Twitter button

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bad news for Bryce as neutrinos come home to roost

Some months ago, I had a good time here poking fun at Robert Bryce, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, who authored a column in the Wall Street Journal arguing that since a scientific experiment had apparently found neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, all the findings of climate science should be considered up for grabs (see Neutrinos stage speedy rescue from global warming ... whew!, Oct. 9, 2011). No, really, he did.

Unfortunately for Mr. Bryce and his tortured logic, the neutrinos have come home to roost. Late last week, two of the top scientists involved in the experiment, which was conducted at the European high-energy physics CERN laboratory and another research center, resigned after a vote of no confidence by other researchers with whom they had been collaborating.  Just two weeks earlier, a second research group had announced that its testing did not confirm the earlier results. The culprit in the first experiment appears to have been faulty equipment.

So yet another "basis for overturning climate science," and a startlingly flimsy one at that, bites the dust.

Was Mr. Bryce wrong? Well, no, not exactly--all science proceeds by trial and error, and climate science is no exception. It's never "settled," and there are still many areas of uncertainty.  At the same time, his approach was a uniquely counter-factual one: to cast doubt on all of the findings of climate science without challenging any of them.  Very creative, since it required no climate-related evidence whatsoever, but for the same reason, not very convincing.

Here's a modest suggestion, Mr. Bryce: the climate science website Skeptical Science has an excellent and informative page titled 10 Indicators of a Human Fingerprint on Climate Change. That page itself links to another page from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a report detailing the reasons why scientists are sure the Earth is warming.  Between the two, there are 20 or more significant findings on which the concept of human-caused climate change rests.  Next time you undertake to overturn climate science, it might be more prudent, and convincing, to present some reasons, based on observations or research results, for doubting one or more of these pillars of the actual science.

Even if you are able to do that, though, John Cook's admonition from the Skeptical Science page bears repeating:
Science isn't a house of cards, ready to topple if you remove one line of evidence. Instead, it's like a jigsaw puzzle. As the body of evidence builds, we get a clearer picture of what's driving our climate. We now have many lines of evidence all pointing to a single, consistent answer - the main driver of global warming is rising carbon dioxide levels from our fossil fuel burning.

No comments:

Post a Comment