Saturday, October 08, 2011

WSJ op-ed Undercuts Major Skeptic Talking Point

Robert Bryce's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "Five Truths About Climate Change," is, of course, scientifically ridiculous, as lots of others have written.

In addition, by highlighting the experiment that recently announced a finding of faster-than-light neutrinos, Bryce disproves a main contrarian talking point: that scientists are afraid to buck the consensus and must go along to get along for the sake of funding, peer respect, morning donuts, etc.
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.
The recent Times Atlas kerfuffle demonstrated the same thing. Scientists are some of the most iconoclastic people around, and everyone loves to tear down ideas and replace them with better ones. At the time, they respect what has been learned by the scientific process and know any new ideas have to pass muster.

Moreover, few people expect the neutrino results to hold up, and there are already a slew of preprints suggesting possible errors in the experiment's design and methodology. Here's how Michael Mann put it when asked by
"This is a very scary statement, for it reveals both an ignorance of how science works, and an antipathy toward the scientific endeavor," said climate researcher Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. "Citing one experiment about a weakly interacting sub-atomic particle in an effort to discredit all of climate science is tantamount to citing the apparent discovery of an unexpected new animal species as reason to reject the theory of gravity. It is a desperate effort by those who find the implications of human-caused climate change inconvenient, to distract the public from the overwhelming evidence that it is both real, and a threat...."

"Most experts believe that the finding won't hold up (there is some evidence it was probably an artifact of clock synchronization errors), and the smart money is definitely with Einstein on this one," Mann wrote in an email to LiveScience. "But even if it was correct, special relativity wouldn't be 'overthrown,' just as classical Newtonian physics wasn't overthrown by the 20th-century innovations of quantum mechanics and relativity. Newtonian physics was still valid within the range of assumptions over which it had been tested (speeds small compared to that of light, and spatial scales large compared to atoms). As for any implications for climate change, there are none that I can see at all."
Climate contrarians remind me of a crab who keeps showing you his claws while backing further and further into a corner. Is this not the essential history of climate skepticism?

Skeptic argument
The world is cooling.
The world isn't warming.
The world is warming, but it's not due to man.
The world is warming, partly because of man, but it won't be a lot.
The world is warming mostly due to man, but there's no other cheap way to get energy.

The trendline of this argument is obvious, as is its projection into the future. It seems to me the only major remaining issue for skeptics/contrarians/deniers is to figure out how, in the end, they're going to manage to pin the blame for a trashed climate on liberals, environmentalists, and climate scientists themselves. I suspect the usual "think tanks" have long-term planning committees who are working on this as we speak.

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