Sunday, January 10, 2010

Would Feynman Disprove Global Warming Science As A 'Cargo Cult Science'?

Richard Feynman gave a famous speech, "Cargo Cult Science," as Caltech's 1974 commencement address about the improper application of the scientific method. If you read the entire four page speech, or just the Wikipedia article on the topic of Cargo Cult Science, you will come away with the conclusion that Global Warming Science is Cargo Cult Science and a bunch of bunk.

Although the science of man-made Global Warming meets all the criteria set forth by Feynman for poor science, that does not mean that man-made Global Warming is not occurring. It means we do not have the science to back up the claim that man or man-made CO2 emissions are responsible.

It is important to make a distinction that I am sure Feynman would make. There is Global Warming Science and there is the actual existence or lack there of the earth's Global Warming.

Global Warming Science that blames man-made CO2 emissions is under attack for following poor scientific methods. Man-made global warming is a hypothesis. It is a guess that we have neither proved nor disproved. We just do not know because those most responsible, those who we trusted to do the science behind man-made effects on the global climate, have violated our trust by not presenting to us honest, reproducible results of the effect.

Additionally, there is no assurance from the number of scientists that agree with the Global Warming conclusions. One only has to read Feynman's description, in his Caltech speech, of how it took scientists years to achieve the correct number for the charge of an electron originally incorrectly computed experimentally by Millikan in his famous floating oil drop experiment. According to Feynman:
When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong—and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.
We have seen clear evidence in the released emails that there was scientific intimidation of the scientists who produced results different than the accepted results of global warming due to man-made CO2 emissions.

Those that say, it is better to be more cautious and decrease man-made emissions of CO2, do not understand the risk in reducing CO2 emissions. The US and other nation's can only reduce man-made CO2 emissions by reducing output, that is by reducing GDP and GDP growth.

The decline in the growth of future GDP will occur no matter which method the government chooses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cap And Trade, Carbon Tax, government investment into green technology or some other government-imposed method will all reduce future GDP output growth.

All the methods will either increase the costs of production inputs or divert investment money, capital and labor away from market-based criteria of resource allocation. Government directed investment diverts money from where it will produce the best-expected return to a lower return investment because it does not use market prices and expected returns as its criteria. All the methods of government mandated emission reduction will reduce future GDP growth.

Imagine a US with higher prices, lower salaries and high unemployment, such as we currently have in the US for many more years. Lower GDP also means lower tax receipts, less government and private money to help the poor, less money for education, less money to fund research into cures for diseases, less R&D money for new technologies and fewer opportunities for advancement for the poor into the middle and upper income brackets.

The alternative is to do nothing until there is greater certainty that CO2 and man-made CO2 emissions are causing the warming that will result in a temperature increase, according to the Cargo Cult Scientists, of 2-5 degrees Centigrade.

The global temperature increase, assuming Global Warming scientists are correct, will not lead to the destruction of the world or the US. It will cause some cultural and political problems. Some coastal communities might become inhabitable due to rising water levels, but there will still be more than enough space that is habitable in the US. There will be a physical shift in land used for agricultural production, but there will be no shortage of food or other agricultural products.

Feynman, if he were alive, would have taken the Global Warming scientist straight on and showed them to be the scientific charlatans that they are. He would not deny that Global Warming might be occurring. He would say show me the reproducible scientific evidence to prove it. Without the evidence of reproducible results, he would remain a skeptic.

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