Wednesday, May 6, 2009

John McLean, muddles, more global warming conspiracies and a little light Dylan Moran relief

(Above: Dylan Moran, Irish wag, and nothing to do with global warming, but please take your entertainment when you can find it, as life is short).

Between spending an hour and a half in the company of Dylan Moran, and wasting precious minutes reading commentariat loons, can I recommend the time is best spent with Moran.

The State theatre in Sydney - a grand old silent movie palace - is a terrible place for stand-up, especially if you're stuck up in the gods in the cheap seats, but despite an impedance hum and a sore throat, Moran got down and dirty with religion, science, relationships, women and all the usual impediments to an harmonious life. 

But if you go looking for him tonight in Sydney, you're too fookn late, because the land at the top of the faraway tree has moved on, and next up will be his show A Film With Me In It (and while we're on plugs for stand up comedians, the hardest, toughest and cruelest of the arts, if you see Daniel Kitson around doing his geeky recessive routines, and you love nerds, check him out).

Meantime, what's new at the top of the faraway tree in The Australian? Groan, sigh, whimper. More warmista bashing from one John McLean in Science a slave to expediency.

Now bearing in mind the strict injunction of Professor Ian Plimer that you had to have post-graduate degrees in a dozen areas of science to even begin to get the first glimmerings of climate science, I thought I'd check out McLean's credentials, which are listed in The Oz as being "climate data analyst" and member of the Australian Climate Science Coalition.

Well it so happens that I'm a climate data analyst - I check my rain gauge and weather station every day for signs of life in the planet - and I do have membership of the Friends of Dorothy Coalition for Sensible Writing on Climate Change. So on we go.

According to one blogger, who had something of a run in with McLean, his expertise - as listed on a subsequently altered OLO page - was an amateur interest in global warming following 25 years in what he describes as the analysis and logic of IT.

And his home page listed him as computer consultant and occasional travel photographer. (You can check out that particular storm and the teacup here).

Phew, by these criteria, I'm a tad over-qualified as a climate expert. So let me lead with my scientific law, which states that confronted by a cock-up, between an explanation involving a muddle and a conspiracy, always go with the notion of a muddle as the likeliest explanation. Apart from a few genuine conspiracies, like the assassination of JFK (convincingly solved by Homer Simpson), we mostly muddle along, surrounded by paranoia.

Now it seems John McLean doesn't believe in conspiracies either:

To the best of my knowledge, no climate conspiracy has ever existed.

Of course he then goes on to outline a conspiracy on a global level.

... another force has driven science into its present parlous state where the output of computer software is held in higher regard than observational data, where marketing spin is more important than fact and evidence, and where a trenchant defence of the notion of man-made global warming is seen as paramount.

The single, pre-eminent force driving this distortion of science originates in the once-august UN. The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change set the tone by linking climatic variations to the air and water pollution issues that it was quite reasonably addressing at the time. It ignored recognised natural climate forces and declared that recent variations in climate were attributable to human activity. Although the IPCC, which was set up by the UNFCCC to investigate the matter, backed away from the assertion that all modern climate change is man made, it nonetheless operates under a charter that considers only the risks of "human-induced" climate change.

Raising these matters under the UN banner was a political masterstroke because it drew national governments into the process. UN bodies have a reputation for political allegiances rather than peer-group pressure but the result is much the same, and even more so when government appointees, often fervent believers in the cause, speak passionately and seem backed by UNauthority.

No individual or government had the temerity to stand up to the UNFCCC or IPCC and say, "we don't agree". Some stridently endorsed the claims, and many interpreted the statement, "we don't know what else might be causing climate change, so it must be human activity" as proof positive rather than admission of incomplete knowledge.

Ah yes, those cunning rascals at the UN, what a masterstroke. (And how well they kept the black helicopters hidden while they fuelled the fire and fanned the flames of the conspiracy).

But wait, there's more. Where would a conspiracy be without fat cat corrupt scientists, interested only in their search for corrupt funding from governments, so they can corruptly bias their corrupt findings.

The IPCC has now delivered four scientific assessment reports, each accompanied by an increasingly urgent call to action regarding climate change driven by greenhouse gases. National governments, which are signatories to the UNFCCC, have almost without exception bought into the alarm, modulating it only to accord better with their own political philosophies. This, combined with the allocation research funding according to policy relevance, means governments now attempt to predetermine the findings of scientific research.

For many years climate researchers have understood that their proposals will only be funded if they are pitched in line with government policy. Even worse, unless some aspect of their results appears to perpetuate government thinking, renewal of their funding is unlikely. Other climatologists are acutely aware of the potential consequences for their employers and their own employment prospects should they speak out in criticism of the dominant alarmist paradigm. Scientists who have criticised the hypothesis of human-caused climate change have had their funding curtailed or employment terminated.

Why it sounds to me like a world-wide, massive, quite amazing and remarkable ... conspiracy. By the UN, by governments and by scientists. All working in cahoots, the dern critters.

Well no doubt there's plenty of substantiated science to uncover this conspiracy, so what's McLean got to offer. Oh dear it's just more of the usual about computers and bad modelling, as if there hadn't been a few minor noticeable changes in glaciers and ice shelves here and there:

Climate modellers have been very aware that their expensive and powerful computing facilities would be supported only if their research produced alarmist climate predictions. This notwithstanding, these models often produced results that were not in good agreement with historical data, perhaps because they poorly replicated or even omitted variations in climate.

These deficiencies and more have been papered over by reviving outdated and inaccurate research about the warming effect of carbon dioxide. The numbers still didn't add up but the inclusion of some "positive feedbacks" masked the problem, and the models were declared "proof" of a significant human influence on climate.

But surely the peer to peer process would put an end to these outright distortions, lies and conspiratorial clowns deluding everyone except the righteous few, these Galileos of their day. Sady no, for it too is part of the conspiracy.

The peer-review process was originally a sanity check for the editors of scientific journals but has always been open to abuse by reviewers who wish to support or suppress a particular line of argument. The recent narrow focus of climate research funding has caused an outburst of scientific papers that support the IPCC's alarmist beliefs and relatively few papers that contradict it. Reviewers with vested interests suppress contradictory papers and support the "official" line.

Vested interests now dominate climate science. Whether climatologists, their employers and other people believe the government-approved line has become irrelevant, because they all wish to retain an income stream and whatever reputations they've established. These people advise governments, which subsequently set policy and research funding regardless of any contradiction with observational data.

Climate science is no longer an impartial truth but a slave to the yoke of politics and opportunism. If this continues, society will be the inevitable loser.

Oh yes, it's definitely a conspiracy, and The Australian is a key part of it, and it seems to me that one of the chief features when writing this kind of rant about science being a slave to the yoke of politics and opportunism is that there's much talk of conspiracies and bugger all talk about science. As Dylan Moran himself said last night, he just loved people who started off with "I'm not a racist, but ..." and I guess now we'll have to add "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but ..."

In fact so interminable and tedious has it become that I'm thinking there's nothing to be gained from reading the outpourings of climate data analysts, and a lot to be said for just thinking everyone's out to get me. Call it paranoia, call it hysteria, but I know all you alarmists with your vested interests with an income stream and reputations to protect will just dismiss me as a crackpot, but here's the truth. You're all doomed.

There, that felt a lot better. Now for a bex, a bit of kidney trouble, a good lie down, and a healthy dose of Dylan Moran's smooth Irish brogue. He can form a conspiracy with me any time ...

(Below: Dylan Moran in the first excerpt from his show Monster. You can catch the rest, and other samples of Moran on YouTube).


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