Friday, August 26, 2011

A "Bright" Leap of Faith on Climate Change

Just because somebody claims to be a member of the "brights", have a naturalistic view of the universe, and a respect for reason and science, this does not mean that he qualifies under any of these headings.

In this case, I am referring to Allen Small, whose blog Truth About AGW Is Becoming Cloudy

Small wants to argue that CERN has produced evidence that something other than anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for global warming - namely, cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays cause clouds.

This has been known since the early 20th century and goes along with the invention of the "cloud chamber".

Well, in common English, this is hugely misleading. Cosmic rays cause condensation that creates wispy cloud-like phenomena in cloud chambers. It is a huge stretch to say that cosmic rays cause clouds of the type you see up in the sky.

Maybe they do. Maybe they don't.

One suggestion is that changes in solar activity can bring about changes in the number of cosmic rays striking the earth, resulting in a change in cloud formation, resulting in a change in the global climate.

There is absolutely no evidence that this is happening. However, it might happen, and the idea is worth investigating.

So, some scientists at CERN have been investigating it.

At the start, we can see that none of this has anything to do with the science of climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Arguing that it does is like arguing that, since arsenic is a poison that can kill people, this calls into question the claim that gunshot wounds can be fatal. They are two distinct ways of killing people (or affecting the climate). Neither calls the science of the other into question.

However, like I said, simply because somebody claims to love reason and adopt a naturalistic view of the universe, this does not imply that the individual is immune to wild leaps of logic that support a favored politically motivated conclusion. Small does not have sufficient respect for logic and reason that would allow him to see this leap as invalid.

The article in Nature that Small cites says specifically:

Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change. The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometre-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. "At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step," he says.

(See Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays)

In other words, there is no evidence of an effect.

But even if there was an effect, this would still be the case that we have an influence on the climate in addition to the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The claim that it calls the claims of climate change into question requires abandoning reason and using the type of thinking we see in religion and other anti-science circles.

It is important to note that these conclusions do not depend at all on one’s views on climate change. Somebody who rejects climate change but still has the capacity to recognize and respect the difference between good reasons and bad reasons would still see these as bad reasons. Such a person, if such a person actually existed, would argue that, whereas there are sound reasons for rejecting the claim of human-induced global warming, Small's reasons are not among them. Small's reasons are, in fact, the claims of somebody who has abandoned the quest for good reasons and has decided to grasp onto any apparent reason that floats his way, with absolutely no capacity to measure its quality.

In fact, the "arguments" we see against anthropogenic climate change are pretty much in the same class as the arguments we see against evolution. You know how we are constantly hearing that evolution has gaps and that contemporary research (misinterpreted and misapplied in ways that comfort the interpreter and applier) is creating a whole new of problems that evolutionists can't answer, and that evolutionists are hiding any evidence that does not correspond to their politically correct conclusion? Well, Small is applying the same way of thinking to human-caused climate change. In both cases, none of it qualifies as real science.

Small has adopted a favorite conclusion that he refuses to see questioned. He now filters and misinterprets all evidence in any way imaginable so that it appears to give support to this conclusion. If logic does not yield the conclusions he likes, he is more than happy to abandon logic and to make huge leaps that only faith could cross (even though he claims to abandon faith). But its just the same type of thinking.

It is a mistake to think that we are just going to find this type of behavior among the religious.


mojo.rhythm said...


Another person pushing the "cloud cover" hypothesis. It was falsified years ago.

The data shows, unequivocally, that correlations between solar activity and cloud formation break down after 1991. Yet the temperature continues to rise. Golly Gee Wilikers, I wonder why?

I remember a while ago, some other scientist suggested that rising temperatures would causes moisture from the oceans to move into the high sky and form cirrus clouds, which would reflect radiation back into space, cooling the Earth again. That too, was falsified years ago.

Honestly, why do people even bother cranking out these archaic, discredited views when they know they will be called on it?

Anonymous said...

If you see a comment on any of Small's climate change posts over the last year, they were probably mine. Small is a perfect example of how one's ideology can affect their interpretations. He absolutely refuses to accept the idea that we humans are causing climate change because that would require a solution that goes against his rabid libertarianism.

I do agree with Small on one thing though, solutions to climate change will require economic solutions. We can't 'force' people to change the way they use energy unless there is an economic incentive driving it. As I drive by each house in my neighbourhood I'm always asking myself what the price needs to be to have each home generate its own solar electricity instead of buying it off the grid. Once that combination of price and efficiency reaches a tipping point, the industry will explode.

Allen Small said...

Needless to say, I disagree. Here is my latest:

Martin Freedman said...

Allen Small

In order to be confident in a theory explaining the data you need to specify disconfirming evidence, the lack of which supports your theory. What is it?

Well the cosmic ray issue has already long been discussed and does not correlate, in the way it should, in the last 30 years with climate change, see a summary here. That would not be expected if the theory were true. That is disconfirming evidence which disconfirms the theory, that is reduces its posterior probability of being correct and since other theories have higher posterior probabilities, with the ratio of these posteriors arguing very strongly and robustly against the cosmic ray variation affecting cloud cover as the primary forcer on GW.

There is much more summarizing the specifics of this latest paper here and here

Unless you do the legwork you appear to be merely parroting those theories that support your preconceived dogmas.

As for me as far as I was concerned it was an open question as to whether CO2 emmissions was the primary cause on GW, that is whether AGW was the most likely explanation of CC. It has been bloggers and pundits like you uncritically selecting any arguments in support of your view and ignoring or otherwise alternative views that has convinced me. More generally it is the low level of critical response and the continual employment of rhetoric and sophistry that has made it clear there is no decent counterargument.

Lets be clear the CLOUD results are very interesting and further work might provide more information but this alters nothing over the lack of correlation and/or inverted lead/lag relations determined by other and multiply convergent methods. No further work of the CLOUD kind could possibly explain that away, it is simply the wrong area to look.

Sideways said...

Jasper Kirkby, lead scientist on CERN's "CLOUD" experiment: "At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step."

( )

Allen Small: "The news this week from CERN in Europe is that cloud formation seems directly related to cosmic rays."

( )

What more needs to be said concerning Small's intellectual integrity?

Martin Freedman said...

Further balanced and unbiased summary of the CLOUD results are here. One of its points is the CLOUD nucleation rates due to CR, whilst indicating another reaction apart from SO2, are less than previously thought and have less effect the higher the temperature.