Sunday, September 25, 2005

Political Truth VS Scientific Fact

Well now Streisand, the eminent climatologist, has finally pronounced an end to the Global Warming Controversy!

With science behind her, I’m not sure why it is even worth any further discussion. Other than the discussion is purely a political issue and has little to do with science. Politicians and celebrities take great liberties with facts.

Political debate has few rules. As a politician, you have no obligation to tell any part of the other side of an argument. In fact, most of the effort of fact-finding is seeking out a piece of information – marginally factual – that supports your argument. You just need a peanut of a fact that is easily understood and digestible, and can be shown to be true.

That peanut is used to beat the issue to death, until all agree that it is true – even if the fact is used to draw a completely crazy conclusion.

For example from the Independent in London:

"Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

Mr. Lawton may be a scientist by degree, but his “smoking gun” is purely a political truth, not science. By his title, I rather think he’s a bureaucrat, but that is another subject.

Mr. Lawton’s evidence is a finding that the number of “super-powerful hurricanes” has increased dramatically this decade in comparison to the 1970’s. It is odd that he selectively chooses to compare this decade to that decade. It is true that there were fewer Category 5 hurricanes in the 1970's. And it is readily apparent that we've had two category 5 hurricanes in the last month. That's the peanut. has a chart of all of all recorded Atlantic Category 5 hurricanes. If Mr. Lawton had chosen to compare the numbers of the 1960’s to current, the conclusion would be quite different.

In fact, using his scientific analysis, you could well argue that the 1970’s were the beginning of a new ice age. In 1960 and 1961, there were two category five hurricanes in the Atlantic within a month of each other. And more than twice as many “super-powerful hurricanes” than occurred in the next decade.

The real science looks at a cycle of 40 to 50 years, rather than selective comparison of one decade to another for proof. And the real science doesn’t seem to be proclaiming Katrina and Rita as smoking guns.

Right now, all of the talk about “global warming” being a cause for Katrina and Rita is a POLITICAL discussion and not scientific. It is a discussion based on selective facts, and twisted reasoning because it provides another opportunity to generate news coverage which has a bent against the current administration.

When you look to politicians for facts, just remember the facts they supply are chosen to support the claims they make. There is generally a lot of other information you need before you can make a decision on the subject.