HIGHLANDS, N.C., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Junk Science -- Harvard and Beyond
This here's the 329th Report ta the Folks Back Home from the (More er Less) Honorable Billybob, cyberCongressman from Western Carolina.
This is about "junk science," stuff which seems true, is presented as true, but ain't no sech thang.
Yer Congresscritter is more afeared ov statistics than soap n water. So I'll turn this over ta ma able assistant, J. Armor, Esq., who (narrowly) passed statistics inna doctoral program.
Junk Science -- Harvard and Beyond
Reporters are lazy. When somebody presents what appears to be a story, they run with it. Especially when the source of the story wears a lab coat, carries a clipboard and sports an advanced degree. This is the origin of junk science --- someone has "discovered" an important fact. The press runs the story without applying the basics of journalism, which are to ask questions, get to the bottom of the subject, and find out what is true, rather than just appears true.
Example one comes from Harvard and concerns "gun ownership" and "violence." Last week there was widespread coverage of a report from Dr. Matthew Miller of the Harvard School of Public Health, purporting to show a greater incidence of violent deaths in states with higher rates of gun ownership.
This study compared the rate of gun ownership with the rate of homicides in 10 states. It concluded that in the six "high gun" states, such deaths were three times more common than in the four "low gun" states. Set aside for the moment the possibly dubious methods used to estimate from "surrogates" the rates of gun ownership (including illegal guns, which are rather hard to track).
The study reached its conclusion by lumping all the "high gun" states together to compare with the "low gun" ones. Anyone with even the slightest statistical experience should be suspicious when a study has a sample of only 10, and the researcher lumps them together to produce just two.
The "high gun" states are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wyoming. When you separate them out, West Virginia and Wyoming turn out to have much LOWER rates of homicides than ALL of the "low gun" states, which are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
In short, one-third of the high gun states proved the exact opposite of the study's results. That is enough to invalidate any study with such a small sample. Furthermore, the study notes in the fine print that causation might run in the opposite direction. It says, "Our study did not provide information about causation." People might be more inclined to buy guns in high-crime states to protect themselves against criminals. Witness the spate of gun-buying in Maryland and Virginia during the recent sniper killings.
Any competent news organization should have one staffer who knows how to take apart a statistical study and see where games might have been played to produce the favored result. Yet, no mainstream media stories on this Harvard study looked inside the statistics to find the games.
No one examined whether Mark Twain's comment of a century ago applied here: "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." Twain noted that "the number of murderers and Methodists are rising at the same rate in the Nebraska territories." Coincidence is not causation. Methodists are not more likely to be murderers.
That brings us to today's real subject, global warming. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing an address by Dr. Sallie Baliunas. Her Ph.D. in astrophysics is from Harvard; her expertise is in solar variability and other factors of climate change. In short, she knows this subject at least as well as any other human. Her speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council audience of state and national legislators was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.
Baliunas' speech presented these particulars. First, it is a matter of chemistry that IF global warming is taking place, it must happen in the lower troposphere, the portion of the atmosphere one to five miles up. NASA and NOAA have been measuring the temperatures in the troposphere for fifty years, using balloons, rockets and satellites. Plus there are indirect measures of temperature, ranging from ice cores in the Arctic to tree rings.
Baliunas did not present merely her conclusions. Instead, she laid out the basic data first. There was warming in the first 40 years of the 20th century. But this was before the greatest buildup of the greenhouse gases. Then there were 35 years of cooling. You read that right. Between 1940 and the late 1970s, the troposphere temperatures went down, not up. Then in the last twenty-five years, they went up again. Neither of the two computer models used to predict global warming ever suggested any cooling in the twentieth century. Nor does either match the low rate of warming which has sometimes occurred.
Stories in the last month claimed that global warming is proved by warming temperatures in Alaska. Alaska has had 20 years of warming. But those who pay attention to the ocean temperatures know the reason. A warm current in the Northern Pacific moves close to Alaska on 20-year cycles. That current has again moved away from Alaska, and temperatures are dropping. In short, the Alaska temperature changes had zero relationship to global warming.
Retreats of glaciers are also cited as "proof" of global warming. As Baliunas pointed out, the warmest period since the last Ice Age was 900 to 1,300 A.D., when, as one of her colleagues said, the numbers of SUVs and coal-fired generating plants were shockingly low. That was when the Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland. Greenland was then "green," not covered 90 percent with ice as it is now. The evidence shows that global warming (and cooling) has been happening at much higher rates than any current projections based on the activity of man, and it was strongest in recent geological history when our European ancestors were still getting nude, painting themselves blue and climbing trees.
If human activity is not the cause of the global warming as occasionally observed, what is? The Sun is the ultimate "space heater" for our home on Earth. It has long been known that the Sun varies widely and sharply in its output of radiant energy, roughly related to the appearance and disappearance of "sun spots."
What warming has been observed in the troposphere in the 20th century has not been either gradual or consistent. Instead, it has spiked up and down. So Baliunas put up a chart showing the spikes of energy output by the Sun on top of the observed temperatures on Earth. The data matched almost exactly. Each up spike in the troposphere matched an up spike from the Sun. The down spikes also matched exactly.
In short, the industrial activities of man, especially in the late 20th century, have a negligible and unmeasurable effect on global temperatures. Natural fluctuations in the atmosphere, in the oceans (including El Nino, which scientists have charted but cannot explain), plus solar variations, explain what has been observed. The computer programs on global warming, on the other hand, cannot explain the data.
Any reporter who writes about "global warming" without reading Baliunas' analysis, is as incompetent as a reporter who might have written about the solar system in 1632, concluding that the Sun revolved around the Earth without chatting with Galileo and perusing his data. The bottom line is simple: global warming is the greatest example of junk science since Galileo, under pain of excommunication or death, was forced to recant his conclusion that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
And if the "science" of global warming is false, it follows as the night does the day, that the politics of the Kyoto Treaty are also false. The treaty is a well-hyped power grab by those who favor central government control of all economies. It has nothing to do with the future climate for humans.
I appreciated most that Baliunas speaks plain English. Although she thinks and works as a "rocket scientist," her data is comprehensible to educated laymen. And unlike the Harvard study we began with, she puts all the data up front. Anyone can review her results to see if they make sense.
I was taught in high school that the magnetic polarity of the Earth had changed repeatedly. The "proof" was undeniable. Deposits of iron ore that had aligned themselves magnetically during volcanic activity, pointed to many directions as "North." Oh, there was one scientist at the time, a voice crying in the wilderness, who said that whole continents had floated on tectonic plates around the globe, explaining the multiple "North" Poles.
No one took him seriously, until the evidence mounted and the scientific community eventually accepted the truth. And now all high school students are taught that pieces of continents did break apart, and move and collide, forming the present seven continents.
High school students today are being taught a falsity similar to the one I was taught long ago. They are taught that global warming is due to man's activities. Just as I was taught that the North Pole changed. Just as students in the Middle Ages were taught that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
Massive scientific nonsense has a dynamic of its own. Such public frauds are not brought down in a single day. But because I have seen the data, presented fully and clearly, I am satisfied that the fraud of global warming will also be brought down, eventually. To do my part in getting the truth out, here's a website address to read some of the data assembled by Baliunas, this generation's scientist who is a voice crying in the wilderness.
(About the Author: Congressman Billybob is fictitious, but prolific, on the Internet -- the invention of John Armor, who writes books and practices law in the U.S. Supreme Court. Comments and criticisms are welcome at CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net).