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Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?

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naveen24
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naveen24   2/17/2010 8:54:37 AM
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Good observation! But Predection of climate involves a huge number of variables some of them we even do not know. I think as Climate Research will progress Scientist will be able to predict about climate more confidently. Even a small change in some remote location can cause huge changes in other part. Yes it is true that controlled experiments are very few in this area but it will be developed with time. And I think saying Climate Science is not science is wrong.

bill1230
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bill1230   2/17/2010 5:14:52 PM
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there seems to be a disingenuous jump from scientific theory to science, the process. in the article, the author only gives his definition of scientific theory, but doesn't say what he think is science. from the reasoning given, it seems the argument presented is that theories on the causes of global warming does not meet the author's definition of a scientific theory. that is quite different from condemning the entire scientific study of climate change as non science.

george.leopold
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george.leopold   2/17/2010 6:11:54 PM
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(A reader sent the following letter to the editor responding to Bill Schweber's opinion piece):

I cannot believe you allowed this person to write an anti-climate change article.

I'm an EE and feel I have more science in my little pinky than him... so blatently political!!

First off, he pretends to have real scientific backing by bringing up astrophysics and predict-test-observe cycle: "Due to the constraints of having only one Earth and our inability to run controlled experiments on it, climate researchers can't do that. .....This capability is not available for long-term climate research. Therefore, it isn't science."

Let's be clear: astrophysicists can only observe the stars, not run experiments!! Climate scientists "observe" hundreds of thousands of core samples which cover many years of our planets history. They use highly sophistcated scientific instruments. They can run "models" that try to emulate the change they "observe" and correlate with those samples.

'Climate researchers point to "up" data as confirming their theory, while dismissing "down" data as mere noise or localized fluctuations within the bigger picture. In other words, all data‚??whether up or down--maps to the desired conclusion. '

This author is clearly expressing a biased opinion... I **seriously** doubt he reads all the journals and published papers and checks references. Most climate data is **openly** available for public scrutiny. The recent "scandal" on tv involves one group's analysis of this public data that other groups have also analyzed.

There is so much real science behind the study of climate and you allowed this ignoramus to publish his fallacious views.... I have lost all respect for this magazine.... You basically allowed him to disparage a large group of dedicated researchers who spend many years studying statistical math and science in college.

My opinion: this writer should not be allowed to post an editorial ever again and should keep their ultra-conservative blather out of this once-respected magazine.
-Ian

JMWilliams
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JMWilliams   2/17/2010 6:17:16 PM
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Good points here, although theory per se isn't science unless associated with objective data, somehow. Theory and mathematics go together, but neither can be science without at least a prediction of what data would reveal. The greatest offense against the meaning of "science" is "political science", which should be described more as a combination of history and geography with descriptions of current events. Just because statistics is used to analyze current events doesn't make it science. When a political science theory fails to hold, the result usually is excuses, not better or disproven theory. Hence, lack of objectivity.

BicycleBill
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BicycleBill   2/17/2010 6:36:08 PM
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Thanks for your comments. Wishing something is so doesn't make it so. I'd still like to see the controlled, repeatable, rigorous science-qualified experiments used to validate the theories and models. And using observed data to create mels, then using the same or related data sets to validate the models, doesn't count.--Bill

anon9303122
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anon9303122   2/17/2010 7:30:09 PM
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Ian is a great example of shouting down the messenger. Thank you for posting his tirade. As long as you don't fully subscribe to his line of thought you are a heretic, a flat-earther, an unlearned person, etc. First off, Ian can't read. Bill makes no assertions to whether man-caused climate change is real or not. His point is to challenge it's scientific basis. As he also challenges the fields of political science, social science, and so on. Take a valium dude.

leveles
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leveles   2/17/2010 8:43:42 PM
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Emulators and simulators. In every other endeavour new such software packages have to pass a battery of tests I call "hindcasts", before released on the unsuspecting users and public. "Hindcasts" consist of a collection hard-won real data cases, successes and failures, all known and verified data. The new software has to pass, and predict all the cases correctly. If you want a well publicised case, the then new ADA compiler program spent as much on and with the verification package, as with the actual compiler. It is called complex, unwieldy, etc. But it works, like a clockwork, with high confidence. Another one was the IBM work on the space shuttle computers. Again, at least as much was invested in testing and verification, as in other aspects of the program. The results speak for themselves. Hard-won data is available for climate simulators in the Antarctic and Greenland ice drillings for the last million years with quite good details thanks to a worldwide effort. Lesser quality data is avaliable going back to the beginning of the dinosaurs. And obviously, the last 100 (or four) years are increasingly precisely mapped. Plenty of hard data scenarios in the 3 mentioned epochs to develop packages to run the models against. Was it done? Nah. When, finally the sceptics in the field pressed hard, the various models were compared with each others. Done! That is what passes for quality control in academia. Last few years it was reported by astronomy, that all planets and moons warm and cool in the same fashion, with hard data. Strongly indicating Sun as the source. The groupthink grown up around the models rejected it, as it did not fit with the models. By the way, the ADA and IBM examples were developed by industry with hard consequences for success or failure. Academia in general is famous for the lack of it. If we consider it being the home of (frequently chaotic by its nature) basic inquiries, then the development of models affecting our futures is fundamentally irresponsible in that environment. That you do not think, I pick only on this, let's take look at SPICE. It came out of the Berkeley college environment. No sytematic development, not really handling nonlinearities right, general problems with convergence to the right result, flat contradiction of real, known data are abound. Used, for the lack of anything better. Just consider the source, and pass your judgement.

pfiekowsky
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pfiekowsky   2/17/2010 9:53:43 PM
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Pure politics, this piece is. Is social science a science? Is computer science a science? We technologists (and world citizens) don't professionally care what you or your opinionator call it. Is the world warming up? Are the ice caps melting? Everyone agrees "yes" as far as I can tell. Can we reduce global warming through our actions? Everyone seems to agree "Yes". As technologists and citizens, let's do it! There are politicos who don't want to take action. There always have been and always will be. It doesn't matter what their reason is. There were politicos who argued (and still argue) for slavery, etc. Let them argue argue word meanings and God's intentions while WE slow down climate change for our children. Friends--let's accelerate our actions (which have been pretty awesome already in the last year or two). And let the arguers argue on their own time. Editors--continue keeping us informed, not opinionated.

PetrosT
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PetrosT   2/17/2010 9:56:12 PM
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Thank you for posting Mr. Schweber's article. This subject sorely needs open discussion, and I'm glad to see it.

Ian233
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Ian233   2/17/2010 10:24:50 PM
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Wow... all these anti-climate folks out of the woodwork... BuyerDude is clearly the worst. First, what evidence was put forth that climate science is not a science? You say a reasonable person should be able to question the validity, but not a *single* argument was made to support your belief!! A reoccuring argument above is the lack of observable data. There are thousands of core samples, each with valid observable data. Just because it's historical doesn't make it any less valid. Since Einstein was cited, look at them as little laboratory experiments run backwards in time instead of forward... it's all relative, right? Anyways, I seriously doubt any of you have even an idea of how much data has been gathered and analyzed over the years and it's all public! I haven't seen a nuclear explosion... I don't see x-rays... I don't see quantum entanglement... yet I believe in them... I am, however, aware of the massive amount of "observed data" and statistical analysis studying the climate. One commenter said statistics don't count... can you imagine a world where scientists didn't use statistics? What do you think quantum mechanics is all about? Remember "Intelligent Design"? The "arguments" I've seen here are so similar it's scary. A group of ignorant people complaining about science not being science, saying their "true" motive is to debate when in fact they put forth no real counterpoints and disguise their real intentions. My beef, though, is with the editors for allowing one editor publish his dribble in an electrical engineer mag... I really don't expect to convince the others here and know that no amount of scientific reasoning will ever convince them. -Ian

kr6x
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kr6x   2/17/2010 10:41:30 PM
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Photons have mass and move at the speed of light. Passing a massive object such as a star, a photon will surely have it's path altered. For the moment, we'll call this gravitational attraction. One of the models used by astrophysicists to describe the cause of the altered path of the photon's travel is "curvature of space-time". You see, in Einstein's miracle year, light would have been described as an electromagnetic wave rather than as photons, and there would have been no assumption that light had any mass whatsoever. Thus, no such thing as gravitational attraction for light was understood. The answer was to propose "curvature of space-time". Astrophysicists continue to describe gravity as "curvature of space-time", and perhaps this is correct. On the other hand, in a quantum physics age, the phenomenon that confirmed Einstein?s theory can just as conveniently be modeled as "gravitational attraction" in a Newtonian sense, and if variability?s in the passage of time are accounted for in the star's gravity field, Newtonian calculations of the motion of the photons present results that are the equal of any based on "curvature of space-time". Thus, even the description of Astrophysics presented in the article as being based on scientific method -- hypothesis, experiment and results -- might also be viewed as failing to disprove the earlier Newtonian model. Of and by itself, this does not disprove "curvature of space-time". Instead, when properly updated both models predict the same result. The trouble with "climate science" is not that it is not science -- sorry for the double negative, but here it communicates my meaning better. "Climate science" is no less science than Astrophysics. The problem is instead that the relative influence of man's activities here on Earth to Nature's influence is not clearly understood. We know that deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, and many other activities of man have some influence on worldwide temperatures. What we don't know is whether the activities of man have insignificant influence by comparison to Nature's influence. We also don't know whether man's influence is positive or negative. You see, "global warming" might mean an unprecedented age of new benefits to mankind. It might, for instance, mean vastly increased opportunities for food production with mountains and deserts blooming under worldwide increases in rainfall. I would have to complain that only alarmists are predicting otherwise. We are observing a period of some warming, apparently. We're not sure how much, how long it will continue, or whether it is natural or alternately man's influence. However, at this point in time we also don't have any reason to believe warming is a negative in the big scheme of things. Certainly global warming threatens New Orleans, the Florida Keys and South Florida beaches due to their low-lying terrain. But, warming might possibly be of great benefit to man. Certainly, mankind's experience during "the Little Ice Age" suggests that warming just might possibly be a very good thing, indeed. Now, I'm not suggesting any rash action. We all should fear a tip toward an ice age more than global warming, but we have no reason to believe that any kind of a tip in climate is a positive thing. No one has done the science yet.

RobRoyJJ
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RobRoyJJ   2/17/2010 11:09:08 PM
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I tried to find what scientific credentials Bill Schweber has but could not, of course most editors aren't scientists. I'm not sure how much time he has spent reviewing scientific studies of climate. After reading his article, i can't imagine even taking him serious. His argument says nothing about the validity of "man-made global warming" (gw). He cites no example where methodology or intepretation of data are wrong. He simply argues climate science is not actually science, while inferring that it is a discipline. Well NASA, who i find immensely more credible, has on their payroll dozens if not hundreds of scientists who study the climate. A prime example is James Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in NYC, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center, Earth Sciences Division. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. (ripped from wiki) I know who Dr. Hansen is because he has been outspoken about the perils of gw and the Bush admin tried to prevent him from speaking out. What an insult to say to this civil servant that his discipline is not a science! It's also an insult to NASA and Columbia. The department he works for at Columbia is Earth and Environmental Sciences, i suppose schweber would find them dubious as well because science is in the name. In fact, climatology is a science. Look it up. Of course all this, as with schweber's opinion piece, is semantics and has nothing to do with causes of gw. If you are serious about criticizing the validity of gw then read what Dr. Hansen has to say on the subject and see if you really disagree with him. i actually agree, as does Hansen, we cannot prove gw is caused by man. Though, what theory can be proven? The object of research is to determine if a theory can be disproven, not proven. schweber seems to think Einstein's theories have been proven. They have not, they are not laws. Regardless of causes for gw, does that give coal-burning power plants the green light to pump as much waste into our atmosphere as would be dictated by profit margins?? All this bickering is really just subterfuge to allow the polluters of our air to continue without a care. I find that neither conservative nor wise!

MButts
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MButts   2/17/2010 11:10:21 PM
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What makes the climate change issue so intensively important is that we get no second chances from mother nature. Earth's climate is a complex non-linear system that we don't completely understand. Best case, if it turns out to not matter but the world goes green anyway, we've shifted from combustion to electric technology, and made lots of good work for EEs and electronics businesses. Worst case, today's climate science is correct but humans ignore it, we push Earth's non-linear climate into a different mode that we can't it out of, and the human race is cooked. (See Venus.) Pick one now - no second chances.

c_c_dumas
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c_c_dumas   2/18/2010 12:50:47 AM
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Climate isn‚??t science? I went to Merriam-Webster on line and looked it up. There was no indication that science is limited to hypothesis-begets-demonstration like the writer claims. What is unscientific about measuring the ability of CO2 to capture heat in contrast to the traditional mix of atmospheric gasses? What is unscientific about the hypothesis that we‚??re mining carbon rich materials and releasing it into the atmosphere? Obvious but not unscientific! How about a hypothesis that claims that this behavior will result in increased atmospheric temperatures and further demonstrated by reduction in glacier sizes? And then we check those glacier sizes? I‚??ve heard that CO2 may not be the cause. Remember Occam‚??s razor, the simplest explanation tends to be the best one. Perhaps temperature increases are due to unknown fluctuations of unknown stellar phenomenon that are naturally heating the earth. The simplest explanation though is that the stuff we know that we‚??re putting into the atmosphere, that we know retains heat, and we know is building in concentration is responsible for things like glaciers melting which we know is occurring. Chris

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Agent J   2/18/2010 1:08:23 AM
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"Thud" is the sound of this article hitting the readership. What made Bill Schweber think this poorly-researched opinion piece belonged in EETimes? Maybe he should re-read the EE Times' editorial mission statement: ‚??‚?¶ to provide engineers and technical managers with timely, relevant news, analysis and opinion - of both technology and business - to help them keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and to enable them to make the most informed business, technology and product decisions involving their designs.‚?Ě I urge him to think twice before going rogue on us in the future. -J

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Grainger   2/18/2010 2:06:37 AM
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Thank you Bill for addressing this issue. It was fun reading the responses as well. I really love it when those who have worshiped at the AGW altar come unglued. They begin to sound even more unreasonable than they normally do. AGW is intelligent design for the secular crowd.

someEmbeddedGuy
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someEmbeddedGuy   2/18/2010 2:10:25 AM
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Liked the editorial... There are many contradictory data points concerning climate change... An incomplete model that makes for an interesting hypothesis. Is the Earth warming? Is man causing that warming? I like Bill Schweber don't know. What I do know is that we can't continue consuming fossil fuels forever. The supply is not infinite. Our environment and collective health continues to be damaged by the by-products created from combustion of carbon based fuels. Is C02 one of these damaging by-products? I don't know... What I do know is that if we reduce (or even eliminate) our consumption of fossil fuels we will reduce not only C02 emissions but all of the other nasty stuff we know kills us. In the end, the emotion and fervor which the climate change evangelists preach their science does more to dissuade than to persuade me of their argument. I hear far to much volume with far too little data. It is unfortunate that the loudest voices in that argument are those with law degrees, not the PhD's in hard science that we need to be hearing from. And to Ian, science without healthy debate is not...

eng_cto
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eng_cto   2/18/2010 6:04:35 AM
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The claim by Mr. Schweber that he isn't arguing about the conclusions of climate scientists is disingenuous. The logical conclusion of his article is that if climate science isn't a science, then its well studied conclusions can just be treated as opinions. He's saying that its okay to ignore all the evidence and scientific studies. Okay, let's pretend we can't do anything about global warming. Step back for a second and look at the growth curves of Chinese and Indian energy consumption. Then look at the rate of development of new oil reserves. How can a logical person (scientific or not) not think that we need to do everything possible to help remove our dependence on foreign oil through conservation and development of renewable sources of energy? The oil companies are spending lots of money to muddy the waters about climate change. Articles like this do nothing to bring clarity to the many real energy problems we face.

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Caregiver   2/18/2010 6:56:30 AM
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The petition project, petitionproject.org which was signed by 31K US scientists including 9K+ PhD holders. I was wondering, whether some of the respondents think all these guys are paid by oil companies and they willing agreed to destroy the world by taking bribes? . IF some group of people dont agree with your "scientific analysis" then destroy them and dont let the media publish their views. hah? This kind of "I know it all, you betta listen to me" people are the real idiots.

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SPLatMan   2/18/2010 7:23:22 AM
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And Darwin's theory of evolution?

mwarier
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mwarier   2/18/2010 8:05:28 AM
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When somebody froths at the mouth and says something like this: "My opinion: this writer should not be allowed to post an editorial ever again and should keep their ultra-conservative blather out of this once-respected magazine." it is a red flag that the guy is not even remotely interested in science. By the way, the climate "scientists" at the CRU precisely did this to skeptical scientists, at a higher level. I agree with Bill Schwaber that whatever the data says, they always somehow magically fit the models. Freezing winters? The models say so. Blazing summers? The models again say so. No warming since '95? That's ok for the models too! This is not science! BTW, ever noticed how 'Global Warming' conveniently morphed into 'Climate Change'? Climate has been changing from the time of Big Bang. So the "scientists" can shout from the tree tops that their models predicted it.

jackOfManyTrades
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jackOfManyTrades   2/18/2010 8:22:12 AM
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Will you be publishing articles claiming that evolutionary biology is not a science too? After all, there's only one earth and you can't run experiments... Shame on you EE-Times for publishing such ignorant nonsense.

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patrick.mannion   2/18/2010 1:19:15 PM
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I know I'll never read all the papers on the subject, pro or con. If so many smart people spend so much time on the matter and still can't reach an definitive conclusion, then I'm not going to waste my time retreading their steps. Like most of us, I have a fulltime job and a family. However, I do know the climate has always been changing, warming and cooling. The question, which is getting lost here a little, is to what degree are humans causing these changes, and is it harmful. By campaigning under global warming' Greenies made the mistake of hitching their wagon to the weather and now it's turned on them (ask the folks in Washington when they dig out of their igloos). The Greenies underlying intent is admirable and worthy, but it gets marred by the extremists and the politics and economics that go along with it, with oft-times misleading statements and arguments to push an agenda. It becomes a full-time job just to sort through the B.S. Every statement that comes from either camp has to be viewed with a jaundiced eye. It's a mess. However, I do think we spend so much time arguing for or against climate change, that we miss the opportunity to do more on a day to day basis. As one commentator said in this chain, we have done tremendous work on the ground so far in raising the social conscience and changing attitudes. But there's so much more to do. I live on Long Island, and I don't bring my kids fishing as we can't eat what we catch. Especially not the local fresh-water fish. The last time I swam in Long Island Sound, I got a rash all across my abdomen. Every year, we close a majority of the beaches due to human fecaes in the water. When trying to enjoy the ocean from the confines of the beach, I run my fingers through the sand only to pick up two or three cigarette butts. I fly in to major cities every other month and I get nauseated looking at the waterways and what we've done to them, knowing that little or nothing will ever get done because so much energy is spent on the climate agenda. I have my thoughts on what energy options should be explored, but if I voice them here, it'll incite another round of hate mail and the point will be lost again. There's so much more to be done at a local level to 'save the earth'. Efforts with clear goals and concrete, absolute results (what engineer or scientist doesn't like the sound of that??). Conserve energy, pick up your garbage, don't waste water, get active in local clean-up operations and push your local politicians to do the same (find out who's dumping mercury in your water!) etc. etc. The list at this level is endless and the results will change the environmental impact for the better at a grassroots level. But while finding alternative energy is an important goal, arguing for/against climate change is so much more fun...academically speaking.

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mdoneill   2/18/2010 2:15:57 PM
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Wow, what a disappointment. I expected a piece written by an engineer in an engineering publication to bring some rigor to a discussion that sorely needs it. I was happy to leave aside any statements on the validity of man-made global warming and just focus on how rigorous climate study is as a science. But the author lays out his strict definition of science, states that neither climate science nor astrophysics meets it, and concludes that climate science is not a science but astrophysics is. So much for rigor. It's just an opinion piece, but it seems that the author threw "science" into the headline to enhance the credibility of his particular opinion.

c_c_dumas
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c_c_dumas   2/18/2010 2:18:16 PM
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I agree with Patrick. There's a plethora of things we can do immediately in order to make a difference in our environment. It's this nearly decade of denial that gets my emotions inflamed. As I see it, natural warming or man-induced warming is not necessarily relevant. What we must do is reduce our effects on the environment in order to assure a healthy continuity of life on our planet. Chris

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lij9   2/18/2010 3:52:01 PM
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I am EE and good to see this kinda article here. I am not an expert in climate change, but I see there are lot of climate scientists who disagree with the fundamentals of man made global warming theory. I am not sure, why some people like to choose one side and bash the other, when there is no consensus within these experts themselves. It seems to me this side-choosing is made on personal tastes and beliefs rather than a detailed analysis of the claims of these experts. And even if someone does analyze the expert views, it is hard to choose a side without blindly accepting some of their claims. Anyways, coming to the idea of emission cuts and carbon taxes on the developing world to prevent global warming, is NEVER going to work. China & Developing World + Africa will simply reject US proposal for the foreseeable future just as what happened in Copenhagen.

leveles
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leveles   2/18/2010 4:18:24 PM
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I find the commentaries interesting and telling. Telling in not going in on the examples I offered before in this thread. So, to see, who is deals preferably in phantasies, and who is willing to deal with real hard facts, I will double down on my examples. The first is the IBM work on the flight computers for the space shuttle. It is an example of a MODEL built and executed by real industry and its people. 1a,. There was no prior experience, no prior model to follow. 2a,. It had to work the first time and every time, flawlessly. 3a,. The science was lacking in many areas, as such a flying object was entirely new, and had to fly hypersonic, successfully. 4a,. Testing of testables, and the what ifs consumed as much as the rest of the program. Now, onto the climate MODELS developed in academic environment. How do they stack up? 1b,. Same. There was no prior experience to follow. 2b,.It is a well published patching, fitting and trying. Having to perform out out of the gate right? Are you kidding me? 3b,. The science was lacking large patches. They are being filled in steadily. See Arctic drilling data as an example. Be careful, what you wish for, because it shows, that temperature change precedes CO2 change. Other data shows, that earlier there was pleasant and cold epoches entirely independently of CO2 concentrations. 4b,. Testing of testables and the what ifs consumed the rest of the program. Now, you are really pulling my leg! None of the above! Such things are just not done in academic exercises. Now, MODEL building is as much science - or as little - in both cases. Other than that, they are day and night. So, now the loudly convinced ones come around and yell to follow them wherever, to do whatever, costing us whatever fortunes?? Well, I met you before, and without exception I found you not to be doer or a creator. Rather a yeller and exhorter with clean fingernails demanding your particular dreams produced by us peons. What a hutzpa! Well, buddy, it is do it yourself now. When you,I mean YOU from your own effort produce anything worthwhile, I will applaud you. Until then, get out of my face and get out of my pocket! For people, who do not believe that candy grows on trees, that we have unlimited time and treasury for whatever purpose, I recommend an economist's book: Bjorn Lomborg: Global Crises, Global Solutions. Let yourself be surprised, how the economics of various models look like, and what the rest of the world is thinking about their future. Rest assured, they think for themselves, without waiting for "leadership" of the self anointed. p.s: Just received an offer to buy stock in a to be built vast midwestern wind farm and new, 760kVolt transmission system. The prospectus informs, the government fully underscribes it, in case of failure. Let's see: the profits are private, the risks are all backed by the taxpayers. Wow! Buddy, that is you kind of leadership, until you loudly, publicly and effectively denounce it.

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eng_cto   2/18/2010 4:25:26 PM
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To John_787, While I'm worried about the US and its dependence on foreign energy sources, the point is that the world faces real problems because the growth curves show that energy demand will surpass energy supply in the not too distant future. This will not be a smooth, painless, event, since everyone worldwide will see energy prices skyrocket (once again) due to speculation. By introducing rational economic incentives now to use energy more efficiently and to develop alternate sources of energy, we can push that day off, and perhaps lessen the impact when it occurs. People can (and do) argue about climate change, but a more pressing issue is that the way the world currently uses energy is not sustainable.

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Diarrhea   2/18/2010 5:54:54 PM
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"So, is man-made climate change happening or not? I don't know" Thanks for wasting my time. I wish you had put this sentence at the top of your article.

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HankWalker   2/18/2010 6:34:46 PM
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Climate science goes back to Svante Arrhenius, hopefully someone familiar to everyone reading this article. He first published estimates of global warming based on CO2 in 1896. Climate science does what any other natural science does - attempts to understand nature. Climate scientists take observations and attempt to understand them with known science, and then formulate hypotheses to make predictions. For example, we know that the rapid increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is due to fossil fuel burning, due to the different isotope ratios of different CO2 sources. We know from ice core data and other science that CO2 concentrations and global temperatures are highly correlated. Etc.

Milt919
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Milt919   2/18/2010 6:42:15 PM
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Nothing in science is ever "Proved". Newton's theorys of motion work very well until you reach conditions where relitivistic or quantum effects become important. A theory is kept if it is useful in understanding something and can be use as a prediction tool. By your definition of Science, astronomy is not a science because we cannot manipulate the stars and planets. Complicated systems require models for explanation and these models are subject to continued refinement. Any model will have adjustable parameters that can lead to poor conclusions if these are not bounded by measurements. This is why detailed data is required to build a useful model. In systems such as the earths climate, we cannot manipulate the system to test responses but we can make predictions and then test the model against what actually occurs. This is a very slow process but there is no alternative. In terms of policy, we need to act on the best available information (whether you call it science or not) and continue to improve that information. Saying that we don't have enough "science" (experimentation manipulating the parameters) does not mean that we will not (or our children will not) suffer the consequences of our decisions.

Avagadro
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Avagadro   2/18/2010 8:56:46 PM
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Hank Walker and pfiekowsky, While I am sure that most everyone on this board is relatively knowledgeable in "science," most of us would acknowledge that we can't accurately predict whether it will rain next week or not. So, in light of that consistency in variability, I chose to do some research on the topic of "climate change." I would respectfully recommend the following texts -written by people that probably know more than a group of EEs and Computer Science types (I fall into both of these camps). Books: Climate Confusion ‚?? Roy Spencer Shattered Consensus ‚?? Patrick Michaels ‚?? tons of data on why and how the IPCC (UN‚??s climate body) fudged the numbers on their report on global warming. Heaven and Earth - Ian Plimer I dont have an ax to grind in this discussion, but the consistency between these authors is pretty high. I found it interesting to note that the climate was actually a lot warmer years ago, well before there was "man made" CO2 and at a time where the actual levels of CO2 were significaly higher than they are today. If these "climate scientists" are correct, that would make it very difficult for someone to stand behind the assertion that CO2 concentrations are directly responsible for "global warming." Most of the assumptions related to global warming extremes are built on computer models. I dont know about you folks, but I have done a number of computer models during my career, and many times the circuits dont pay any attention to what my models are saying. There is clearly something wrong with the circuit...... Enjoy the reads!!! Regardless of what you "believe," these books will make you think, and isnt that what engineers do best?

green_is_now
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
green_is_now   2/19/2010 12:07:38 AM
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There is a science here but it is clouded (sorry couldn't help it) by the pundits and self proclaimed experts that get in the way of real scientist in the field. Point in fact is co2 experiments on a small scale prove the concept of warming with increased co2. this blanket effect is fact period. The squishness of the science is when you extrapolate this to a complex system like the earth and temp data correlated to Co2 concentrations and temperature inferred data from ice cores and again axtrapolating back and forward. This is the area that needs to be debated and shared with the average person and technologist alike. This is the area of unknown. Look at the temperature on Venus and the temperature on mercury. Venus has a blanket of SO2 that insulated the planet just as co2 does. That is why Venus is hoter than Mercury. even though it gets orders of magnitude less energy. can the scientists be overestimating the effect? Yes Can they be making up this whole thing No If they are more right than wrong, are we screwed and have over a hundred years of pain fixing the past mistakes, even if we start today. Yes Please pull your head out of the oxygen depleted heat trapping hole you have it stuck in.

AzStreak
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
AzStreak   2/19/2010 5:32:53 PM
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Respectfully Submitted, Studies in OLR (outgoing longwave IR radiation) show increased CO2 levels over the last 30 years have had little or no effect. The CO2 greenhouse claim is not a demonstrable factor according to these studies. Please refer to http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/02/the_agw_smoking_gun.html for more information.

danny1024
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
danny1024   2/20/2010 7:48:48 AM
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Undergirding the climate change hysteria is a real concern for overpopulation. Demography is destiny and it's clear that the anti-population growth programs that the West tried to establish at home and in the "developing world" failed to gain universal traction. The result is massively increased competition for scarce resources on a compressed time scale. I'm confident in human ingenuity and its ability to produce new sources of energy but human ingenuity cannot compete with human reproductive capacity! The premise of AGW is that humans can influence the climate on a global scale and presumably the more humans the greater the influence. Also, if humans can influence the climate in what is regarded as a negative way i.e. global warming, then presumably humans can also influence the climate in more positive ways. In other words, the implication of AGW is that climate engineering is theoretically possible on a global scale. Of course, the fundamental issue is who decides on which climate to engineer? Historically, natural climate change drove human migration and to a degree I think current immigration patterns reflect the fact that the West in general and the US in particular is mostly isolated from whatever climate changes are occurring. Hence, the overpopulation in the third world is spilling over into a West that achieved zero population growth in the 1960s. This reality is the primary driver for the tension between the developed and the developing world exhibited most dramatically at Copenhagen and Doha.

leveles
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
leveles   2/20/2010 11:43:58 AM
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Isn't that curious! As soon as grownups started talking, the screaming anklebiters slunk away. We offered up issues for discussion, and they could not hack it. You see, issues are difficult. They require thinking them thru, then standing up for them, exposing yourself for critique. Oh my! Enduring a critique! Us, living in real life (that means out of of academia and most of buerocracy) having to produce something meaningful, live with and compete in it. No big deal, not even friendships are broken by it. But - among mentally grownups, that is - it leads to better, enriched life for all of us. I happened not to agree with the professor at all, and differ with Danny too. No matter. They offered thoughtful comments. I am willing to agree with some, disagree with some, respectfully. And go on from there. On the other hand, I offered up for discussion a truly primitive, obscene case of "forced development". No defenders, yet. The prospectus describes a humongous midwestern wind farm and ultra high voltage transmission network. Let's take it apart, and see, how it pans out: 1,. We know, how to build power generation / transmission network for over a century. And take the risk, and reap the benefits. 2,. So, how come, that the goverment (meanig you and me, unbeknownst to me, and most likely to you) underscribes the whole thing in case of failure. 2.1,. Let me forcibly put on the thinking cap: oh, all the smart guys in the planning do not think, it can stand on its feet, eh? 2.2,. The prospectus also informs me, that 97-98% is already owned by 3 Wall Street big ones. I do not blame them. All profits private, all risks public (meaning you and me). Who can refuse such a sweet offer? 2.3,. Who is looking out for you and me? That is, beyond meaningless rhetoric? 3,. Now, the clincher. The Danish have the windiest coastlines, with the best prospectus for success. A recent economic assessment shows, that it cannot survive without swedish atomic power plant backup. And it is many times more expensive power. Why bother with it? Because nothing is produced, when wind is not blowing. Does any of you believe, we repealed mother nature here? 4,. The scale? Equivalent to 60 (as in sixty) atomic power plant. Now, why do not we simply build the 60, and be done with? It seems to me, that this brouhaha is leading toward an unfriendly divorce. So my offer for the wind / sun people is to pick the 2-3 of the sunniest and windiest states. Move there, and without any hidden tax subsidies from the rest of us - MEANING ALL ON YOUR OWN - show the rest of us bumpkins enlightenment. I promise to be in the front line to applaud, and adopt. Sorry to our editor for veering off subject (not really, not at all). And it may not even be off the subject bugging all of us.

pedro-juan
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
pedro-juan   2/24/2010 3:48:39 PM
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Your arguments are very narrow minded and largely driven by ignorance. How do you think the climate scientist test their climate models? They run them on data from the past and check to see if the model can explain what has been already observed and the model is especially reliable if it explains something that no other model has adequately explained before, just as in astrophysics. The climate data from the past can be derived from ice cores, tree rings, rock beds etc. It is clear to me that the climate change discussion has raised some uncomfortable choices for us and our way of living but don't shoot the messanger because you don't like the news

FBG
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
FBG   2/24/2010 3:50:21 PM
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A major recent report of the subject of hurricanes and global warming is touted as a "consensus" between the "Global warming is causing more and stronger storms" and the "No, it doesn't" camps. Science is also not a democracy and is not subject to popular vote. People who engage in such are engaged in politics, not science.

FBG
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
FBG   2/24/2010 3:53:29 PM
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Pedro-juan: "Correlation does not imply causality". A lot of people, including the climate scientists, seem to have forgotten that.

Task
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Task   2/24/2010 4:34:20 PM
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Mr. Schweber, You might find an article by the late Micahel Crichton both interesting and supportive called "Aliens Cause Global Warming" which is about how a combination of things that look like science as well as politics result in bad science and bad policies. (It is at www.michaelcrichton.net/speech-alienscauseglobalwarming.) However, I disagree with your generous treatment of astrophysics (especially the cosmology branch). I also wonder if some areaqs of atomic physics such as string theory can be called a scientific endeavor anymore either (20+ years and hardly any proposed experiments that can be tested.) There is way too much cute mathematics for its own sake and overly complex theory in some fields. Just because a quadratic equation has two answers doesn't mean both answers describe reality. Thank-you! TK

katgod
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
katgod   2/24/2010 8:59:46 PM
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Do not forget that even when science is done as Bill Schweber states it is still fallible but I do agree with him. I also think FBG makes a good point.

WKetel
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
WKetel   2/25/2010 3:22:00 AM
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I think that the point about cause and effect is very applicable here. It is quite reasonable tha global warming causes increased carbon dioxide. Has anybody done any testing, or even deep thinking, about that? My other comment, about the "concensous", is that a lot of these people were the same ones, 15 years ago, who were screaming about how our use of so much energy, and our more comfortable lifestyle, were "just totally immoral", given that many people in th8ird world countries don't have it as easy as we do. I do not accept the assertion that I am guilty because the poor people in other parts of the world do not have as nice a life as I do. I may wonder what I can do FOR them, and pity them, but I don't feel guilty about the difference in our comfort levels. The scientific method would require an assertion of a hypothesis, and then, if not experiments to prove or disprove it, at least a study of a lot of relevant data to lead to knowledge that would either validate or disprove the theory. I have not seen that in the global warming argument.

Jonitron
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Jonitron   2/25/2010 1:57:27 PM
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Well Said. Science has become a key word that says "you cannot question this", when science is mostly a questioning process. The "modeling" is somthing that drives me crazy. The only "models" we have that actually work well are derived from years of actual experience wtih actual outcomes or events. If the earth is a billion years old, then our sample size for climate change modeling is not enough to even bother looking at. Just think, whether you think it was a few thousand or few million years ago, there was an "ice age", at which time the average temperature was at least below freezing. How did we warm up without evil men and thier cars?

HankWalker
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
HankWalker   2/25/2010 4:45:42 PM
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If you spent any time talking to atmospheric science faculty, you would not be asking the question posed in your title. They collect measurements, attempt to understand physical relationships, and build models that explain the data, then make and check predictions. The real science has been mixed up with politics and the fact that a lot of the predictions are really inconvenient. Some of my colleagues who do not want to deal with these inconveniences like to say that the complex climate simulations are not very accurate, but they ignore the fact that much climate research uses analytical models that have evolved over many decades. In my experience, atmospheric scientists are well prepared to respond to reasoned questions about their research. The problem is that most of the questions and objections, sadly including those from many engineers, come from a position of nearly complete ignorance of the actual research.

antiquus
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
antiquus   2/25/2010 8:08:42 PM
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I agree with your comments about atmospheric science, but I must say that astrophysics falls into a very gray area. While there are many reports that are clearly in line with scientific methods, much of the popular work is mere speculation. For example, this article http://bit.ly/donAoM uses the word "super-earth", suggesting that the body is a kin to our planet. When you read later in the article, however, you find that it is 6.5x mass, 2.7x diameter, and considerably hotter. This marketing-speak is repeated with every discovery, and easily found in the press. Also, every such announcement is accompanied by a full-color glossy picture of the new earth, giving the very misleading impression that the spectacular imaging is routine. Nothing could be further from the truth. I conclude that the astrophysics community is very divided in their adherence to the scientific method. The pre-ordained conclusion is that life exists elsewhere, and no published discovery will fail to remind us that we seek to discover that "truth", regardless of the facts at hand.

Inspector13
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Inspector13   3/3/2010 8:56:01 AM
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I agree with this viewpoint. What I find inexcusable about the whole issue is that politicians jump on this, and other fashionable bandwagons, to enhance their credibility. At present, in the UK, this is leading to the implementation of more rules and regulations for all of us and is generating a new industry sector, which is founded on nothing but speculation. I do think that there are real benefits to be had and that we should explore alternative energy production and more sustainable manufacturing techniques but I fear that the whole issue might be dropped like a stone when the next belief system comes along. If we simply stopped spreading panic, through the media, and behaved intelligently, we could consolidate our efforts into achieving a realistic and lasting improvement in our behaviour.

frankmlinar
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
frankmlinar   3/4/2010 12:32:40 PM
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This article is deliberately vague and misleading. For the life of me I cannot figure out how anyone can consider global warming as speculation. There is simply too much data describing it. There are too many experiments predicting its consequences and sources. To hide behind narrow attempts at defining a single word is irresponsible.

Aravind2781
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Aravind2781   3/4/2010 3:17:00 PM
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Venus as a planet is a proof that some of you are asking about. It has high amounts of Carbon Di oxide and it is the hottest planet in the solar system. Earths atmosphere is lot more complex and is therefore not an apples to apples comparison. But, please dont think that the causality of global warming due to CO2. Also, noise is an inherent part of any experiemtn, obviously one with such a large scale. If Bill has measured any electronic devices he will definitely have noticed the differences among supposedly similar devices. It is accepted without question that some of the data is noise based on what we expect out of theory. Why cant the same be pplied towards climate science.. yeah I said science...

MannyL
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
MannyL   3/4/2010 11:57:30 PM
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To frankmlinar, this article is not vague or misleading. The article simply describes how the climate change frenzy is based on something that can't really be described as science. Give us one credible experiment that shows we're headed for doomsday because of man-made global warming. Where has the scientific method been followed? The scientific method as you know starts off with step 1 making a hypothesis, then step 2 performing experiment(s), then step 3 observing and recording data from the experiment(s) without bias, then step 4 forming a conclusion based on the data either proving or disproving the hypothesis. Step 5 would be a branching step where if the data does not support the hypothesis, one should go back and re-evaluate and perhaps reform the hypothesis and run the experiment again based on the new hypothesis. If the data supports the hypothesis, then the question of repeatability comes up. That's when you publish your report to have other scientists look at it, debate it, and do the exact same experiment to see if they were able to get to the same conclusion. Now, let's go through why this climate "science" is far from being a science. First, step 2 is impossible to do with our limited technology. We cannot make a scale model earth complete with an atmosphere, gravity, plants and animals (don?t forget the polar bears), ice on the poles, a molten core, salinity in the oceans, the sun being the exact distance and warmth, etc. exactly like earth and then somehow add CO2 to see what happens. We're not gods and to think that we are, is arrogant. Second and even worse, since we're limited to only observing this earth (as opposed to the experimental earth) what these so-called scientists do for step 3 is irresponsible when they?re manipulating data to fit their hypothesis of man-made global warming. That?s what the whole climate-gate was all about. Also, did you know that a few decades ago, they took data from all 6000 temperature stations worldwide to calculate the average global temperature, but today they're only taking data from 1500 stations where the temperatures are warmest? If you did that, of course your average temps would seem like they were going higher than in decades past. The rest of the 4500 stations are still working and collecting data, but these pseudo scientists have dumped the data from their overall calculation as "bad" data. What part of being an unbiased observer is that? No data is "bad" data from a real scientists' perspective. It simply is what it is. You said there's too much data? I say there's not enough real data! Lastly, step 5, the peer review, where they're supposed to share and discuss with other scientists the data they had collected. These so-called scientists dismiss any scientist who has a differing hypothesis. Only the hypothesis that we have man-made global warming is accepted. It's like we're back in the days of Galileo when it was widely accepted that the earth was at the center of the universe. Galileo was placed under house arrest for heresy when he had his heliocentric idea and no one wanted to hear his differing hypothesis. Real scientists who follow the scientific method normally have debates about the topics in their field. Believe it or not, there's still an on-going scientific debate over the Big Bang. But oh no, we can't have a debate over the climate and the dissenting scientists are shut out and dismissed in favor of this highly politicized junk science. How unscientific of them and they call themselves scientists. Debate is at the heart of the scientific community. So yes, I agree that this man-made global warming IS nothing more than speculation. It hasn?t been vetted through the scientific method and it certainly hasn?t been debated. What isn't speculation is nature-made global warming, and global cooling for that matter. I am in favor of being clean, meaning finding alternative methods of energy and reducing pollution, but this change must happen gradually, with incentives, not draconian rules, and for the right reasons. Abrupt changes will destroy entire industries and economies, which will destroy countless people's lives and drive up the prices, or worse. I apologize for the long post, but I feel passionate about this having been in the sciences myself. It just really frustrates me how people can call something a science when none of the scientific conventions are followed.

kghirai
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
kghirai   3/12/2010 5:04:30 PM
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I think perhaps you have a bias against statical based research and stochastic methods. The way meteorologists validate their models is by seeding them with data from the past comparing them with observations from the present. Granted, specific mesoscale features are not very predictable in the long run but, their probabilities are. The fact is that the science is still young. We are still learning about its features: Southern ocilation (el nino), PDO, ENSO. These cycles are on the order of decades, detected from collections of data less then a century old. Climatological data is gleaned from multi-disciplined sets and is hard to normalize. Despite these difficulties, one would be a fool not to wonder, and even bigger fool not to approach it scientifically. Science is a process that leaves behind the trail of facts for one to opine on. It seems you read some lit and formed the opinion that it is not worth reading on because the facts you wanted did not seem obtainable. That is fine, but that doesn't make the discipline baseless.

green_is_now
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
green_is_now   4/2/2010 11:21:11 PM
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AzStreak Your not on the payroll of Koch industries are you? ...outgoing longwave IR radiation... Key word is outgoing here... If it gets reflected back in it does not go out ie outgoing... Your logical basis is based on a bad assumption, or purposfully misrepresenting the facts. controlled experiments have been done that prove that Co2 is a insulator and holds in heat. This has been done and validated by others. How long can the oceans soak up excessive Co2 levels? apparently for a while longer but not before most all of the corral is killed around the world. what do you think will happen to our food supply from the ocean when most all the corral is dead? and it will not return until the Co2 level drops back to pre 2000 (minimum)levels in the ocean. This will require the Co2 in the air to be reduced. This is not going to happen at least for 100 to 200 years. and this is if we do something about global warming now.

 acaimaxcleansecanada
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
acaimaxcleansecanada   11/21/2010 2:02:05 PM
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This article is deliberately vague and misleading. For the life of me I cannot figure out how anyone can consider global warming as speculation http://acaimaxcleansecanada.org/

Carlos1966
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Carlos1966   4/21/2011 7:21:55 PM
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The theory of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is ill supported by the facts but well supported by the money and the press. Why the need for witness intimidation, evidence tampering and endless repetition of the big lie if the underlying theory is so robustly supported by the facts? Carl Sagan demanded extraordinary proof for extraordinary claims. The world is ending, hand over all your money and your freedom to save it certainly qualifies as extraordinary claims. Where is the extraordinary proof - not the endlessly redone models that can't predict the past let alone the future, not the cooked data, not the neglected data - the proof? Where's the weak evidence that even consistently backs up these claims?

PaulSw
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
PaulSw   5/27/2011 6:01:18 PM
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In fact you -can- test some of climate theory. Michael Crichton proposed a simple test: using your best models, predict today what the climate will be in five or ten years. So far, no one has taken him up on the challenge.

sharps_eng
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
sharps_eng   5/28/2011 4:02:05 PM
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Precautionary principle should be followed in case of safety risks?

WKetel
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
WKetel   5/29/2011 1:11:43 AM
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One more question, something that I have not seen mentioned in this whole discussion: has anybody looked at the sun's energy output? Sunspots have been observed for years, and they had previously been some fairly regular cycles observed. Now, this last cycle seems to be different, in that there have been way fewer sunspots observed for quite a few years. It is a given that most of the energy on the earth comes from the sun. What happens if that energy delivery increases by a bit, say 0.01%? How do we measure that small a change in such a large quantity? Even worse, what can we do about it? One more comment, a really vicious one: Just consider that if "cap and trade" ever happens, whoever winds up being the broker will make more money than Bill Gates could ever dream of. Just think, a product that everybody must deal in, and only one broker, by federal mandate, and no competition. Do you suppose that my assertion about the profits are a bit low? Cap and trade will provide some small organization with enough wealth to purchase control of our country. Then where will we be?

RWatkins
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
RWatkins   5/31/2011 3:35:28 PM
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Gentlemen, there are two big problems with both sides of this argument, and both are hopelessly mired in their own egos, failing to use true science to extricate themselves. Those who are positive that man is almighty and causing great and irreversible as well as irreparable harm to the planet by changing the climate: Please look closely at recorded history. Man's written record includes many periods described as mini-ice-ages, and many other periods of extended heat and drought. Those who are positive that this as all a farce and there is nothing to fear from unlimited use of whatever resources we have been granted: Please be mindful of the history in microcosm of innumerable ventures where local resources were extracted, then the framework for extraction collapsed, with future generations unable to even put to new use the mess that was left behind without gross additional effort. For those who think that both sides are being extreme and more is going on than meets the eye, we need to ponder a few questions: 1. Where is the money coming from to finance the politics and science groups addressing this issue? If it is from industry, what does that industry have to gain? Look into the banning of freon and other ozone depleting (yes, that was reasonably proven) substances to understand why in a few short years politics can do an about-face. A bunch of patents expired globally, and big money was there for a new generation of patents for what would have been lower performing compounds, except they were less-zone-depleting. 2. What is to be gained politically by jumping on the "man is causing irreparable climate change" bandwagon? That is not to say that we are not, as can readily be seen by looking at the environmental history of the Arabian peninsula. Politics dictate providing an issue that people can gather under a banner for, that is divisive enough to be "sexy", and that will garner financial backing as well (see item 1).

Quickbadger
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re: Opinion: Is 'climate science' really science?
Quickbadger   6/6/2011 10:28:19 PM
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Teh whole "hole in the ozone layer" thing was a good example of bad science - Freon may, in fact, destroy ozone, but is much (greater than 12x) heavier than air. nobody has yet to describe how Freon (which is used in closed loop cooling systems) can defy gravity and reach the ozone layer in concentrations enough to make a hole. Oh, and by the way, the hole is only over Antartica. This is an example of politically motivated enties ceazing on a new discovery (ozone layer hole), casting scientific investigation aside, and jumping to a political goal. I would love to see the real AGW data and provide an informed perspective, but that's right; no one has made the data available to the public. I defy anyone to provide this "scientific" data that so many (supposedly) have come to a consensus about! BTW - if you have a 'consensus' in science, you probably need a second opinion.

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