Sunday, October 29, 2006

Telegraph: Lindzen and Eden on climate

Off-topic: the daylight-saving time is over in Europe and America. If you have not yet done so, return your clocks by 60 minutes and live one hour twice. ;-)

A pair of articles published in the Sunday Telegraph today bears a striking resemblance to some of the recent newspaper articles about high-energy physics. The two articles are written by

Lindzen of MIT is one of the most well-known climate scientists in the world. Eden is a weather correspondent of a newspaper and a press officer. He doesn't seem to exist in science, unlike Lindzen: using the polite words of a 2004 Nobel prize winner, Eden is a marginal figure. Nevertheless, the Sunday Telegraph misleadingly presents this pair of articles as a discussion of peers. Sorry but it is a discussion of a well-known scientist with a marginal figure.

Lindzen's introduction

Richard Lindzen explains some essential things about the climate: how much does the temperature change in general, what the errors could be, how much the temperature did change (or didn't change) in the last decade (incidentally, the Southern Hemisphere saw no warming in the last 30 years), why the effect of CO2 is sublinear and therefore the slope diminishes as the concentration grows, and why do the actual measurements seem to show that the climate models are incorrectly amplifying the effect of CO2: the actual data make it more reasonable to expect that the clouds actually reduce the effect.

He says that legitimate environmental goals could be achieved, especially if we saved the trillions of dollars from the CO2 hysteria. Finally, he stresses that the truth in science cannot be found by a repetition of pre-existing assumptions - and by unjustifiable and irrelevant allegations about a consensus. The main conclusion is, of course, that the global warming is no real threat: the temperature is as likely to go up as it is to go down.

You can see that everything about Lindzen's article is based on the actual observed facts combined with a more or less rudimentary scientific analysis of this data.

The alarmist answer

Eden's article couldn't be more different. The title is

  • This is more rapid than at any time since the last ice age

which is an "improvement" of similar irrational hysterical headlines that other journalists have used throughout the last 100 years. Of course, the press officer's main statement is that the global warming is a real threat. But what is even more fascinating is the similarity with the journalists' take on high-energy theoretical physics.

Eden tries to teach Prof Lindzen what is the scientific method, no kidding. More precisely, he blames Prof Lindzen and/or other "skeptics" because their theories are "not testable". Well, I have already seen it somewhere.

First of all, it seems really strange if press officers are teaching top scientists what is the scientific method. Second of all, you can see that Eden uses this bogus argument about "testability" only against Lindzen but not against his favorite climate paradigms: he is exactly as one-sided and two-faced as those who have been recently using the same pseudoargument against high-energy physics. Third of all, the assumption that any particular statement about the long-term behavior of a particular quantity such as the temperature is unfalsifiable is simply ludicrous. The only difficulty is that the humankind will have to wait for a long time to see whether various theories about the climate are right or wrong. But the answer definitely exists.

For example, the conjecture that at the end of 20th century and the beginning of 21st century, the global averaged temperature increases every decade by a statistically significant amount has already been falsified because the temperature essentially didn't change in the last 10 years. All other wrong theories - which probably includes all hysterical fairy-tales about the climate - will be falsified in the future. It can't be otherwise.

Once predictions are made about particular numbers, they are always falsifiable, and unless these theories were derived by a rather careful theoretical analysis of existing experimental data and patterns, you can be pretty sure that the predictions are going to be wrong. Unfortunately, the authors of many bogus theories will never be punished for their alarmism because it will take years or decades to prove that they are wrong.

What Eden obviously means by the "scientific method" is alarmism itself. You must produce a hysterical theory - either a cataclysmic warming or a catastrophic cooling - otherwise you're not a scientist, Eden implicitly says. It is very analogous to the fringe physicists who claim that in order to do real science, you must produce theories in which quantum mechanics, unitarity, equivalence principle, Lorentz invariance, and other consistency rules collapse. Unless you don't offer such a far-reaching "theory", you're no scientist, they say.

One can also be nearly certain that the theories that are mainly supported by an endless repetition of journalists and their ad hominem, emotional, and quasi-philosophical pseudoarguments are likely to be among the wrong theories, too.

Is science over?

There is at least one more aspect that makes the alarmists and the critics of physics very close. Many critics of physics at the lower end of the spectrum of IQ would tell you that science or physics is over. The alarmists would like to tell you that the debate about the climate is over: it is essentially the same thing. In both cases, they want to replace a careful scientific analysis by a new era of irrational dogmas and superstitions. Of course, in reality, the statements about science that is over or a debate that is over is completely ridiculous, especially when we talk about questions that remain open and that are being actively investigated by the current generation of scientists. Unfortunately, these opinions are supported by powerful cliques of activists who have lost their mind.

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