The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Friday, February 18, 2005

              Global Warming vs. Science
A couple of days ago Europe fully embraced the further damaging of their already fragile economies by implementing the Kyoto Accords. Even if one accepts the premise that anthropogenic global warming exists, the net effects of Kyoto on the environment will be nil since China, India and most of the not-yet industrialized - but rushing to industrialize - world is exempt from this treaty. So in effect, Europe has just imposed another huge tax on its economies, all for something that is scientifically in doubt.

One of the main legs on which the global warming argument rests is a graph published by Michael Mann, a geoscientist, that supposedly shows temperatures constant over the last 100 years, and then a sharp rise over the last century - the Hockey stick. It is undoubtedly a very pretty graph, and one that is alarming. Unfortunately for the alarmists, its wrong.
In 2003, Stephen McIntyre, a Toronto minerals consultant and amateur mathematician, and Ross McKitrick, an economist at Canada's University of Guelph, jointly published a critique of the hockey stick analysis. Their conclusion: Mr. Mann's work was riddled with "collation errors, unjustifiable truncations of extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculations of principal components, and other quality control defects." Once these were corrected, the Medieval warm period showed up again in the data.
Of course, all those who question Mann and his hockey stick are instantly accused of heresy and derided as shills of oil companies, if not worse. Clearly there needs to be some scientific debate about the issue, yet because of the politicization of global warming none is possible. Michael Chrichton gave a great speech two years ago at Caltech entitled Aliens Cause Global Warming that perfectly describes the problems of politicizing science.
And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and "skeptics" in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.
And just imagine, if Al Gore were elected President in 2000, the US would now also be on its way to damaging its economy in the service of a phenomenon which may not even exist.
|| Nudnik 10:58 AM
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