Monday, February 24, 2014

Charles Krauthammer and Global Warming Science

The Washington Post published a column by Charles Krauthammer where he questions climate change science. Let's be very honest here. The column is well thought out and is not inflammatory. But, it is also wrong on the basic implied assumption.

What he says is that science is an ongoing process and we cannot come out and say that some scientific issue is closed to debate. This is an accurate assessment of the scientific process. Science never ends. However, the implied part of his column is patently wrong. To suggest that the climate change deniers might have credibility simply because the scientific method requires continuous debate and review is, to put it bluntly, just flat out wrong. What makes it even worse is how he himself produces an example to show just how wrong he is.

He cites the case of mammograms.

It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less) or be subject to termination.

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

This is a true statement, but actually makes exactly the opposite point that he wants. What we have in this case is a situation where a rigorous, scientific study revealed new information. Climate change deniers are not engaged in any kind of scientifically valid study that disputes the current climate science. And, that is the problem.

Based on Krauthammer's logic, we should allow anyone with any kind of contrary viewpoint equal time with the scientists. I agree that contrary scientific evidence should be allowed and considered, and it is. But, climate change deniers are not producing this science. Claims that climate change violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not scientifically valid (there is no 2nd law violation). Claiming that the greenhouse effect doesn't exist is not scientifically valid (the greenhouse effect has been rigorously proven). Claiming climate is changing due to natural cycles is not scientifically valid (there are natural cycles but it has been shown what we are experiencing is not one of them). All of these claims, and many, many more, have all been shown to have no basis in the scientific facts.

So, why should they be considered in any scientific debate? Simply, if you are not going to perform as a scientist, don't be surprised when you are dismissed by the scientific community. And, most importantly, NEVER suggest that deniers are being ignored because climate scientists want to pursue some agenda. There is NO agenda and climate scientists will be the first to tell you they would love to find out climate change is not real. The scientists are the ones most familiar with the effects of climate change and what we are seeing is not pretty. I would be very happy if someone could show that we really don't have anything to worry about.

Krauthammer is wrong. The science is as settled as it can be at this time. The amount of evidence is massively overwhelming. The deniers really are flat earthers and should be ignored until they can produce something that is scientifically valid.

But, there is more to the story.  Now, it turns out, there is a movement to censor Krauthammer for what he said. I am as strongly opposed to this as I am to giving any credence to the deniers. Freedom of speech is a cherished freedom in this country and we don't have to look very hard to find countries where they cannot enjoy that freedom. If Krauthammer, who is not a scientist, wishes to express his opinion then he is free to do so. But, so are we. And, if I want to point out that Krauthammer is wrong and misguided, then it is my right to do so.

So, Mr. Krauthammer, I respectfully wish to tell you that you are completely wrong and misguided in your statement.

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