Saturday, May 17, 2014

Melting the Ice

Some in the media were in semi-panic mode this past week over a study that found that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting. The predicted consequence of this awful phenomenon is that sea levels could rise as much as 4 meters (i.e. about 12 feet). This would be catastrophic, and, the assumption was, the culprit is human activity resulting in climate change which is warming the seas. Moreover, the melting is irreversible. There's nothing we can do now to stop it.

However, like so much reporting on climate change there's less here than meets the eye.

It turns out that the melting ice is a) more likely to be the result of an undersea volcano than human activity and b) is probably going to take centuries to melt to the point where sea levels will be a problem.

Long before the oceans reach levels that would threaten to inundate Philadelphia California will probably have slipped into the sea and an asteroid will probably have struck the earth with calamitous force. Rising sea level is probably not our biggest cause for worry for a while.

Besides, President Obama assured us that his election marked the day when sea levels will begin to subside, so why worry?

Well, here's something we should worry about. Climate scientists are resorting to very unscientific methods to insure that dissenting voices are not being heard by the public:
A study casting doubt on global warming fears was rejected by a prestigious journal on the grounds that it would be, as one reviewer wrote, “less than helpful” to the cause of climate change.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading and one of the report’s five authors, told the Times of London his work was thrown out for political, not scientific, reasons.

The study challenged the prevailing consensus about the atmosphere’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases, meaning carbon dioxide and other pollutants might not cause global temperatures to rise as rapidly as organizations like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have argued.

Bengtsson and his colleagues submitted their study to the journal Environmental Research Letters, but were told it had been rejected during the peer-review process. “(The study) is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate sceptics media side,” wrote one reviewer.
Climate science is at least sometimes more about leftist ideological agendas than about science, and like a lot of the stuff the left is dogmatic about the facts often don't support their claims.

Speaking of dogmatism aren't journalists a hoot? Few of them know anything about science. Most know nothing about climatology, biological evolution, or cosmology, but they're nevertheless happy to pounce upon anyone who expresses skepticism of the reigning dogmas in any of those fields. It inflates their egos, perhaps, to present themselves as smarter than the yokels who doubt the pronouncements of the most holy fathers of science, but their snide putdowns are often little more than an amusing display of pomposity.

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal gives us some of the latest examples.
Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio came under attack this week for refusing to submit to scientific authority. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," he said in an interview with Jonathan Karl.

Nonscientist Ruth Marcus, writing for the Washington Post, declared that Rubio's words "undermine his other assertion," namely "that he is prepared to be president." Juliet Lapidos, also lacking in scientific expertise, went so far as to assert, in a New York Times blog post, that Rubio had "disqualified himself" from the presidency.

Of all the silly things written on the subject of global warming, Marcus's and Lapidos's offerings are surely among the most recent. Apart from that they're entirely typical of the genre of global-warmist opinion journalism, in which ignorant journalists taunt politicians for their ignorance but have no argument beyond an appeal to authority. Lapidos: "Does Mr. Rubio think scientists are lying? Or that they don't know what they're talking about? Either way, what leads him to believe that the 'portrait' of climate change offered by scientists is inaccurate?"
If scientists really were objective, dispassionate pursuers of truth, committed to following the evidence wherever it leads, then they would deserve our trust, but too many of them are just as ideological and self-interested as any other academic.

It's funny to read journalists on the left who a generation or so ago enjoined us to "Question Authority" now ridiculing those who do just that. I wonder if they would be so critical of dissenters from, say, the authority of the Vatican on questions of theology. Probably not. Consistency is not their strongest intellectual virtue, although sometimes it's difficult to discern what is.