Is Global Warming science?

In SuperFreakonomics Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner devote a chapter towards global warming. The questions being posed are if we actually know what we think we know about climate change and possible solutions.

They met with several different respected climate scientists, and presented some pretty intriguing ideas, some of which run counter to the current political generally accepted thinking.

They submitted a first draft to the climatologists and scientists they spoke to, accepted revisions and suggestions, the submitted subsequent drafts which were approved. When possible they researched their material from third parties and provided their sources.

It’s an interesting chapter, and I’d urge you to read it.

That however is not what this debate is about. Even prior to its publication this chapter came under heavy criticism:

Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.

As it turns out, many of the allegations waged against Levitt and Dubner are false. they respond here:

I have always thought that mankind had an effect on the planet, and that wanton polluting had adverse consequences, and that conservation is a prudent strategy. However, a few years ago when I heard things like “Climate change is no longer open for debate.” Or. “A consensus of climate scientists declare global warming a fact,” I became uncomfortable.

This really isn’t how science works. Science should be about facts, not opinions. Opinions don’t matter. How many people believe something doesn’t matter. A steadfast assertion shutting down dissenting argument is not science. It’s faith, or politics. Maybe both.

So, what I’d like to debate is this:

Is global warming science?

I think not. I think it has left the realm of science when debate and skeptical examination is no longer welcomed.

I think the recent emails that have come out on the internet are also particularly troubling.

I would like to believe that the vast majority of scientists are sincere and full of integrity in their work, but I think the conclusions disseminated from such work can no longer be accepted at face value because of the political or near religious fervor of its adherents.

In post #3 of the pit thread on the subject of the emails:

Brian Ekers says “At this point, I’m kind of okay with AGW being a load of bushwah, if it leads to more efficient vehicles and power generation.”

To me, that sums up the problem. In the minds of some, it’s ok to falsify data because the ends justify the means. Personally, I think that clean and efficient power, conservation, and good stewardship of the planet are worthy goals in and of themselves. They do not sullied by lies or falsehoods, nor should such ever be excused.

Sadly, I think there comes a point where an issue becomes so polarized and political that one no longer knows what to trust. Climate change is there.

Global warming is no longer science. It’s politics or religion.

Well, I agree it’s been politicized to within an inch of its life. But I think we can nail down some facts:[ul]
[li]Mean temperature of the planet as a whole has been climbing, slowly and in small increments, but definitely climbing.[/li][li]Small effects on the global scale can have major effects on the local scale.[/li][li]Greenhouse gases and other effectors of global climate change have been detected to have increased.[/li][li]Human activities can be shown to have put significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.[/li][li]The dfegree to which manmade and natural causes are responsible for climate change is not certain, though both can be shown to be significant contributing factors.[/li][li]The effects to be expected from permitting glibal mean temperature to continue to rise are chaotic and difficult to predict.[/li][li]Potentially some serious consequences for human society could result, depending on factors not yet easy to define.[/li][/ul]

Ok. I’ll try to take them one by one.

[li]Mean temperature of the planet as a whole has been climbing, slowly and in small increments, but definitely climbing.[/li][/quote]

That could be a little more specific. I learned as a kid that we were still coming out of an ice age. The climate gets cold, and then warm and then cold and then warm. it’s been doing it for millions of years.

The fact as you’ve stated it is not particularly troublesome.

[li]Small effects on the global scale can have major effects on the local scale.[/li][/quote]

Totally agree.

[li]Greenhouse gases and other effectors of global climate change have been detected to have increased.[/li][/quote]

Well, that’s an odd thing. One of the things that Levitt points out is the argument that Co2 is not really a very good indicator. Some of these gases might actually have a cooling effect on the climae, and the that temperature rises might be an effect of some better environmental practices we’ve established.

Which is not to say that I oppose the idea that putting shit into the air is a bad idea. I don’t.

[li]Human activities can be shown to have put significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.[/li][/quote]

The issue here is “greenhouse gases.” Which ones, specifically?

[li]The dfegree to which manmade and natural causes are responsible for climate change is not certain, though both can be shown to be significant contributing factors.[/li][/quote]

I beleive that’s true. I don’t think it’s been demonstrated to be the case. Disentangling these two issues in a complex system ain’t easy.


Global warming is science. Opposition to the idea of global warming is politics. The fact that a bunch of people are sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “Neener neener, I don’t believe it” doesn’t change what the observations, models, and experimental tests say.

(bolding mine)

The credibility of which has taken a serious broadside this week

Funny how that works . . .

Once again, that only works by ignoring history.

The longer and more detailed history is here:

Not so much.

Not only is global warming science (it is something you can study and publish papers on), but the fact that it has become so politicized is a good thing. After all, if the science is telling you that something bad may happen (and it is), then you need a politically-based effort to stop it.

Like evolution versus creationism, the fact that there is a large group of people that are trying to disprove the science in the public arena is troublesome, and scientists are quite right to attempt to stop or ignore dishonest debate. Whether recently revealed emails reveal an attempt by some scientists to squash honest debate is something that I don’t know since I haven’t read the emails yet, nor the background of the story. I’d guess that like most denier claims, it is overblown.

No, it has not.

So the most quoted item was twisted so it sounds bad. I don’t think that among climate researchers that will make a splash.

Of course if you are referring to how the public will be misled, then you are correct. It is very easy to declare something is debunked like evolution, but even if many people believe that it does not change the science.

You kind of make my point for me. “Science” is accepting current political thinking. “Opposition” is disagreeing or taking any issue with that current thinking.

I guess you didn’t look at the links. Levitt and Dubner are being attacked merely for questioning assumptions.

I guess another way of saying it Chronos is that defining what constitutes science by its conclusion rather than its process is what moves global warming from “science” to religion or politics.

Any anti-AGW scientist is free to do some legitimate research and publish in peer-reviewed journals. Instead, what they seem to have been doing is trying to nettle individual claims and create misleading info to sway public opinion.

Public opinion is meaningless. What matters is the scientific consensus. Why don’t anti-AGW scientists work to change the consensus by publishing research?

Hint: They can’t.

Welllllll, if you had some of the emails that were stolen, it seems they do publish. Some of the emails that were leaked take issue with journals willing to publish dissenting research and go so far as to suggest boycotting submissions to such.

Hardly a scientific attitude.

Since my name was used (albeit misspelled), I may as well respond at least once. I’d like to point out that I’m personally falsifying anything, nor encouraging falsification to occur. At this point, I figure the science is so complicated that even if AGW was happening, we might not be to actually prove it. In the meantime, if it gets us more hybrids and nuclear power, I don’t see the big deal. We’ve got enough lies and misconceptions already - one more won’t make a big deal, if that’s what AGW is.

Heck, it’ll probably turn out to do a lot less damage than previous quackeries, like phrenology and pseudoscientific racial theories. And what’s the harm, really?

Assuming the (specific) emails are genuine. Assuming the sender is reputable. Assuming the sender wasn’t venting and bitching. Assuming the sender hasn’t realized he was wrong, since an awful lot of data has come out in the last ten years. Assuming all of that, it sounds like maybe, just maybe we may have some evidence of one incidence of what may have appeared to one e-mail sender to be bias.

This is why peer-review exists. To reduce bias. If someone saw some one time, maybe, ten years ago that should be a reminder to be ever vigilant.

It still doesn’t make every moron with a hockey stick graph a reputable climate scientist. And it doesn’t make a blog post full of equations the equal of a peer-reviewed science.

According to the hacked material, there has been some peer-reviewed publication of skeptical material. And according to the hacked material, one response has been to attempt a boycott of the publication, pressure the editors into no longer accepting the such work, and agreement to no longer even cite work from that publication unless it stops accepting such work.

So when you say, “They can’t,” you may be literally correct.

Now, that’s an interesting quote:

Would it be just as fair to soon write about how folks who’d predicted back in the 1990s that by the end of the next decade the world would be cooler are now demonstrably correct? Short timeframes are sauce for the goose as well as the gander.

As to the OP’s question: is it science? Well, is it falsifiable?

And of course, to admit that maybe there might be other such incidents, you’ll require even more convincing evidence.

What would it take for you to acknowledge that there’s been a more wide-spread campaign, not based on the science? Confession by the people involved? Would any lesser evidence do the trick?

Can we also write about people in the 1970s who thought we’d be overrun by killer bees by now?