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WARMING OR COOLING? April 25, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, CLIMATE CHANGE, Duckspeak, Humankind/Planet Earth.

Good to see that Maurice Newman is holding to his position that dismisses the scientific theory of climate change caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in which Carbon Dioxide gas emissions play a critical role.

Mr Newman has held a similar opinion to that he held as ABC Chairman, and yet he accuses others of “group think”.

This term is used to describe those who accept scientific orthodoxy, but not defined. I assume the reference is the characteristics that Irving Janis identified. Conceivably all scientific theories and more convincingly scientific paradigms (in the sense used by Thomas Kuhn) are general evidence of consensus or group think. Hypotheses are theoretically construct propositions framed in the world view of the prevailing and relevant scientific paradigm. As far as I can gather understanding climate change does not need a new scientific paradigm. The theory repeated tested by observations, measurements (data) and multiple sources of evidence has been resilient. The balance of probability favours theories rather than hypotheses, yet hypotheses are necessary to frame new research questions.

Maurice Newman does not like scientific models. On the contrary are they not essential tools? Fifty years ago actual physical models were designed to demonstrate processes. The usefulness of data based modelling is obvious when looking as dynamic, multivariate physical system. Equally, it must be incredibly difficult to identify ‘tipping points” and variables in play. The answer to particular model short comings is to use multiple models. An obvious problem is that models are necessary validated against past data and that forward projections are subject to wholistic system change.

For Maurice Newman the problem there is he claims no correlation between the level of Carbon Dioxide (and presumably greenhouse gases) and the increase in mean surface temperature. As is repeated ad infinitum in statistics, “a correlation is not a cause”. He believes the more reliable correlation, is with solar irradiation. This relationship, not surprising, has been gone into in great detail. An American Institute of Physics essay refers to Theodore S Feldman’s, “Solar Variability and Climate Change” observing:

By the 1990s, there was a tentative answer: minor solar variations could indeed have been partly responsible for some past fluctuations… but future warming from the rise in greenhouse gases was far outweigh any solar effects.

Is it not reasonable that non-expert would rely on the considered judgement of expert opinion? Since 99% confidence level is perhaps not feasible, or if feasible not scientifically conservative, the fact that the fifth IPCC Report is prepared to claim 95% confidence level in attributing global warming to human activity are making an extraordinary statement. Without being specific, Maurice Newman dismisses the methodology of the survey of climate science opinion on climate change. He declaims that the 97% acceptance cannot be accepted, and is then no asked what percentage he believes it might be, or how the survey deficiencies might be addressed. He relies on anecdotal evidence, including referencing Roy Spencer, who seems to have gone feral, in the sense that he is speculating tongue in check outside the bounds of peer review.

What influence do the contrarian views of Maurice Newman, and the other key advisors similarly disposed have as gatekeepers (implied by the comments) and as policy shapers? At least in regard to the Direct Action white paper, the Environment Minister made it clear that:

“I want to re-affirm today the Government’s clear, strong support for the science underpinning climate change, recognition of the need for both domestic and global action, and our commitment to the 5 per cent target as we go forward,” Mr Hunt said.

Paying polluters and then hitting them with “a great big tax” when they exceed designated emission levels does not sound impressive, however practical it might be claimed to be. This policy will only cost an extra one billion dollars.

Dismissing one years evidence of carbon pricing might seem a greater statistical travesty of basing opinion on a 17 and half year trend of mean temperature records, might be statistically illiterate. The five per cent target may turn out, when too late, to have been mediocre. The looming next El Nino climate event, the atmosphere of public opinion may radically change.

Maurice Newman’s comments suggest that while the Government may claim to support the science of climate change, they do not seek scientific advice in framing public policy.

Maurice Newman still persists with his criticism of “consensus and conventional wisdom”, most recently on Lateline:


By contrast to the science of climate change, the decision to spend 12.5 billion dollars on attack fighter planes can be made without reference to who they are likely to kill beyond their presumed capabilities, including surveillance. Should the presumed paradigm of violence fly by without reflection, and considerable economic opportunity cost? Refugee camps, for example, around the world might with a small injection of this total money be made more humane and livable. We might even address the causes of conflict and understand the practice of peace. Of course, this is culturally too ambitious and contradicts who we are and who we ought to be.



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