Monday, 15 June 2009

An Inconvenient Falsehood

A friend recently loaned me the DVD of “An Inconvenient Truth” featuring Al Gore, the politician-turned-environmentalist who was beaten to the White House by George Bush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The film was so full of half-truths that it is difficult to know where to  start. One example will suffice. Al Gore cited the drying up of lake Chad as a result of Climate Change. It so happens that I spent three months flying light aircraft around Lake Chad in 1978. This was right at the end of a period of global cooling that took place between (roughly) 1960 - 1980 The level of the lake had been falling for years. There is not the slightest evidence that this had anything whatsoever to do with climate change. It might, but it seems unlikely.

But Gore’s biggest error was the classical one beloved of politicians, and the media: he confuses a positive correlation with a causal relationship. The issue is not whether the climate is changing, nor whether Carbon Dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing, nor whether mankind’s activities are putting out Carbon Dioxide.

The point at issue is the linkage between these observations. Has the carbon dioxide caused the warming, or has the warming caused the carbon dioxide? Or are they both related to something else like sunspots, cloud cover or factor X that we haven’t discovered yet?

There is no “safe side” to this argument. If mankind’s activities are indeed the cause of climate change then Gore’s conclusions are correct (even if his arguments aren’t) and we should be putting our energies into curbing emissions. But if they are not, then carbon capture, carbon trading and all the rest are a dreadful waste of money and energy that we should be putting into safe drinking water supplies, irrigation, storm warning systems and flood defences.

Monday, 8 June 2009

More Perverted Science…


The Guardian (19th May 2009) quoted Sir David Attenborough: this little creature is going to show our connection with all other mammals. Google changed it’s home page icon to reflect the find. On 21 May 2009, the Daily Mail trumpeted Scientists find the 'missing link': A 47million-year-old lemur that could revolutionise how we see human evolution.

But also on 21 May, the New Scientist published an article Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. On 24th May, the Times weighed in with Origin of the Specious: Ida the fossil was hailed as the ‘missing link’ in our evolution. Don’t believe the hype

Because it was hype. The early enthusiasm for the “missing link” idea was based on press releases and media rights rather than scholarly content and careful analysis. Ida was dug up in 1983 and reportedly one of the protagonists had bought her for a large sum of money – which he was presumably trying to recoup. She is an amazing fossil, but later and more sober assessment appears to have concluded that she adds almost nothing to our understanding of human evolution.

We can do without this kind of thing. If science is going to work at all it requires a critical mass of integrity. Once again, as with NASA climate change data, not only does that integrity appears to have been lacking, but also the perpetrators appear to have escaped any significant censorship