Posted by: bmeverett | March 1, 2010

Snowmageddon and Weird Science

The latest skirmish in the climate change wars was fought on the snow-clogged streets of Washington DC. Both climate change “advocates” and climate change “skeptics” claimed that the unusually severe mid-Atlantic storms, dubbed “Snowmageddon” by President Obama, support their position. Both sides are wrong.

Tom Friedman wrote in his February 17 New York Times column that “I prefer the term “global weirding,” because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird. The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier and the most violent storms more numerous.”

Nice try, Tom, but that’s not science. Science by definition starts with a falsifiable hypothesis – a hypothesis that can be proven wrong by empirical evidence. Real scientists make determined and conscientious efforts to disprove the hypothesis. They beat the hypothesis, kick it, stomp on it, burn it, freeze it, drop it off the roof and subject it to every torture known to mankind. As long the hypothesis stands up to rigorous testing, it’s part of our body of scientific knowledge. Once it fails, it’s history.

Climate change is about a simple and straightforward hypothesis: man-made greenhouse gas emissions will cause catastrophic near-term warming of the atmosphere. This hypothesis should be treated like any other scientific hypothesis and be subjected to serious empirical testing. Climate alarmists like the “global weirding” hypothesis because it can never be wrong and can therefore never undermine their position. Almost every winter is abnormally cold or warm with abnormal amounts of snowfall – either more or less. Therefore, anything that happens supports the “weirding” hypothesis. J. P. Morgan was once asked what the stock market would do in the future. “It will fluctuate,” he replied.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not really a scientific body. Its task is not to test the climate change hypothesis against real empirical evidence, but to organize the best available arguments for massive political action to reduce carbon emissions. The IPCC doesn’t do any science. It just reviews articles, looking for good supporting arguments, and claims a monopoly on truth solely on the grounds that its members have strong academic credentials. This is the same nonsense that condemned Galileo.

The IPCC treats the climate change hypothesis as a dainty and fragile thing to be coddled and protected not only from any rigorous testing but from even the hint that it might be wrong. In their view, the hypothesis should only be handled by people who love it and cherish it and would never subject it to the kind of uncompromising logic that science requires. Those who wish to subject the hypothesis to scrutiny must be horrible people.

In the interest of fairness, however, we must give Mr. Friedman a half a point, since those who argue that abnormal weather is evidence against global warming are also wrong. After the big snowstorm, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and his family built an igloo near the capitol and called it “Al Gore’s New Home.” This stunt is just as silly as Tom Friedman’s column. A single blizzard or a severe winter in one region is evidence of nothing at all.

In his inaugural address, President Obama promised to restore science to its rightful place. This would be a good time to start.


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