Of course not all climate change science is irreproducible, misguided, or partisan. But distinguishing real science from other claims can be difficult even for an expert sometimes. I felt a simple post which tabulates what I believe to be the top ten attributes of a questionable scientific climate claim might add value:
- The article and/or scientist primarily relies upon an uncalibrated general circulation model (GCM). The “uncalibrated” qualifier means that the model does not match historical observations, which means that the model is useless for any forecasting purpose. This currently is the case for all GCMs. It also appears to be the primary and most easily identified item of this list. Uncalibrated GCM models, coupled with suitably inclined scientific authorities to quote, are almost always the only reasons given for the alarming promotion. That leads to the next item.
- The article and/or scientist (the source) does not disclose the skill of the model. I have yet to identify a GCM source from any provocative climate change article in which the skill is properly disclosed, if mentioned at all. I have seen GCM papers which do not claim high skill. But when, if ever, those are referenced by a climate change promotion, the poor skill is left out of the narrative. That leads to the next item.
- The source does not identify the relevant data and context, and so is known as “cherry picking”. For example, it is clear from this recent and related posts, that ocean acidification promotions disregard the majority of historical observations, without disclosure to any. That leads to the next item.
- The source does not invite or permit debate or rebuttal. This is the case of many media promotions of climate change but is also found to be pervasive in academic publications and public outreach venues.
- The authors do not candidly disclose their scientific credentials, or lack thereof. For examples stay tuned for future posts. I will profile so-called skeptics as well as promoters of climate alarmism. The numbers may be extraordinary. Having added this item, it should still be clear that many promotions come from bona fide scientists (who should know better).
- The alarming projections (whether of any climate feature) are reserved to time frames beyond the likely professional career span of the source. Typically scientists who promote their certainty of horrific climate change project the crisis to occur 50 to 100 years into the future. Those scientists will be out of the work force or deceased when the time frame is reached for comparison. Perhaps just as important, consider that any long term projection will include by default any shorter term span. Accordingly a scientist who claims that a climate catastrophe will emerge in 50 years should be able to provide a verifiable climate projection of relevance for 5 or 10 years from now (such as I do routinely). Such projections should be standard practice but so far, they hardly appear to exist at all. I’m always happy to correct, but after several years of requesting such data from climate change scientists and never receiving anything, it seems unlikely that I will need to.
- I believe in the value and importance of both peer review and academic institutions. Yet without transparency and traceability, along with accountability, irreproducible climate change promotions can thrive within those fields. Coupled with sinecures and tenures, along with anonymous and pal reviews, this item is perhaps the core of the entire climate change concern, and few dare to speak of it. Real scientists never suggest the debate is over, for example. Rather they stress what is not known and invite debate. Real scientists don’t let fear of career setbacks guide their work. Rather, they practice their craft without regard to career consequences, as would any other ethical engineer or related professional. In any case the best career path is always the most honest one. Any who disagree are invited to write their own blog about their views on success and ethics.
- Rhetorical and ad hominem insertions into otherwise scientific-appearing sources. For example, as is well known, some scientists make extensive use of the highly loaded “denier” perjorative even in their everyday academic and/or research routines.
- A promotion of urgency, typically along with a claim of existential climate risk if the promotion is not followed. Along with the promotions typically come political and lifestyle proposals and/or mandates. There are few if any other scientific endeavors which have anything to do with such strange bedfellows. It’s not unheard of, but at least in the case of medical fraud, there is some acknowledgment of the problem.
- A failure to track previous unsupported assertions by the same source.
Now that this table (and obviously many other resources) provides some basic filters for a layperson and even other scientists to consider, what is next? I certainly hope that readers of a certain character will reach out to the authors and/or publishers of articles of relevance to share their concern. If an article fits one or more of these ten criteria, then it is fair game for this particular type of challenge, not only from a subject matter expert, but from anyone.
For example, one can ask a scientist who promotes a climate change scenario, good or bad, for calibration data. If that is not provided, one can continue to ask why not, since it is normally standard practice. If additional excuses are provided, such as “chaos” or “extreme difficulty to more accurately characterize climate”, feel free to point to my recent paper to repudiate. It was published in a peer review journal so it merits the same attention as the climate change promotion, and we each cannot be right.
I’m also interested to help elevate additional outstanding examples of climate assertions which might meet one or more of the conditions above. Finally I’m interested to add value and not to disburse poor advice or information. If any desire clarification or correction, I’m happy to respond and correct if merited. I invite debate.
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