What you need to know about the main problem with climate science

Over the years I have written a number of pieces critiquing the state of climate science.  I’ve examined the missed predictions, the contrary evidence and the contradictory models.  However, an overarching criticism of the way climate science has been practiced by U.S. government agencies and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been that it has been practiced as more political science or a religion than as a real scientific endeavor.

For instance, for a symposium by the National Review I wrote concerning climate gate:

Twenty years ago, Steve Schneider of Stanford stated that to be effective advocates on the issue of global warming, scientists would have to “offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” His disciples have tried to suppress criticism of the “hockey stick” graph; when that proves impossible and researchers such as Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick expose the graph’s deep flaws, they settle for ignoring or downplaying the problem.

And all of this with the cooperation of the mainstream media. Even when errors are found and admitted to, “legitimate journalists” such as those at the New York Times and the Washington Post, rather than asking hard questions of the scientists who have made the errors or conducting independent investigations, have simply given these scientists a platform to say, “Yeah, we were wrong, but the error was not important.” The reporters never question the claim that the errors aren’t important.

Then again I wrote about climate science as being akin to a religion since it seems to be unfalsifiable:

I placed the word “theory” in quotes because I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the idea that humans are causing global warming is really more akin to a religious belief–a revealed truth about human sins (fossil fuel use) and their consequences (all manner of calamities)–rather than a testable scientific explanation.

A couple of points lead me to this conclusion: the way climate scientists skeptical of the claims that humans are causing climate change are treated, and the fact that the theory seems to violate the scientific method by being unfalsifiable.

The term “skeptic” has historically been a badge of honor proudly worn by scientists as indicating their commitment to the idea that, in the pursuit of truth, nothing is beyond question, every bit of knowledge is open to improvement and/or refutation as new evidence or better theories emerge.

However, in the topsy-turvy field of climate science, “skeptic” is a term of opprobrium and to be labeled a skeptic is to be dismissed as a hack. Being a skeptic concerning global warming today is akin to being a heretic in the Middle Ages–you may not be literally burned at the stake, but your reputation will be put to flames.

Concerning the scientific method, progress is made in science by proposing a hypothesis, and developing a theory, to explain or understand certain phenomena and then testing the hypothesis against reality. A particular hypothesis is considered superior to others when, through testing, it is shown to have more explanatory power than competing theories or hypotheses and when other scientists running the same testing regime can reproduce the results of the original test. Every theory or hypothesis must be disconfirmable in principle, such that, if the theory predicts that “A” will occur under certain conditions, but instead, “B” and sometimes “C” result, then the theory has problems.  The more a hypothesis’s predictions prove inconsistent with or diametericaly opposed to the results that occur during testing, the less likely the hypothesis is to be correct.

The theory that humans are causing global warming does not work this way. No matter what the climate phenomenon, if it can in someway be presented as being unusual by global warming alarmists, it is argued to be “further evidence of global warming,” even if it contradicts earlier phenomena that were pointed to by the same people as evidence of global warming.

What the effects will be seem to depend on which scientist one consults and which model they use. In realm of climate change research, different models looking at the same phenomenon applying the same laws of physics with the same inputs produce dramatically varied results.


Also there is the little noted fact that the only some of the “scientists” on the IPCC are actual climate scientists rather than economist and other social scientists.  Indeed, the IPCC is made up of leaders appointed by politicians and their work is ultimately edited by politicians.

Recently, another scholar has picked up on the same theme and his views are worth reading.  Dr. Timothy Ball recently wrote:

A major reason the science isn’t settled is because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) never practiced science. They didn’t even look at climate change, only the possible human causes of climate change. Now they are victims of what T. H. Huxley identified over 100 years ago,

 “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

Most often the “ugly fact” is that the predictions derived from the hypothesis are wrong.

He continues:

Science has specific rules. It requires you determine the error in the work and either make adjustments or accept the null hypothesis. This does not mean you are wrong, it just means that the opposite to what you hypothesized is occurring.

A hypothesis is generally defined as “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created what is generally known as the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis. All hypotheses are based on a set of assumptions and are only as valid as those assumptions. For AGW they are;

– CO2 is a so-called greenhouse gas that reduces rate of heat energy escape to space.

– If atmospheric CO2 increases the global temperature will increase.

– CO2 will increase because of human activities, especially industrial processes.

– this will cause devastating global warming.

Scientific method requires scientists act as skeptics to disprove the hypothesis by challenging the assumptions. Karl Popper referred to this as “Science as Falsification”. With the IPCC they chose to prove their hypothesis because it was for a political rather than scientific agenda. They began with a very narrow definition of climate change as only those changes caused by humans. The dilemma is you cannot determine human causes unless you know and can explain natural changes. They built computer models designed to “prove” their hypothesis. In a classic circular argument, they programmed temperature to increase with a CO2 increase then argued that the model output proved their assumption.

His broadside is worth reading in full.

I leave you with Eisenhower after warning of the military-industrial complex, he warns of the scientific-government complex. (approx. 9 min. 5 sec. in the speech).

Comments (13)

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  1. Dewaine says:

    This is just another Galileo vs. the Catholic Church, but this time the consequences are much more dire.

    • JD says:

      People haven’t changed much. We are probably more dangerous today because we think so much of ourselves.

      • Dewaine says:

        I don’t know about “more dangerous”, but we definitely think we have all the answers… which causes us to make bad decisions.

        • Tomas says:

          Why do you think we that we think we have all the answers? Is it because we are more prone to believing authorities nowadays?

  2. JD says:

    There should be a growing concern that we are being duped, but what is the motive?

  3. Sabal says:

    Eisenhower was very wise, we could use another leader like him.

  4. Tommy says:

    The part of Eisenhower’s speech that gets the most time today is the military-industrial complex part. Rarely do you hear anything about the scientific-government complex.

  5. Dewaine says:

    This thing is turning into a bigger conspiracy than the creation of the Federal Reserve.

  6. Sterling:

    Thank you for an insightful piece.

    I hope that you (and others who are interested in this profoundly important matter) take a close look at ScienceUnderAssault.info.