December 4, 2004

· Politics

So, there appear to be no explicit arguments in the peer-reviewed scientific literature against the consensus position that, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” The Tech Central Station Op-Eds rebutting this finding must be in the hopper even now. To help them out, I have cobbled together one made up largely of statements in earlier columns by the likes of Joel Schwartz, James Glassman and Iain Murray.

The Main Source of Hot Air is Plain to See Kieran Healy (assisted by Schwartz, Murray and Glassman.)

As Tech Central Station readers well know, there are reasons to be skeptical of claims of substantial human-caused warming. A recent article in the fringe leftist journal Science discovers a puzzle: none of these reasons is to be found in a survey of 928 peer-reviewed articles published in the past 10 years. Its author concludes that “Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”

Remarkable, indeed. As you know, a superb analysis by Ross McKitrick and Steven McIntyre showed that the famous hockey stick finding—on which the consensus rests in part—was completely bogus, assuming you don’t know the difference between degrees and radians and think that temperature is not a physical quantity. (Setting missing temperature values to zero helps also, but is an advanced quantitative technique.) This is just the sort of nitpickery by which the notoriously left-wing scientific establishment keeps dissenting views out of the journals. The whole affair bears strong resemblance to the recent Bellesiles controversy. Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles won a Bancroft Prize for his argument that gun ownership in early America was not widespread. It took an amateur historian, Clayton Cramer, to point out that this claim could not be substantiated on the basis of actual gun-ownership records. In an exactly parallel way, it took an incompetent analysis by two non-experts to undermine the hockey-stick finding.

Had he worked for a hack website, Hayek would surely have been the first to note that the very idea of peer-review, and the free sharing of data and ideas, positively reeks of socialism. The market, and not Lysenkoist scientists, should be allowed to decide the truth about climate change. The present situation is a discouraging spectacle to anyone who expected rational, scientific discussions, but climate change has become an issue teeming with emotion, and uncertainty is not a word the participants in the so-called “scientific community” like to hear. Just like Dow 36,000 is not a word I like to hear. Stop it. I told you, that shit ain’t funny.

Kieran Healy is unqualified to comment on matters of climate change, and is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

(Hat tip: Chris Mooney.)

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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