Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mug Punt

The following letter left on the cutting room floor at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Dear Editor,

Like a mug punter Barry Jones wants us to take a huge gamble on climate change “action” without having read the form or seen the horses in the mounting yard (Doing nothing on climate is a fool's wager, 8/12). Barry says human suffering will be averted if we take action, but a link between climate disasters and CO2 has failed to emerge[1]. He claims little will be lost if the “problem” abates for other reasons, failing to see how those wasted billions could have been more wisely spent. He mistakes prudent “inaction” for stupidity at a time when the worst case scenario is but a chimera in the digital fantasy of falsified climate models[2]. Lastly, he suggests that if there is no disaster it will be through luck, rather than astute judgement to side-step the mistaken missives of a politicized science.

At this stage a wait and see approach on climate still makes more sense than Barry’s bet on a well flogged horse on its way to the knackery.

[1] Eric Neumayer and Fabian Barthel, Normalizing economic loss from natural disasters: A global analysis, Global Environmental Change, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 18 November 2010, ISSN 0959-3780, DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.10.004.

2 A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data Anagnostopoulos, G. G. , Koutsoyiannis, D. , Christofides, A. , Efstratiadis, A. and Mamassis, N. ‘A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data’,Hydrological Sciences Journal, 55:7, 1094 – 1110

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Butterfly emergence study- a case of Cargo Cult Science?

A recent journal article titled "Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming" published online by Biology Letters claimed to have linked a change in butterfly emergence with temperature changes caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions. A comment on the article now posted by Biology Letters (HERE) shows the methodology and results are unfounded, the study could not be repeated. We wonder if the media will spend as much energy reporting on this damaging critique as it spent enthusiastically promoting the findings of the original paper.

In his famous Caltech speech "Cargo Cult Science" the late Richard Fynman stated:
"We've learned from experience that the truth will out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult Science."

With the truth buried deeply in the servers of Biology Letters it appears the butterfly emergence study joins others that have all the hallmarks of the Cargo Cult that Feynman so eloquently described.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ignore the evidence at our peril

Unpublished letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, sent 10 May 2010.

If Penny Wong, Kurt Lambeck and David Karoly want evidence (Climate scientists cross with Abbott for taking Christ's name in vain, 10/5) to suggest it was hotter 2000 years ago, they can find just one example, of many, in a recent article titled "Holocene thinning of the Greenland ice sheet" published in Nature in 2009. The article by Bo Vinther of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and colleagues uses oxygen Isotope data to reconstruct temperatures over Greenland through the Holocene. Not only does the Vinther data confirm the presence of the rather "toasty" Holocene Climate Optimum, it also reveals numerous warm pulses when temperatures were also higher than present. These include the Minoan Warm Period (1450–1300 BC), the Roman Warm Period (250–0 BC), discussed with students by Tony Abbott, and the Medieval Warm Period (800–1100AD) that the IPCC attempted to whitewash from history with its infamous hockey stick graph.
In developing policy to deal with future climate change Penny Wong should note that the long term temperature trend in the Vinther data is downwards.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do they have any journos there?

Unpublished letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

British climategate scientist Dr Phil Jones has revealed in an interview with the BBC that the world has not warmed since 1995; debate over Medieval Warm Period is not settled; the rates of warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were statistically identical meaning the current rate of warming is not unprecedented; and the world has been cooling since January 2002 at a rate of -0.12C per decade. Will this make it past the SMH's climate alarmist news filters, or will SMH readers be forced to turn to Rupert Murdoch to find out about it? God knows hell will freeze over before our Auntie says anything.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Losing his religion

Unpublished letter to Editor of The Australian

Dear Editor,
The Prime Minister should be congratulated for his grand plan to create a "scientifically engaged" Australia by "catapulting science into classrooms, boardrooms and lounge rooms" (It's the science country, 9/2). But why stop there? How about catapulting the same critical thinking into the churches, mosques, synagogues and temples? What's he scared of...losing his religion?

Comment: A government supporting critical that would be something!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So the PM wants un-sceptical scientists?

Unpublished letter to The Australian, sent 9/2/2010

Dear Editor,
It's great to see that the Rudd Government has outlined a grand plan to create a "scientifically engaged" Australia that will be "catapulting science into classrooms, boardrooms and lounge rooms" (It's the science country, 9/2). But given the Prime Minister's denouncement of scepticism, so critical to good science, in his speech to the Lowy Institute last year, (Rudd dares Turnbull on ETS, 7/11/2009) one wonders exactly what type of science will be catapulted?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Buy Time"

Occasionally amidst the chaotic hyperbole of the climate change debate a lone voice of reason can be heard above the din. Yesterday it came from former ALP minister Gary Johns who condensed the politician's job in the face of scientific uncertainty on climate change to two simple words: "buy time" (Don't count your trees, forests aren't that green, The Australian 4/2).

In contrast our current Government and the Opposition leap blindly over the barricades, chasing phantoms yet to crystallise from the miasma. When these demons finally coalesce, sometime in the distant future, one only hopes that our leaders pre-emptively left home with the right tools for the job, and not with a bag full of uncircumscribed programmatic specificity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

IPCC research model promotes mediocrity

Unpublished letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

Dear Editor,
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has failed dismally in providing conclusive scientific evidence that humans are having a dangerous impact on the climate. After more than 20 years of research and 10s of billions dollars spent, the best reason the IPCC can offer to justify radical reductions in CO2 emissions remains the nonscientific axiom: the Precautionary Principal. Revelations contained in climate-gate, glacier-gate (Storm brews over glacial blunder, SMH 25/1), and with more errors and misjudgments in the IPCC's latest assessment report likely to follow, indicate the IPCC research model is prone to mistakes, subject to confirmation bias and is too open to political influence.

It's time for world governments' to consider other scientific research models that yield more definitive answers required by policy makers. History has shown that a competitive, rather than consensual, approach to undertaking research is more likely to bring better results, faster. The Space Race in the 1960s and the recent success of the Human Genome project are both testament to the benefits of intensely competitive research environments that fast tracked major scientific and technological breakthroughs. If the world wants to understand the climate system then we need a "Climate Race" not the inefficient, mediocre, committee driven methods that characterise the IPCC.

All is not wasted however as the IPCC consensus model will provide a useful case study for future investigators looking at how science should not be done.

Similar sentiments published here: