Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Global Warming recap

Remember that discussion I have been having with Pat Frank at BASS about his global climate article in Skeptic Magazine? Yes, it's been going this whole time.

This sort of thing is way more time-consuming than the other stuff I write. General philosophy and skepticism is easy. Discussing specific claims is hard, especially when the opposing party is right there to call you out. But it's also rewarding in a way. I learn about a slice of climate science and the climate debate. My mistakes get corrected.

And I did make my mistakes. First of all, Pat Frank is by no means innumerate. In fact, that was probably a big lapse of judgment on my part. Second of all, I assumed the errors were random, but Pat Frank actually invested some time showing that they are not. Using these corrections, I narrowed down my criticism.

And the conclusion? You'll have to figure it out the hard way--by reading the discussion. I don't think the "conclusion" itself is as important as the content. I also think that our little discussion is pebbles to the larger global warming debate. For one thing, GCMs are but one part of climate science. For another, our discussion is more of a "popular" one than a "scientific" one. Skeptic, too, is a popular magazine, not a scientific journal. (Note: Skeptic included an opposing viewpoint in the same issue.)

Speaking of which, you have to wonder why Pat published in Skeptic rather than a scientific journal. An answer comes from a thread at RealClimate. At RealClimate, there are actually climate scientists discussing it. Unfortunately, the thread is really long, and at times too technical for me. Also, sometimes the scientists are simply dismissive, which doesn't really help me, the little guy! :-)

Anyways, in the RealClimate thread, Pat Frank replies to questions about his motivations.
I submitted the manuscript to Skeptic because it has a diverse and intelligent readership that includes professionals from many disciplines. I’ve also seen how articles published in the more professional literature that are critical of AGW never find their way into the public sphere, and wanted to avoid that fate.
Ok. I understand wanting to popularize one's science--I'm a bit of a popularizer myself. Obviously, he was successful enough that I started talking about it. But the drawback to popularizing the way he did is that now we get to question his motivations. ;-) For example, ideally, he should have first published in a science journal, and then put a popular version into Skeptic.

Ok, I won't attack Pat's character anymore. I'm just having a bit of fun. But seriously, he's ok, and I respect his debate tactics. Many thanks to him for being polite throughout.

1 comment:

Pat Frank said...

Thanks, Miller. You're a gentleman and a scholar.