Sunday, February 7, 2010

Musings on Why Some Scientists Cheat

I get into some very interesting conversations from time to time, but cannot divulge the contents as most of them are in the course of representing a client and the attorney-client privilege prevents my disclosure. However, every now and then a non-privileged conversation occurs, and one of those happened recently that I want to share here.

The conversation’s central question was, since atmospheric CO2 clearly has no influence on the earth’s average global temperature, either upward or downward, why then do so many scientists around the world maintain that CO2 is causing global warming?

First, scientists should notice that CO2 has no bearing on global temperature, if for no other reason than CO2 is inconsistent in its effects. Yet, physics requires a law to behave the same in all places. Physics is not fickle. Thus, we have the earth’s gravity pulling all objects at the same rate in all areas of the earth, after accounting for certain minor differences such as gravity anomalies. It appears that gravity is a bit weaker in some areas, and stronger in others, very likely due to the density or thickness, or both, of the earth’s crust in those areas. We also see that water dissolves certain substances, no matter where on earth these substances encounter water. It would be odd, indeed, if common table salt (sodium chloride) were not dissolved in water in some areas, but did dissolve in others. Physics is not fickle, so water and salt readily mix, up to certain well-known solubility limits.

As I wrote earlier, in the USA alone, there are some cities where the long-term temperature trend is increasing, some where it is absolutely stable, and some where the trend is decreasing. (Washington, DC shows a cooling trend, Phoenix and Las Vegas are warming). Yet, the CO2 across the USA is relatively constant over each city. Also, over time, the general trend was for the USA to warm slightly from 1910 to 1940 at the rate of 4 degrees C per century, yet the USA cooled very slightly from 1940 to 1970 at the rate of minus 0.5 degrees C per century. Then, the general trend for the USA from 1975 to 2000 was another slight warming (but not in all cities), by an average of 4 degrees C per century. In this final 25 years (1975 to 2000), CO2 was measured as increasing slightly. This, then, became the climate alarmists’ evidence of CO2-induced global warming. Finally, some cities are cooling recently at an alarming rate, of 6 to 9 degrees C per century. (Eureka and Los Angeles, California, and Washington, DC) But not all cities are cooling, only a few. Thus, the results are inconsistent, and physics does not tolerate an inconsistent principle. At this point, the climate scientists should have stopped declaring that CO2 causes global warming. But, some did not, obviously. The question is, why?

Second, some scientists blindly accept what other scientists do and publish, trusting that the peer review system will prevent bad science from being published. This is an error of the gravest extent. Engineers are taught many fundamentals, with which almost any proposal or conclusion can be evaluated. As an example, the second law of thermodynamics is not violated, ever. To repeat, not ever. (as an aside, those who write and implement global warming laws should take note of this, and ponder it deeply.) As another example, and from my writings and drawing on Dr. Pierre Latour’s writings, fundamentals of process control are not violated, either. Applying just a few such fundamentals to the climate science debate, an engineer can easily determine that there is no valid CO2 connection to the earth’s average global temperature. It is certainly a good thing that engineers, and not scientists, build the bridges, the roads, the buildings, the chemical plants and refineries, the steel and aluminum mills, and all the other trappings of modern society. If an engineer had to guess at what the tensile strength of a particular grade of steel was to be for today’s project based on where the bridge is to be built, chaos would result. Fortunately, steel has well-known properties (tensile strength is but one property out of hundreds), and engineers can confidently design and build useful things from steel all over the world. Yet, if steel behaved the way that CO2 does with the earth’s temperature, one would need a thin piece of steel for one bridge, but a piece that is much, much thicker for the next bridge. This is but one reason why engineers know that CO2 and earth’s climate are not related in any way.

Third, there is an institutional constipation, or corporate mindset, which is dangerous to go against. A certain orthodoxy is how one acquaintance put it. This is very real, as I personally can attest, having worked in several large corporations and some smaller firms, each with its own company (or corporate) mindset. A certain amount of independence and ingenuity was announced as being desired in those settings, but the reality was that no true innovation was tolerated, especially when it would reflect badly on the management. A favorite complaint of the engineers (I was in that group at the time) was that nobody listened to the good ideas. I personally had an experience where a very good idea (mine) was rejected by the middle manager in charge of that area, who then advanced the idea as his own and took credit for it when it was implemented and worked quite well. He got promoted. I quit.

A similar mindset undoubtedly exists in scientific research organizations, and would be more pronounced as the prestige and egos of the principle scientists grow. In contrast to engineering, where most things are quite certain, in science, one is always taught that there are no absolutes, as every scientific principle is only true until it is falsified.. Many scientific principles are indeed falsified each year, and long-held views must be discarded. No wonder, then, that senior scientists may hold the young scientists back. Who would want to have their cherished principles dashed to bits?

Fourth, there is the desire by some to get back at those who have had plenty and done wrong with it, in their view. They want to stop oil, coal, and natural gas, by any means possible. Advancing “the agenda,” by whatever means necessary, is an appropriate thing in their view. One hears the words “the new world order” from these types. It is quite interesting, actually, to consider that the wealth and lifestyle they so envy was created (at least in part) by burning the very fossil fuels they claim to despise: coal, oil, and natural gas. One can only wonder just how they intend to produce great wealth for themselves and their societies, without burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Perhaps their strategy is to sell carbon credits, or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

Fifth, there is the desire to continue the golden goose, or gilded gravy train, or streams of grant money. Those with money, giving the grants, may have little to zero expertise in the esoterica of the field, and can be easily fooled with high-sounding scientific jargon, claims, and colored charts. This has always been a problem, likely since time began. A king could appoint a royal scientist, who would bless some seekers and turn away others. But, who was to watch the royal scientist? A seeker of grant money needs to show the grantor that his money is well-spent, that good research is being done, and that more money is required to discover even more good things. It would be an end to the money stream to tell the grantor that the research has resulted in a dead end.

And so, we see the current state of affairs with respect to the IPCC and their latest enormous report that was reportedly filled with peer-reviewed scientific work, and that showed that increasing CO2 created by man’s burning of fossil fuels and release of methane (and a few other chemicals) was increasing the earth’s average global temperature. That temperature increase, according to the warmists’ view, was to melt the polar ice caps, increase the sea level, inundate shorelines, cause massive population relocations, create huge and expensive infrastructure problems with rising sea level, and a host of other disasters. None of these are true, none have happened, and none will happen. It turns out that the IPCC did not rely on good science, but instead fulfilled their agenda to punish the west for consuming fossil fuels, and in some instances relied on pure fictional journalism.

We also see that some governments, California in particular, have seized the bad science and passed equally bad laws such as AB 32, designed to prevent CO2 emissions. The federal government of the United States is attempting to pass similar legislation, with a House bill already passed, and a Senate bill under consideration. The disastrous thing is that the President has stated he will sign the bill when it is presented to him. Good policy must be based on good science, not bad science.

There are some good scientists in the world, no doubt, who do good work and follow the proper peer-review approach. One can only hope that the peer-review expands a bit, to include the engineering approach described above. If it violates the second law of thermodynamics, or fundamentals of process control, it is junk and must be rejected. It may be too much to expect of elected Congressmen and Senators to know about the second law and process control, but there are certainly engineers and technical attorneys who can explain this to them. I am one of them.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California

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