Like many in a profession involving climate science, my head begins to spin when I see claims made in the press by dueling “experts.” I’m sure my colleagues in the water and wastewater field are sometimes equally confused. And some seem reluctant to jump in and make judgments in this area because they are not experts. But judgment and discernment must be done if good decisions are to be made. Having lived in Colorado for most of my career, I can detect a snow job when I see it, even though I am not an expert on snow flakes. And so can others.
There are several ways to assess credibility, which by the way I must also use on my own work. One is to not say or claim more than the science can support (this is a big temptation for all academics), making a distinction between what I know as a scientist and engineer and what I think may be true. Another is to examine the data analysis behind a scientific claim, and if no data is provided, then regardless of what is claimed, the claim cannot be considered seriously from a scientific perspective. (It may be worth considering for other reasons, but not for any scientific basis.)
With regard to climate and the state of the climate, The Heartland Institute is hosting their annual conference on climate change (click here) June 30 to July 1. Attendance is open to anyone and I believe it can also be viewed on line.
The Heartland Institute conference is in Washington, DC. So it is probably no surprise that an article was published in the Washington Post today (click here) with a provocative headline suggesting that global warming is indeed occurring. This article makes serious claims that, as I read it, are not substantiated with any data. Government-funded sources are quoted making statements that look to me beyond the science or based on selective data. Yes, the earth does bulge. Don’t forget that the earth rotates as well with the pull of the silvery moon, so the oceans slosh back and forth like big bath tubs. Without a firm fixed reference point even the idea of sea level rising becomes meaningless. If post modern science is used, sea level could be made to do just about whatever we want it to do, even rise and fall in the same place at the same time.
In contrast to the Washington Post article, the analysis presented here (click here) presents data, analysis, and a reasoned explanation on the state of the climate system. Readers may agree or disagree with any part of this analysis, but the reasoning is there.
So which is more credible? As food for thought, I am reminded of a lesson I learned from a legislative representative my first year working in Washington, DC in 1988: “Facts Talk; B*ll Sh*t Walks” The lesson: Without good data and analysis, all that remains to make an argument is hand-waving.
If underlying data and models are not made available for independent review and scrutiny (or withheld for political purposes), then those scientists and experts can only make hand waving arguments which will not be taken seriously as scientific arguments.
Lastly, I find it rather remarkable that underlying data and model code is not being provided by some climate researchers. Even more perplexing, is that Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA) are needed. FOIA requests should not even be necessary in the first place if data and models are transparent and peer-review processes are properly managed.
And now AAAS appears to equate data disclosure and transparency with personal attacks (click here). Scientists are certainly entitled to their views and must not be threatened with personal attacks in any way. But open disclosure and transparency of data and analysis is a necessity and will go along way to restoring the trust necessary for the scientific endeavor to function at all. For another perspective on the AAAS statement click here.