Twenty years ago, the unanimous view of physicists was that the expansion of the universe was slowing as gravity inexorably pulled the galaxies in towards each other. The question was whether there was enough mass in the universe for the galaxies to eventually collapse towards each other, the so-called “Big Crunch”. No one questioned this theory, until Professor Brian Schmidt and two others smashed this view by discovering the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. They were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for physics.
Similarly, this year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry has been awarded to Daniel Shechtman for work on quasi-crystals, work for which he was ridiculed by the establishment and he was asked to leave his research group.
This year’s Nobel Prizes for both physics and chemistry have been awarded for smashing the views of the scientific consensus. As I said in a discussion with Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, major advances are made in breaking a consensus, while only incremental advance occurs within a consensus. This is not to say that a consensus is necessarily wrong, but we need to be careful of mindguards and groupthinkers who insist that simply because a certain view is a consensus view; it is correct and must be defended at all cost.
So to anthropogenic global warming, where consensus, the view of “important people” and scientific institutions are invoked in the defence of this idea. This is despite the science of AGW being less “settled or secure” than that of quasicrystals or of the universe’s expansion prior to revolutionary thinkers and observers challenging the accepted view.
In a recent article Junior Minister for Climate Change, Mark Dreyfus tries to counter my argument that the IPCC data still shows decreasing global temperatures from the this century (this at a time of rising emissions), without ever discussing the science.
I find it amusing that in the same article, Minister Dreyfus, a lawyer by trade neglects to mention my¬¬¬ undergraduate and graduate studies in physics, when questioning my qualification to evaluate the science. I suppose if we were to follow his line of argument, he would also be obliged to rule out the opinions of Gore, Flannery, Combet and to be fair, himself.
A reasonable expectation is that a lawyer knows his brief. Let’s hope for the sake of all Australians that this Minister has learned his science, but you know what they say about people who live in glass houses.
The whole premise of mankind being responsible for climate change, particularly for carbon dioxide emissions, is not the result of fundamental physics, but of computer model outputs. Computer models must be judged in terms of their predictive capacity, and it is here that these models have proved to be lacking. It has been said of computer models it is garbage in, garbage out except in the case of climate change computer models, where it is garbage in, gospel out.
These models are validated by hindcasting, or seeing if a trend follows what has been observed in the past. This is simply glorified curve fitting. Just because there appears to be correlation does not prove causation.
Problematically, the predictions made by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change using these much venerated models, have not matched what has been observed. In terms of global average temperature, the models predicted an increase in the last decade, even for the case where carbon dioxide concentration is held constant. Observations, using the IPCC’s own Hadley CRU dataset show no increase. Hence the wave of peer reviewed papers from “consensus” scientists now being published in an attempt to justify, in hindsight, the lack of warming. Titles such as “Reconciling anthropogenic climate change with observed temperature 1998–2008” start to push fundamental scientific principals down a slippery slope.
The Prime Minister’s climate science adviser, Will Steffen says that warming has occurred in the oceans, which is why observed global air temperature increases haven’t been observed. Unfortunately, since the very accurate Argo Buoy network was launched in 2003 there has been no heating of the globes oceans. With this network there has been more data on the world’s oceans collected than for the rest of human recorded history. Again articles such as “Tracing the upper ocean’s ‘missing heat’”, attempt to explain away the differences between model prediction and actual observation.
Similarly, we have all heard the dire predictions on sea level rise, but once again the sea level rise has been observed to be decelerating, not accelerating as predicted by the models. Minister Tanya Plibersek has taken the approach of selling snake oil to her constuituents on the Central Coast of NSW by eliciting the fear of God. “The science says that the Central Coast will be the hardest hit in NSW by sea level rise” is an exemplary statement of the like that have turned the climate change debate toxic. There is no science that says this.
In 2011 “the science says” is being used in the same way as “God says” was used in the past in an attempt to stop any debate or discussion.
We need to ensure that the mindguards of today are not allowed the same unfettered, unquestioned power as in times past. The examples of this year’s Nobel Laureates for hard sciences demonstrate why we must not allow this to happen.