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Steve McIntyre’s comment to Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, on climate “experts”

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | December 6, 2016

Dilbert creator, Scott Adams wrote a post on his blog yesterday that is well worth reading in entirety: The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science

Adams notes:

It seems to me that a majority of experts could be wrong whenever you have a pattern that looks like this:

1. A theory has been “adjusted” in the past to maintain the conclusion even though the data has changed. For example, “Global warming” evolved to “climate change” because the models didn’t show universal warming.

2. Prediction models are complicated. When things are complicated you have more room for error. Climate science models are complicated.

3. The models require human judgement to decide how variables should be treated. This allows humans to “tune” the output to a desired end. This is the case with climate science models.

4. There is a severe social or economic penalty for having the “wrong” opinion in the field. As I already said, I agree with the consensus of climate scientists because saying otherwise in public would be social and career suicide for me even as a cartoonist. Imagine how much worse the pressure would be if science was my career.

5. There are so many variables that can be measured – and so many that can be ignored – that you can produce any result you want by choosing what to measure and what to ignore. Our measurement sensors do not cover all locations on earth, from the upper atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean, so we have the option to use the measurements that fit our predictions while discounting the rest.

6. The argument from the other side looks disturbingly credible.

One of the things that always fascinated me about jury trials is that attorneys from both sides can sound so convincing even though the evidence points in only one direction. A defendant is either guilty or innocent, but good lawyers can make you see it either way. Climate science is similar. I’ve seen airtight arguments that say climate science is solid and true, and I’ve seen equally credible-looking arguments that say it is bunk. From my non-scientist perspective, I can’t tell the difference. Both sides look convincing to me.

Again, read the entire essay: The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science

Steve McIntyre writes in comments:

I write the Climate Audit blog. I first began serious study of paleoclimate when I asked Michael Mann for the FTP location data of his data (for the Hockey Stick) and he said that he had “forgotten” the location, but that one of his associates would find it for me. The associate said that the data was not in any one location, but volunteered to find it for me. I was astonished that a result could have been so widely disseminated without any sort of formal audit – not realizing at the time that “peer review” for a journal was a limited form of due diligence.

Scot [sic] writes: “You probably are not a scientist, and that means you can’t independently evaluate any of the climate science claims.” I had mathematical knowledge and skill and decided that it would be an interesting task to actually try to verify Mann’s results. It turned out that he had made a grotesque error in his attempt to calculate principal components, had withheld adverse verification statistics and had weighted his reconstruction on stripbark tree rings that were inappropriate.

When I examined other attempts to estimate temperature in the past 1000 years, I encountered problems with every one of them, incurring, in the process, severe antagonism on the part of university academics.

However, after being involved in the controversy for many years, I think that far too little attention (none) is paid to a very fundamental difference between “skeptics” and warmists on their respective perceptions on whether human emissions of CO2 thus far have caused “serious negative damage” to the world or not. Skeptics universally think not. Many do not dispute the idea that we are carrying on an “uncontrolled experiment”, but have nonetheless concluded that, through good luck rather than good management, the consequences have been inconsequential or even beneficial. On the other hand, warmists are thoroughly convinced we have already incurred “serious negative damage” though what they view as “serious negative damage” may well be viewed by a skeptic as relatively trivial, or, at worst, an ordinary cost and outweighed by other benefits. When I challenge warmists to enumerate the most serious of the damages experienced so far, I do not get answers.

Of the potential damages, sea level rise seems one of the most serious to me, but even there, some, if not much, of the potential problem arises from very long-term (Holocene scale) events that are not materially impacted by CO2 emissions.

While I have made numerous technical criticisms of work by climate scientists, I have mostly avoided commenting on policy, other than urging far better data archiving practices – a policy which many of my adversaries opposed. Needless to say, this has not prevented demonization from climate activists – a practice that obviously does not enable them to “persuade” their opponents and critics. Quite the opposite. In my experience, more “skeptics” are born from poor conduct by climate scientists than from the eloquence of earlier skeptics.

December 7, 2016 - Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular

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