Saturday, March 30, 2013

FD: Climategate

originally published at Freedom Democrats 11/25/2009

By now, i'm sure everyone is aware that the CRU at University of East Anglia was hacked recently either from the outside, or as inside job, and roughly 160 megabytes of documents and emails were archived and uploaded to a Russian file server(btw, russian server farms are a hackers' choice spot for storing warez and other booty). Since then, the document archive has been widely disseminated over the internet, and after the story hit Drudge, it has become fodder for the blogosphere. Predictably, the reactions have reinforced the tribalistic group polarization over this issue. I reviewed some of email correspondence, and unless someone has a firm grasp of climate science, it's virtually impossible if tell if there is any conspiracy to fudge the data. So, i suppose each side will refer to their own priests to tell them what they want to hear. However, it is fairly apparent from the email correspondence that there are some public choice games being played, which frankly, is hardly surprising; that's to be expected from any scientific research that is primarily being funded by the government and which has political ramifications. The only really troubling aspect of the email correspondence is the apparent conspiracy among a few prominent scientists at the CRU to use their political standing and influence to bully refereed journals not to publish papers contrary to "consensus research." This is a very putrid form of public choice, in that group A, which has significant standing with a government body(IPCC) and receives public funding, uses that power to threaten to boycott any refereed journal that publishes research research contrary to the consensus opinion of Group A, or if Group A uses that power to actively conspire to fix the referees.

In the end, Climategate probably doesn't necessarily say much about the reliability of climate science, but it certainly does reinforce the perception among many of an intolerant orthodoxy that that has built up around AGW. The term usually thrown around is "denier," with the connotation being the equating of "AGW consensus" skepticism with something like young earth creationism. I define such skepticism not to imply that there is no such thing as anthropogenic influence on climate(e.g, just nuke the amazon rain forests and we could witness first hand the possible anthropogenic influences on climate, as an extreme example to make a point), but rather with respect to the notion that climate scientists can model the impact of human collective action(or lack thereof) on future long-term climate changes. Admittedly, I don't know much about climate science per se, but I do know a little about non-linear dynamical systems. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the concept of "butterfly effect" in chaos theory, meaning that small variations in initial conditions of a non-linear dynamical system can result in wildly different evolutions in such dynamical systems over time. This is why you can predict weather only over a short term. Climate modeling, where climate is the long-term average of weather over time, however relies on boundary condition, numerical fluid dynamic modeling of the ocean and atmosphere to predict future climate, wherein current observable boundary conditions can be more or less plugged in to test the reliability of the model in explaining past and current climate. These models may be useful in understanding current climate, but it doesn't mean they will accurately predict future changes in climate by fiddling with the boundary conditions. It's a similar, analogous concept, I suppose, to a best fit curve to graph data points in an experiment, which of course, can involve fiddling and fudging, but how well will that best fit curve fit future data points? And in the real long term, that is paleo-climate, it doesn't matter what the fuck humans do, the earth is going to enter into another ice age.

One thing for sure, there should be plenty of skepticism about the public choice dynamics of any collective action. The two things that primarily aggravate me about the typical political debate is the contention that we have only *T* amount of time to act before it's too late, that we have to immanently act to pass whatever boondoggle before time *T* or else all is lost and irreversible. That's scientific nonsense and fear-mongering. The other thing is the propaganda that a public choice game of subsidized green technology is going to be an economic boom. No it's not. There is another type of "denial" at work here, namely "government failure deniers."

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