08 April, 2010

It’s a conspiracy.

You know what?  Climate science is a conspiracy.  A conspiracy by scientists who have everything to gain by getting the truth out there before we are neck deep in acidic sea water.
On the other hand, far right-wing conservatives such as Lord Christopher Monckton have nothing to gain by asking people for a considerable sum of money to see a short power-point presentation showing lovely pictures of Greenland, all photoshopped to show vineyards and happy Vikings herding cows on lush grassy pastures.  Or the Houses of Parliament underwater with the caption “So what?”  How could Lord Monckton be gaining anything by showing a power-point presentation that cost bugger all to make and asking people to buy his books not allowing any questioning of his authority at all?  Besides, he’s preaching to the converted.  Oh, but he’s already rich, being landed gentry and peer of the realm, so any money he makes doesn’t mean anything. It’s all for paying the cause.
Also he doesn’t debate those silly scientists who insist climate change and oceanic acidification is real because the idiots only confuse and upset his audience.  Bless him.  He’s all above board that chap.
I need to work on my sarcasm; I don’t think I’ve been subtle enough.
People like Lord Monckton are dangerous.  These people decide on a position before there is any substantive evidence one way or another.  But that’s why they are policy makers, or rather policy drivers; in this case Lord Monckton was an adviser to the very conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Now it’s important to stress that some fundamental elements of true science is scepticism and debate.  Science cannot exist without debating with colleagues about the theory, the experiment, and the results.  Similarly the scientist must be sceptical but intrigued about the subject.  Often results are at first counter intuitive, so without some sceptical reasoning, the risk is that the easier option of a false conclusion based on a false assumption is taken.
But Lord Monckton isn’t a scientist; he was a journalist, becoming one at a time when a university degree wasn’t required.  Yet because he did some university, it apparently gives him enough credentials to be authoritative on the subject of Climate Science.
Recently there has been a bit of a kerfuffle about leaked emails from the “custodians” of climate science research, the University of East Anglia. The leak occurred because of unauthorised access.  Hacking, theft, stealing, call it what you want.  A few emails came to light because of this illegal activity.  These two emails from a few scientists who specialise in Climate Science, seemed to disagree with what the UEA Climate Science Unit has being saying, and the International Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) as well.  But that is the nature of science; the method of collecting data should be debated.  Results should be argued.  The statistical analysis should be scrutinised and debated.
This is called Peer-Review.  If I have a theory, and then design an experiment to test the theory, then whatever the result may be (proving or disproving my theory), an independent experimenter should be able to replicate the results using the same method I did and come to the same conclusion.  And there should be debate on my experiment; is it an experiment that guaranteed to produce the results I predict? If so then somebody should put me in my place and say the experiment is flawed, and perhaps put up an alternative method for others to try.  Whatever I, or anyone else publishes, on the experiment it’s there to be critiqued at every step of the way.  It’s not a personal attack on me, or anyone else.  It’s simply being rigorous and thorough.
In the case of science when short time period experiments aren't practical (such as climate science), then there are other ways to collect data, formulate a model, and make predictions.  Yet the same methods of science hold true; the method of which data is collected, what it means, and how well the model stands up to scrutiny is all up for criticism and debate.
And this is the case with the UEA Climate Science Unit; 2 emails of dissent/criticism does not mean the science is wrong; it may be, but fact that other researchers have collected similar data and concluded with similar results does not mean there is a conspiracy, rather it means that the science is sound.  Not perfect, but sound, and there is healthy debate occurring with peers.
Again, take the IPCC.  They make predictions based on modelling, that is using statistical analysis based on data already collected.  The IPCC has been wrong with some forecasts.  Sometimes overly pessimistic, sometimes overly optimistic.  But why the outcry over being wrong over one prediction amongst literally hundreds that have been correct?
Every night news stations gather forecasts from private or government meteorological agencies.  We want to know what the weather is going to be tomorrow.  Currently we have expectations that the forecast be accurate for the next seven days.  Agencies like Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology provide forecasts for capital cities for 7 days and most major centres for 5 days.  Even places that city dwelling Australians have never heard of or can’t pronounce can have forecasts for 3 days.  There is nothing magical going on; the BoM is simply using modelling to arrive at a forecast.  Forecasters know the science and the limitations of the various models (yes, there is more than one model) and statistical analysis to write up or even amend a forecast.
The IPCC is no different apart from being a much larger, better funded international organisation.  So when hundreds of journalists, including Lord Monckton, quote the head of the IPCC, Professor Sir John Houghton, with “Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen” it must be true, right?  Surely that ads weight to the argument that whether it be the UEA or the IPCC or even the politically independent Australian taxpayer funded CSIRO, climate change is all a scam; it’s all about shonky scientists trying to make a name for themselves or Big Business conspiring to make money playing the Carbon Trading Exchanges, or governments conspiring to create a new tax without calling it a tax. Surely.  Absolutely positively this must be the case even if it means conflicting hypotheses and illogical assumptions.
As it turns out, Prof. Sir John Houghton never made such a statement.  The journalists with London’s The Independent and the researchers with the ABC’s Media Watch found the truth; a grubby hack and professional oxygen thief by the name of Piers Ackerman, who writes a column in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, made up the oft quoted Sir John without any evidence that Sir John had ever said such a thing.
But it doesn’t matter to those that peddle the “we humans didn’t do it” or “it’s a conspiracy” message of their imaginary climate non-change.  Those who distrust science or are ignorant of the facts gladly line up to pay between AUD$50 and AUD$150 to listen to a message they want to hear; it’s alright, it’s not your fault and anyway they’re wrong and here’s the “evidence”.  It’s a new form of snake oil.  Make no mistake.  Not one speaker on the Climate Denial, or the Pro Status Quo as I prefer to call them, are true sceptics or real climate scientists.  Everyone from a geologist who believes the earth is less than 5,000 years old, Lord Monckton, a former employee of petroleum company, a pastor and a geologist who specialises in finding coal amongst others.  Not one climate scientist amongst them, and few versed in meteorology!  One former meteorologist who advises Lord Monckton has written a book opposing climate change, but refuses any portion of it to be peer reviewed.  All of them cherry pick data to suit themselves, use strawman arguments or simply misunderstand the raw data and make it fit what they already believe, i.e. relax people, it’s not us if there is any such thing as climate change.
There are dissenters, some of whom are on the IPCC panel and contribute to the reports.  I don’t have a problem with that because they are doing science, and aren’t being paid to do a power-point talk circuit in front of a paying group of people who want affirmations of “there is no human element to climate change, even if it does exist”, with the only motivations being money and anything, anything to prove the consensus of scientists on climate change wrong.
It’s an emotive issue, but it shouldn’t be.  The über greenies have been crying wolf for perhaps too long a time, so it can’t be about them.  So all that’s left is those who need the status quo, who need cheap coal, gas and oil.  But surely they don’t have a real voice; after all they don’t write letters to the editor every day…
Indeed they don’t.  They don’t have to.  After all, their PR companies can make the phone call or email the press release and the journalists will, by and large, write up the stories that are sympathetic to the big polluters.  They provide us with jobs, with electricity, with plastics, with everything we need and want from concrete to the latest gadget.  Don’t you see?  The government already over taxes them and now with governments fixated on this climate change thing your way of life is jeopardised.  Gosh and golly.  To cap it off, newspapers and magazines need paper, and they doesn’t come out of thin air…  So naturally the conservative media is biased against any climate change reporting; report only “bad” news sparingly, report the “good” - for the media and polluters - news repeatedly, and if you can’t find “good” news, make it up scary news that is unbelievable so that readers/watchers/listeners will later think “those scientists are on crack!”  Or do a Piers Ackerman and lie, telling the world that these climate scientists want to tell us really horrible things just so they are heard, and they don’t care about the truth.  Or even better - for the media and polluters - present one non-consensus view, qualified or not, against ten or more consensus views as balanced, objective journalism.
No wonder the public is confused, the non-consensus opinions are expressed in the media as fact, and any non-consensus science report is significantly distorted so that it appears that there is some kind of classroom brawl going on in the climate change field, that no-one agrees on anything.
Well, it has come to the point where the public isn’t so easily fooled or misled over these matters anymore.  They may not completely trust the scientists, but they trust them more than the media, fossil fuel companies and the dozens of Lord Monckton wannabes that are trying to make their fortunes by cashing in on the debate rather than contribute to it in an enlightened, positive way.

1 comment:

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