Academics Play the Global Warming Card

Philip Kitcher of Columbia and Evelyn Fox Keller of MIT are professors specializing in the philosophy and history of science. The philosophy and history of science is pretty boring, so people in that academic field try to write about controversial subjects so as to make their work less boring. The professors have written a book: The Seasons Alter, How to Save Our Planet in Six Acts.

The book is filled with scientific errors regarding climate science. Clearly the authors have a poor understanding of the main topic. They are apparently attracted to apocalyptic predictions of disaster that call for farsighted persons, such as themselves, to warn the world. Apparently that role is so enticing that the authors’ critical facilities have been put into hibernation.

Global warming has an establishment side and a dissenter side. The establishment receives vast amounts of government money because they claim that we face an imminent global warming disaster. Nobody would care about their field of science except for the predictions of disaster. Nor would they get much government money if they didn’t predict a looming disaster. Environmental groups are part of the establishment side. Looming disasters are stock in trade for environmental groups.

The global warming dissenters consist of people who say that the emperor has no clothes. The dissenters include climate scientists who are secure enough in their jobs that they can dissent, even though it makes their colleagues furious. Other dissenters are scientists from related fields, or even non-scientists who have taken an interest in the controversy. The existence of the Internet has made it possible for amateur scientists, in the sense of not receiving a paycheck from a university, to enter into the discussion. The Internet provides a path around the establishment gatekeepers that run the scientific journals. The amateur scientists have the advantage of being disinterested. They aren’t worried about where their next grant is coming from or about what their academic friends and enemies will think. Of course, some of the amateurs are crackpots, but others are excellent scientists. (Some tenured professors are crackpots too.)

The authors used the graph below, a version of what is known as the famous Hockey Stick graph. The graph purports to show that the Earth’s temperature was roughly constant until large quantities of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere and as a consequence the temperature soared. The graph has been completely discredited as a work of science. (See here, here and here.)  But as a work of propaganda it is a brilliant achievement. What’s wrong with the graph? It erases the medieval warm period that existed at the year 1000. The graph does not show the little ice age when it got very cold around the year 1600. These temperature fluctuations are well established and supported by historical records.

The point of the graph is to convince the reader that carbon dioxide is the major determinant of the Earth’s temperature and that the modern era has a radically different temperature due to man’s emission of CO2.

The graph hides inconsistencies. If we magnify the 20th century we can see the inconsistencies better.

Look at region A between 1910 and 1940. CO2 is slowly increasing, about 1% per decade, but the temperature is rapidly increasing, much faster than can be explained, according to establishment theory, by an increase in CO2. This rapid increase of temperature in the early 20th century was caused by some unknown force, but not by CO2. In region B the increase in CO2 is faster, but the temperature is flat. Finally in regions C both temperature and CO2 increase rapidly.  The cause of the early century warming is an unsolved scientific problem. But the advocates of dangerous global warming claim the force behind the increase in temperature in region C is CO2. How do they know that the cause of the increase in temperature is not the same unknown force that caused the early century warming at region A?

The point of this discussion of temperature and CO2 is to create some doubt in the reader’s mind concerning of the objectivity of people who promote graphs like the Hockey Stick.

The Seasons Alter book invokes the idea that the global warming establishment is eager to hear dissenting voices and new ideas that contradict official theories.

That is absolutely hilarious to anyone who has actually talked with climate scientists that have ideas that go against the received wisdom. The idea that a young researcher could make a name for himself by proving his elders wrong is far removed from reality. The empirical fact is that there are no young researchers going against the community wisdom. Or, if there were, it is safe to assume that they are no longer members of the community.

You can read stories of global warming skeptics who have been fired from their jobs here, here, here, and here. Read my poster about the treatment of scientists skeptical of global warming.

I have heard publishers and editors state that they would love to print papers that dissent from the conventional wisdom. Sometimes they say they would like to publish the next Newton or the next Einstein. They don’t really mean it.

Roy Spencer is a climate scientist who has done highly original work relating to the workings of climate models. Computer climate models are the basis for all the predictions of climate doom. Spencer’s work shows that there are serious problems with climate models and thus with the whole global warming doom theme. Spencer has a lot of trouble getting his papers published. However, he did get one of his papers published in a European journal, Remote Sensing. The paper went through regular peer review and was published in due course. At that point there was an explosion of criticism. The editor, who apparently did not know that Spencer is on a blacklist of radioactive scientists, was forced to resign.

The looming global warming disaster is attractive to left wing academics. It confirms their belief that capitalism needs to be reined in. That there is a hidden disaster, only visible to intellectuals, promotes the idea that smart people, like academics, should be running things. You can read about academics who have jumped on the global warming bandwagon here, herehere, here, here, here, and here.

Unfortunately scientists cannot be trusted to be objective and disinterested. Scientific societies act very much like labor unions. You will search long and hard in the publications of the National Academies of Sciences to find any suggestion that financial support for science, or any part of science, should be reduced. The government money that supports big science has made scientists into politicians, just like all the others eating at the government table.

Norman Rogers writes often about climate issues. He has a website.

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