Science Is Not A Matter Of Opinion

Mitch Berg highlights a petition in which thousands of scientists state their opposition to the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

The problem with both the theory and the petition opposing it is that consensus has nothing to do with science. It doesn’t matter what the scientific community thinks about the issue, what matters is whether a result is reproducible and fits the observed world.

The scientific “consensus” in the 19th Century was that light had to have some kind of medium to move through in the same way that sound waves need air to travel. Except in 1897, the Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that there is no such “aether”. Most importantly, that result is reproducible by anyone. That is how science is supposed to be conducted.

The “consensus” about global warming is not science. It has nothing to do with science. It is opinion, and nothing but. Anthropogenic global warming theory says that the increase in global temperatures should cause oceanic warming which should drive more frequent and powerful hurricanes. Except the data doesn’t support that contention—ocean temperatures are not rising as AGM theory would expect them to and there’s no hard evidence that global warming would have any significant effect on hurricanes at all.

The difference between opinion and science is that science isn’t about “saving the world” (that sort of thing is for cheesy Sci-Fi movies), but about observation and experimentation. If global warming were subjected to serious scientific inquiry (rather than self-interested “studies” based on limited computer models), most of it would fall apart under the weight of its own hyperbole.

There’s an easy way to add scientific rigor to the study of global warming—make it double-blind. The team that comes up with the model should not be the one verifying it. Instead, the model should be evaluated by two separate teams—one using real-world data and the other using random data. If both detect a warming trend, there’s reason to believe that the model being used is flawed. The IPCC’s infamous “hockey stick” graph is an example of a theory that could have been easily debunked in that way—if the same algorithm used to create that graph is fed purely random data it still produces the same “hockey stick” pattern. It wasn’t that there was a dramatic surge in global temperatures in the last century, it was that the algorithm was faulty.

So long as global warming advocates continue to treat global warming “deniers” as akin to Holocaust deniers, they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Real scientists don’t belittle alternative theories and skepticism, they welcome it. Skepticism and empiricism is the foundation of hard science.

It doesn’t matter what any given group of scientists think, what matters is what the data shows. The reality is that the data does not support the theory that humanity has caused an unprecedented warming trend in the Earth’s climate. The reality is that we don’t fully or completely understand how Earth’s climate works. We don’t know how ocean currents and wind systems like El Nino and La Nina affect the global climate. We don’t fully understand the relationship between solar activity cycles and climate. Anyone who says that they can say with absolute certainty that human activity is raising temperatures is a charlatan. We simply don’t have all the evidence, all we have are guesses, and guesses that so far aren’t being matched by empirical evidence.

The planet is on a warming trend, but we don’t fully understand the scope, the cause, and we certainly aren’t about to be wiped off the Earth by a temperature change that’s paltry in comparison to historical changes in climate like the Medieval Warm Period or the massive disruptions in climate caused by the Krakatoa explosion in the 19th Century. It may be a perfectly good idea to minimize CO2 emissions regardless of whether anthropogenic global warming is right or not, but we shouldn’t be basing policy on blatant fear-mongering and politicized science.

The politicization of science over global warming is a greater affront to scientific principles than even the “intelligent design” debate. While ID is a fringe theory, the more we establish that it’s perfectly acceptable for scientists to step into the role of policymaker rather than maintaining an attitude of skepticism and rigor, the more we chip away at the very foundation of scientific reasoning itself.