Climate change and the science of climate change are hot topics these days, for several reasons. First, it is now conceded by most in the scientific community that the continuing increases in global temperatures predicted by the most touted computer models have not occurred. Instead, the global temperature trend lines are flat for the past decade. Second, hackers recently broke into the computer servers of one of the leading climate science institutes, the Climatic Research Institute of the University of East Anglia and procured many e-mails which some global warming skeptics suggest may reflect a collusive effort among scientists to demonstrate global warming.
I cannot pretend to add anything to the scientific debate on the reality of global warming, or its causes if it exists. What I find interesting is that so much of the response to the global warming debate is based upon computer programs that purport to forecast the future based upon past data. The first article linked above demonstrates that the computer models, with their straight-line projection of temperature increases, have in fact been proven wrong by the actual data of the past 10 years. In any rational scientific world, scientists would scrap the models, reexamine the data, consider other causal factors, identify reasons why the models have been shown to be inaccurate, and engage in a vigorous debate, complete with alternative hypotheses and testing of those hypotheses, to determine new theories. Some scientists appear to be doing this, but others seem to be trying to defend the computer models by arguing that it is the damning actual data, and not the models, that are wrong. Such a response does not seem to be consistent with the “scientific method” and instead suggests a political or social agenda.
In any system as complex as the Earth, there obviously can be many potential causes of temperature trends. Human activity and CO2 emissions could be one causal factor, but as the first article linked above notes, so could sunspots and other solar activity, ocean currents, and the impact of volcano eruptions, among others. A computer model is only as good as its data and assumptions — every computer model is subject to challenge on “garbage in, garbage out” grounds.
We can all agree to leave the science to the scientists. In terms of American policy, however, shouldn’t we be more certain of the accuracy of the now at least partially discredited computer models before we undertake massive taxing programs, like the “cap and trade” proposal now before Congress, that would saddle our already burdened economy with additional job-killing costs?