Summary: Here is a status report on climate science by an eminent climate scientists, helping us see its frontiers and so better cope with one of the major challenges of the 21st century. (Second of two posts today.)
“A new paradigm for assessing the role of humanity
in the climate system — and in climate change“
By Roger Pielke, Sr.
Posted with his generous permission.
A note about progress in science
Geological ages ago at Cornell, I learned that science usually takes place on the frontiers of observation. That’s the important insight Thomas Kuhn overlooked in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Freeman Dyson described this hole as “tool- or instrument-driven revolutions.” These are as or more common than paradigm-driven revolutions. Galileo looks through his telescope at the moons of Jupiter and our view of the universe changes. Watson and Crick looked at an X-ray diffraction image of DNA and saw its structure; four years later Watson formulated the “central dogma of molecular biology” and began a revolution still in its early stage.
My guess (guess) is that new observational tools, not just new theories, will end the climate wars. If not, then eventually the changing climate will tell us which side was correct.
About the author
Roger Pielke Sr. is currently a Senior Research Scientist in Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science. He is also an Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, and now serves there as a Senior Research Associate.
His list of accomplishments, honors, and publications is too long to list here. See his bio for details. See his website for commentary on climate science issues. Also see his presentations, especially these…
- Roger Pielke Sr.’s testimony to the Science, Space, and Technology Committee on 29 May 2014.
- “Climate Threats: A More Inclusive Assessment Is Needed“. A look at peer-reviewed papers of hindcast multi-year climate model prediction skill (2015).
For More Information
These provide an introduction to climate models, an important frontier in climate science.
- “A Model World” by Jon Turney in Aeon, December 2013.
- “Climate Modeling 101: What are climate models and why are they important?” by the National Academy of Science.
- An introduction to climate models by the World Meteorological Society.
- “The Physics of Climate Modeling” by Gavin A. Schmidt in Physics Today, January 2007.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. Also, see these posts about computer models, especially these..
- Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
- How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
- A story of the climate change debate. How it ran; why it failed.
- Put the stories about record 2016 warming in a useful context.
- A look at the future of global warming. Our political response depends on its trend.
- Surprising news about trend of America’s temperature and precipitation.
To learn more about the state of climate change…
… see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research). From the publisher…
“In recent years the media, politicians, and activists have popularized the notion that climate change has made disasters worse. But what does the science actually say? Roger Pielke, Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the data to give you the latest science on disasters and climate change. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”
13 thoughts on “An eminent climate scientist describes the frontiers of climate science”
“My guess (guess) is that new observational tools, not just new theories, will end the climate wars. If not, then eventually the changing climate will tell us which side was correct.”
Sounds reasonable, but without proper principles, the war can not end:
§1 A scientific argument consists of clearly stated premises, inferences, and conclusions.
§2 A scientific premise is verifiable. Premises and their sources are identified and readily available for independent verification.
§3 A scientific inference is logically valid.
§4 A scientific conclusion is deduced by application of axioms, definitions and theorems or measured properties and scientific concepts that have already been verified or validated.
§5 A scientific concept consists of statements that are logically valid conclusions deduced from premises that are themselves logically valid conclusions, axioms, definitions or theorems.
§6 A scientific concept is well-defined and has a well-defined capability of prediction within a well-defined context.
§7 A scientific concept can only be validated by comparison of predictions deduced from that concept with measurement results. Whenever predictions differ from measurement results, by more than the combined uncertainty of the measurement results and the claimed capability of the concept, there must be something wrong with the concept – or the test of it.
§8 A scientific concept can only be referred to as validated for the context covered by the validating tests.
§9 A scientific statement is based on verifiable data. Data and precise information about how that data was obtained are readily available for independent verification. Whenever data are corrected or disregarded, both uncorrected and corrected data are provided together with a scientific argument for the correction.
§10 A scientific measurement report contains traceable values, units and stated uncertainty for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.
§11 A scientific prediction report contains values, units and claimed capability for well-defined measurands in a well-defined context.
Science or Fiction,
Countless disputes in science were settled long before any of those “principles” were formulated. They’re abstract rules, almost irrelevant to the actual social processes of scientists and their institutions.
The problem is that these principles have not been clearly expressed by any on the scientific institutions that you might expect would formulate such principles.
That position is supported by the following quote from National Academy of Sciences:
“The basic and particular principles that guide scientific research practices exist primarily in an unwritten code of ethics. Although some have proposed that these principles should be written down and formalised, the principles and traditions of science are, for the most part, conveyed to successive generations of scientists through example, discussion, and informal education.”
Ref.: Responsible Science, Volume I: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process; Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research
What can be found in abundance, however, are codes of conduct like Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, EPA’s Principles of Scientific Integrity, Max Planck Society – Rules of good scientific practice or The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. But none of these provides a well-defined set of basic principles for science.
Check out the article at: https://principlesofscience.wordpress.com
for a full account.
“almost irrelevant to the actual social processes of scientists and their institutions.”
The dispute about climate change will not easily be settled as long as United Nations let the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be governed by:
– the unscientific principle of a mission to support an established view(§1)
– the unscientific principle of consensus (§10)
– an approval process and organization principle which must, by it´s nature, diminish dissenting views. (§11)
Ref.: Principles governing IPCC work
The social processes within IPCC are not governed by proper principles like the ones I listed above.
The processes of science are almost never governed by the dreamed-up-by-academics principles you list. I suggest reading Karl Popper or Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, or some of the more recent literature.
“The dispute about climate change will not easily be settled as long as United Nations let the IPCC be governed by…”
The IPCC’s job is to act as a mirror for the work of mainstream climate scientists. Not to make climate science, or decide anything. It doesn’t do so, and scientists don’t expect it to do so.
“The processes of science are almost never governed by the dreamed-up-by-academics principles you list.”
The principles I list, are principles that scientific statements should comply with.
A proper scientific work will comply with the principles I list.
I am familiar with the ideas of Popper and to some extent the ideas of Kuhn.
We got proper observations, like RSS and UAH satellite temperature series and ARGO ocean temperature series.
These series already tells us that the climate models that IPCC relies on are wrong.
My first point is that poor principles is a problem. My second point is that proper principles have not been formulated by the scientific organisations and are nowhere to found.
(Way past bed time in my time zone. I´ll check in tomorrow) :)
“These series already tells us that the climate models that IPCC relies on are wrong.”
SInce you are not the Pope of Science, what matters is the opinion of climate scientists. Most disagree with you. As with most questions in science, time will tell.
As for your principles, you can believe what you want. Not being the Pope of Science, what counts are the methods used by scientists to decide issues.
” what counts are the methods used by scientists to decide issues.”
Methods and principles have great influence on the conclusion that are drawn by scientific bodies.
Within climate science, we happen to have one significant supranational body called United Nations. And United Nations established one significant supranational body called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The closest you will get a Pope within science is United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that Pope got sub-standard principles.
Like the principles 1,10,and11 that I referred to in: Principles governing IPCC work – linked a the comment above.
Another set of sub-standard principles governing IPCC is the document
Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on
Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties
That document endorse the use of subjective level of confidence within climate science.
Combine subjective level of confidence with a the principle to “In taking decisions, and approving, adopting and accepting reports, the Panel, its Working Groups and any Task Forces shall use all best endeavours to reach consensus.”
As it stands now our, our Pope within climate science is governed by sub-standard principles. That will influence on the statements of that papacy.
An approach that avoids the (correct) arguments about the validity of climate models finds firm ground in the “Precautionary Principle” outlined by Joe Norman, Nassim Taleb, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. “Climate Models and Precautionary Measures.”
With regards to the priciples of scientific pursuit listed above, while these are good, they are not sufficient. They rely on formal systems, and any formal system will be incomplete (Godel’s incompleteness theorem).
I’ll take the other side of Taleb’s idea: it’s absurd, and doesn’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. Which is why it has received little or no support from others. I examined it in two posts.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb looks at the risks threatening humanity.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb warns us about climate change.
“With regards to the principles of scientific pursuit listed above, while these are good, …”
Thank you. It took a major effort, with great scrutiny and support, to come up with the list of principles.
Regarding: “.. they are not sufficient. They rely on formal systems, and any formal system will be incomplete (Godel’s incompleteness theorem).”
This is one explanation of Godel´s incompleteness theorem:
“First Incompleteness Theorem: “Any consistent formal system F within which a certain amount of elementary arithmetic can be carried out is incomplete; i.e., there are statements of the language of F which can neither be proved nor disproved in F.” (Raatikainen 2015)
Gödel specifically cites Richard’s paradox and the liar paradox as semantical analogues to his syntactical incompleteness result in the introductory section of On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I. The liar paradox is the sentence “This sentence is false.” An analysis of the liar sentence shows that it cannot be true (for then, as it asserts, it is false), nor can it be false (for then, it is true). A Gödel sentence G for a system F makes a similar assertion to the liar sentence, but with truth replaced by provability: G says “G is not provable in the system F.” The analysis of the truth and provability of G is a formalized version of the analysis of the truth of the liar sentence.”
– Wikipedia – Gödel’s incompleteness theorems
Why would you think of it that as a problem for application of the principles?
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