Guest Opinion; Dr. Tim Ball
Scientists lost the scientific script somewhere in the 20th century. The major loss involved the fact that correlation is not cause and effect. It was lost for several reasons:
- Failure to know or consistently apply scientific methods;
- Lack of ethics as the end justifies the means;
- Methods and process are not taught or emphasized;
- People are more willing to bypass or ignore everything for funding;
- Too many are willing to subjugate or exploit research for a political agenda;
- Achieving results to advance a career is more important;
- A person gets caught up in Groupthink as they go along to get along;
- and scientists are unwilling to look to themselves to stop the rot.
All of these reasons were on display in the leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU).
An example of the problem of correlation occurred recently on TV screen when a medical doctor was asked about the research evidence for a claim about the relationship between two phenomena. The interviewer clearly wanted to know about the cause/effect proof. The doctor replied that there was an “association” between them. Did the doctor know that this is just another word for correlation and that it must not be substituted for cause and effect? Who knows? All I know is the news is replete with claims of correlations implying cause and effect. It is undermining the credibility of science.
When teaching climatology, it is imperative to warn of the dangers of correlation and auto-correlation. My favorite example is that doctors cause cancer because almost everyone with cancer visited a doctor. Others like the claim that diet drinks cause obesity because more obese people drink diet drinks than any other group. So much of statistics applied to weather data for climate reconstructions involves basic techniques such as the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient that produce the Pearson’s r value. This r value was central to the debate about the validity of the ‘hockey stick’ as Steve McIntyre explained. It is also imperative to teach that when reconstructing past climates more than two independent proxy sources are required to have any confidence in the results and that a minimum of two station records are necessary to determine relative homogeneity.
The trouble is that in climate science malfeasance and abandonment of proper science is more pervasive. Over the year’s media and others challenged me arguing that by questioning anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I gave comfort to the polluters. Initially it concerned me, then several years ago I shifted my concerns about opposing because I realized that the greater threat was in lying and misleading, especially by scientists. Once the public realizes they are lied to, the polluters have much better ammunition. Aesop (620 – 564 BCE) explained the dangers of ‘crying wolf’. Science, and especially climate science, reached that point several years ago, but it is still not fully revealed.
The media is replete with scientists speculating and reaching cause and effect conclusions when there is only a correlation. But this is only a minor part of the overall malaise in science and nowhere is it more apparent than in climate science. It is seven years since Climategate, but the evidence of wrongdoing existed at least 21 years ago with the “Chapter 8” fiasco in the 1995 IPCC Report. It is 50 years since bad science appeared in climatology and, sadly, it continues, but few know the history.
I was as opposed to the threats of doom associated with global cooling in the 1970s because it was bad science as I am today about warming. Compare the similarities of impending doom in Lowell Ponte’s 1976 book The Cooling with what alarmists are saying today.
“It is cold fact: the global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is of ultimate importance; the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.”
Change the seventh-word “cooling” to warming and it is the same hysteria designed to panic people and prevent logic, but 180 degrees removed. One promoter of the book wrote,
“The dramatic importance of climate changes to the worlds future has been dangerously underestimated by many, often because we have been lulled by modern technology into thinking we have conquered nature. But this well-written book points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face, and that massive worldwide actions to hedge against that threat deserve immediate consideration. At a minimum, public awareness of the possibilities must commence, and Lowell Ponte’s provocative work is a good place to start.”
These words of warning exploited the false threat of cooling were written by Stephen Schneider, the person who became the major spokesperson of global warming just a few years later. The IPCC dedicated the Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment Report to him. They wrote,
“Steve Schneider, born in New York, trained as a plasma physicist, embraced scholarship in the field of climate science almost 40 years ago and continued his relentless efforts creating new knowledge in the field and informing policymakers and the public at large on the growing problem of climate change and solutions for dealing with it. At all times Steve Schneider remained intrepid and forthright in expressing his views. His convictions were driven by the strength of his outstanding scientific expertise.”
“Lead Author, Coordinating Lead Author and Expert Reviewer for various Assessment Reports and a member of the Core Writing Team for the Synthesis Report of the Fourth Assessment Report (FAR). His life and accomplishments have inspired and motivated members of the Core Writing Team of this Report.”
The IPCC brought him back to help write the deceitful FAR Synthesis Report because of the disasters exposed by Climategate and the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol. He explained why he was the perfect person for the job in a 1989 Discovery magazine article.
“On the one hand we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, which means that we must include all the doubts, caveats, ifs and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists, but human beings as well. And like most people, we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we have to get some broad-based support, to capture the publics imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This double ethical bind which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
No, we don’t have to decide. There is no ethical dilemma, there can only be honesty and the truth. As Thomas Jefferson explained,
“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
Of course, it is a struggle as George Washington said,
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
Look at Schneider’s opening words about truth. He then sets aside the essential basis of science and his conscience, for a political agenda.
The IPCC was never about science. People directly involved in the process say so. They are people that Schneider likely communicated with in preparing the FAR Synthesis Report. As the IPCC dedication states,
“Steve Schneider’s knowledge was a rare synthesis of several disciplines which are an essential part of the diversity inherent in climate science.”
Here is what former United Nations climate official Ottmar Edenhofer, who co-chaired the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group on Mitigation of Climate Change from 2008 to 2015 said.
“One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole,” “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy,”
Schneider likely knew, or should have known about Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, who said.
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,”
There were other comments available from the start. For example, there was Senator Timothy Wirth’s 1993 remark.
“We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing …”
The problem is there is no intellectual or scientific consistency in Schneider’s swing from promoting the threat of global cooling and just a few years later promoting warming. The shift in thinking in the 1970s saw climatology, and statistics as generally applied to society, expand from determining the average to considering simple linear trends. Cooling trend proponents, including Schneider, assumed that the trend would continue. He had to know as founder and editor of Climatic Change that climate varies considerably all the time, and current variations were well within natural variability. In 1997, I submitted a book review at his request. He converted it into an editorial essay that appeared in Volume 35, 361-365. It spoke to the problems and limitations of climate science. As I wrote, but apparently Schneider overlooked,
“Even cursory study of the climate record indicates that dramatic changes are the norm.”
Day by day the public are fed a steady diet of correlations linking an endless series of unsubstantiated events. Many of them trigger policy, political or financial opportunism, and a multitude of regulations giving control of people to politicians and faceless bureaucrats. Consider this example.
“A new study suggests that low-salt diets might actually be dangerous for your health and that high salt intake is only detrimental to those with high blood pressure.”
The media is full of stories like this that contradict previous firmly–held views that influenced medicine, business, government, and people’s daily lives. No wonder people are losing faith in science. Dutch researchers are already examining the possible consequence of iodized salt reduction and the return of goiter.
It is possible governments are cutting funding partly because of growing concern about such corruption and credibility of science. Some scientists are fighting back. One group are campaigning with the slogan
“Science is again threatened with cuts: help us tell the government that science is vital.”
Maybe these scientists are confronted with the challenge posed by Joseph Krutch.
“Though many have tried, no one has ever yet explained away the decisive fact that science, which can do so much, cannot decide what it ought to do.”
In the current situation the decision is obvious – look to yourselves. It is scientists who, for a variety of reasons all of them unacceptable, abandoned the rigors science demands. As Thomas Huxley said,
Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly whatever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
The enemy, as always, is within, but so is the solution.