Saturday, December 11, 2010

Climate Change Fiasco

Over at Helm’s Deep, Paul Helm has a post containing a letter from a David Henderson to the Daily Telegraph on the Climate Change Fiasco, elsewhere called ClimateGate, that occurred last November (2009), in which emails from the Climate Research Unit were “released”, revealing an unusual glimpse into the politics of science.  They reveal, to quote the letter, “unprofessional conduct within the process.”  This conduct includes:

Over-reliance on in-group peer review procedures which do not serve as a guarantee of quality and do not ensure due disclosure.

Serious and continuing failures of disclosure and archiving in relation to peer-reviewed studies which the [International Panel on Climate Change] and member governments have drawn on.

Continuing resistance to disclosure of basic information which reputable journals in other subject areas insist on as a precondition for acceptance.

Basic errors in the handling of data, through failure to consult or involve trained statisticians.
Failure to take due account of relevant published work which documented the above lapses, while disregarding IPCC criteria for inclusion in the review process.

Failure to take due note of comments from dissenting critics who took part in the preparation of AR4.

Resisting the disclosure of professional exchanges within the AR4 drafting process, despite the formal instruction of governments that the IPCC’s proceedings should be ‘open and transparent’.

And last but far from least

Failure on the part of the IPCC and its directing circle to acknowledge and remedy the above deficiencies, a failure which results from chronic and pervasive bias.

Shortly after ClimateGate was an interview with Dr. Phil Jones, director of Climate Research Unit, by BBC News (also referenced here and here) in which he admits that the “two previous periods of global warming, 1860-80 and 1910-1940, were similar to the period 1975-1998,” making the most recent data statistically insignificant, Jones insists that global warming is caused by human activities (Anthropogenic Global Warming).

Along separate but similar lines,
ClimateGate was followed a couple months later by the abrupt resignation of a Henk Tennekes, Director of Research Emeritus at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.  His letter of resignation can be found here in which he criticizes the structure of “Hermetic Jargon” that has been built in the scientific community to safeguard against multi-disciplinary criticism and to buttress self-made claims to esoteric knowledge:

The net effect of hermetic jargon is that outsiders cannot argue with the high priests who wield the words. They can only accept the occult writings in awe….The claims of the mainstream physics community worldwide, for example, are outrageous. All science is Physics, period, is what these priests claim. All other disciplines, including chemistry, biology, engineering and the earth sciences, are mere derivatives. Physicists glorify their Nobel prizes without ever contemplating whether the Nobel prize system might be based on a nineteenth-century assessment of the world of science.


Science has grown to have enormous clout and privilege in America and in the West in general.  A defining mark of the post-industrial revolution is the widespread presupposition that science’s self-claim that it stands objective and beyond criticism with regard to it’s own presuppositions and methodologies is true and without question.  Too many more incidences like ClimateGate and the curtain may be dropped.  And to some degree it seems that it already is losing some ground as next generations are becoming more and more skeptical (over-skeptical) of any claims to knowing.  But this doesn’t mean that there is no validity to scientific method, just that today’s primary manifestation of it is another tragic instance of man’s self-pride and thirst for power.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I wonder if science has become our world's "god" precisely because we think we can understand and, to a certain extent, control it, thus giving us power even over that which we think of as the most powerful force in the universe.


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