Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Climate modelers are ‘political’ scientists

Hooray! It’s Junk Science week again at the ‘Post’. Yesterday it was the media ignoring a Health Canada report confirming the safety of 2,4-D herbicide.

Today Terence Corcoran and Roger Pielke, Jr expose climate modelers and their exaggerated claims of accuracy and certainty.

Mr. Corcoran’s column today was special for me because it featured local climate modeler and Nobel (Peace Prize) Laureate, Andrew Weaver or as I prefer to call him, Victoria’s chief ‘political’ scientist, or alternately, Victoria’s chief Chicken Little. He’s the local media’s go-to guy whenever there’s a weather related story that’s proof-positive global warming is upon us. Recently it was lemons growing in a North Saanich backyard ("against a south- facing wall") which the Times Colonist reporter claimed was "a home-grown example of climate change." Naturally, Andrew Weaver was consulted and said: "We know the climate has continued to warm". And, to quote myself: "the bull crap continues to flow."

Corcoran and Pielke point out that the standard claim by climate modelers when commenting on weather events is "it’s consistent with climate change model predictions". But if every weather event is consistent with the models’ predictions then the modelers’ claims are completely meaningless - their models say nothing useful about short term events or trends:
As [Roger Pielke] puts it, there’s nothing that could take place over a period of a decade or less "short of an ice sheet advancing on New York" that would be "inconsistent with climate change model predictions."
Dr. Pielke even enlists an anthropologist who has studied the modelers (maybe she assumes climate modelers’ thought processes can’t be too different from the neanderthals’ she’s researched). Ultimately it all boils down to politics:

Not surprisingly, the reason for overstated claims lies in the bitter and contested politics of climate change.

...a prominent climate scientist warned a group of his colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research ... to "Choose carefully your adjectives to describe the models. Confidence or lack of confidence in the models is the deciding factor in whether or not there will be policy response on behalf of climate change."

Exaggerate, mislead, fib, lie, whatever - just so long as we get the right policy response. Climate modelers are definitely ‘political’ scientists.


Halfwise said...

JR - Climate is always changing, and weather events always occur. To say that a given weather event is consistent with climate change is true and also meaningless. The term in logic is Tautology:

a. a compound propositional form all of whose instances are true, as “A or not A.”
b. an instance of such a form, as “This candidate will win or will not win.”

Dr. Weaver and his ilk are properly known as "climatautologists".

JR said...

"climatautologist" - Heh, that's very good, Halfwise:) I think I'll add it to my glossary.