Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Matt Ridley let's debate your "What the climate wars did to science"

{edited for typos and some minor additions 19:30 MDT }

Matt Ridley I've been reading your "What the climate wars did to science" and I'll give it to you, it's one piece of work.  From the bizarre comparison of "Lysenkoism" with two centuries worth of climate science; to your championing that artful misinformer JimSteele (a person who regularly attacks scientists based on misrepresenting the facts, while hiding from debating the merits of his storyline.); then you pile on the malicious Dr. Parmesan slander campaign (while lying about what her paper actually says); etc.; finishing with that lofty plea to 'keep the debate alive'.  It really is too much, still I'm thinking you want a debate, Okay, let's have a debate!  

I believe I can explain why your words are such deceptive theater while outlining the difference between your brand of 'playing games for short term political gain' and scientists commitment to learning in order to understand reality as it is, rather than how we wish it could be.

I challenge you, Matt Ridley, to participate in this public "debate" by rationally explaining why you might disagree with my assessment.  I will post your comments unaltered - I'll even consider a "guest post" from you, if it contains a substantive rational response.

We'll see how it goes.  Since your blog post was six thousand words long and I have very limited free time these days, and people have limited patience, I'll be doing this is smaller segments.  Here I review your first 450 words.


What the climate wars did to science
Published on Sunday, July 05, 2015, updated Sunday, July 05, 2015 
by Matt Ridley - at the so-called  -  5950 words

Policy-based evidence making is all too frequent in climate science

Matt Ridley:  "In June I published a lengthy essay in Quadrant magazine on the effect that the global warming debate is having on science itself: For much of my life I have been a science writer. That means I eavesdrop on what’s going on in laboratories so I can tell interesting stories. It’s analogous to the way art critics write about art, but with a difference: we “science critics” rarely criticise. If we think a scientific paper is dumb, we just ignore it. There’s too much good stuff coming out of science to waste time knocking the bad stuff. 
Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science. 
Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons (note: "myrmidons were a member of a warlike Thessalian people led by Achilles at the siege of Troy.) of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas."
Matt Ridley, look at how you start this "exposition" - no description of the situation, no follow up outlining the problem.  Nope, it's all musing over impressions playing around in your own head and making unsupported leaps of imagination.  

What's that got to do with understanding the public science debate?

This was supposed to be about your chosen issue "Climate Wars" not about conjuring airs.
Matt Ridley:  "This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly."
Oh boy, get this logic, nearly a century ago Lysenkoism born within a totalitarian system was a fraud, therefore climate science is a fraud!  Brilliant !  

Then for good measure you toss in some stumbles regarding the scientific understanding complex dietary/health systems.  Which is actually more a lesson in the learning process of science in action than anything else.  Why not use that opportunity to consider the dynamic process of learning from mistakes and allowing evidence to guide the direction of research?

You make no attempt to explain links between your examples and climate science.  Can you define any specific links?  Have any facts worth contemplating?  Because so far you haven't made it past name-calling.
Matt Ridley:  "What these two ideas have in common is that they had political support, which enabled them to monopolise debate."
Is that a fact?  And what pray tell does any of that have to do with understanding two centuries worth of climate related science and how various individuals are reacting to the lessons climate scientists have to teach us?

Why are you ignoring the long history of climate science and how it's been building on two centuries worth of accumulating knowledge?

Timeline (Milestones)
Here are gathered in chronological sequence the most important events in the history of climate change science. (For a narrative see the Introduction: summary history.) This list of milestones includes major influences external to the science itself. Following it is a list of other external influences.
Level of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) in the atmosphere, as later measured in ancient ice, is about 290 ppm (parts per million).
Mean global temperature (1850-1870) is about 13.6°C.
First Industrial Revolution. Coal, railroads, and land clearing speed up greenhouse gas emission, while better agriculture and sanitation speed up population growth.
Fourier calculates that the Earth would be far colder if it lacked an atmosphere. =>Simple models
Tyndall discovers that some gases block infrared radiation. He suggests that changes in the concentration of the gases could bring climate change. =>Other gases
Arrhenius publishes first calculation of global warming from human emissions of CO2. =>Simple models
Chamberlin produces a model for global carbon exchange including feedbacks. =>Simple models
Second Industrial Revolution. Fertilizers and other chemicals, electricity, and public health further accelerate growth.
World War I; governments learn to mobilize and control industrial societies.
Opening of Texas and Persian Gulf oil fields inaugurates era of cheap energy.
Global warming trend since late 19th century reported. =>Modern temp's
Milankovitch proposes orbital changes as the cause of ice ages. =>Climate cycles
Callendar argues that CO2 greenhouse global warming is underway, reviving interest in the question. =>CO2 greenhouse
World War II. Military grand strategy is largely driven by a struggle to control oil fields.
US Office of Naval Research begins generous funding of many fields of science, some of which happen to be useful for understanding climate change. =>Government
Ewing and Donn offer a feedback model for quick ice age onset. =>Simple models
Phillips produces a somewhat realistic computer model of the global atmosphere. =>Models (GCMs)
Plass calculates that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will have a significant effect on the radiation balance. =>Radiation math
Launch of Soviet Sputnik satellite. Cold War concerns support 1957-58 International Geophysical Year, bringing new funding and coordination to climate studies. =>International
Revelle finds that CO2 produced by humans will not be readily absorbed by the oceans. =>CO2 greenhouse
Telescope studies show a greenhouse effect raises temperature of the atmosphere of Venus far above the boiling point of water. =>Venus & Mars
Mitchell reports downturn of global temperatures since the early 1940s.=>Modern temp's
Keeling accurately measures CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere and detects an annual rise. =>CO2 greenhouse The level is 315 ppm. Mean global temperature (five-year average) is 13.9°C.
Cuban Missile Crisis, peak of the Cold War.
Calculations suggest that feedback with water vapor could make the climate acutely sensitive to changes in CO2 level. =>Radiation math
Boulder, Colo. meeting on causes of climate change: Lorenz and others point out the chaotic nature of climate system and the possibility of sudden shifts. =>Chaos theory
Emiliani's analysis of deep-sea cores and Broecker's analysis of ancient corals show that the timing of ice ages was set by small orbital shifts, suggesting that the climate system is sensitive to small changes. =>Climate cycles
International Global Atmospheric Research Program established, mainly to gather data for better short-range weather prediction, but including climate. =>International
Manabe and Wetherald make a convincing calculation that doubling CO2 would raise world temperatures a couple of degrees. =>Radiation math
Studies suggest a possibility of collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, which would raise sea levels catastrophically. =>Sea rise & ice
Astronauts walk on the Moon, and people perceive the Earth as a fragile whole. =>Public opinion
Budyko and Sellers present models of catastrophic ice-albedo feedbacks. =>Simple models
Nimbus III satellite begins to provide comprehensive global atmospheric temperature measurements. =>Government
First Earth Day. Environmental movement attains strong influence, spreads concern about global degradation. =>Public opinion
Creation of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the world's leading funder of climate research. =>Government
Aerosols from human activity are shown to be increasing swiftly. Bryson claims they counteract global warming and may bring serious cooling. =>Aerosols
SMIC conference of leading scientists reports a danger of rapid and serious global change caused by humans, calls for an organized research effort. =>International
Mariner 9 spacecraft finds a great dust storm warming the atmosphere of Mars, plus indications of a radically different climate in the past.=>Venus & Mars
Ice cores and other evidence show big climate shifts in the past between relatively stable modes in the space of a thousand years or so, especially around 11,000 years ago. =>Rapid change
Droughts in Africa, Ukraine, India cause world food crisis, spreading fears about climate change. =>Public opinion
Oil embargo and price rise bring first "energy crisis". =>Government
Serious droughts since 1972 increase concern about climate, with cooling from aerosols suspected to be as likely as warming; scientists are doubtful as journalists talk of a new ice age.=>Public opinion
Warnings about environmental effects of airplanes leads to investigations of trace gases in the stratosphere and discovery of danger to ozone layer. =>Other gases
Manabe and collaborators produce complex but plausible computer models which show a temperature rise of several degrees for doubled CO2. =>Models (GCMs)
Studies show that CFCs (1975) and also methane and ozone (1976) can make a serious contribution to the greenhouse effect. =>Other gases
Deep-sea cores show a dominating influence from 100,000-year Milankovitch orbital changes, emphasizing the role of feedbacks. =>Climate cycles 

Deforestation and other ecosystem changes are recognized as major factors in the future of the climate. =>Biosphere
Eddy shows that there were prolonged periods without sunspots in past centuries, corresponding to cold periods .=>Solar variation
Scientific opinion tends to converge on global warming, not cooling, as the chief climate risk in next century. =>Public opinion
Attempts to coordinate climate research in US end with an inadequate National Climate Program Act, accompanied by rapid but temporary growth in funding. =>Government
Second oil "energy crisis." Strengthened environmental movement encourages renewable energy sources, inhibits nuclear energy growth. =>Public opinion
US National Academy of Sciences report finds it highly credible that doubling CO2 will bring 1.5-4.5°C global warming. =>Models (GCMs)
World Climate Research Programme launched to coordinate international research. =>International
Election of Reagan brings backlash against environmental movement to power. Political conservatism is linked to skepticism about global warming. =>Government
IBM Personal Computer introduced. Advanced economies are increasingly delinked from energy.
Hansen and others show that sulfate aerosols can significantly cool the climate, raising confidence in models showing future greenhouse warming. =>Aerosols
Some scientists predict greenhouse warming "signal" should be visible by about the year 2000. =>Modern temp's
Greenland ice cores reveal drastic temperature oscillations in the space of a century in the distant past. =>Rapid change
Strong global warming since mid-1970s is reported, with 1981 the warmest year on record. =>Modern temp's
Reports from US National Academy of Sciences and Environmental Protection Agency spark conflict, as greenhouse warming becomes prominent in mainstream politics. =>Government
Ramanathan and collaborators announce that global warming may come twice as fast as expected, from rise of methane and other trace greenhouse gases.=>Other gases
Villach Conference declares consensus among experts that some global warming seems inevitable, calls on governments to consider international agreements to restrict emissions.=>International
Antarctic ice cores show that CO2 and temperature went up and down together through past ice ages, pointing to powerful biological and geochemical feedbacks. =>CO2
Broecker speculates that a reorganization of North Atlantic Ocean circulation can bring swift and radical climate change. =>The oceans
Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention imposes international restrictions on emission of ozone-destroying gases. =>International
News media coverage of global warming leaps upward following record heat and droughts plus testimony by Hansen. =>Public opinion
Toronto conference calls for strict, specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions; UK Prime Minister Thatcher is first major leader to call for action. =>International
Ice-core and biology studies confirm living ecosystems give climate feedback by way of methane, which could accelerate global warming. =>Other gases
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established. =>International
Fossil-fuel and other U.S. industries form Global Climate Coalition to tell politicians and the public that climate science is too uncertain to justify action. =>Public opinion
First IPCC report says world has been warming and future warming seems likely. =>International
Mt. Pinatubo explodes; Hansen predicts cooling pattern, verifying (by 1995) computer models of aerosol effects. =>Aerosols
Global warming skeptics claim that 20th-century temperature changes followed from solar influences. (The solar-climate correlation would fail in the following decade.) =>Solar variation
Studies from 55 million years ago show possibility of eruption of methane from the seabed with enormous self-sustained warming. =>Rapid change
Conference in Rio de Janeiro produces UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but US blocks calls for serious action. =>International
Study of ancient climates reveals climate sensitivity in same range as predicted independently by computer models. =>Models (GCMs)
Greenland ice cores suggest that great climate changes (at least on a regional scale) can occur in the space of a single decade. =>Rapid change
Second IPCC report detects "signature" of human-caused greenhouse effect warming, declares that serious warming is likely in the coming century. =>International
Reports of the breaking up of Antarctic ice shelves and other signs of actual current warming in polar regions begin affecting public opinion. =>Public opinion
Toyota introduces Prius in Japan, first mass-market electric hybrid car; swift progress in large wind turbines and other energy alternatives.
International conference produces Kyoto Protocol, setting targets for industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if enough nations sign onto a treaty (rejected by US Senate in advance). =>International
A "Super El Niño" makes this an exceptionally warm year, equaled in later years but not clearly exceeded until 2014. Borehole data confirm extraordinary warming trend. =>Modern temp's
Qualms about arbitrariness in computer models diminish as teams model ice-age climate and dispense with special adjustments to reproduce current climate. =>Models (GCMs)
Criticism that satellite measurements show no warming are dismissed by National Academy Panel. =>Modern temp's
Ramanathan detects massive "brown cloud" of aerosols from South Asia. =>Aerosols
Global Climate Coalition dissolves as many corporations grapple with threat of warming, but oil lobby convinces US administration to deny problem. =>Public opinion
Variety of studies emphasize variability and importance of biological feedbacks in carbon cycle, liable to accelerate warming. =>Biosphere
Third IPCC report states baldly that global warming, unprecedented since theend of the last ice age, is "very likely," with highly damaging future impacts =>Impacts and possible severe surprises. Effective end of debate among all but a few scientists. =>International
Bonn meeting, with participation of most countries but not US, develops mechanisms for working towards Kyoto targets. =>International
National Academy panel sees a "paradigm shift" in scientific recognition of the risk of abrupt climate change (decade-scale). =>Rapid change
Warming observed in ocean basins; match with computer models gives a clear signature of greenhouse effect warming. =>Models (GCMs)
Studies find surprisingly strong "global dimming," due to pollution, has retarded arrival of greenhouse warming, but dimming is now decreasing. =>Aerosols
Numerous observations raise concern that collapse of ice sheets (West Antarctica, Greenland) can raise sea levels faster than most had believed. =>Sea rise & ice
Deadly summer heat wave in Europe accelerates divergence between European and US public opinion. =>Public opinion
First major books, movie and art work featuring global warming appear. =>Public opinion
Kyoto treaty goes into effect, signed by major industrial nations except US. Work to retard emissions accelerates in Japan, Western Europe, US regional governments and corporations . 
Hurricane Katrina and other major tropical storms spur debate over impact of global warming on storm intensity. =>Sea rise & ice
In longstanding "hockey stick" controversy, scientists conclude post-1980 global warming was unprecedented for centuries or more. =>Modern temp's The rise could not be attributed to changes in solar energy. =>Solar variation
"An Inconvenient Truth" documentary persuades many but sharpens political polarization. =>Public opinion
Fourth IPCC report warns that serious effects of warming have become evident; cost of reducing emissions would be far less than the damage they will cause. =>International
Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and Arctic Ocean sea-ice cover found to be shrinking faster than expected.=>Sea rise & ice
Climate scientists (although not the public) recognize that even if all greenhouse gas emissions could be halted immediately, global warming will continue for millennia.=>CO2
Many experts warn that global warming is arriving at a faster and more dangerous pace than anticipated just a few years earlier. =>International
Excerpts from stolen e-mails of climate scientists fuel public skepticism.=>Public opinion
Copenhagen conference fails to negotiate binding agreements: end of hopes of avoiding dangerous future climate change. =>International
Controversial "attribution" studies find recent disastrous heat waves, droughts, extremes of precipitation, and floods were made worse by global warming. =>Impacts
An apparent pause or "hiatus" in global warming of the atmosphere since 1998 is discussed and explained; the atmosphere is still warming, and the oceans have continued to get rapidly warmer. =>Modern temp's
Mean global temperature is 14.6°C, the warmest in thousands of years.
Level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 397 ppm, the highest in millions of years.

copyright© 2003-2015 Spencer Weart & American Institute of Physics

History of Climate Science
The history of climate science goes back to the early 1900's. This section contains a chronological listing of relevant climate science discoveries and events related to anthropogenic global warming. The information here was compiled by Spencer Weart (see links for reference).




Climate change: How do we know?

The Forgotten History Of Climate-Change Science
Adam Frank  |  MAY 13, 2014
Matt Ridley:  "What these two ideas have in common is that they had political support, which enabled them to monopolise debate."
Once again, what are you talking about?  Neither of those two ideas have the slightest bearing on climate science, or the public dialogue for that matter.

It certainly does nothing to inform our understanding of how our global climate engine operates.

Furthermore, Matt why do you seem totally oblivious and contemptuous of how important climate and weather patterns are to society and all that we hold dear.  How do you justify your flippant attitude?

Why shouldn't understanding our planet's climate system and how our actions are impacting that global heat and moisture distribution engine be of major concern to everyone?

Mr. Ridley, please explain why you're advocating willfully ignoring the Earth systems that society is utterly dependent on?
Matt Ridley: "Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defense." 
That's not true!  

To begin with the type of person that possesses the desire and dedication to go through the disciplined study it takes to become a serious scientist is more interested in understanding the world as it is, their egos are secondary to getting at the best answer possible.  

My impression is that people like you seem to think defending personal ego is the most important thing in life.  Am I misreading your attitude?

Seems to me you can't comprehend any one with a less egotistical perspective, but it's true - for many being wrong about something isn't the worst thing in the world.  Whereas understanding how the world really does operate, that really is among the most fulfilling things in life.  Here's how a real scientist explains it:
"What's the scientist's ethic? What motivates scientists? Professor Alley"
Professor Alley talks about a different kind of ego, an ego dedicated to finding a better understanding and discovering previously unknown facts of how our planet operates - being a constructive participant in humanity's age-old struggle, and pageant, to understand the world we are born into.
Matt Ridley: "It’s tosh that scientists always try to disprove their own theories, as they sometimes claim, and nor should they. But they do try to disprove each other’s. Science has always been decentralised, so Professor Smith challenges Professor Jones’s claims, and that’s what keeps science honest."
Exactly!  We are talking about a huge global community of trained competitive, skeptical experts who are constantly checking and cross-checking each others work.  After all serious science has never been about trusting any one scientist, it's about the consilience (and here) of dozens of lines of evidence!

The science is alive and dynamic and mistakes get rooted out, their causes get understood and learned from, resulting in better understanding as the science moves forward. 
Matt Ridley:  "What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book  The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press."
Mr. Ridley, your title promises to look at "What the climate wars did to science."  Your opening volley is: "Policy-based evidence making is all too frequent in climate science."  Yet you spent the first 450 words saying absolutely nothing about that topic, instead you weave a story about two incidents that have absolutely nothing in common with the development of climate understanding and even less with Earth observations or how people are dealing with it.  

Heck you never even take the time to define what your "climate wars" actually is.  What's up with that?

As for your Lysenkoism and that dietary fat misstep, they are the most juvenile of debate tactic, called the 'red herring'.
Logical fallacy 
As an informal fallacy, the red herring falls into a broad class of relevance fallacies..., the red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic.
Although you never even achieved the "plausible" level since neither had the slightest relationship to climate science or even how our business and political leaders have dealt with that developing understanding. 

Your next section doesn't' begin any more promisingly, "Cheerleaders for alarm," which I'll get to soon as I can.


citizenschallenge said...

I've sent a message to Matt Ridley at the "rational optimist" inviting him to participate and defend his notions.
Now we wait for a rational response.

Anonymous said...

Who are you and why would Ridley bother? You're clearly operating from a religious conviction and it's impossible to argue science with a fanatic.

citizenschallenge said...

Ridley is a liar who makes a lot of claims that can't be defended on a rational basis.
He deserves to be called-out on his bullshit.

Please point out what you believe I have misstated
then we can go from there Mr. Anonymous.
If you can't manage that...
Then who are you?


citizenschallenge said...

Our entire global warming information dialogue would be much further along
if we spent more time focusing on the facts
and less time making stupid self-servings assumptions about each other.

Oh, and resorting to the RELIGION snip is just a pathetic act of transference.
I'd be more than happy to discuss the basic science if you were up to it. ;- )