Climate Change still has its doubters
SCIENCE has not “progressed only by slow cautious steps” as Piers McLaren claims (Forum, Spring 2004), but by great bold ones. Scientists should resist new ideas but it is a myth that they do so irrationally. Contrary to Maclaren’s letter, quantum theory rapidly won the day. Planck published in 1900, Einstein in 1905, in 1913 Bohr produced a quantum structure for an atom. By 1922 all three had won Nobel prizes for work on quantum theory.
In 1952 a model of DNA led to a Nobel Prize ten years later. However a model alone would not have won; it required confirmation of the theory by innumerable experiments. Anthropogenic climate change has had plenty of time to win Nobel prizes, or some other recognition from the broader science community. Why has this not happened? Where are the papers that might be nominated? Looking from the outside it seems quite different from science as I learnt it.
Computer modelling is an analogy; argument from analogy is religion not science. Models should allow the development of some testable predictions. Look what actually happened; the first IPCC in1990 produced four scenarios. In 1992 the second IPCC produced six scenarios (but favoured one). The third IPCC in 2000 produced 40 scenarios and recommended six. They are getting vaguer.
It is the doomsters that irritate, not the IPCC. The latest in the news: “Human civilisation as we know it doomed by the end of the century.” Doomsday scenarios tell us more about the personality of the predictor than the future.
When the last El Niño effect was running, its severity was blamed on global warming; more frequent and more severe El Niños were predicted. This may still happen but this year (2004) the frequent hurricanes affecting the southeast US are also being blamed on global warming. More of these are being predicted.
But hurricanes in the Caribbean correlate strongly and negatively with El Niño events. My non-trivial and precise prediction (and I have nothing to do with this field) is that during the next year in which El Niño is in full swing, Florida will not get a hurricane. If this prediction is incorrect then we may have some evidence of climate change.
Despite Piers Maclaren’s assertions in the last Forum, I think that global warming “evidence”is something that needs to be approached sceptically. Much of the IPCC reports base their evidence for the warming on the 1998 “hockey stick” paper of Mann et al that analysed and averaged data from the last 500 years. It is probably the most cited paper for climate research. However, McKitrick and McIntyre in a 2003 paper have shown that much of the data used by Mann was wrong or incomplete. When they corrected the data sets, it showed the 1500s were significantly warmer than now. Subsequent work has since shown a fundamental error in the maths behind the averaging programme. It is such that even random numbers as data shows global warming!
There is also the interesting observation by McKitrick that worldwide temperatures showed a 1.5ºC step rise at the end of the 80s when the number of reporting weather stations worldwide was halved, mostly by closing remote or rural stations. We even have a similar effect here in Taupo where the weather station has been moved from beside the Waikato outlet to the airport. We are now officially warmer and less prone to fogs but windier.
One of the problems with the cited evidence for warming is it is used very selectively. Satellite data doesn’t match that from ground stations. The Antarctic ice sheets may be melting, but so are the Martian ones. Europe is the warmest it has ever been, except when they used to grow grapes in Britain during Roman times. Contradictions like this abound.
The world, particularly in the west, is on an unsustainable path of profligate energy consumption. The day of reckoning when energy prices skyrocket because of scarcity is in the foreseeable future. However, trying to bring a change in behaviour by a combination of scare tactics and shonky data as the basis for public policy is not the way to proceed. Kyoto is politics, not science. Otherwise, why would coal exports to Asia be encouraged at the same time as they want to carbon tax it here?
Skeptics should challenge all information as a matter of principle, not just that which is contrary to their beliefs.
Jamie Ward, a psychologist at University College, London has recently published a paper in Cognitive Neuropsychology, which attributes Kirlian Auras to “faulty wiring in the brain”. The condition is known as emotioncolour synaesthesia. In other words, the colours are real to those that perceive them, but they are created with the brain. I suggest that the very large number of believers in this and many other paranormal phenomena are also suffering from faulty wiring!
Alan P Ryan
More ancient archaeology
Here is a photograph of what is obviously an ancient rock wall created by the original inhabitants of New Zealand, found in Belmont Regional Park, Lower Hutt, by Paul King and Bob Metcalfe. By golly, you can hardly fit a knife blade between those stones.
Psychic vision a waste of time
A psychic’s “vision” that a bomb was hidden on board caused the cancellation of an internal US American Airlines flight in March last, despite a search having revealed no trace of a bomb, and of course causing inconvenience to travellers. Persistent questioning by CSICOP staff elicited an explanation; the details, reported in Skeptical Inquirer, contained good news and bad. The good news was that the official body, the Transportation Security Administration, had searched, found no bomb, and, contrary to previous reports, described the psychic as “not a credible source”. The bad news was that, despite these assurances, the flight crew refused to fly. In the absence of a replacement crew, the flight was abandoned.
The not-so-good news was that the psychic was not prosecuted for the mischief caused, since he/she had not acted out of criminal motives. How sad that a group of intelligent, highly trained technicians should behave so superstitiously. I am reminded that sailors are notoriously steeped in superstition; are all navigators cursed with this disease?