Friday, December 12, 2008

Attack of the skeptics XXIII: Inhofe won't quit

It appears that the ranks of Inhofe 400 club has now swelled to 650. The U.S. Senator's expanded list of experts skeptical of the consensus view on the human role in climate change contains few people who have been educated about climate science, have conducted any research about climate science, or have any truly relevant experience.

Of course, life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once, a quote from Thomas Huxley that bears repeating every time this horror show franchise coughs up another lame effort. So, here's an excerpt from my previous critique:

The real deception, here, is the way the members of the 400 club claim expertise on climate change. Here are three of the most common tricks:

1. “An IPCC expert reviewer”: The claim of many a 400 Clubber. It means absolutely nothing. The IPCC reports are public documents. As Tim Lambert pointed out, anyone who asks to see them and considers submitting a comment can call themselves an expert reviewer. Even if you were actually asked to review a section, it still means nothing. On request, I reviewed the corals and climate sections of WGII. That doesn’t mean I can claim the authors had any respect for my review, nor could I claim any responsibility whatsoever for the final report.

2. “Weather expert”. I'm reluctant to pick on this. But the fact is, weather-people or meteorological experts are not climate scientists nor do they have experience with climate models. They have a grounding in basic atmospheric physics similar to many climate scientists but they operate at massively different scales in time and space. This is not a comment on the value of their work, or their expertise, just a reminder that it is different. As a climate person, I know a fair bit about meteorology, but you wouldn’t want me doing your weekend forecast. Vice versa.

3. Peer-reviewed” scientist: Being a “peer-reviewed” scientist doesn’t make you an expert in every branch of science. I am a peer-reviewed scientist. I regularly publish articles on climate change, biogeochemistry and corals in peer-reviewed journals. You would not turn to me for expertise on protein structures, HIV vaccines, environmental toxicology, mammalian genetics, galaxy formation, nor to build a bridge, design an interplanetary craft or remove your kidney. Freeman Dyson, the eminent physicist in Imhofe’s 400 Club, is no doubt a very brilliant man. One thing he is not, however, is an expert on climate science, something rather evident from reading his quotes on the subject.

A bonus category:

4. Recently converted from a believer to a skeptic: Inhofe's list contains many of these supposed converts. A scientist that has been legitimately researching climate change would never call themselves a "believer". This is about evidence. Choosing to reject the human role in climate change is not terribly meaningful if the person had little knowledge about the evidence from the beginning.

Most of all, the compilation of this list reflects a complete misunderstanding of the IPCC process (explained here at Worldchanging). The IPCC's scientific consensus is not restricted to the roughly 2000 members of the IPCC itself. Those members are representatives of the community from around the world. They spent years compiling reviews that summarize all peer-reviewed research on climate change. The members of the IPCC are the spokespeople for the greater community of climate experts. A paltry list of 400 or 650 people, the vast majority of whom have no specific expertise on the science of climate change, is not terribly meaningful.

Americans should be offended that this drivel is perpetuated by a sitting U.S. senator and housed on a U.S. government website. Those are your tax dollars being wasted.

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