Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Science, falsification and activism

Environmental news has been slow over the past couple of weeks for two main reasons: the excitement, apprehension and/or anticipation surrounding any possible pronouncements of action from the new US administration (as opposed to rhetoric and motherhood on environmental issues) and the continued presence of a real winter in the Northern hemisphere -- takes the steam out of the fear of global warming when temperatures are consistently freezing. In gross terms, hot weather makes people uncomfortable: cold weather can kill you. Most people recognize this as common sense and are, thus, rightly reluctant to fall prey to warmist fear mongering at times of persistent harsh, cold weather.

So the news has not been alarmist, but is has been there.

this post summarizes, two pre-eminent scientists issued separate statements that reinforced the fact that there are no scientific forecasts to support global warming.
  • One major factor in the lack of scientific basis for AGW forecasts, is that modelers have "resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists".
  • This deficiency is exacerbated by the fact that the expert forecasting that has been used is invalidated by the complexity and uncertainty of the climate system.

Both these faults underlie the continued efforts of a small group of climate modelers to
structure the politics of climate science. Their approach continues to be one of creating the "right" data if data do not exist and to claim that any contradictory empirical data remain consistent with modeled projections, which can then be somehow validated by the creation of virtual data by the models themselves.

What these advocates had underestimated is the increase in scrutiny and awareness that now greets proclamations of climate breakthroughs in the service of environmental activism.

Be under no illusion, contemporary environmentalism is an
unhealthy alliance of supplicant intellectualism, scientific modernism and political ideology:
  • There was a time when the social sciences felt it necessary to scrutinize the natural sciences, on the basis that scientists weren't quite as objective as they liked to think they were. They had a point, even if the scientists were probably more objective than the sociologists thought they were. It was a good fight. Now, however, the starting point of centrally-funded social science is that it accepts unconditionally that not only is there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but there is an economic one, too. Aren't new-fangled scientific practices like consensuses and pseudo-scientific creations like 'sustainability' precisely what the social sciences should be scrutinizing?
  • The environmental orthodoxy is a tangled web of corporate interests, policy-makers, -movers and -shakers, academics, NGO's and activists - all pushing in the same direction. Which would be just fine if the idea had been tested democratically. But it hasn't. We've said it many times… environmentalism has not risen to prominence through its own energies: it has not developed from a mass movement; it isn't representative of popular interests. It is useful only to various organizations that have otherwise struggled to justify themselves over the last few decades.
So why is this such a big issue? Because when science becomes supplicant to activism, issues of falsification and politicization become recurring problems.

Update: words like libel are beginning to surface as the wagons of denial are circled by those with most to loose.