Another Bizarre Form Of “The Science is Settled” Claim In The Climate Debate.

by Dr. Tim Ball on August 16, 2013

in Historical,Legal,Political,Politics,Theory

It occurred to me…” Publius Cornelius was correct when he said the more corrupt the State, the more laws.

A major reason the science isn’t settled is because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) never practiced science. They didn’t even look at climate change, only the possible human causes of climate change. Now they are victims of what T. H. Huxley identified over 100 years ago,

“The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

Most often the “ugly fact” is that the predictions derived from the hypothesis are wrong.

What do people do? Tolstoi, again over 100 years ago, identified one reaction:

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

But this doesn’t explain what actions such people should or might take. Often it is a human weakness reaction explained by Upton Sinclair’s observation that,

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

It may also fit Greek philosopher Epictetus’ view that

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

Science has specific rules. It requires you determine the error in the work and either make adjustments or accept the null hypothesis. This does not mean you are wrong, it just means that the opposite to what you hypothesized is occurring.

A hypothesis is generally defined as

“a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created what is generally known as the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis. All hypotheses are based on a set of assumptions and are only as valid as those assumptions. For AGW they are;

– CO2 is a so-called greenhouse gas that reduces rate of heat energy escape to space.

– If atmospheric CO2 increases the global temperature will increase.

– CO2 will increase because of human activities, especially industrial processes.

– this will cause devastating global warming.

Scientific method requires scientists act as skeptics to disprove the hypothesis by challenging the assumptions. Karl Popper referred to this as “Science as Falsification”. With the IPCC they chose to prove their hypothesis because it was for a political rather than scientific agenda. They began with a very narrow definition of climate change as only those changes caused by humans. The dilemma is you cannot determine human causes unless you know and can explain natural changes. They built computer models designed to “prove” their hypothesis. In a classic circular argument, they programmed temperature to increase with a CO2 increase then argued that the model output proved their assumption. Actually, model predicted temperatures differed from actual from the start. By the second Report in 1995 they abandoned predictions and produced projections in the form of three scenarios.

Evidence appeared to support the hypothesis as temperatures increased from approximately 1980 to 1998 and CO2 levels rose. However, it was a gradually widening gap, but narrow enough to fool the media and the public. Despite the widening gap the 2007 IPCC Report claimed with almost certainty that CO2 increases explained over 90 percent of temperature increase since the 1950s.

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica).

Well nature isn’t listening. Since 1998 global temperatures have declined while CO2 increases. The actual temperature hasn’t even approximated their lowest prediction (projection). The problem is that the IPCC was not designed to allow for the scientific method or entertain the null hypothesis.

I marked the point at which they simply moved the goalposts as one reaction to the failed predictions; global warming became climate change. Despite this evidence that the hypothesis was failing, Al Gore in his infamous 2007 US Congressional appearance said, “The debate is over. The science is settled.” It is the antithesis of science to dig your heels in and ignore the evidence that shows it is far from settled? Science is never settled. The scramble to avoid admitting the hypothesis is wrong is remarkable. Most common is the claim the lost heat is hiding in the deep ocean. Paradoxically, this means you don’t know where all the heat is so your hypothesis and models are inadequate by default.

You can also claim the facts don’t matter – an increasingly standard “post-modern” argument. The most bizarre such response came from a well-known, self-proclaimed, IPCC climate scientist. He effectively said failed predictions or proof of the hypothesis don’t matter because,

“Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science.”

He added, all you need is “credible theories” and “best explanations”. The problem is both must account for all facts and be able to make accurate predictions. The IPCC settled the science by predetermining the results and then ignoring all the rules, procedures and validations required of science. They never practiced science.