Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Falsification By Forecasting


If you've been yearning to know what Maggie Gallagher currently thinks about climate change, this is your lucky day. We'll start with the basics:

  1. It's a new religious faith (of the wrong sort).

  2. It's unfalsifiable (unlike her pet theories on the cosmic menace of gay marriage).

  3. It encourages us to believe that pleasant activities can have negative consequences, whether we want them to or not. (As if!)

  4. Algore!!
All this is boilerplate, though. The real purpose of the column is to give Gallagher a chance to play with her shiny new rhetorical bauble: Science -- that daydream, that idol -- says global warming has stopped! What makes her version of this fashionable lie interesting is how ably she herself debunks it:
The interruption in the increases in global temperatures observable this year may just be a glitch -- a temporary and localized weather phenomenon -- but it is happening even as carbon emissions have increased more dramatically than the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "worst-case" scenarios estimated in 2000.
Weather is temporary and localized by definition. That said, it's generous of Gallagher to concede the remote possibility that this cooling will be localized and temporary, given that this is what the scientists who brought the matter to her attention have insisted all along. (RealClimate, meanwhile, both clarifies and challenges their forecast.)

You also have to admire her for presenting an intimately linked pair of conclusions from the Keenlyside paper as though they contradict each other, without offering any evidence beyond her own use of the word "but." It's too bad she breaks a cardinal rule of amateur denialism by acknowledging that there's such a thing as "localized" weather.

Still, what's really striking about this article is Gallagher's newfound respect for Science. Previously, she informed us that while a scientific theory may perhaps be possible, or even probable, it's "hardly an undeniable fact like the Holocaust."

But now the tide has turned, and theory is a flaming sword in her fist:
Here's my question: If 10 years of global cooling while carbon emissions increase dramatically does not falsify the global warming disaster scenario, what could?
And with that, a willful misunderstanding of the simplified version of the tentative conclusion of a single paper is poised to become an undeniable fact like the Holocaust, even though Gallagher rejects almost everything its authors accept as fundamental, and has no logical grounds for agreeing with whatever leftover fragments please her. To hear her tell it, this forecast, if it turned out to be correct, would falsify the very theory on which it's based. And if it turned out to be wrong...well, I suppose that'd prove once and for all that climate modeling is no more reliable than kephalonomancy.

By way of a punchline, I'll repeat what I said the last time Gallagher muddied these waters:
There was a point in time when the Holocaust wasn't an undeniable fact. Some people even think that more should've been done to prevent it.

4 comments:

sbvor said...

There is a great deal more I can and will (later) post on this topic. For now, you may find these two posts (and associated sub-links) of interest:
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CO2 is Not a Problem
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The Current Cooling Trend
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Phila said...

For now, you may find these two posts (and associated sub-links) of interest:

Then again, I may not.

sbvor said...

Phila,

You can lead a horse to water...

Phila said...

I've seen your arguments before.

Best of luck, though.