Monday, November 03, 2008

Climate Science: Is It Currently Designed To Answer Questions?

Richard Lindzen has written a stimulating new paper which reflects upon the politicization of science and posits the question:

  • has global warming alarm become the goal, rather than the result, of scientific research?
Lindzen examines the shift in scientific paradigm away from a dialectic of theory and observation towards a reliance upon a convergence between simulation and monitoring. His paper discusses
  • ...the origin of the cultural changes and with specific examples of the operation and interaction of these factors. In particular, we will show how political bodies act to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.
Lindzen is one of my favourite climate scientists because he seeks to inform people about the science of climate, how things work and what we do and do not understand and why, without wrapping up his narrative in jargon or disguising ideological intent behind disciplinary authority.
What adds to his commentary is both his own undisputed expertise in the atmospheric physics of climate, but also his in depth knowledge of the institutional politics he describes as afflicting the topic of climate research. His critique and insight are as depressing as they are alarming to any who care about truth, the ability of knowledge to be transferred into political policies and the effective implementation of positive change.
He concludes:
  • Although society is undoubtedly aware of the imperfections of science, it has rarely encountered a situation such as the current global warming hysteria where institutional science has so thoroughly committed itself to policies which call for massive sacrifices in well being world wide.
  • Past scientific errors did not lead the public to discard the view that science on the whole was a valuable effort.
  • However, the extraordinarily shallow basis for the commitment to climate catastrophe, and the widespread tendency of scientists to use unscientific means to arouse the public’s concerns, is becoming increasingly evident, and the result could be a reversal of the trust that arose from the triumphs of science and technology during the World War II period.
  • Further, the reliance by the scientific community on fear as a basis for support, may, indeed, have severely degraded the ability of science to usefully address problems that need addressing.