Friday, July 18, 2008

No longer a Consensus?

A small subsection of the American Physical Society newsletter published a newsletter that presented a debate on scientific case behind global warming, and it was bound to be taken out of context, so shallow, sharp, and ideological is the current debate about global warming.

Steve Milloy at JunkScience.com does the task here. His minions propagate it forward.

But put the report in context:
  • The newsletter is calling for a review and debate, and is hardly a declaration. And in any case, it comes only from the editors of Physics & Society, which is only one newsletter among many at the APS and comes from only one forum of the APS and not the APS itself. I've been following the physics community for years, and until yesterday never even heard of this newsletter.
  • In fact, on its front-page today the APS says:
APS Climate Change Statement

APS Position Remains Unchanged

The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

"Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate."

An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that "Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum." This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

  • If you actually read the newsletter, you'd see that in actuality what they're presenting are two papers, only one of which disagrees with the consensus. The other paper is in agreement with the consensus. So why focus on one or the other? Both papers are mathematical and unlikely to be understood by anyone without a science degree. Therefore people are going to pick the one that backs their ideology.
  • I think Monckton cherry-picks his data to show a cooling trend from 2002-2008. I plotted my NASA GISS data and did get a negative slope for the linear regression over this interval. However, if I choose, say, 1998-2008, I get a positive slope.
  • One 8-page paper by one scientist hardly undoes the work of hundreds of scientists putting together the evidence for AGW in a thousand-page report.
  • CO2 is still a greenhouse gas, still responsible for about 30% of our earth's natural greenhouse effect (33 deg C), and it's basic common sense that more of it in the atmosphere is going to cause higher temperatures.
Sigh. People never look at the details before they jump to conclusions, especially when the conclusion fits their pre-conceived notion.

Of course, that's exactly what Milloy is paid to do, let's not forget.

1 comment:

Steve Bloom said...

"Both papers are mathematical and unlikely to be understood by anyone without a science degree."

This would include Monckton himself. His degree is in journalism.