One of the things that distinguishes science from things like religion or corporate PR is that science pays attention to the details, the little facts that add up to form reality.
So, it ought to serve as a warning that something’s not quite right with Dr. Roy Spencer’s book Climate Confusion, when he promises that, as he tries to debunk science about global warming, he won’t be relying on statistics. In describing how climate “really works”, Spencer says that his analysis will be “forsaking blindingly technical statistics”.
If Dr. Spencer won’t be using statistics to debunk scientific research about global warming, what will he use? His common sense? ESP?
Science is built upon statistics. It has to be, because true science tries to measure reality in a replicable way, so that one scientist’s ideas can be verified or debunked by others. If you don’t use statistics like say, temperature or levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, then theories about global warming and climate change are awfully difficult to test scientifically.
Roy Spencer’s promise not to rely on “technical statistics” is a promise to base his arguments on something other than scientific method. That’s nothing new for Spencer, who has proclaimed that “Intelligent Design” Creationism is science and the theory of evolution is religion.
Spencer has also worked as an advisor to the Interfaith Stewardship Center, an organization which promotes what it calls a “proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” How can a balanced version of climate science possibly be based upon a “Biblical view”?
Spencer hasn’t just been mixing science and religion, however. He’s also been mixing Big Oil money and science. Spencer has worked for the Heartland Institute, an organization that has received substantial funding from Exxon-Mobil, and for the George C. Marshall Institute, another organization that has taken money from Exxon-Mobil.
Technical statistics have been sorely out of whack in Roy Spencer’s work on climate. Spencer authored a paper in 2003 that claimed to show cooling in the troposphere – proof that global warming was bogus. A couple years later, when colleagues examined Spencer’s work, they found it to be filled with statistical errors. When dealt with correctly, the statistics showed that the troposphere had actually warmed – evidence that global warming is not bogus.
Paying attention to the details matters in science, and in communicating with the public about science. So, I thought it an appropriate measure of Roy Spencer’s professional credibility when I saw that an advertisement for his book, Climate Confusion, read: “Climate Change Muths Exposed by NASA Climatologist. Save 30% Online”.
Climate change muths? Just what are these muths, Dr. Spencer?
Isn’t it a relief to finally find some science writing forsakes blindingly technical spelling?
Update: The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration just released one of those “blindingly technical statistics” that seem to drive Roy Spencer nuts. A few weeks ago, NOAA announced that, in spite of industry hype about a cold wave in the East, January was actually warmer than average in the United States. Now, NOAA has the global temperatures for the rest of the planet from January, and has found that January was the 7th warmest January on record.