Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Science, Non-science and Nonsense

Ben Santer is one of the leading climatologists in the world today.

The first video is of his appearance at US congressional hearings, where he responds to claims made by climate skeptic, Pat Michaels. In the video he carefully explains why the claims made by Michaels are wrong. It is great to see a talented scientist in operation, but it is a very unfortunate that he has to take time out from his real work - studying climate - to rebut the nonsense spouted by Michaels, and other climate denier propagandists.

In the second video, Santer is introduced by the late Stephen Schneider. In his introduction, Schneider, provides an informative glimpse into the workings of the IPCC.

The talk could be summarised in terms of the title of this post: Science, Non-science and Nonsense

It is always interesting when scientific findings are in conflict. In this instance, the surface temperature record and basic theory said that the planet was warming, but measurements from space of the atmosphere seemed to show that it was cooling. In the end the problem was resolved when it was discovered that the scientists using the satelite data had made a basic mathematical mistake. When that mistake was corrected the satelite atmospheric measurements also showed warming.

A report, called Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere, that included scientists from the UAH group, RSS and other experts seemed to finally resolve this issue. The report is summarised in the first paragraph as follows:

Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming
near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to
challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of humaninduced
global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial
global-average warming, while early versions of satellite and radiosonde
data showed little or no warming above the surface. This significant
discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and
radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. New data sets
have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies.
Source: here

Santer then discusses a paper, Douglass et al, which attempted to overturn the findings of the Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere report. Santer discussed the flawed nature of the paper and the response that he led to the Douglass paper. This section is somewhat statistical, where Santer shows that the mathematics of the Douglass is very suspect.

Santer finally discusses the harrassment by Stephen McIntyre, who claims to audit the work of climate scientists. Interestingly McIntyre's auditing only extends to the work of scientists who conclude that human activities are the major cause of global warming. He does not attempt to audit the faulty work of the climate skeptics. It is clear that the vast majority of people qualified to have an opinion support the view that the climate is warming, humans are the major cause and that the warming is dangerous; see this post for evidence for this claim.

The final 50 minutes of so involve the questions and answer section.

In the video below, Stephen Schneider, who introduced Ben Santer in the video above, discusses a wide range of issues, including:
* in what ways can climate science be considered settled
* the philosophy of science - ie falsification and systems science
* how judgements are made regarding the probabilities of opinions in climate science - ie how did the IPCC decide that human influence on warming was at a 90% level, and,
* risk management

During the risk management section of the talk, Schneider discusses his health and his discussions with his doctors about treatment. It is very sad to realise that at the time that he gave this talk, Schneider only had 51/2 months to live.

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