The Jury Talks Back

11/14/2018

Alarmist Global Warming Study Turns Out to Have Been Flawed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:53 am

Global Warming Earth

The #FAKENEWSBEZOSPOST has the story:

Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are.

Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists’ work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”

I’m not someone who believes climate change is a “hoax”; I call myself a “global warming skeptic skeptic.” (Yes, I meant to type that word twice.) My fuller thoughts on the topic are available here. For non-clickers, here’s the summary:

[I]t’s my belief that the planet is warming, and my best guess is that man contributes to that. I don’t know to what extent man’s contribution affects the rate of warming.

I think the idea that climate scientists are engaged in some kind of active “hoax” or “conspiracy” seems, um, conspiratorial. It does not strike me as likely. But, just as folks in Big Media tend to lean mostly one way politically, I can believe that climate scientists, by and large, have a herd-like mindset.

It doesn’t strike me like a hard science the way physics is. The models never seem to predict anything accurately. Predictions are commonly and provably exaggerated.

But, in the end, I am a lawyer by trade and a writer (and musician, and other things) by hobby. What I am not, is a scientist. And I recognize my limitations.

My concern with the Scripps study is the “herd-like mindset” of climate scientists, which causes them to be less critical of studies warning about dire consequences of climate change, and to unthinkingly reject as ignorant any criticism of such studies. I understand the mindset, since much criticism of climate science is indeed ignorant. But some of it is also appropriately skeptical about the limitation of what we can know, and this skepticism is far too often dismissed with an airy wave of the hand by Those Who Know Better.

Instructive in this regard is the way that the problems with the Scripps study were found: by an independent researcher who said the errors were … rather glaring.

However, not long after publication, an independent Britain-based researcher named Nicholas Lewis published a lengthy blog post saying he had found a “major problem” with the research.

“So far as I can see, their method vastly underestimates the uncertainty,” Lewis said in an interview Tuesday, “as well as biasing up significantly, nearly 30 percent, the central estimate.”

Lewis added that he tends “to read a large number of papers, and, having a mathematics as well as a physics background, I tend to look at them quite carefully, and see if they make sense. And where they don’t make sense — with this one, it’s fairly obvious it didn’t make sense — I look into them more deeply.”

Gee. How did “fairly obvious” deficiencies in a climate change study make it past the Hard Scrutiny of all of those scientists?

(He asked, with a wry smile, knowing that his audience recognizes the rhetorical nature of the question.)

The studies of climate scientists, endorsed by other climate scientists, are then amplified by Big Media, which is also largely populated by people who share the scientists’ political views as well as their views about climate change (and one’s views on the politics are, unfortunately, often closely linked with one’s views on the science — a problem evident on both sides of the political aisle). For example, the Washington Post, which is reporting the errors in the Scripps study today, was unsuspecting in October, when they called the study “startling.” (And as of the publication of this post, the October article has no addendum regarding the infirmities in the study — meaning that if you run across that article through Google, you wouldn’t know any better.)

This is a problem, whether you are a climate change believer or skeptic. Everyone should want science to be carefully examining evidence and questioning the soundness of conclusions — regardless of one’s politics, and regardless of the issue.

With climate change, one worries that this isn’t happening.

1 Comment »

  1. I think scientific publishing probably has a trade off between restricting the publication of shoddy work and not censoring unpopular opinions that do not serve the clique in power.

    I would argue that science journals publishing garbage is not a problem so long as the journal articles are not directly implemented in ways that have an effect on human welfare. My understanding is that historically and ideally, engineers mediated the interface between scientists and human welfare. Engineers can read science journals, or textbooks compiled from a mixture of journals and practice, and hopefully apply what they read in the context of lessons learned from the engineering tribal culture. A practicing engineer is hopefully not making their money from scientific publishing, hence hopefully not caught up in academic publishing culture, and hopefully hence caught up in less of this bullshit.

    The AGW question is fluid mechanics and heat transfer, based on statistical estimates of temperature, with certain simplifying assumptions and assumptions about boundary conditions. Chemical and Mechanical engineers do both fluid mechanics and heat transfer, in subtly different ways. The solar astronomers have some interesting things to say about the outer boundary condition. Go to statisticians for statistics. There is some interesting stuff in deep geology, but I’m not certain how tightly funding for those guys is coupled with that for AGW research. Yes, the oilfield does fund geological work, but I’m not sure if there is anyone who actually counts as disinterested.

    Comment by BobtheRegisterredFool — 11/16/2018 @ 6:29 pm

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