On settled science

I am not a scientist, but I like science. I know enough about science to know that creating a mathematical model for complex natural phenomenon is like trying to shoot an IMAX 3D movie with a old Polaroid camera. There is a chance that you might get it right, but it’s a pretty small chance. There are just too many variables and too many unknowns.

I do not deny that human generated carbon dioxide has changed the climate on the earth. I am a strong advocate of doing what we can to better care for and preserve this beautiful planet we call home. Unfortunately we have scientists who with straight, sober faces claim they have a credible model that predicts the rise in global temperatures or the rise in sea level based on a one hundred year increase in human carbon dioxide production. Such men and women should be called what they are, quacks. There are just too many unexplained natural phenomenon, like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and the cause of the end of the last Ice Age. We launched the first weather satellite in 1960, but don’t really have pervasive global climate measurements until the mid 1970’s. We do have Antarctic ice cores that give us limited insight back 800,000 years, but the data we can gather from these ice cores is fairly limited in comparison to modern satellite data capture. I am very skeptical of all mathematical models of multi-million year climate cycles based on data from less than 4 one thousandths of a percent of the time period in question.

It wearies me to hear seemingly smart people say that climate change is settled science. No science is settled. Galileo stirred great controversy with his assertion that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar system. I imagine his detractors were zealous enough to state that the earth’s position at the center of the solar system was settled science. The idea that any law, theory, or hypothesis is beyond further debate or immune from future discovery tramples the core concepts of scientific reasoning.

With that all off my chest, on Oct 30 some NASA scientists published a paper in the Journal of Glaciology, showing compelling data that the Antarctic ice sheet is actually gaining mass, not losing it. They agree with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge from the Arctic Peninsula and coastal West Antartica, however, they found that East Antartica and the interior of West Antartica have been gaining ice faster than it can be sloughed off in the other areas. Their findings are at odds with conclusions published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 report.

Say the findings of this new paper are correct. In a period of just two years, we discovered that we were actually accumulating Antarctic sea ice instead of losing it. This paper didn’t rely on any new data, they were analyzing satellite data from 1992 to 2008. That means that we aren’t even in agreement on how to interpret the data we have already measured. How could we possibly be settled on a predictive model based on assertions and assumptions that are continuously being challenged, updated, and refined?