittance these models are still extremely simple, and that they do not understand many of the intrinsic and important details; inputs interactions etc, of how the climate works.
New peer reviewed papers are published regularly showing the “consensus” understanding of climate systems is simply not correct or accurate. It is worth noting that even the most rabid warmist scientists must acknowledge they have found little or no direct proof of their anthropogenic induced warming claims – they only come to that conclusion because they have, so far, found no real, clearly identified, cause.
At one point 97% thought the world was flat too. We know how it worked out for THAT consensus.

Frank K.

Great post! I think the difference between CAGW climate scientists and other physicists is that most physicists are NOT trying to destroy jobs and the economy while simultaneously attempting to get governments to impose onerous taxes and regulations to control a harmless gas.

RCase

Very nice article Andi. I could not agree more.
Imagine if the catastrophic event that “science” was predicting was a massive asteroid on track to collide with the earth 4 years from now instead of the catastrophic consequences of AGW 40 to 100 years from now. Given that all mankind (including the scientists themselves and their immediate families) would so imminently be wiped from the earth, does anyone doubt that these scientists would be very receptive to ANY evidence, alternate theory, or calculations that would raise doubt on the predictive accuracy of their own models? What if there were a lay astronomer and math geek out there who determined the gravitational pull of some forgotten moon out there would impart just enough force to deflect the trajectory of the asteroid out of the earth’s path, and life on earth would be spared? Would the “scientists” be such advocates of their own models that they would react to the lay astronomer with ad hominem attacks and disparage him as a denier and non-scientist? No. They’d be so much more interested in their own mortality than in “being correct” about the science that they’d be willing to consider any alternate evidence, assumptions or calculations.
Fortunately for today’s “climate scientists,” the catastrophic future is still very far away – outside of their lifetimes. They’ll be long gone from this planet before the accuracy of their predictions will ever be known. And that’s why they’re not interested in hearing any discussion, evidence, or models that suggest anything different that the worst case scenario they’ve laid out. They’re way more invested in “being correct” than they are in understanding the truth. And unfortunately for all of us, “being correct” for them is a political stance, not a scientific one. .

Wm T Sherman

Einstein did not fail, nor nearly fail, his courses. That is a myth. He got top grades. A school he attended changed its grading scheme after left. The order of a numerical grading scale of 1 to 5 best to worst was reversed.

Billy

Einstein was not a “clerk”, he was a patent examiner. There was and is a significant difference.
(the thought of Einstein as a patent examiner boggles the mind. Can you imagine going in and arguing with him, somewhat anachronistically, “What do you meant my invention is obvious? Who do you think you are—Einstein or some other genius?”)

For the general public that does not have an objective scientific bend, how do you tell virtual reality from the real thing?
That’s a serious problem, actually. Hell, I have an objective scientific bend and I have plenty of trouble with it.
Ultimately, the stock answer is: We should believe the most what we can doubt the least, when we try to doubt very hard, using a mix of experience and consistent reason based on a network of experience-supported best (so far) beliefs.
That’s not very hopeful, but it is accurate. We believe Classical Non-Relativistic Mechanics after Newton invents it, not because it is true but because it works fairly consistently to describe Kepler’s purely observational laws, and (as it is tested) works damn well to describe a lot of quotidian experience as well on a scale less grand than planetary orbits. We encounter trouble with classical mechanics a few hundred years later when it fails to consistently describe blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect (the one thing Einstein actually got the Nobel Prize for), the spectra of atoms, given Maxwell’s enormously successful addition to the equations of electricity and magnetism and the realization that light is an electromagnetic wave.
Planck, Lorentz, Einstein, Bohr, de Broglie, Schrodinger, Heisenberg and many others successively invent modifications that make space-time far more complex and interesting on the one hand — relativity theory — and mechanics itself far, far more complex than Newton could ever have dreamed. The changes were motivated, not by trying to be cool or win prizes, but by failures of the classical Euclidean theory to explain the data! Basically, Classical flat-space mechanics was doomed the day Maxwell first wrote out the correct-er equations of electrodynamics for the first time. We suddenly had the most amazing unified field theory, one that checked out empirically to phenomenal accuracy, and yet when we applied to cases where it almost had to work certain of its predictions failed spectacularly.
In fact, if Maxwell’s Equations and Newton’s Law were both true, the Universe itself should have existed for something far, far less than a second before collapsing in a massive heat death as stable atoms based on any sort of orbital model were impossible. Also, if Maxwell’s equations and flat spacetime with time an independent variable was correct, the laws of nature would not have had the invariance with respect to reference frame that Newtonian physics had up to that time enjoyed. In particular, moving a charged particle into a different inertial reference frame caused magnetic fields to appear, making it clear that the electric and magnetic fields were not actually vector forms! The entire geometry and tensor nature of space and time in Newtonian physics was all wrong.
This process continues today. Astronomer’s observe the rotational properties of distant galaxies to very high precision using the red shift and blue shift of the stars as they orbit the galactic center. The results don’t seem to agree with Newton’s Law of Gravitation (or for that matter, with Einstein’s equivalent theory of general relativity that views gravitation as curvature of spacetime. Careful studies of neutrinos lead to anomalies, places where theory isn’t consistent with observation. Precise measurements of the rates at which the Universe is expanding at very large length scales (and hence very long times ago, in succession as one looks farther away and back in time at distant galaxies) don’t quite add up to what the simplest theories predict and we expect. Quantum theory and general relativity are fundamentally inconsistent, but nobody knows quite how to make a theory that is “both” in the appropriate limits.
People then try to come up with bigger better theories, ones that explain everything that is well-explained with the old theories but that embrace the new observations and explain them as well. Ideally, the new theories predict new phenomena entirely and a careful search reveals it there where the theory predicts. And all along there are experiments — some of them fabulous and amazing — discovering high temperature superconductors, inventing lasers and masers, determining the properties of neutrinos (so elusive they are almost impossible to measure at all, yet a rather huge fraction of what is going on in the Universe). Some experiments yield results that are verified; others yield results — such as the several times that magnetic monopoles have been “observed” in experiments — that have not been reproducible and are probably spurious and incorrect. Neutrinos that might — even now — have gone faster than light, but again — probably not. A Higgs particle that seems to appear for a moment as a promising bump in an experimental curve and then fades away again, too elusive to be pinned down — so far. Dark matter and dark energy that might explain some of the unusual cosmological observations but a) are only one of several competing explanations; and b) that have yet to be directly observed. The “dark” bit basically means that they don’t interact at all with the electromagnetic field, making them nearly impossible to see — so far.
Physicists therefore usually know better than to believe the very stuff that they peddle. When I teach students introductory physics, I tell them up front — “Everything I’m going to teach you over the next two semesters is basically wrong — but it works, and works amazingly well, right up to where it doesn’t work and we have to find a better, broader explanation.” I also tell them not to believe anything I tell them because I’m telling them, and I’m the professor and therefore I know and its up to them to parrot me and believe it or else. I tell them quite the opposite. Believe me because what I teach you makes sense (is consistent), corresponds at least roughly with your own everyday experience, and because when you check it in the labs and by doing computations that can be compared to e.g. planetary observations, they seem to work. And believe me only with a grain of salt then — because further experiments and observations will eventually prove it all wrong.
That isn’t to say that we don’t believe some things very strongly. I’m a pretty firm believer in gravity, for example. Sure, it isn’t exactly right, or consistent with quantum theory at the smallest and perhaps largest of scales, but it works so very, very well in between and it is almost certainly at least approximately true, true enough in the right milieu. I’m very fond of Maxwell’s Equations and both classical and, in context, quantum theory, as they lead to this amazing description of things like atoms and molecules that is consistent and that works — up to a point — to describe nearly everything we see every day. And so on.
But if somebody were to argue that gravitation isn’t really a perfect 1/r^2 force, and deviations at very long length scales are responsible for the observed anomalies in galactic rotation, I’d certainly listen. If the new theory still predicts the old results, explains the anomaly, I’d judge it to be quite possibly true. If it predicted something new and startling, something that was then observed (variations in near-Earth gravitation in the vicinity of Uranium mines, anomalies in the orbits of planets near black holes, unique dynamics in the galactic cores) then I might even promote it to more probably true than Newton’s Law of Gravitation, no matter how successful, simple, and appealing it is. In the end, it isn’t esthetics, it isn’t theoretic consistency, it isn’t empirical support, it is a sort of a blend of all three, something that relies heavily on common sense and human judgement and not so much on a formal rule that tells us truth.
Where does that leave one in the Great Climate Debate? Well, it damn well should leave you skeptical as all hell. I believe in the theory of relativity. Let me explain that — I really, really believe in the theory of relativity. I believe because it works; it explains all sorts of experimental stuff. I can run down a list of experimental observations that are explained by relativity that could scarcely be explained by anything else — factors of two in spin-orbit coupling constants, the tensor forms and invariants of electromagnetism, the observation of \mu-mesons produced from cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere far down near the surface of the Earth where they have no business being found given a lifetime of \sim 2 microseconds — and observation I personally have made — and of course all the particle accelerators in the known Universe would fail miserably in their engineering if relativity weren’t at least approximately correct. Once you believe in relativity (because it works) it makes some very profound statements about causality, time ordering, and so on — things that might well make all the physics I think that I know inconsistent if it were found to be untrue.
Yet I was — and continue to be — at least willing to entertain the possibility that I might have to chuck the whole damn thing, wrong from top to bottom — all because a silly neutrino in Europe seems to be moving faster than it should ever be aver to move. Violations of causality, messages from the future, who knows what carnage such an observation (verified) might wreak! I’m properly skeptical because what we have observed — so far — works so very consistently, and the result itself seems to be solidly excluded by supernova data already in hand, but you know, my beliefs don’t dictate reality — it is rather the other way around.
The sad thing about the Great Climate Debate is that so far, there hasn’t really been a debate. The result is presented, but no one ever takes questions from the podium and is capable of defending their answers against a knowledgeable and skeptical questioner.
I can do that for all of my beliefs in physics — or at least, most of them — explain particular experiments that seem to verify my beliefs (as I do above). I’m quite capable of demonstrating their consistency both theoretically (with other physical laws and beliefs) and with experiment. I’m up front about where those beliefs fail, where they break down, where we do not know how things really work. Good science admits its limits, and never claims to be “settled” even as it does lead to defensible practice and engineering where it seems to work — for now.
Good science accepts limits on experimental precision. Hell, in physics we have to accept a completely non-classical limitation on experimental precision, one so profound that it sounds like a violation of simple logic to the uninitiated when they first try to understand it. But quite aside from Heisenberg, all experimental apparatus and all measurements are of limited precision, and the most honest answer for many things we might try to measure is “damfino” (damned if I know).
The Great Climate Debate, however, is predicated from the beginning on one things. We know what the global average temperature has been like for the past N years, where N is nearly anything you like. A century. A thousand years. A hundred thousand years. A hundred million years. Four billion years.
We don’t, of course. Not even close. Thermometers have only been around in even moderately reliable form for a bit over 300 years — 250 would be a fairer number — and records of global temperatures measured with even the first, highly inaccurate devices are sparse indeed until maybe 200 years ago. Most of the records from over sixty or seventy years ago are accurate to no more than a degree or two F (a degree C), and some of them are far less accurate than that. As Anthony has explicitly demonstrated, one can confound even a digital electronic automatic recording weather station thermometer capable of at least 0.01 degree resolution by the simple act of setting it up in a stupid place, such as the southwest side of a house right above a concrete driveway where the afternoon sun turns its location into a large reflector over. Or in the case of early sea temperatures, by virtue of measuring pails of water pulled up from over the side with crude instruments in a driving wind cooling the still wet bulb pulled out of the pail.
In truth, we have moderately accurate thermal records that aren’t really global, but are at least sample a lot of the globe’s surface exclusive of the bulk of the ocean for less than one century. We have accurate records — really accurate records — of the Earth’s surface temperatures on a truly global basis for less than forty years. We have accurate records that include for the first time a glimpse of the thermal profile, in depth, of the ocean, that is less than a decade old and counting, and is (as Willis is pointing out) still highly uncertain no matter what silly precision is being claimed by the early analysts of the data. Even the satellite data — precise as it is, global as it is — is far from free from controversy, as the instrumentation itself in the several satellites that are making the measurements do not agree on the measured temperatures terribly precisely.
In the end, nobody really knows the global average temperature of the Earth’s surface in 2011 within less than around 1K. If anybody claims to, they are full of shit. Perhaps — and a big perhaps it is — they know it more precisely than this relative to a scheme that is used to compute it from global data that is at least consistent and not crazy — but it isn’t even clear that we can define the global average temperature in a way that really makes sense and that different instruments will measure the same way. It is also absolutely incredibly unlikely that our current measurements would in any meaningful way correspond to what the instrumentation of the 18th and 19th century measured and that is turned into global average temperatures, not within more than a degree or two.
This complicates things, given that a degree or two (K) appears to be very close to the natural range of variation of the global average temperature when one does one’s best to compute it from proxy records. Things get more complicated still when all of the best proxy reconstructions in the world get turned over and turned out in favor of “tree ring reconstructions” based upon — if not biased by — a few species of tree from a tiny handful of sites around the world.
The argument there is that tree rings are accurate thermometers. Of course they aren’t — even people in the business have confessed (in climategate letters, IIRC) that if they go into their own back yards and cut down trees and try to reconstruct the temperature of their own back yard based on the rings, it doesn’t work. Trees grow one year because your dog fertilizes them, fail to grow another not because it is cold but because it is dry, grow poorly in a perfect year because a fungus attacks the leaves. If one actually plots tree ring thicknesses over hundreds of years, although there is a very weak signal that might be thermal in nature, there is a hell of a lot of noise — and many, many parts of the world simply don’t have trees that survived to be sampled. Such as the 70% of the Earth’s surface that is covered by the ocean…
But the complication isn’t done yet — the twentieth century perhaps was a period of global warming — at least the period from roughly 1975 to the present where we have reasonably accurate records appears to have warmed a bit — but there were lots of things that made the 20th century, especially the latter half, unique. Two world wars, the invention and widespread use and testing of nuclear bombs that scattered radioactive aerosols throughout the stratosphere, unprecedented deforestation and last but far from least a stretch where the sun appeared to be far more active than it had been at any point in the direct observational record, and (via various radiometric proxies) quite possibly for over 10,000 years. It isn’t clear what normal conditions are for the climate — something that historically appears to be nearly perpetually in a state of at least slow change, warming gradually or cooling gradually, punctuated with periods where the heating or cooling is more abrupt (to the extent the various proxy reconstructions can be trusted as representative of truly global temperature averages) — but it is very clear indeed that the latter 19th through the 20th centuries were far from normal by the standards of the previous ten or twenty centuries.
Yet on top of all of this confounding phenomena — with inaccurate and imprecise thermal records in the era of measurements, far less accurate extrapolations of the measurement era using proxies, with at most 30-40 years of actually accurate and somewhat reproducible global thermal measurements, most of it drawn from the period of a Grand Solar Maximum — climatologists have claimed to find a clear signal of anthropogenic global warming caused strictly by human-produced carbon dioxide. They are — it is claimed — certain that no other phenomena could be the proximate cause of the warming. They are certain when they predict that this warming will continue until a global catastrophe occurs that will kill billions of people unless we act in certain ways now to prevent it.
I’m not certain relativity is correct, but they are certain that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a true hypothesis with precise predictions and conclusions. I have learned to doubt numerical simulations that I myself have written that are doing simple, easily understandable things that directly capture certain parts of physics. They are doing far, far more complex numerical simulations — the correct theoretical answer, recall, is a solution to a set of coupled non-Markovian Navier-Stokes equation with a variable external driver and still unknown feedbacks in a chaotic regime with known important variability on multiple decadal or longer timescales — and yet they are certain that their results are correct, given the thirty plus years of accurate global thermal data (plus all of the longer timescale reconstructions or estimates they can produce from the common pool of old data, with all of its uncertainties).
Look, here’s how you can tell — to get back to your question. You compare the predictions of their “catastrophic” theory five, ten, twenty years back to the actual data. If there is good agreement, it is at least possible that they are correct. The greater the deviation between observed reality and their predictions, the more likely it is that their result is at least incorrect if not actual bullshit. That’s all. Accurately predicting the future isn’t proof that they are right, but failing to predict it is pretty strong evidence that they are wrong.
Such a comparison fails. It actually fails way back in the twentieth century, where it fails to predict or explain the cooling from 1945 to roughly 1965-1970. It fails to predict the little ice age. It fails to predict the medieval climate optimum, or the other periods in the last 10,000 years where the proxy record seems to indicate that the world was as warm or warmer than it is today. But even ignoring that — which we can, because those proxy reconstructions are just as doubtful in their own way as the tree-ring reconstructions, with or without a side-serving of confirmation bias to go with your fries — even ignoring that, it fails to explain the 33 or so years of the satellite record, the only arguably reliable measure of actual global temperatures humans have ever made. For the last third of that period, there has been no statistically significant increase in temperature, and it may even be that the temperature has decreased a bit from a 1998 peak. January of 2012 was nearly 0.1C below the 33 year baseline.
This behavior is explainable and understandable, but not in terms of their models, which predicted that the temperature would be considerably warmer, on average, than it appears to be, back when they were predicting the future we are now living. This is evidence that those models are probably wrong, that some of the variables that they have ignored in their theories are important, that some of the equations they have used have incorrect parameters, incorrect feedbacks. How wrong remains to be seen — if global temperatures actually decline for a few years (and stretch out the period with no increase still further in the process) — it could be that their entire model is fundamentally wrong, badly wrong. Or it could be that their models are partially right but had some of the parameters or physics wrong. Or it could even be that the models are completely correct, but neglected confounding things are temporarily masking the ongoing warming that will soon come roaring back with a catastrophic vengeance.
The latter is the story that is being widely told, to keep people from losing faith in a theory that isn’t working — so far — the way that it should. And I have only one objection to that. Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!
Well, I have other objections as well — open up the debate, acknowledge the uncertainties, welcome contradictory theories, stop believing in a set of theoretical results as if climate science is some sort of religion… but we can start with shit-canning the IPCC and the entire complex arrangement of “remedies” to a problem that may well be completely ignorable and utterly destined to take care of itself long before it ever becomes a real problem.
No matter what, we will be producing far less CO_2 in 30 years than we are today. Sheer economics and the advance of physics and technology and engineering will make fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains. Long before we reach any sort of catastrophe — assuming that CAGW is correct — the supposed proximate cause of the catastrophe will be reversing itself without anyone doing anything special to bring it about but make sensible economic choices.
In the meantime, it would be so lovely if we could lose one single phrase in the “debate”. The CAGW theory is not “settled science”. I’m not even sure there is any such thing.
rgb

Fred H. Haynie asks, “how do you tell [virtual] reality from the real thing?”
Simple, virtual = not. For example:
“virtual reality” — not reality;
if your teen-aged son says his homework is “virtually finished” — it’s not finished;
“virtually no calories” — it does have calories;
“virtually identical” — not identical;
“virtually free” — not free;
“Some aspects of climate science are known with virtual certainty” — some aspects of climate science are not known with certainty; and so on.

Anything is possible

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
Outstanding post, Sir.

Mooloo

So many myths in the story – some pointed out above.
He did not go to a “Polytechnic”. He went to Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule which is, despite the name, a pretty classy university. In fact it has 21 Nobel prize winning students, if Wikipedia is correct.
It is the Swiss equivalent of MIT. Which you would be foolish to describe as “technology institute”.

Hoser

In America, students think for themselves.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08BAfKCfu74&w=420&h=315%5D

John West

Wait a minute, scientists have always developed and passionately defended pet hypotheses. Some were eventually proven to be wrong while others gained support through additional evidence and became accepted theories; plate tectonics, water monkey, and asteroid induced extinction just to name a few that were passionately promoted. The difference between those scientists advocating for scientific acceptance of their pet hypothesis and CAGW climate scientists is that CAGW climate scientists don’t advocate for scientific acceptance of their theory, they extort scientific acceptance and advocate for policies that align with a certain world view. Any “solution” offered that doesn’t align with “the cause” is immediately demonized whether it’s scientifically sound or not; this is not science at all.

Chris

Your facts about Einstein are on the nose. He taught himself mathematics in his spare time and mastered calculus by 15. The only reason he avoided high school was because he viewed rote learning as a poor teaching method. Because of this, his non-science marks were not good enough to get into polytechnic, but his maths and physics grades were exceptional despite his poor attendance record. He then changed schools and attained the required grades to gain entry. Once he had graduated with a teaching diploma, he struggled to get work not because he was a failure, but because teaching jobs were in short supply – so he took a temporary job at the patent office. I love the spirit of the post, but check your facts, dude.

Jeff D

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
=================
Dam Robert! I have read shorter books. Between the author of this post and your comments it pretty much sums up my view on this whole stupid mess. It was that little phrase that brought me into this insanity “settled science”. Those two little words uttered by scientist flew in the face of everything I was ever taught. Just a guess but I think those words were by far the best campaign the warmist could have used to bring the wrath of the skeptical mind.
It really seems that it has come to teaching the truth one person at a time.

u.k.(us)

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
=========
Someone had to say it.
Now it needs to “go viral”.
Wow.

John Blake

As the Master said himself, one of physics’s problems is the “meta-problem” of analysis: Most theorists are exquisitely tuned to mathematics, and so translate their abstract hypotheses to equivalent Cartesian curves amenable to additional manipulation.
But this not only inverts what Einstein termed “visualization” of a problem, but renders verbal expression problematic. Creative intelligence is necessarily not abstract but concrete, requiring a sense of “dynamic proportion” not formulated in abstruse equations but “queried as a hypothetical”. For example, “If I were riding a light-beam and looked back, what would I see?”
In technical terms, the answer is FitzGerald’s Contraction, time-interval dilation, and so forth; but geometric insight is holistic, qualitative: Special Relativity, the profoundly counter-intuitive redefinition of “energy” as a function of electromagnetic radiation by means of nature’s universal constant c.
From Edward Lorenz’s Chaos Theory to Benoit Mandelbrot’s fractal-geometric constructs self-similar on every scale, geometric visualization precedes mathematical formulation as it did with General Relativity, when Einstein observed a collapsing scaffold across the street in Berne and asked himself, “Does a falling body feel its own weight?” The answer has to do with Riemannian hyper-geometry, with geodesics in 4-dimensional space-time, but Galileo in pre-Cartesian times would understand.
Next question: If Pasts are fixed, immutable, and Futures are indeterminate, unknowable, what existential zero-point may lie between? Stay tuned.

The story of einstein has precious little to do with the distinctions that Singer drew.
His distinctions were descriptive. Observations of three groups of thought.
Further, drawing lessons from a single case isn’t what I would call a reliable method.

Rodzki of Oz

And, as I understand it, the Italian fellows who did the original neutrinos faster than light experiments, immediately threw open their findings and data and invited their colleagues to find where they may have gone wrong. That’s the real scientific approach.
The contrast with climate science couldn’t be more stark.

G. Karst

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

RGB: Very nice essay – thank-you very much! I hope many CAGW convinced readers see the overall tenuous foundation on which such conclusions rest. Much rancor, debate, and animosity is to be expected with much skeptical contention. It is how science works out the details, after all.
What forced myself into engagement, were the many calls for action, based on mostly conjecture and first reports. This is how society makes it’s biggest blunders. Going off at “half cock” is descriptive. The science must be nailed solid and models validated before ANY actions, beyond prudent disaster preparedness, can be contemplated. We just don’t know which way to jump, or whether any jumping is even required. Action without reason is panic. Panic destroys opportunity for rightful action.
To my horror, there are many, that for ideological reasons, want and desire… exactly that. GK

Robert Brown Thanks for a great post. O T ? I would be very interested to hear your opinions on the long series of papers posted by Myron Evans on the UFT papers link at
http://www.aias.us/
my e mail is [SNIP: Norman, it is not a good idea to publicize your e-mail address. I will forward your email address to Dr. Brown. If anyone else wishes to contact you, they can ask a moderator to forward their e-mail and you can decide if you wish to contact them. -REP] if by chance you do find the time to look at them..
Anyone else who feels competent to comment on Evans work feel free to email me also.

Robin Hewitt

Reminiscent of a supposed conversation at the air ministry WW2.
“I just turned away some bod called Frank Whittle who has made a gas turbine engine in his garden shed. It only had 1000 pounds of thrust”.
Reply, “The super-charged, Rolls Royce Merlin engine in the Spitfire has 800 pounds of thrust”.

Mariss

Beautifully written article. Eisenstein failed at school, failed in his personal life and he was even unable to get a teaching job. He could only find work as a menial Swiss patent office clerk. Not something to build your career as a theoretical physicist.
Eisenstein was however a genius of the first order, the kind that graces humanity every 300 years or so. Without government grants, professorial tenure or professional reputation, he divined Nature from a perspective no one had ever seen before. His seminal 1905 work forever rearranged the world Newton’s labors had set up 300 years before.
If a scientist deserves to wear a white coat and have our awe and respect, Eisenstein did. So did Newton, Maxwell, Planck, Bohr and Carnot.
Today we are overrun with scientists like they were rats; there are so damn many of them. They can’t all be brilliant and likely very few of them are. How could we be blessed with 10,000 great thinkers when in the centuries before we had to make do with a dozen or so in a whole lifetime?
Today’s scientists wear white coats and demand our awe and respect. They are like a pygmies sitting on the shoulders of their predecessors while demanding the same respect their predecessors earned. They are kind of like Dr. Evil’s Mini-Me who relies on his benefactor’s power to give him credence.
Today’s science is a commodity like iron ore. It’s churned out by the ton and the product is weighed and accounted for in the same way. Unlike iron ore, it’s put away and never used again because it has no intrinsic value.
The worst are the climate scientists because there is no valid climate science as a science per se. If there was, about 2 or 3 scientists could fill the void. Instead what we get is a rat infestation of a strange activist-scientist hybrid who is long on ‘political activism’ and a little short on ‘science’. Political activism is easy, science is hard so it’s no surprise it attracts this “science” attracts who it does.
Bad science has always been connecting coincidence with causality without offering a coherent theory to account for it. Talentless scientists churn this kind of stuff out by the ton. So who are these scientists we are supposed to respect? They are primarily political activists who push an agenda. They use science to give them legitimacy.

Alexander L.

Attention.
This is a legal notice from the US Department of Political Correctness.
Dear Sir or Madam. It has come to our attention that you have been continuously using the term “climate scientist” in various contexts. We hereby inform you that by recent findings this term is considered derogatory and insinuating various illegal behaviors, and is therefore not recommended to be used in public debate.
We hereby ask you to:
1) Stop using the offensive term, using politically correct replacements like “alternative scientist” whenever appropriate.
2) Issue appropriate corrections and retractions of previously published materials which contain the offensive term(s).
3) Notify the US Dept on PC as soon as possible that you have read and understood the above letter and have agreed to follow the suggested guidelines from that moment on.

Frizzy

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
Wow! Thanks Dr. Brown, that was marvelous. Would it be possible to get a copy of that in pdf format?

Wow! Thanks Dr. Brown, that was marvelous. Would it be possible to get a copy of that in pdf format?
Only by cut and paste, unfortunately. I’m writing directly into the “Leave a Reply” box, which has no real facility for previewing or editing or saving or retrieving the source text — except by mouse.
Not a completely terrible interface, but I do so miss not having an “edit” button on the articles and replies I write, when I discover errors…
rgb

alex

Fast neutrinos: I think, they did find a loose cable a few weeks ago that might explain the “effect”.
Yet, the experiment is going to be tested all over the world and created a huge collaboration.
There is too little stuff for phyisicists to work at novadays.

Mariss said @ March 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Beautifully written article. Eisenstein failed at school, failed in his personal life and he was even unable to get a teaching job. He could only find work as a menial Swiss patent office clerk. Not something to build your career as a theoretical physicist.
….
Today we are overrun with scientists like they were rats…

I’d say we were overrun by people spouting bullshit. But then I’ve actually read several biographies of Einstein; my favourite’s Abraham Pais’ Subtle is the Lord.

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
[ … ]
Thank You Robert for your great article; I agree with most most thoughts and also with your critique. And I’m very thankful to A.W., he practice freedom and let thoughts coming into the light of science.
Joe Bastardi says: “Yet I dont get a nickel for sticking my neck out on this issue ( contrary to the nonsense that is printed about guys like me being in the pocket of this group or that), except fighting for what I believe is the right answer. Thats my agenda, get it right. And if I am right, then people will remember who fought for what was right, and who simply just swam with the tide because it seemed convenient and everyone else was doing it, and making a buck off it at that. Its That simple. Its just a big weather forecast to me, and I am sorry if that insults the intelligence of those who want it to be something that is so complex, so tough, that no one else need apply but those intelligent enough to understand that they know better than everyone else, and because of that are entitled to force everyone else to their position.”
I love that statement. It reminds me on the statement given ~900 years ago Omar Khayyam has written in one of his books: “I always desired to investigate the various classes of Algebraic equations and discriminate, by means of proofs classes which admit a solution and which do not, because I found that such equations occur in solving some difficult problems. But, on account of adverse circumstances, I could not pursue the subject. We are in the danger that learned men would all perish. The few that remain have to undergo great hardships. Owing to the negligence of Hikmat (Science) in these times, the really learned men cannot find the opportunity and means for investigation. On the other hand the pseudo-Hakims of these days would represent the truth as false. They do not rise above deprecating others and self-show. They do not use what little they know except for the Requirements of a wretched carcass. On finding a person who devotes his whole life to the acquisition of truth and repudiation of falsehood and hypocrisy, a person who shuns selfishness and cunning, these pseudo-Hakims will only jeer and threaten him.” Omar Khayyam (page 76)
I think the problem with so called climate scientist is not really a lack of knowledge in science, but the corruption, which betrays the principles of science for a dollar or a job in this world of money hierarchy. I fear it is not possible to change the world, but as it is shown by your thoughts, it is possible to learn physics and the principles of science to be able to practice freedom in this biased world.
V.

Frizzy said @ March 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Wow! Thanks Dr. Brown, that was marvelous. Would it be possible to get a copy of that in pdf format?

I can but agree 🙂
One tiny quibble: the use of verify (prove to be true) rather than corroborate (strengthen). The former creates the certitude that leads to dogma.

Deadman said @ March 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Fred H. Haynie asks, “how do you tell [virtual] reality from the real thing?”
Simple, virtual = not. For example:
“virtual reality” — not reality;

So that‘s what: “That is so in essence or effect, although not formally or actually; admitting of being called by the name so far as the effect or result is concerned” means. Informal, you are a treasure 🙂

Steve C

Robert Brown: An intelligent and intelligible comment. Thank you.

Scarface

Thanks for this story! The way is described, with all the setbacks but with a groundbreaking result, the only true scientist that comes to mind is Svensmark. I just know that one day he will get the recognition he deserves. That will be, excusez le mot, the tipping point in climate science.

Stefan

As others have said, the declaration “the science is settled” gave away that this was a smoke screen, an overconfidence, a lie, if you will.
I asked someone who was saying, “big oil is funding shill scientists”, OK, what if one day the IPCC turns round and says that CO2 isn’t a problem after all? “Then I’ll know big oil got to them too.” It is completely circular.
Having said that I don’t think we can ignore the desires and views of climate change activists. We know that if AGW theory didn’t exist, they would still be pushing for something. We need to understand what it is that they really value and want. For example, maybe they want “justice” for the world — but HOW they envision justice working is something about their own interpretations, how they think, how they categorise things.
A lot of negativity gets projected onto big industry and capitalism (and it is debatable whether we even have capitalism, but nonetheless, somehow the world’s injustices are down to big money and greed, in their view.)
It is a cultural movement. Debating the science is secondary, because if and when the AGW model dies, these people will still want something. Some get called watermelons and maybe that’s the majority, but I think many are actually really interested in a “just world” but trouble is, the world is very complex.
That was a point that Michael Crichton made: environmentalists have very little appreciation of complexity. He compared the map of molecular paths in a single cell, to the Club Of Rome type of world systems map, and you can see, the Club of Rome was obviously not remotely having any chance of being right.
We can’t change what people value — if someone feels in their heart that they really want to see a just world, there is nothing you can do to change that — that is their prerogative, that is what they value most, that is how they see life. But the issue of complexity, this is something we all need to keep looking at. Environmentalists often try to invoke complexity by means of “the interconnectedness of all things” like, my car exhaust is drowning a small island. But that isn’t complex thinking, that’s magical thinking.
Real complexity is being able to see the actual network of relationships and their magnitudes and the cycles and the feedbacks.
There was a popular feminist who wrote that thin women, models in Western fashion magazines were just as bad as female mutilation practices in Africa, because if you make the judgment that Africa is worse, then that appeals to Western racist imperialism. So in order not to be a Western sexist male imperialist, you had to single out the Western fashion magazines, not the African tribal customs. This kind of “interconnected” thinking is a sort of typical thing in the humanities and is part and parcel of the sorts of arguments that people use when thinking about world justice. This is why you won’t get a straight answer to, “what about China’s emissions dwarfing ours?” because they see it as you trying to deny your own greed, for Western imperialist reasons.
Many people might say, well that’s just BS, but remember this is something that’s been prevalent in our culture for going on 30 years. People think this way. So I think we really have to look at complexity and raising the bar on complexity. Help people move from magical thinking to highly complex thinking.
If you can help someone see, actually see for themselves, greater complexity, then once they see it, there’s really no going back for them.

Venter

A brilliant post, Dr.Robert Brown. This should be a must read for every scientist involved this field of climate science.

Stephen Richards

Robert B
You have brought together in one essay (or essai) everything that has been written on this site in the past 4 years. Great piece of writing. (quotidien = daily)

wermet

Robert Brown says:
March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm
——
Hey Anthony, how about raising R. Brown’s comment up to the status of a stand alone story?

Stephen Richards

Stefan says:
March 2, 2012 at 12:48 am
They are selfish, communists (community-ists) do nothing slobs. They want you to share your goods and shackles with them because they are too [snip . . looks like obnoxious graffito . . kbmod] idle to do it for themselves. They do not like authority. They want to be totally independent, to do what they want when they want and not have to worry about little things like money.

Patrick

Robert Brown – fantastic post! The original article is also good, but Anthony, Robert Brown’s comment deserves to be elevated into a full post.
For me it was the “science is settled” statement that got me looking into MMGW – so totally opposite to everything I was taught. I remember the impending ice age in the seventies too! Watts up With That opened my eyes to the scale of the scam which has gone way beyond science and is now all about money and politics. How the tree ring counters with their dodgy statistics ever got elevated to such positions of prominence is still a mystery to me