What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 16, 2011

Familiar Territory...

The Tribune-Review's on familiar territory today with yet another sortie on the science of climate change. Take a look:
Researchers who reviewed global-warming "forecasting" have found that procedures followed by the United Nations' chief climate cluckers violated 81 percent of 89 relevant forecasting principles.

Along with other experts who have peeked behind the curtain of climate change, these researchers have come to a common conclusion: The alarm over man-made global warming is an anti-scientific political movement.

In a presentation to Congress, J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania -- whose own work in forecasting methods is internationally known -- said the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has failed to demonstrate the "predictive validity" of its procedures.
A few caveats before we begin. J. Scott Armstrong is not a climate scientist. He's a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business but was not speaking as a representative of the that school.

More specifically, it was a presentation to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology:
On Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing to examine processes used to generate key climate change science and information used to inform policy development and decision-making.
The rhetorical exercise of the hearing starts with this:
Since the dawn of science, man has tried to describe and measure the natural world. Through an iterative process of data collection, formulation of hypotheses, and testing and refining these hypotheses, a knowledge base of information is built that yield theories and allow for predictive models to be built that describe them. Experiments are conducted to test these hypotheses, theories and models. As new observations are incorporated throughout the process, the theories must be able to assimilate these new data or change to accommodate new facts. Confidence in a theory grows only if it is able to survive a rigorous testing process, it is supported by multiple and independent lines of evidence, and competing explanations can be ruled out. The American Physical Society statement on ethics and values states that: “The success and credibility of science are anchored in the willingness of scientists to:

1. Expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others. This requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials.
2. Abandon or modify previously accepted conclusions when confronted with more complete or reliable experimental or observational evidence.
Adherence to these principles provides a mechanism for self-correction that is the foundation of the credibility of science.
By undermining the confidence in the process, this anti-science science committee is looking to undermine the science of climate change itself.

This is where Scott Armstrong comes in. From the abstract from his testimony:
The validity of the manmade global warming alarm requires the support of scientific forecasts of (1) a substantive long-term rise in global mean temperatures in the absence of regulations, (2) serious net harmful effects due to global warming, and (3) cost-effective regulations that would produce net beneficial effects versus alternatives such as doing nothing.

Without scientific forecasts for all three aspects of the alarm, there is no scientific basis to enact regulations. In effect, it is a three-legged stool. Despite repeated appeals to global warming alarmists, we have been unable to find scientific forecasts for any of the three legs.
I am not sure that that last support (the one about cost-effective regulations) is necessary for the science to be right, but I'm no professor of marketing at a business school so I'm obviously no expert in the science of climate change.

In any event, it's interesting that the committee would use the scientific criteria laid out by the American Physical Society as part of a plan to undermine climate change while ignoring that society's own statement on the matter:
Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
You'd think that if Armstrong's critiques (which have been around for years) were so inescapably correct the APS statement from 2007 would be amended by now. In fact there was a commentary on the statement released a year ago (April, 2010). It begins like this:
There is a substantial body of peer reviewed scientific research to support the technical aspects of the 2007 APS statement.
So I am guessing the APS doesn't agree with Armstrong. I am guessing that they think they're right and, if asked, they'd think Armstrong was wrong.

On the one hand you have a whole buncha scientists who, as a society, have released a statement saying that climate change is "incontrovertible." On the other there's a marketing professor says otherwise.

Who would you trust for the correct answer? I'd trust the scientists to know the science.

And we all know that Scaife's braintrust don't.


Richmond K. Turner said...

Just to be fair, David, I have to note that Penn is a strange place. You wouldn't think that things like statistics and criminology have any place in a business school, but they have historically been centered at Wharton. And if Penn is a strange mix when it comes to what departments end up in specific schools, Wharton is perhaps the strangest mix of them all. There is a criminology professor who has done forecasting work on tuna fisheries and sea level changes.

Just because someone's title is something like "Professor of Marketing" doesn't mean very much at Penn. They are pretty much free to pursue anything that they want, and most of them are bright enough to cross disciplinary boundaries without even thinking about it.

That doesn't make this guy any less wrong, of course.

EdHeath said...

I can see where an ideologue might want to use his title of professor of marketing as a way to avoid peer review. Not that I know anything specifically about Professor Armstrong, but it sounds a bit like Republicans want to have an academic who says what they want to hear, but not someone who would be easily discredited.

I would like to ask Republicans and Professor Armstrong whether they think that we can burn oil forever? That there are no and never will be consequences from burning fossil fuels? If Republicans admit that we will have to eventually work our way to a sustainable economy, then what are we waiting for? Are we saying that the rich deserve (because they are rich and therefore better than us) to enjoy their money with no restrictions, and so we have to wait until economic and/or environmental disaster force us to make changes. Why do smart people simply stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la la" when faced with inevitable facts (and don't say the future will with everything, there is no inevitably about that)?

rich10e said...

Admiral, a pleasure to see you on shore!!
Ed, I think we'd all like to be completely off of foreign oil.However, there is no evidence at all that wind or solar are adequate sources of energy for our nation to thrive on into the future!something i just read...

EdHeath said...

In other words, rich, you are telling us that there is no global warming (because an Orange County Register columnist said there isn't) and we can pollute with coal forever and we have oil to burn forever, foreign or domestic. All those climate change scientists don't know shit, apparently.

And the truly awful thing is that it is likely that we will continue to burn coal and oil without slowing down at all, because people like you repeat (as fact, not opinion) what columnists like this Landsbaum say. Because wealthy people want to keep the money they have exploited out of us (in high gas prices and by getting the government to give them our tax money and the money borrowed from China).

rich10e said...

Couldn't have said it better...once again thanks for all the hysteria....

rich10e said...

"Because wealthy people want to keep the money they have exploited out of us." I love that quote. You are the quintessential class warrior!!!Class envy =life failure!!

EdHeath said...

And yet, rich, you didn't respond to the question of whether your columnist Landsbaum is a more authoritative source for information on global warming than, say, the NAS or the AAAS. You don't say whether burning coal and oil forever might have a negative effect on the atmosphere, or whether we can continue to burn oil forever. Just a wistful statement about how we would like to stop using foreign oil (including those known terrorist sympathizers the Canadians), but clean energy sources don't have the subsidies and tax departments oil companies do ... I mean they aren't competitive.

I will leave it there, and not say anything about income inequity to distract you from those questions. We get enough Ayn Rand from Paul Ryan.

rich10e said...

we can always burn solar panel and windmills

EdHeath said...

Ah, rich, thank you for giving us the conservative answer to global warming and environmental degradation. "Coal, oil and natural gas are cheaper than solar and wind power, so we are going to pretend global warming doesn't exist, and leave it to the government to clean up pollution and toxic waste - as long as industry doesn't have to pay." (I paraphrase) You have made it very clear what you bring to the discussion.

Oh, and your concern for the bottom 90% (not to even mention the bottom 20%) is very touching.