Friday, April 28, 2006

And he is an economist at a respected University?

Reading articles like this, and realizing that people can be published and respected makes me SO SAD! I encourage everyone to write to the Post to discredit his weak arguments here:


Climate 90 miss the point of debateNational Post Fri 28 Apr 2006 Page: FP19 Section: Financial Post: Comment Byline: Reuven Brenner Source: Financial Post
Judged by their Climate Manifesto, the Climate 90 signers are not scientists. That is the unavoidable conclusion of the Climate Manifesto's language.
The issues in this climate debate are simple and rather clear. The disagreement is not about rising temperatures but whether the rise can be attributed to human activity. None of the Manifesto's four points claim to solidly back their conclusion. Their approach isn't scientific at all.
1. The two groups agree on the first point: "There is increasingly unambiguous evidence of changing climate in Canada and around the world."
2. The second point has nothing to do with "science": It is a forecast. Moreover, the point does not say how the forecast is linked to "human activity" or which human activity brings it about. Since all climate scientists know that the Earth's climate has gone through periods of warming and cooling that had nothing to do human activity, and since we are now within the range of that variability, this forecast must be taken with grain of salt.
3. Advances in climate science since the 2001 IPCC Assessment have provided more evidence supporting the need for action and development of a strategy for adaptation to projected changes." What does this statement mean, if anything? It reads like bureaucratic political blah-blah. "More evidence" does not mean "convincing evidence." And even skeptical scientists have not opposed people adapting to the warming temperature.
4. Their last, very prudently articulated fourth point suggests a lack of evidence -- it only asks for more taxpayer money to finance research. This point is fine; researchers are entitled to be lobbyists, though perhaps they should register as such." Canada," it says, "needs a national climate change strategy." First, red flags should pop in one's mind when people invoke nationalism and patriotism when talking about science. If one is talking about "global climate change," what can Canadian taxpayers, with just 33 million people scattered on an immense surface, do to have any effect? Then the signers ask for "continued investment in research, [to] understand what is happening, to refine projections of changes induced by anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases."
Does this sound as if there is strong evidence of human activity causing global warming? Not really. Which is fine, that's why there is disagreement in this field of science. This isn't the major issue.
But here we come to the most troubling part of the entire manifesto, and one wonders how 90 scientists could endorse it. The principle of scientific research is NOT to confirm, and analyze opportunities and threats but to try and reject a hypothesis. Scientific research is about finding deviations, because deviations disprove rules. Science is not about going with the herd and confirming what some have found but to try and reject it. After all, the saying in science is "Even if one million people believe in an idea, it can be a very dumb idea."
The government may decide to fund further climate research but it should do so with strings attached, and finance proposals that state explicitly how they will try to reject findings rather than confirm them, let alone politicize the subject or speculate about threats. (Of course, fear mongering is easy, can find political support, and bring in money for "research" that very conveniently subsidizes pleasurable conferences in -- where else? -- warm climates. This principle should hold true for researchers on either side of this or any other scientific debate.
It is about time that taxpayers stop funding activists and lobbyists who masquerade as scientists. The government would give a strong signal by applying a scientific "Accountability Act" by putting the 90 who signed this "manifesto" on the watch list.
Reuven Brenner lectures at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Russ said...

Maybe, to paraphrase Dr. Brenner, it is about time that taxpayers stop funding social scientists who masquerade as scientists. The government would give a strong signal by applying a scientific "Accountability Act" by putting social scientists who write letters to the edtor on the watch list next time they decide who shall receive a fat SSHERC grant.

Oh, wait, apparently he agrees with me: http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/33/16/brenner/

Here's his homepage at McGill:
http://people.mcgill.ca/reuven.brenner/

Sure, maybe global warming is merely correlated to increased consumption of fossil fuels and not caused by it. Regardless, I don't put my faith in the free market to solve the problem. Climate change is the kind of issue that I believe can only be solved through leadership that takes a global utility perspective rather than individual utility (or has Dr. Brenner forgotten the Tragedy of the Commons?).

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