Climate Change Debacle: A Product of Ignoring Failure and Negative Results

by Dr. Tim Ball on February 23, 2011

in Data,History,Philosophy,Theory

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

There are two sides to every story. The Chinese express it as Yin and Yang represented by a symbol. Yin is black and Yang white, but the dots indicate nothing is purely one or the other. Many react with cultural bias by assuming white is good and black is bad. The idea of balance is possibly one of the greatest victims of political correctness. It has distorted climate science, because they only considered one side and refused to follow the scientific method. This requires you to have a theory, which you try to disprove. If it’s disproved you must then consider the null hypothesis. In the case of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis, they set out to prove that human CO2 was causing warming and climate change. They claim they proved it, but did so by restricting focus and manipulating data and computer programs. The null hypothesis was not allowed.

Normally, they would find that human CO2 was not the cause and then ask the question, if not CO2 then what? It was a question aggressively asked of skeptics and the obvious simple answer was the sun. It’s why there was an active campaign to discredit the sun as the explanation. A major confusion is that the null hypothesis is considered a negative, possibly because the word null can mean zero. In the scientific context it means if it isn’t this, then it is something else.

Political correctness and the blind drift toward equalization or elimination of differences have prevented identifying successes or failures. It appeared in the schools when children were no longer allowed to fail. What was overlooked in all this was the function of identifying and promoting differing skills and abilities. I explained to a student who thought because he failed my course, he was a failure. All it meant was that he was not a climatologist. He might be the best in the world in some other area and that is what he should pursue. The concept of testing, passing, and failing has become so distorted that reasonable discussion is almost impossible.

Several years ago I participated in a debate at a Canadian High School on the motion that “School leaving exams are unnecessary.” I argued against the motion. Supporting the motion was a declared socialist and faculty member of an education department. Prevailing wisdom, at least in academia and left-wing political groups, was that failure was not allowed. Students were passed on to the next grade and eventually graduated from school without ever achieving any measured standard. Teacher’s unions argued against them because they were a measure of the teacher’s ability. My closing remarks included the comment that everyone in the room should hope the next time they fly that the pilot has achieved a certain level of competence.

Before the Internet existed, exchange of information was slow and difficult. A former colleague was working on his doctoral thesis at a British university while teaching in Canada. It was a math doctorate and required a new theorem defined as a general proposition not self-evident, but proved by a chain of reasoning. After two years working on two lines of reasoning with no success, he met with his supervisor in England. He was advised both lines were explored by former colleagues of the supervisor and abandoned. When he asked where this was in the literature he learned that negative results are not published. Why not? Surely such results are valuable and only deemed without value by the negative label.

The concept of classifying results as negative is part of the practice of not allowing failure. Students are imbued with the idea that a negative result is a failure. For example, in universities they write research papers or carry out lab experiments. They only pursue positive results. For example, if they research a topic they will only consider evidence that supports their original hypothesis. Some will abandon a topic rather than consider the null hypothesis.

We now have people who went through a system that did not consider negative results or failure. This is adversely encouraged by the increasing role of funding in research, and promotion in academia. Funding agencies seek researchers who are disposed to produce results deemed positive and they will only select information and perform experiments to satisfy that predisposition. This practice is why promoters of AGW successfully accused skeptics of being funded by energy companies. They conveniently ignored the fact that government funding is more directed because it always has a political agenda. Control of climate research funding was a critical part of the machinations of Maurice Strong and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A few years ago as chair of a national climate research group a bureaucrat asked for a private meeting. His dilemma involved research about acid rain from US coal plants destroying Quebec’s maple syrup industry. The Canadian Prime Minister was publicly pointing the finger. His research showed decreases in yields were due to droughts and a pattern of very early warming followed by hard frost. Both conditions caused dieback, a situation in which the tree will go through its growth cycle to produce seed but with reduced activity – hence less sap. This contradicted what he was told to prove. What to do? It’s obvious, but very difficult. He must retain his scientific integrity, but the dilemma is political. He isn’t paid to make those decisions, so he simply submits his report, and it will move up the bureaucracy until someone shelves it, usually protected with an unnecessary high security classification. Within ten years, the syrup yields reached record levels and a bilateral panel (3 US and 3 Canadians as required by the International Boundary Commission confirmed what he found.

Climate science deception by the IPCC and all involved worked because integrity in science and research failed. They ignored scientific protocols that require you disprove a theory. They ignored the procedure that if the theory is disproved, you must consider the null hypothesis. Only positive results are acceptable and seen as successful, even if they’re totally wrong. Too many will do whatever it takes to achieve an objective without a thought to balance or integrity because failure doesn’t exist and even if it occurs, you are not accountable; they simply move you to the next grade. Ultimately, you only fail because society fails.