Sunday, January 01, 2017

Lindzen, me: U.S. climate science needs to shrink by 80-90 percent

The new, Trump administration brings a lot of hope when it comes to the climate change. Perhaps, hundreds of billions of dollars won't be wasted – as they are today – for much more expensive forms of energy and much more expensive alternatives to common things. The climate hysteria has been costly.

But the unnecessary economic costs were not the only problem. Climatology as a discipline of pure science has suffered, too. Well, even the climate scientists aren't cheap. The U.S. spends some $2.5 billion paid through 13 government institutions to fund the American climate scientists. The field has obviously become this huge only because the meme that "the global warming will kill all of us" was spread and it was spread mostly because of political incentives.

Real Clear Investigations wrote a text about the expected transformation of the field
Skeptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold.
The title says that sensible climate scientists will finally be heard. Hopefully. We hope that it will become possible to say that the good weather is actually good, that the Earth won't warm up by 10 degrees in a century, and if it will warm by a degree or two, it won't have any dramatic consequences and the consequences are likely to be beneficial. The bullies who were preventing you from saying important, even elementary things – e.g. that there's no scientific basis for the claim that a higher CO2 concentration increases extreme weather – will hopefully lose their influence over the scientific community.

What happens with the mass of the climate scientists?

Richard Lindzen, a famous MIT atmospheric physicist (who is retired but still important for donations to the MIT and other things), knows quite something about the field and its sociology, too. He has some theoretical physics background – although we have never talked about it too much – which explains some of the same thinking. But he switched to the atmospheric science a long time ago and became very successful in it. For example, in the 1980s, he proposed a cumulus drying (essentially the same as "adaptive iris") mechanism which made the scientifically thinking colleagues of the time excited.

I don't understand the field well enough to tell you whether that theory is as alive as it was then. But even if the answer were "No", Dick has clearly been much more than a one-hit wonder. He wrote a (then) standard graduate textbook for that field, too.

Lindzen often noted that the growth of alarmism as an activists' and politicians' belief system – from 1988 or so (birth of IPCC-like institutions, Hansen's testimony etc.) – has increased the size of the field by an order of magnitude or so. Those extra people, about 90% of the people who work in that field today, wouldn't really work on this scientific discipline if the discipline weren't morphed into an important one by the alleged "political and social consequences" of the science. In other words, almost all these people are political hires.

So one should carefully think whether a new leadership is enough to make these people work on climate science honestly and whether it's desirable at all. I share Lindzen's answer – which is "No". Just like we often say that communism cannot be reformed, the same is true for the real-world composition of the climate science community today. It just cannot be reformed. Most of the new people were selected on the basis that they're either stupid or politically obsessed to repeat Al Gore's and similar junk about climate catastrophes. They're just bad material, rotten apples. You can't "fix" them.

And I think that even if you could miraculously fix them and make most of the climatologists honest, it would be morally nice but still pretty much worthless from the viewpoint of science. Science just doesn't need this many climatologists. The amount of new science that this field has created since 1988 – the approximate takeover by the alarmist ideology – is very low relatively to the huge number of researchers and spending. The large number of researchers has only been "useful" for one goal: To make the champions of the climate hysteria as a political program louder and seemingly stronger.

Much of the research was redirected towards the worries about CO2 but even this part of the research has made minimum progress. In particular, the main quantity – the climate sensitivity or how much warming is caused by the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere – has made pretty much no progress in determining the value of this quantity. The accuracy hasn't improved much. The error margin is comparable to 100 percent of the mean value, just like it was in the late 1980s. There's a simple explanation why it's so: The actual value is much lower than the politically desired one and it could be determined a bit more accurately. However, this actual value is politically inconvenient so the people who mattered in the discipline prefer different, wrong, much higher values. But there is no "preferred" or "the" incorrect value. There are infinitely many higher, wrong values. All of them are similarly politically convenient and equally wrong. Which of them should be picked? No wonder that there's no convergence or "consensus" here.

However, a healthy climate science should only spend a tiny percentage of its efforts by looking at carbon dioxide. An overwhelming majority of climate science is all about other factors and phenomena. In the previous paragraph I mentioned that the understanding of CO2 in the climate has made almost no progress in the alarmist epoch of climate science. But it's even worse for the other, non-CO2 phenomena that actually matter. Needless to say, the research of this bulk of the climate science was suppressed. It's not surprising, the very existence of natural factors became politically inconvenient for the "narrative" – or politically incorrect, if you wish.

When it comes to the average climate scientist's knowledge of the laws that govern the climate, I think that there has been negative progress since the late 1980s. Some new things could have been found but many old important things were either forgotten or replaced with politically motivated rubbish.

There's no "gradual" way to fix the mess that was created in this way. The field must be restarted from scratch. An overwhelming majority of the groups must lose most of the funding, most of the people doing these things have to be fired, and once this diet does its job, climate research groups that are needed or justified by a scientific strategy must be discussed and restarted from the very beginning and with new job contests.

Because the influence of politics on this discipline has been obvious and undoubtedly destructive in recent decades, I think that it could even be a good idea to impose political quotas – e.g. the number of Democrats or Republicans in a research group wouldn't be allowed to surpass 60 percent or something like that.

I have a reasonable hope that this process will actually take place in the U.S. and I even have a hope that the U.S. has a sufficient impact on other Western countries, including the European ones, and countries like the European ones will follow the U.S. example. Well, I think that Europe has followed the American example when it was hurtful, too. I actually think that most of the climate alarmism – but also the recent waves of Russophobia and similar things – was created in America, not in Europe, and Europe was largely pushed to adopt these attitudes.

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