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Friday, December 18, 2009

The real damage from Climategate

Patrick Michaels writes today in the WSJ about how the global warming enthusiasts whose emails at the Climate Research Unit have truly damaged the confidence we can have in science. By working to silence those who cast doubt on their beliefs, they've worked to destroy the veracity of climate research.
But there's something much, much worse going on—a silencing of climate scientists, akin to filtering what goes in the bible, that will have consequences for public policy, including the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent categorization of carbon dioxide as a "pollutant."

The bible I'm referring to, of course, is the refereed scientific literature. It's our canon, and it's all we have really had to go on in climate science (until the Internet has so rudely interrupted). When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.

That can no longer be the case. The alliance of scientists at East Anglia, Penn State and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (in Boulder, Colo.) has done its best to bias it.
By working assiduously to prevent critics from getting published, they've been able to claim that they represent scientific consensus. And their results then became the basis for the IPCC report which in turn is the basis for the EPA's recent ruling on regulating carbon dioxide.

Since Francis Bacon, we've come to rely on science as based on empirical research and observable facts. That is why the hard sciences has always seemed so much more dependable than the social sciences.

This scandal has damaged that reputation. Unless we see some self-correction from all the scientific agencies and organizations involved, we will never again have confidence in their research on global warming. They can't pretend, as Al Gore has tried, that these leaks haven't irreparably harmed the entire field of paleoclimatology. Right now, at Copenhagen, they're all whistling past the graveyard and hoping that people won't notice the massive elephant laying a turd right in the middle of their self-proclaimed scientific consensus.


Bachbone said...

PC, affirmative action and questionable research have been rampant on college campuses since at least the '70s. I remember my thesis advisor warning me that at least half the research papers published had unreliable statistical methodology used, therefore invalid conclusions reached. The "publish or perish" syndrome and government funding of research infected every university department. From the county through university level, most schools have at least one position whose sole job description is finding and securing research grants from various sources, and government usually provides the most and largest sums of those. Further grants can usually be gotten by manipulating data if not outright fudging them. And politicians usually aren't much interested in outcomes, just in handling out grants, so if/when inspectors find irregularities, it's often the inspectors who get sacked. It's all a Machiavellian web that's difficult to hack through even with good intentions and a machete.

Locomotive Breath said...

People who have confidence in science are just like people who have confidence in lawmaking. And sausage making.