Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Falsifyability and Climate Change Mistakes

At the end of January, the BBC reported
Mr Miliband told the BBC it would be "profoundly irresponsible" to use one "mistake" as an excuse not to act.
He added it did not "undermine decades of climate research" and the "majority of scientists say that".
Of course, I only read about it in the scorn here.

I gotta say though, Ed is right, but the bar should be set higher. Maybe a better level would be to use ten mistakes as an excuse not to act on climate change or maybe more. The thing is, he didn't pin down how many mistakes would be the threshold to stop action. Without some kind of level, you're just acting on faith, and that way leads to religious fanaticism, lets try not to.

So. Let's go for ten mistakes:

  • The IPCC AR4 reports mentions the factoid behind Glaciergate thing twice, so it counts as two mistakes
  • Amazongate is a third mistake, but leading on from it we discover that non-peer reviewed papers from the WWF were used sixteen times in the IPCC report and by their own rules they were supposed to only use peer reviewed sources
That's eighteen mistakes in just two controversies, well beyond my proposed threshold of ten mistakes that we could use as an excuse not to act on climate change.

Before I go on, I need to defend -gates. Some quarters of the blogosphere that I read are beginning to tire of any kind of scandal or controversy having the -gate suffix. I did briefly agree, its a snowclone, but then had second thoughts. In the internet age, events and news stories need one word names, it helps with google searching, its a tag. Its an evolution of language, and a subtle and functional one too.

Digression over.

Maybe ten climate change inaction excuses was a bit low, and a twenty should be the level.
That's 28 mistakes. How many mistakes in the science behind climate change do we need?

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