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Global Warming Pseudoscience

Posted by greg2213 on November 10, 2011

This is from a Matt Ridley (warning, Heretic alert) speech: The Angus Millar Lecture of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 31 October 2011

The speech was posted on WUWT, but a full PDF can he found here.

Here are some clips, but it’s important to read the whole thing.

My topic today is scientific heresy. When are scientific heretics right and when are they mad? How do you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience?

Let us run through some issues, starting with the easy ones.

  • Astronomy is a science; astrology is a pseudoscience.
  • Evolution is science; creationism is pseudoscience.
  • Molecular biology is science; homeopathy is pseudoscience.
  • Vaccination is science; the MMR scare is pseudoscience.
  • Oxygen is science; phlogiston was pseudoscience.
  • Chemistry is science; alchemy was pseudoscience.

Experts are worse at forecasting the future than non-experts.

Philip Tetlock did the definitive experiment. He gathered a sample of 284 experts – political scientists, economists and journalists – and harvested 27,450 different specific judgments from them about the future then waited to see if they came true. The results were terrible. The experts were no better than “a dart-throwing chimpanzee”.

I’ve looked and looked but I cannot find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

Does it matter? Suppose I am right that much of what passes for mainstream climate science is now infested with pseudoscience, buttressed by a bad case of confirmation bias, reliant on wishful thinking, given a free pass by biased reporting and dogmatically intolerant of dissent. So what?

After all there’s pseudoscience and confirmation bias among the climate heretics too.

Well here’s why it matters. The alarmists have been handed power over our lives; the heretics have not. Remember Britain’s unilateral climate act is officially expected to cost the hard-pressed UK economy £18.3 billion a year for the next 39 years and achieve an unmeasurably small change in carbon dioxide levels.

At least crop circle believers cannot almost double your electricity bills and increase fuel poverty while driving jobs to Asia, to support their fetish.

At least creationists have not persuaded the BBC that balanced reporting is no longer necessary.

…did you know that the collective annual budget of Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth was more than a billion dollars globally last year? People sometimes ask me what’s the incentive for scientists to exaggerate climate change. But look at the sums of money available to those who do so, from the pressure groups, from governments and from big companies. It was not the sceptics who hired an ex News of the World deputy editor as a spin doctor after climategate, it was the University of East Anglia.

In conclusion, I’ve spent a lot of time on climate, but it could have been dietary fat, or nature and nurture. My argument is that like religion, science as an institution is and always has been plagued by the temptations of confirmation bias. With alarming ease it morphs into pseudoscience even – perhaps especially – in the hands of elite experts and especially when predicting the future and when there’s lavish funding at stake. It needs heretics.

Read it all, here

My only quibble:

He says, ” I fully accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the climate has been warming and that man is very likely to be at least partly responsible.

And then says, “For, apart from the hockey stick, there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally.” (emphasis mine)

So what is man partly responsible for, when there’s no evidence that there is anything different about whatever current change may be happening?


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