Friday, February 20, 2015

Arrogance, AGW, Achenbach & Science

In the debate over climate change, the central allegation of the skeptics is that the science saying it’s real and a serious threat is politically tinged, driven by environmental activism and not hard data. That’s not true, and it slanders honest scientists. But the claim becomes more likely to be seen as plausible if scientists go beyond their professional expertise and begin advocating specific policies.

Joel Achenbach, Why science is so hard to believe. Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2015

Joel Achenbach has written an article in the Post aimed at marginalizing those who question the canard of man-made global warming. This is, in many ways, a left / right issue. The vast numbers of those who fully support AGW are on the left. Alarmingly, they intend to use the supposedly settled science in support of AGW to rework the world's economy and impose a sort of green communism on the world.

Those opposed to this radical plan do not contest "climate change," but fall along an entire spectrum from those who question whether carbon dioxide is the culprit to those who believe that the vastly overblown threat of devestation -- based on failed computer modeling -- do not justify the radical left wing plans.

Ignoring the varied concerns of all who oppose the left, Achenbach sets up a straw man who is irrational and being led astray by a small number of science prostitutes being paid by dark money for their advocacy. Achenbach compares his strawman to a litany of other irrational people in a list that bears some scrutiny:

1. People of Portland who refuse to floridate their water. Achenbach fails to note that Portland is the bluest of blue left wing cities.
2. Anti-vaxxers. Achenbach fails to note that this is largely a movement of the left.
3. Anti-GMO. Achenbach fails to note that this is almost entirely a movement of the left.
4. People who contested that the earth revolves around the sun in the 16th century.
5. Those who were concerned that ebola might be spread by airborne transmission.

That last one is particularly of note. Achenbach writes:

The world crackles with real and imaginary hazards, and distinguishing the former from the latter isn’t easy. Should we be afraid that the Ebola virus, which is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids, will mutate into an airborne super-plague? The scientific consensus says that’s extremely unlikely: No virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans, and there’s zero evidence that the latest strain of Ebola is any different. But Google “airborne Ebola” and you’ll enter a dystopia where this virus has almost supernatural powers, including the power to kill us all.

Considering that ebola mortality can range from 20% to 90% -- figures on par with the mortality rate for the Black Plague that killed half of Europe in the 14th century -- only a fool would not be concerned. Thankfully, according to Achenbach, we are saved by the scientific consensus . . . . Or at least we were until, on Feb. 19, when the Washington Post ran a story, "Limited airborne transmission of Ebola is ‘very likely,’ new analysis says."

Perhaps the most offensive part of Achenbach's article is when he explains the scientific method, implying that the science of AGW is based on legitimate studies that can be reproduced by other scientists. Reproducability is the sina que non of science. The problem with so very much of AGW "science" is that the scientists do not put out sufficient information to allow their results to be analyzed by others. Steve MacIntrye has made a cottage industry out of trying to get AGW researchers to actually conform to the scientific method. The most recent glaring example of grad student Mike Wallace who wanted to analyze a study by two NOAA scientists that, they claimed before Congress, showed that the oceans were acidifying and in significant danger because of excessive carbon dioxide. When Wallace contacted the study's authors because their underlying data wasn't archived -- per the scientific method -- the authors gave Wallace the run around and then threatened his career for pursuing the matter further. It turns out that the study ignored all of the historic data that showed the oceans are not acidifying. The study was a fraud.

Wallace's experience is not an anamoly. As I pointed out in The Not So Settled Science of AGW, the scientists pushing anthropogenic global warming, as long ago as Michael Mann's hockey stick, stopped adhering to the scientific method and tried to substitute peer review in its place as the standard for reliability. It's a fraud and a travesty. Indeed, the greatest change needed in relation to government funding of science is an absolute requirement that any funded research requires the authors to post all information necessary for their experiment to be analyzed and reproduced. Anything less is not science.

After reading Achenbach's article, I am pretty sure that his target audience were those who blindly accept AGW. Achenbach is trying to reassure them of their intellectual superiority in comparison to the irrationality of the skeptics on the right. His problem is, like the science of AGW itself, his arguments do not withstand the least bit of scrutiny. As to the right, the science of AGW is so hard to believe because there are huge questions regarding the validity of the studies and computer models. As to the left and their problems with floridation, vaccines and the like, well, it would appear that they are irrational deniers of largely settled science.

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