Frogs and butterflies, important players in the climate wars

Summary: There is a hidden dynamic at work in the debates among climate sciences (not chatter among laypeople). The reigning paradigm in a field of science services to “provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners” (from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). It directs research, defines careers, controls access to journals, focuses effort, and provides a common basis for easy communication. The IPCC’s primary view reflects, as it should, the dominate paradigm — but also reflects minority views. But these conflicts are fought on a thousand fronts. Today we look at one of these. Read these in full to understand the debate; it’s a microcosm of larger issues.

Landscapes and Cycles

Excerpt from

Contrasting Good & Bad Science: Disease, Climate Change & the Case of the Golden Toad

Adapted from the chapter “Beating Dead Frogs with CO2”
from Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism
by Jim Steele (2013)

To insure the public does not become complacent as the 16-year hiatus in rising global temperatures continues, the media is spammed with untested models claiming rising CO2 is and will spread death and destruction via food shortages and disease.

As MIT’s world-renowned oceanographer Carl Wunsch warned “Convenient assumptions should not be turned prematurely into “facts,” nor uncertainties and ambiguities suppressed … Anyone can write a model: the challenge is to demonstrate its accuracy and precision … Otherwise, the scientific debate is controlled by the most articulate, colorful, or adamant players. (emphasis added)”1As presented here before, the extinction of the Golden Toad illustrates the great abyss that separates the rigor of good medical science from the opportunistic models trumpeted by a few articulate and adamant climate scientists. The lack of substance in climate propaganda is revealed when we compare the details that led epidemiologists to blame a fungus and modern transportation  for the Golden Toad’s extinction.

It’s nothing I have any expertise in, He makes a good case, amply documented. It’s a common story in the history of science, scientists championing clashing paradigms — with access to leading general science journals and specialty fields in different hands. These things work themselves out over time. Unfortunately climate science today has urgent public policy issues. Allowing these turf wars, with inadequate external review, might have unusually large consequences.

Steele gives another example: “How the American Meteorological Society Justified Publishing Half-Truths” — Excerpt:

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Butterfly wings
Butterfly wings influence the future

Background: In 2000, the Bulletin of the Meteorological Society published “Impacts of Extreme Weather and Climate on Terrestrial Biota” by Camille Parmesan, Terry Root, and Michael Willig. The paper introduced to the peer-reviewed literature analyses by Parmesan that extreme weather events had caused an extinction event in California’s Sierra Nevada and advocated the extreme weather was the mechanism by which global warming was driving animals northward and upward as Parmesan claimed in her first controversial paper discussed here. According to Google Scholar, the BAMS paper has been cited by 324 consensus articles. Thomson Reuter’s Essential Science Indicators report that by December 2009, Parmesan went on to be ranked #2 among highly cited authors for papers devoted expressly to global warming and climate change.

… Parmesan et al biased their conclusion by omitting observations that all other individuals in the surrounding natural habitat had survived better than had ever been observed during the same weather events. Only the butterflies that had recently colonized a novel plant species in a highly disturbed logged area had been extirpated. If all observations were honestly presented, it would have been both an example of nature’s resilience and an example of the effect of landscape changes on microclimates. By omitting half of the data, their paper manufactured an illusion of extreme climate catastrophe as discussed here. So I requested an official retraction. It was no more honest than Enron officials leaving half the data off their books.

See his profile here.

For More Information

Climate scientists speak to us:

  1. Peer review of scientific work – another example of a flawed basis for public policy, 22 January 2009
  2. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  3. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009
  4. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 24 October 2009
  5. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009
  6. Slowly more evidence emerges, and more scientists speak out about drivers of climate change, 26 May 2010
  7. “Most scientific papers are probably wrong” – New Scientist, 20 June 2010
  8. Puncturing the false picture of a scientific consensus about the causes and effects of global warming, 20 September 2010
  9. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?, 6 February 2012
  10. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two, 10 February 2012
  11. A famous scientists makes a startling admission about Earth’s climate, 26 April 2012
  12. A look at the debate among climate scientists about global warming, 31 July 2012
  13. Climate scientists speak to us. What is their consensus opinion?, 19 February 2014
  14. Are scientists doing a good job of warning us about climate change?, 27 February 2014

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2 thoughts on “Frogs and butterflies, important players in the climate wars

  1. Well I have read Jim Steele’s book and it is an extremely lucid documentation of how bad science can be done, when you decide the end result before you begin.

    Some of these bad scientists know they are doing bad science but have not the strength to resist either the bullying or the lack of funding that not abiding by the agreed party line will bring. Some I am sure do not realise the bias that they bring to their research.

    Being charitable some are only now beginning to grasp that the certainty that there were fed at university, that the climate is all settled science, is anything but certain.

    as Jim Steele shows too many “warmists” will ignore any empirical data that doesn’t fit there agenda – and having driven those of gullible disposition to boiling point, the genie is out of the bottle. You now frequently see good basic empirics ignored, but tortured proxy data being given a standing that it never deserved.

    You know see politicians and journalists making statements that are well beyond the position of even the alarmist IPCC. At a presentation a few weeks ago I made a statement that the IPCC in AR5 could find no significant increase in tropical storms either in number or intensity. One of those in attendence ranted at me for 10 minutes as a “denier”. Being called a liar when you are telling the truth or presenting empirical data is now endemic.

    We all know the well known statement –

    “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
    ― Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

    How very true when it comes to climate science.

    1. Dave,

      I have not read Jim Steele’s book, but have read his excellent post on ocean heat content trends recently posted at WUWT.

      My personal take is there is nothing unusual at work in the climate sciences. This is the typical sloppy way science works, almost always. Over generations if produces accurate results, but often takes decadal side trips to dead ends.

      Anyone whose read comment steams knows that almost nobody changes their mind in response to facts or logic (posting a Smackdown page helps, like on our top menu bar). So, as Max Planck, science advances one funeral at a time.

      Another perspective, giving the same answer, is from the history of science literature starting with Thomas Kuhn.

      The problem with climate science comes from our inaccurate understanding of how science works, our apathetic disinterest in requiring adequate safeguards and validations (as we do for drug research), and our gullibility to statements by political activists.

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