Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Anthropogenic global warming debate

I just came across this post from Duae Quartunciae from July about the American Physical Society's publication of pro and con arguments on the subject of anthropogenic global warming, and I direct it to your attention now because it has a very lengthy, detailed, and respectful debate in the comments.

I recently heard Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons speak about global warming (she thinks it's a pseudoscientific scam), in which she promoted the paper she published by Arthur and Noah Robinson and Willie Soon and the Petition Project. Before the event, I sent an email to the event organizer with links to Michael MacCracken's critique of that paper (PDF) and a wiki page critiquing the paper and the Robinsons' Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (where Dr. Orient is listed on the faculty as a professor of medicine; she also teaches a course on "global warming controversies" for the Schlaflys' Eagle Forum University). While my links weren't redistributed to the other attendees of the talk, I did get a chance to express my skepticism in the discussion, which led to an email exchange with Dr. Orient.

She took the position that advocates of anthropogenic global warming are engaging in pseudoscience and are biased by their own need to keep up the hype in order to continue to receive government funding, but will ultimately be refuted by a growing disconnect between the projections of the climate models and the facts--she seems to think that the recent warming trends have been the result of solar irradiance and that we are now on a cooling trend. She stated in her talk that James Hansen is unreliable because he falsely claimed that 1998 was the warmest year on record, and was forced to retract it and admit that 1934 was the warmest year on record; and similarly was forced to retract an incorrect claim that October 2008 was the warmest October on record after Steve McIntyre found that there was an error in some of the reported data. I pointed out that her first claim is incorrect--1998 is still the warmest year on record for global temperatures, but the second-warmest for the contiguous 48 U.S. states after 1934, which is what Hansen said. And while she was correct about October 2008, after the correction it still remains the fifth-warmest October on record. The top three years for global temperatures are 1998, 2005, and 2002; the eight warmest years on record are all since 1998; the fourteen warmest years on record are since 1990.

I also pointed out Skeptic magazine's recent critique of the Petition Project, which she dismissed as a criticism of Robinson for not using methodology to do something he was not trying to do; that all he was trying to do is show that there is no consensus among scientists. I compared the Petition Project to the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwinism," which she said she did not see as analogous.

We found some points of agreement--we both support the legitimacy of questioning, and of science over pseudoscience, though we disagree about who's doing science and who's doing pseudoscience.

UPDATE (December 16, 2009): The "Petition Project" isn't a petition of scientists, it's a petition of people with at least a bachelor's degree in a science-related field. Whittenberger at eSkeptic points out that the signature breakdown by level of education was 29% Ph.D., 22% M.S., 7% M.D. or D.V.M., and 41% B.S. or equivalent. By field, it was 12% earth science, 3% computer science or mathematics, 18% physics and aerospace sciences, 15% chemistry, 9% biology and agriculture, 10% medicine, and 32% engineering and general science. The percentage of Ph.D.s in relevant areas isn’t available, but it’s clear from the breakdown that at least two thirds have less than a Ph.D. and at least 80% do not have education in a relevant field. I conclude that it's not possible to conclude on the basis of that petition that there's dissent among scientists with relevant credentials--it is just like the DI petition in that regard.


Misanthrope said...

"...though we disagree about who's doing science and who's doing pseudoscience."

This seems to be a common theme with Global Warming. Until this gets worked out I prefer the Copenhagen Consensus approach.

Tarun Kumar said...

i really impress with you blog and plz keep writing for this blog. i also start collection of information about causes of global warming in my blog.