Tony Heller of http://realclimatescience.com/ presents at the 34th Annual Meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, on July 9, 2016
“Is the point of research to make other professional academics happy, or is it to learn more about the world?” —Noah Grand, sociology professor, UCLA
“Science, I had come to learn, is as political, competitive, and fierce a career as you can find, full of the temptation to find easy paths.” — Paul Kalanithi, neurosurgeon and writer (1977–2015)
Vox has conducted a very interesting study and has written a long, insightful article: The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 researchers. Excerpts:
In the past several years, many scientists have become afflicted with a serious case of doubt — doubt in the very institution of science.
As reporters covering medicine, psychology, climate change, and other areas of research, we wanted to understand this epidemic of doubt. So we sent scientists a survey asking this simple question: If you could change one thing about how science works today, what would it be and why?
We heard back from 270 scientists all over the world, including graduate students, senior professors, laboratory heads, and Fields Medalists. They told us that, in a variety of ways, their careers are being hijacked by perverse incentives. The result is bad science.
The scientific process, in its ideal form, is elegant: Ask a question, set up an objective test, and get an answer. Repeat.
But nowadays, our respondents told us, the process is riddled with conflict. Scientists say they’re forced to prioritize self-preservation over pursuing the best questions and uncovering meaningful truths.
Today, scientists’ success often isn’t measured by the quality of their questions or the rigor of their methods. It’s instead measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how they spin their findings to appeal to the public.
“As long as things like publication quantity, and publishing flashy results in fancy journals are incentivized, and people who can do that are rewarded … they’ll be successful, and pass on their successful methods to others.”
Many scientists have had enough. They want to break this cycle of perverse incentives and rewards. They are going through a period of introspection, hopeful that the end result will yield stronger scientific institutions. In our survey and interviews, they offered a wide variety of ideas for improving the scientific process and bringing it closer to its ideal form.
Academia has a huge money problem
Their gripe isn’t just with the quantity, which, in many fields, is shrinking. It’s the way money is handed out that puts pressure on labs to publish a lot of papers, breeds conflicts of interest, and encourages scientists to overhype their work.
Grants also usually expire after three or so years, which pushes scientists away from long-term projects. Yet as John Pooley, a neurobiology postdoc at the University of Bristol, points out, the biggest discoveries usually take decades to uncover and are unlikely to occur under short-term funding schemes.
Some of our respondents said that this vicious competition for funds can influence their work. Funding “affects what we study, what we publish, the risks we (frequently don’t) take,” explains Gary Bennett a neuroscientist at Duke University. It “nudges us to emphasize safe, predictable (read: fundable) science.”
Finally, all of this grant writing is a huge time suck, taking resources away from the actual scientific work.
Too many studies are poorly designed. Blame bad incentives.
Scientists are ultimately judged by the research they publish. And the pressure to publish pushes scientists to come up with splashy results, of the sort that get them into prestigious journals.
Some of this bias can creep into decisions that are made early on. Many of our survey respondents noted that perverse incentives can also push scientists to cut corners in how they analyze their data.
“I have incredible amounts of stress that maybe once I finish analyzing the data, it will not look significant enough for me to defend,” writes Jess Kautz, a PhD student at the University of Arizona. “And if I get back mediocre results, there’s going to be incredible pressure to present it as a good result so they can get me out the door. At this moment, with all this in my mind, it is making me wonder whether I could give an intellectually honest assessment of my own work.”
Increasingly, meta-researchers (who conduct research on research) are realizing that scientists often do find little ways to hype up their own results — and they’re not always doing it consciously.
“The current system has done too much to reward results,” says Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “This causes a conflict of interest: The scientist is in charge of evaluating the hypothesis, but the scientist also desperately wants the hypothesis to be true.”
“I would make rewards based on the rigor of the research methods, rather than the outcome of the research,” writes Simine Vazire, a journal editor and a social psychology professor at UC Davis. “Grants, publications, jobs, awards, and even media coverage should be based more on how good the study design and methods were, rather than whether the result was significant or surprising.”
“We’ve gotten used to working away in private and then producing a sort of polished document in the form of a journal article,” Gowers said. “This tends to hide a lot of the thought process that went into making the discoveries. I’d like attitudes to change so people focus less on the race to be first to prove a particular theorem, or in science to make a particular discovery, and more on other ways of contributing to the furthering of the subject.”
“I think the one thing that would have the biggest impact is removing publication bias: judging papers by the quality of questions, quality of method, and soundness of analyses, but not on the results themselves,” writes Michael Inzlicht, a University of Toronto psychology and neuroscience professor.
Judith Curry note: New Scientist just published a relevant article Evolutionary forces are causing a boom in bad science. … continue
The “Opium Wars” were fought by the British Government to legalize their control of the opium trade to China in the mid 17th Century. Reports estimated that 25% of the Chinese people were addicted to opium by 1905. That same year in the US, heroin addiction had risen to alarming rates, and the US Congress passed a ban on opium. Another American heroin epidemic began again in 1967 in Chicago and New York, and then spread widely through the early 1980’s. The son of the US Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, died of a heroin overdose in New York City on April 24, 1984. Physicians in medical school were taught that opioids were dangerously addicting substances that should be used only for short term severe pain and terminal cancer.
Despite this teaching and the raging Heroin epidemic in America, a letter was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. The author reported that of the patients in their hospital who were treated with narcotics, less than one percent became addicted. In 1986 the journal Pain, reported on a study of only 38 patients who were treated with narcotics for several years. The authors concluded that there was little risk of addiction. There were no other significant addiction studies reported. Shortly after the study in Pain, one of the co-authors went on to head the American Pain Society. This organization was one of several similar nonprofit groups funded by the Pharmaceutical Industry like Purdue Pharma the producers of the narcotic Oxycontin.
These opioid producers also funded medical education programs and advocacy groups. Within a short time the pharmaceutical companies began an aggressive nationwide campaign to market opioids for long term non cancer pains such as back and neck pain. During the 1990’s the incidence of opioid misuse rose markedly, fueled by the number of opioid prescriptions written by many physicians and nurses. Where were the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) and the American Medical Association (A.M.A.) when they were presented with blatant disregard for the truth about opioid addiction? What evidence did they demand before they abandoned 150 years of knowledge about the dangers of opioids? Where were the evidence based studies needed to refute what was known around the world about the risks of opioids?
As of February 2009, Dr Zee, writing in the Journal of Public Health, revealed that “we lack any large…rigorous prospective study addressing the issue of … addiction, during long term opioid use for chronic non cancer pain.”
The medical schools and physician training programs did not publicly denounce this unscientific pharmaceutical propaganda. Why? The F.D.A., the organization responsible for ensuring that prescription drug promotion is truthful, continued to authorize more and more forms of opioids over the years. Why? To this day, the F.D.A. and the A.M.A., have refused to demand mandatory education for opioid prescribers. Why? Furthermore, the Federation of State Medical Boards accepted money from pharmaceutical firms to produce prescribing guidelines. Why did physicians not sound the alarm to expose the fact that the pharmaceutical industry was establishing treatment guidelines for the medical profession?
Dr David A Kessler, the past commissioner of the F.D.A., from 1990-1997, the very years the epidemic was accelerating, stated in an article in the New York Times on May 7, 2016: “It has proved to be one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine”. Doctors, regulators and drug makers “missed one fundamental: The more opioids prescribed, the more opioid abuse there will be.”
We beg to differ. This was no mistake. The reality is that physicians in the leadership of the F.D.A., A.M.A., and The Federation of State Medical Boards, willfully abandoned their scientific integrity and over 150 years of wisdom regarding the dangers of opioids. This was simply a catastrophic violation of their duty to “do no harm”.
In their complicity with the Pharmaceutical Companies, many physicians and nurses abandoned their responsibility to their patients by writing prescriptions for addiction. The consequences are now staring us in the face. Well over a hundred thousand people have overdosed and died, and there are now 3 million addicts as the epidemic continues to devastate families across the nation.
Let’s set the record straight.
The AAAS and affiliated professional societies just shot themselves in the foot with the letter to U.S. policy makers.
Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a press release entitled Thirty-One Top Scientific Societies Speak With One Voice on Global Climate Change. Punchline:
In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies today reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.
The text of letter to Congress can be found here [link]. The main text of the letter:
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.
To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.
We, in the scientific community, are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.
The 28 June letter was signed by leaders of the following organizations: AAAS; American Chemical Society; American Geophysical Union; American Institute of Biological Sciences; American Meteorological Society; American Public Health Association; American Society of Agronomy; American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists; American Society of Naturalists; American Society of Plant Biologists; American Statistical Association; Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography; Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation; Association of Ecosystem Research Centers; BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium; Botanical Society of America; Consortium for Ocean Leadership; Crop Science Society of America; Ecological Society of America; Entomological Society of America; Geological Society of America; National Association of Marine Laboratories; Natural Science Collections Alliance; Organization of Biological Field Stations; Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics; Society for Mathematical Biology; Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles; Society of Nematologists; Society of Systematic Biologists; Soil Science Society of America; University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
Whats wrong with this picture? Where to start is the main challenge.
This statement is a blatant misuse of scientific authority to advocate for specific socioeconomic policies. National security and economics (specifically called out in the letter) is well outside the wheelhouse of all of these organizations. Note the American Economics Association is not among the signatories; according to an email from Ross McKitrick, the constitution of the AEA forbids issuing such statements. In fact, climate science is well outside the wheelhouse of most of these organizations (what the heck is with the statisticians and mathematicians in signing this?)
The link between adverse impacts such as more wildfires, ecosystem changes, extreme weather events etc. and their mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions hinges on detecting unusual events for at least the past century and then actually attributing them to human caused warming. This is highly uncertain territory – even within the overconfident world of the IPCC. And the majority of the signatories to this letter have no expertise in the detection and attribution of human caused climate change.
The signatories whose membership has some expertise on the detection and attribution of climate change are only a few: American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Geological Society of America. The rest are professional societies who are not involved with the physics of climate but explicitly profit from the alarm.
Many professional societies have issued their own policy statements on climate change. One notable absence on the list of signatories is the American Physical Society. While I am not a fan of the APS statement on climate change (see my previous post here), their response as to why they did not sign the AAAS letter is interesting (see this WaPo article):
Of prominent U.S. scientific organizations, only the American Physical Society (APS) abstained from participating in both the 2009 and 2016 letter efforts.
“The American Physical Society did not sign the  letter because it was presented as a fait accompli, and there are significant differences between the letter and the APS Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate,” it said in a statement. “The APS statement went through a two-year vetting process involving multiple committees, the society’s 53,000-plus membership and the board of directors.”
Though the APS statement about climate change is more nuanced than the AAAS letter, stating — for example — “scientific challenges remain in our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate change,” it in no way disputes the scientific consensus on climate change or the risks it poses.
Well, score half a point for the APS. At least they are thinking for themselves, and not mindlessly joining in the overt advocacy of the AAAS.
‘Scientists speaking with one voice’ on an issue as complex and poorly understood as climate change, its impacts and solutions is something that I find rather frightening. Well, I am somewhat reassured that this is not the population of scientists speaking, but rather the leadership of the professional societies speaking. How many members of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists have an educated opinion, or even care very much, about climate change? And many of these society leaders (who were responsible for signing on behalf of their organization) are not scientists themselves, e.g. Chris McEntee, Executive Director of the AGU, whose background is in nursing (Masters in Health Administration). She is quoted in the AAAS press release:
“Climate change is one of the most profound challenges facing our society. Consensus on this matter is evident in the diversity of organizations that have signed this letter. Science can be a powerful tool in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and we stand ready to work with policymakers as they deliberate various options for action.”
So, is this letter going to change the minds of ~50% of Congressional members who do not support President Obama’s climate change plan, either because they don’t like the proposed solutions, or don’t think climate change is dangerous, or don’t think humans are the dominant cause of recent climate change?
Those in Congress that disagree with Obama’s plan have clearly shown themselves not to be susceptible to pressures from scientist/advocates and their consensus enforcement. Further, by broadening the list of signatories to include societies that have little or no expertise in the physics of climate, this whole exercise reinforces the public distrust of these scientific organizations.
It seems that the primary motivation of this is for the leaders of these professional societies to be called to the big table to engage in the Congressional policy deliberations about climate change. So, if you are Lamar Smith or Ted Cruz, would you be calling any of these people to participate in Congressional hearings?
The AAAS and the affiliated professional societies blew it with that letter. They claim the science is settled; in that case, they are no longer needed at the table. If they had written a letter instead that emphasized the complexities and uncertainties of both the problem and the solutions, they might have made a case for their participation in the deliberations.
Instead, by their dogmatic statements about climate change and their policy advocacy, they have become just another group of lobbyists, having ceded the privilege traditionally afforded to dispassionate scientific reasoning to political activists in the scientific professional societies. With a major side effect of damaging the process and institutions of science, along with the public trust in science.
The AAAS et al. have shot themselves in the foot with this one.
And it wasn’t just Raw Story either! RT. And other lame stream lying media outlets of alleged good reputation were spewing the same bile.
noun: hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles
exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
Pay attention to the hysterical manipulative language use, the hyperbole- that is not science- it’s just perception management.
“environmental blogger Robert Scribble” Clearly this man is no environmental blogger since he has no apparent knowledge of the environment
“It’s the very picture of weather weirding” Weather weirding- Is weirding a real word?
‘“Like many extreme events resulting from human-forced climate change — this co-mingling of upper level airs from one Hemisphere with another is pretty fracking strange,” Uh, Yah!
Human forced climate change-rofl– When AGW fails. When human caused fails. The spin doctors change the spin to “human forced”– That’s a rebrand!
More nonsense from someone named Paul Beckwith appearing to bolster the claims of the unenvironmentalist Robert Scribbler.
“University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith called the new behavior “unprecedented.”
That’s enough nonsense from Raw Story!
Did you know that “climate scientist” Paul Beckwith has a masters degree in laser optics? Here I would have thought perhaps he had a Doctorate in SPIN
People such as Robert Scribble and Paul Beckwith should stop spreading such big frackin’ lies!
Thankfully a voice of rationality and reason!
Op Scientist @WxCoEnergy (@WeatherCompany @IBM). PhD in tropical meteorology from @UAlbany. A @BostonDotCom’s top 40 Meteorologists to follow.
THIS IS NOT SOMETHING NEW. It’s called Cross Equatorial Flow-NOT a result of climate change.
I was intrigued. What is this Cross Equatorial Flow?
Just a quick scan of those links indicate this is a regular occurence. All over the globe. Including one study that used 15 years of date from 1979 to 1993.
Hmmmmm…… lots of instances of Cross Equatorial Flow- Nothing new to see here
Just to drive my point home regarding the many, many hoaxes and lies perpetrated by the AGW cult:
Paul Beckwith has a masters degree in laser optics, which he has somehow parlayed into being a “Climate System Scientist” to spread alarmism about the climate system.
But his post “Unprecedented, Jet Stream Crosses Equator” suggests he knows little of meteorology, let alone climate.
A “jet stream” in the usual sense of the word is caused by the thermal wind, which cannot exist at the equator because there is no Coriolis force. To the extent that there is cross-equator flow at jet stream levels, it is usually from air flowing out of deep convective rain systems. That outflow often enters the subtropical jet stream, which is part of the average Hadley Cell circulation.
There is frequently cross-equatorial flow at jet stream altitudes, and that flow can connect up with a subtropical jet stream. But it has always happened, and always will happen, with or without the help of humans. Sometimes the flows connect up with each other and make it look like a larger flow structure is causing the jet stream to flow from one hemisphere to the other, but it’s in no way unprecedented.
We’ve really only known about jet streams since around WWII…one of my professors, Reid Bryson, was one of the first to advise the U.S. military that bombers flying to Japan might encounter strong head winds. The idea that something we have been observing for only several decades on a routine basis (upper tropospheric winds in the tropics) would exhibit “unprecedented” behavior is rather silly.
I especially like this portion of Paul’s post: “We must declare a global climate emergency. Please consider a donation to support my work..”
Nice touch, Mr. Beckwith.
How many times have I stated here the only green the phony environmentalists see is the green of money? As they fear monger. And prevaricate.
So many lies to challenge and so little time! Sigh
We can conclude that the evidence provided is sufficient to justify a complete updating and reviewing of present climate models to better consider these detected natural recurrences and lags in solar processes. – Jorge Sánchez-Sesma
In pondering how the climate of the 21st century will play out, solar variability has generally been dismissed as an important factor by the proponents of AGW. However, I think that it is important that scenarios of future solar variability and their potential impacts on climate should be considered in scenarios of future climate change.
I have been cursorily following the literature on this topic. I have recently been in communication with Jorge Sanchez-Sesma. He has new paper that was just accepted for publication in Earth System Dynamics, an interactive open-access journal published by the EGU. I am featuring this paper in a post since it provides important new analysis and insights on this topic, and also provides a useful assessment of the literature and current state of knowledge on this topic.
The significance of this paper is reflected in the EGU metrics link that indicates that this paper has been downloaded 1531 times so far (before it has been formally published).
This is a remarkable paper in many ways. This paper has a single author — Jorge Sanchez-Sesma, who is a climatologist (not a solar physicist). I have been in contact with Jorge and will be posting an interview with him in several weeks. He has a remarkable story to tell.
This paper indicates that the case is increasingly compelling for millennial-scale variations in solar activity. The arguments for a forthcoming Grand Solar Minimum are also increasingly compelling.
To what extent a Grand Solar Minimum will influence the Earth’s climate remains uncertain. As discussed on a previous blog post IPCC: solar variations don’t matter, the IPCC AR5 Ch 8 stated:
Nevertheless, even if there is such decrease in the solar activity, there is a high confidence that the TSI RF variations will be much smaller in magnitude than the projected increased forcing due to GHG.
Solar indirect effects on climate remain at the knowledge frontier, and are associated with substantial uncertainty and ignorance. This uncertainty and ignorance is not a rationale for ignoring solar effects on the 21st century climate (and 22nd, 23rd centuries). And anyways, is the solar uncertainty (we understand the sign) really so much greater than that associated with the effects of clouds on climate (see my recent post The cloud climate conundrum), where even the sign of the feedback is uncertain and the magnitude of cloud forcing swamps greenhouse gas radiative forcings.
But we are starting to see some ideas emerge as to how these solar effects and processes could be included in climate models. Independently of climate models, the statistical forecast technique used by Sanchez-Sesma provides the basis for creating alternative scenarios of the 21st century climate. I find his arguments about lags to be particularly important as we sort out the solar-climate effects.
Tackling the variability of solar activity and solar indirect effects seems more tractable than the cloud-climate problem and untangling the myriad of scales of ocean oscillations, so I would hope to see much more emphasis put on unraveling the solar-climate connections.
The policy significance of this issue is clear: if we are headed to a mid-20th century solar minimum, or a Grand Solar Minimum for the next two centuries, this will offset greenhouse warming to some extent. The extent of the offset depends on whether climate sensitivity to CO2 is on the larger or smaller end of the range of estimates, and the magnitude of the solar impact. But the sign of the solar offset is becoming increasingly clear: towards cooling.
By Stuart Hooper – 21st Century Wire – June 22, 2016
This is long overdue.
The University of Alaska is sponsoring a study that will examine whether of not WTC Building 7 was brought down by a controlled demolition on September 11, 2001.
For those who may not be aware, standing some 47 stories high, Building 7 was the third skyscraper that collapsed later in the afternoon on 9/11, dropping at free-fall speed – in less than 7 seconds – and yet, it was not struck by any plane and was located over 100 metres away from WTC 1 and 2.
The official version of events is that fire spread to Building 7, from the main towers, devastating the structure, and causing it also to fall in on itself, but many have questioned how exactly every single support column in the building could have failed simultaneously without the use of pre-planned explosives.
Dr J Leroy Hulsey, chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, has partnered with Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth to begin a rigorous academic study into what really caused it to collapse.
Dr Hulsey said:
“Over the next year, with a team of PhD students, I will be rebuilding World Trade Center building 7, using the same drawings that were used to build it originally we will reconstruct it digitally.”
“NIST says the building fell down due to office fires. Our investigation will evaluate the probability that this was the cause of the collapse.”
Ted Walter, Director of Strategy and Development for A&E 9/11 Truth added:
“We hope to gain significant traction in the engineering community by providing an authoritative refutation of NIST’s report, by showing that there is no way that fires could have brought down building 7.”
On the day of 9/11 the BBC reported that Building 7 had collapsed 20 minutes before it actually had, which only raises suspicions that somebody knew it was about to come down. See that monumental screw up, which happened live on TV, here:
Watch the collapse of Building 7 here:
Do you believe explosives brought down Building 7?
Ridd was punished by James Cook University for “not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues.” The university even warned that if he does this again, he’ll be tried for serious misconduct.
The latest perversion in research ethics comes to us from James Cook University in Australia. The Australian has the scoop, but it is behind paywall. Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller has an article on this University Censures Science Prof For Fact-Checking Global Warming Claim. Excerpts:
An Australian university recently censured marine scientist Paul Ridd for “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution,” because he questioned popular claims among environmentalists about coral reefs and global warming.
What was Ridd’s crime? He found out two of the world’s leading organizations studying coral reefs were using misleading photographs to make the case that global warming was causing a mass reef die-off. Ridd wasn’t rewarded for checking the facts and blowing the whistle on misleading science. Instead, James Cook University censured Ridd and threatened to fire him for questioning global warming orthodoxy.
Ridd’s not alone in criticizing some institutions and environmental groups for over-hyping the impacts global warming will have on coral reefs.
In fact, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s own chairman had to come out and dispel notions the reef was almost completely gone.
“We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 percent of the reef is practically dead,” Reichelt said. “We’ve also seen reports that 35 percent, or even 50 percent, of the entire reef is now gone.”
“However, based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality rate is 22 percent — and about 85 percent of that die-off has occurred in the far north between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250 kilometers north of Cairns,” he said. “Seventy-five per cent of the reef will come out in a few months time as recovered.”
The group’s former chairman Ian McPhail even accused environmentalists of “exaggerating the impact of coral bleaching for political and financial gain.”
Despite the campaign to tamp down on reef alarmism, Ridd was punished by James Cook University for “not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues.” The university even warned that if he does this again, he’ll be tried for serious misconduct.
I just love this statement: “not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues.” Folks, we have a new definition of serious academic misconduct. Watch out, Michael Mann.
If this seems like a joke, it isn’t. I was ostracized from the ‘community’ for criticizing my colleagues overconfidence and failure to adequately account for uncertainty (see the infamous article Climate Heretic Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues). I thought that, in the midst of all the important issues at play in the climate debate, ‘turning on my colleagues’ was the least of them.
In my previous post Scientists and Motivated Reasoning, I identified a major ethical conflict for scientists between the microethics of your conscience in adhering to the norms of science, versus the macroethics of your perceived duty to the public, which may be colored by your politics and values.
Also included in the discussion of microethics versus macro ethics is responsibility to your colleagues. In my previous post, I wrote:
I am particularly concerned about microethical conflicts involving colleagues and scientific institutions that apparently justify self-serving irresponsible professional behavior, both by individuals and institutions. This seems much worse to me than politically motivated reasoning by members of the public. Personally, I have felt the need to break loose of the shackles of loyalty to colleagues and institutions if it comes at the expense of integrity in science and professional conduct.
Why even bother with loyalty/responsibility to colleagues – beyond giving them credit for their research? Do I really have any responsibility to any and all scientists just because they are members of the same professional society? I would say no, but upon further reflection I can see a tiny point here – it isn’t just a joke.
The importance of ‘collegiality’ among elite academic researchers seems to be perceived as more important than I have credited. In Michael Polanyi’s Republic of Science, the self-coordination of scientists is of paramount importance.
Going back to my previous discussion on microethics versus macroethics, I wrote:
As a researcher, what kinds of responsibilities do you have to
your conscience (micro)
your colleagues (micro)
the public (macro)
the environment (macro)
My previous post illustrated numerous ethical conflicts that can arise for researchers. But when it comes to conflicts between your conscience and your colleagues, or the public and your colleagues, any perceived responsibility to your colleagues has to take a back seat.
But it seems that in academic science, responsibility to your colleagues and their opinions, their declarations of consensus, their reputations, is apparently regarded by many researchers as the paramount consideration, viz. the circling of the wagons that occurred in Climategate.
This concern about ‘responsibility’ to your colleagues seems only to extend to colleagues who happen to agree with you.
In Science on the Verge, and in postnormal science more generally, the importance of extended peer review is emphasized, which is very much needed to break down the clubby, exclusionary academic collegiality that is used as a club to marginalize dissenting voices.
The sickness of the clubby academic collegiality is absurdly highlighted by this latest episode from James Cook University.
The Swedish parliament has today agreed to abolish a tax on nuclear power as it recognizes nuclear’s role in helping it to eventually achieve a goal of 100% renewable generation.
The framework agreement announced by the Social Democrats, the Moderate Party, the Green Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats, will see the tax phased out over two years. It also allows for the construction of up to ten new nuclear reactors at existing sites, to replace plants as they retire. Setting 2040 as the date at which Sweden should have a 100% renewable electricity system, the document stresses that 2040 is a ‘goal’ and not a cut-off date for nuclear generation.
A variable production tax on nuclear power introduced in 1984 was replaced by a tax on installed capacity in 2000. Since its introduction this tax has gradually increased and today corresponds to about 7 öre (0.8 US cents) per kilowatt-hour. In February this year, utility Vattenfall said that the capacity tax had brought its nuclear operating costs to around 32 öre (3.8 US cents) per kWh. However, its revenue from nuclear power generation is only about 22 öre (2.6 US cents) per kWh.
Swedish utilities had sought redress against the tax through the courts, but the European Court of Justice ruled last October that Sweden could continue to tax nuclear power, deciding the tax is a national, rather than European Commission, matter.
Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall welcomed the agreement, which he said gave the utility the predictability it needed. “The abolishment of the nuclear capacity tax is an important precondition for us to be able to consider the investments needed to secure the long-term operation of our nuclear reactors from the 1980s,” he said. Vattenfall’s reactors at Forsmark and Ringhals have undergone a comprehensive modernisation programme to allow them to operate until the mid-2040s. However, to continue operating beyond 2020 they must meet stricter safety requirements through the installation of independent core cooling. Investing in those upgrades was economically impossible with the tax in place.
“Even with the abolishment of the capacity tax, profitability will be a challenge,” Hall concluded. “Low electricity prices put all energy producers under pressure and we will continue to focus on reducing production costs. Naturally, investment decisions must be taken on commercial grounds, taking all cost factors and expected long-term market developments that the agreement implies into account,” Hall said.
The director general of the World Nuclear Association, Agneta Rising, said: “Today’s announcement is a positive development. It is vital that there is now consistent policy to give operators the confidence to make the investments needed in their plant to allow for their long term continued operation. Other countries should follow Sweden’s example and ensure that their energy policies provide a level playing field that treats all forms of generation equally on their merits.”
Alena Kimbrough in Liang Luar cave on Flores
There are many who will not like this recent paper published in Nature Communications on principle as it talks of the hiatus in global temperatures for the past 20 years or so, that the Little Ice Age was global in extent, and that climate models cannot account for the observations we already have let alone make adequate predictions about what will happen in the future. It also makes what has happened in the past 50 years seem a little less unusual. This is however an interesting paper that deserves wide consideration, but as it doesn’t tow what some regard as a “party-line” it will probably get few mentions in the media.
Researchers working at the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences have discovered century-scale patterns in Pacific rainfall and temperature, and linked them with global climate changes in the past 2000 years. These past El Niño (ENSO) oscillations in the Pacific Ocean may have amplified global climate fluctuations for hundreds of years at a time. Member of the team Alena Kimbrough says, “We’ve shown ENSO is an important part of the climate system that has influenced global temperatures and rainfall over the past millennium…Our findings, together with climate model simulations, highlight the likelihood that century-scale variations in tropical Pacific climate modes can significantly modulate radiatively forced shifts in global temperature.”
The team measured trace elements and stable isotopes in stalagmites from the Indonesian island of Flores and used them to reconstruct ancient rainfall, comparing them to records from East Asia and the central-eastern equatorial Pacific. They found that northern hemisphere warming and droughts between the years 950 and 1250 corresponded to an El Niño-like state in the Pacific, which switched to a La Niña-like pattern during a cold period between 1350 and 1900. They found periods of predominantly El Niño-like patterns for several hundred years that alternate with La Niña patterns, impacting on global climate over the last 2000 years. Climate models cannot reproduce this.
“Our results highlight significant discrepancies between the proxy records and model simulations for the past millennium. Critically, these discrepancies coincide with century-scale anomalies in the strength of the Pacific Walker Circulation. We cannot rule out the possibility that some of the low-frequency Pacific variability was a forced response to variable solar intensity and changing teleconnections to higher latitudes that are not simulated by the models, or that non-climatic processes have influenced the proxies… the paleodata-model mismatch supports the possibility that unforced, low-frequency internal climate variability (that is difficult for models to simulate) was responsible for at least some of the global temperature change of the past millennium.”
The researchers say that the La Nina-like pattern is thought to be a factor contributing to the recent so-called ‘warming hiatus’ and earlier twentieth century cool and warm decades. “Therefore, our analysis of multicentury hydroclimate variability suggests that projections of tropical rainfall patterns, and global temperature extremes, will remain uncertain until paleoclimate records and models consistently capture the lower-frequency variability, and associated feedbacks, in the tropical Pacific.” Lead author Dr Michael Griffiths from William Paterson University, in the United States, added, “Until we can model this lower-frequency behaviour in the tropical Pacific, one can only speculate on how the warming will play out over the next few decades.”
Thus we have another natural climatic change mechanism that is relevant to how we asses the climatic changes that have occurred in the past century and in recent decades.