How Mature Is Climate Science?

Finding new data and incorporating it in support of or opposition to theory is the way science works–and it works very well. We live in an amazing and wonderful world because of it.

The term ‘climate science’ is actually an umbrella phrase that covers a number of disciplines that contribute to our overall understanding of the many forces acting and interacting on our climate. Some of these disciplines are mature–like physics. Others are not.

Many of the participants in the political debate about what to do regarding future climate change do not understand this. Many others are conversant with one of the sub-topics and think that allows them to speak with authority on other topics. The result is dismal–and what you see around you.

I will just point out that a science that just discovered that black soot turns out to be the second-greatest man-made forcing of temperatures, almost as great as CO2, should not be considered mature.

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17 responses to “How Mature Is Climate Science?

  1. Obama’s comments today on climate change indicate he has no idea what you are talking about:

    We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

    • “Resistance is futile~You will be assimilated.” OK OK~this environmental scientist grasps that you are a gulit ridden True Believer in the Green Religion – unqualified and uncaveated and unfalsifiable by any science.
      She hath Spoken. Sayeth the Good Book of Mother Nature.

      Some people are immune to science, but most of those belonging to organized religions are not.

  2. I voted for Obama. I think future climate change is something we need to address.

    But I think he’s getting wrong advice about the current state of affairs. I don’t think fires, drought or storms are a) getting worse or b) have anything to do with global warming to date.

    Once again, a man I like and admire is incorrect on a matter of science.

  3. Tom: I suspect that Obama is worried about his legacy, much as Cretien was in Canada. So, on a self described “gut feeling”, the Prime Minister signed on for Kyoto.

    Of course, it was impossible to meet those goals, so that government, and subsequent ones, did nothing but hand waving and bafflegab. Fortunately, the current PM pulled out of the agreement, but only at the last possible moment.

    I suspect that Obama will run into that same “iron law”.

  4. I see Climate Depot has linked to this post. It would be interesting to know how that affects your hit count on this new site.

    • It’s had an impact. Some day I’ll get around to posting the hit counter up on the blog. Tom Nelson also linked to this post–and my traffic count went up more after his link than (so far, at least) after Climate Depot.

      Several of the posts here have been republished elsewhere and they usually link back to the source–it’s always a surprised and I wonder why they don’t even notify me. They also have an impact.

      But so far, Tom Nelson (who has actually linked to three or four of these posts) has been the strongest driver of traffic.

  5. Too true!

    One of the first drivers of my AGW scepticism was the amount of ignorance demonstrated by some of its most vocal supporters. Consensus amongst idiots is not a good recommendation. Now Obama is not an idiot but he is a busy guy who’s absorbed the headlines and little more. If it’s a subject that is so dear to him, why hasn’t he absorbed some of the nuances that would make his opinions more credible? AGW is not the black and white issue it’s painted to be. it’s many shades of grey. Why should I trust people who either don’t know or won’t admit that climate science is complicated?

    A popular argument about AGW is ‘if you had cancer would you dismiss the advice of your surgeon, no, then why would you dismiss the advice of climate expert?’ The question demonstrates a lack of understanding climate science and even medicine. Until relatively recently you’d have been mad to put your life in the hands of a medical man and there are still parts of the world where you will be prescribed something useless or even dangerous. Despite the apparent sophistication of satellite measurements and super computers, climate science is at the point where your doctor would have taken out a knife and a bowl, told you that you had too much blood in your system and needed a good bleeding to sort you out. Even today you’d be a fool to blindly trust the medical profession and most of us have personal stories to tell where doctors have not only been wrong but dangerously so. Patient surveys have shown that the proactive patients, who research their conditions, are more likely to get the best treatment. Why should it be any different for AGW?

    How can anyone compare climate science and medicine? Medicine has billions of subjects to examine and can observe them from the micro of the electron microscope to the macro of statistics, thus determining normal from abnormal. We can study the body from pre conception to post decay. We can even experiment on the human body to see if our theories are right and yet we are still far from being able to solve some of the fundamental human conditions. Climate science has one Earth it has been looking at in some (not much) detail since the late seventies, which on a planetary scale is about three heartbeats. Ice cores and tree rings are equivalent to examining teeth and hair for clues to past conditions. In other words, interesting, but it probably won’t help cure anything major. Many of the vital life sustaining systems are still just vague ideas that are far from being accurately understood, let alone modelled. Climate science is clearly in its infancy.

    It doesn’t take a scientist to determine or understand these things. I compare what I know to be true to the pronouncements of AGW supporters and those who can’t even get the obvious stuff right aren’t worth listening to.

  6. I just finished Hansen’s article. If someone else had published it 5 years ago, he would have been called a whore for the fossil fuel industry. Unlike “the team” Hansen realizes just how much trouble the theory is in and is preparing for a “soft landing.”
    If you look at his last article, the soot article, and a few others I would conclude that climate science has finally “matured” to where it was 40 years ago. CO2 is just one of many imputs into climate and probably the most expensive to change.

  7. Alan D McIntire

    Would I trust my surgeon to do back surgery?
    Both I and the spouse of one of my co-workers suffered from back pain.
    I did NOT visit a doctor- I just walked to exercise my back muscles, used a heating pad, took a little over the counter pain medicatoin when pain seemed unbearable, and I’ve been able to manage. The spouse of my co worker saw a doctor, followed his advice, and got back surgery. Now he is off work- permanently disabled- while I am still able to work.
    My answer is NO, I would not follow a doctor’s advice when my own back is invloved.

  8. How many times have we read that manmade climate change has been debunked? A lot! But what most don’t know is that it matters little whether it has been merely debunked, or outright condemned as phony. Our President believes it to be true, and, by Executive Order, spends billions on it, never gets it approved via the Federal budgetary process, then demands that the House pay the bills (lest we default on our obligations).

  9. Tom, what would be your criteria for more mature vs less so?

    • Hi Jim

      I think I’m arguing by exclusion here. I remember the fierce debates in the anthropology field when I was (briefly) at university. They more or less reached a consensus that anthropology was not mature and that they should turn their efforts to gathering data rather than spinning off hypotheses. I think they were right in their conclusion and right to do what they did.

      As for climate science–I just don’t think mature fields suddenly discover the number two issue in terms of impact. (I know–black soot isn’t ‘new’ and the impact is really only double their previous estimate. But still…)

      I would say that maturity might correlate with a decreasing chance for bombshell discoveries.

      • Fair enough, thanks. I think some physical scientists sometimes have a hard time coming to grips with really complex systems. We ecologists are used to it, we expect surprises.

  10. Many others are conversant with one of the sub-topics and think that allows them to speak with authority on other topics.

    the above sentence particularly irks me. It’s ridiculous out there.

  11. Pingback: Vet vi alt nå? « Klimatilsynet

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