Flat White

Prime Minister, just how reliable are 30 year climate models?

31 October 2021

3:59 PM

31 October 2021

3:59 PM

I am not sure that there are many people over the age of 30 who are wildly rejoicing at the Morrison Government’s decision to go to the UN climate conference COP26 in November to pledge a net-zero emissions target by 2o50. Net-Zero emissions will be both inflationary and industry ending. Barnaby Joyce was hardly clicking his heels in the air when he supported the Prime Minister’s policy and there are many others in the National Party who do not and their supporters in the rural sector are not happy.

Let’s look objectively at the difficulty. Can the government finance the changes with a net-zero budgetary impact? The answer is no. Still, the pledge to a zero-emissions target can be made palatable for the rural sector, provided sufficient funds are available to sustain the sector during the transition. Isn’t the real question, the reliability of climate science, as a science?

What if climate science and the computer models relied on by the scientists for their catastrophic forecasts are not reliable, either of themselves or in respect of their results so that their forecasts are not a suitable scientific basis for policies.

The real issue, therefore, is whether the causal relations between the very large number of factors, both man-made and natural, that determine both climate and weather have been accurately identified and functionally related in accordance with well reliable mathematical principles; for it is from those functional relations that the models will forecast the future effects in some 10, 20 or 30 years; ie when the climate crisis will appear.

I have read a number of climate reports and have to say that they do not convince me of an impending climate catastrophe of regular violent, raging storms, cyclones and tornados, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, landmass inundations, dying polar bears and dying people, that is, the perfect storm, which is man-made and carbon-based. 

The reason I am unconvinced, is because the methodology by which climate scientists ascertain yester-year’s and today’s climate and weather data, determine the climate (or is that weather) relationships and generate predictive models whose 20 or 30-year forecasts demand immediate corrective action may be mathematically correct but still bear no relation to reality. That is the nature of mathematics. But if the opinions of other earth scientists are to be believed, they too have doubts about the methodology; after all, GIGO is a valid rule of thumb for all predictive models. 

Climate science is reliant on certain statistical methods to obtain data from scant historical sources in order to determine the correlative relationships that are necessary for predictive models. One of the first things that you learn when studying statistical methods is the necessity for careful consideration of a large number of qualitative, or non-mathematical considerations both prior to data collection and afterwards. 

It is often claimed that climate science papers are peer-reviewed in dedicated scientific journals. “Peer review”, however, means what it says, a review by an equal, one of those who accept the overall veracity of the methodology of a particular branch of investigation, be it economics, psychology, law, nuclear medicine or sexuality. 

Here is not the place to explain in detail the effect of subjective considerations on the results of a purported objective science. However, it is worth knowing that the effect of statistical methods means that ‘true’ now means ‘probably true’ as further qualified by levels of confidence. In economics, the use of statistical methods is very important for generating preliminary results when not all data is available; eg, unemployment or GDP. But every economist knows that in one, three or six months, all the provisional results will be changed to reflect the extra available data.

The decision by the government to declare Australia net-zero emissions by 2050 may be a clever political move; but if climate science can not be shown to be reliable then the net-zero decision is fool-hardy with both economic and national defence ramifications.

Scott Morrison is correct in making his pledge to the COP26, but domestically, that pledge must be subject to the reasonable verification of the climate science methodologies in order to ensure the forecasts are dependable. On his return from the Conference, therefore, the Prime Minister should establish an independent commission to examine and report on climate science methodologies and their dependability.   

The Commission’s first step would be to obtain evidence from climate scientists, both domestic and foreign, regarding the methods for the collection, extraction, adjustment and management of historical and current data; the statistical methods by which the functional relationships between the variables are established and the methods for testing those relationships, and the methodologies with which the computer models are generated, with particular attention to the statistical and mathematical methods employed. The Commission’s First Report would be a manual for climate science containing all of that information.

The Commission’s second step would be to circulate that document among eminent members from the wider scientific community, including but not limited to geosciences, hydrologists, ocean sciences, nuclear, solar sciences and mathematics. They would be tasked to provide robust and critical critiques of the various methodologies and assumptions where their areas of expertise overlap those of climate science.  

The Commission’s third step, when in receipt of the expert reports, would be to prepare a final report containing all expert reports, together with a summary of those criticisms which attack the validity, dependability and any major deficiencies or theoretical anomalies in the methodologies that would impinge on the accuracy of climate science, the accuracy of forecasts and hence the practical usefulness of climate science.

The final report would be circulated among all climate scientists who contributed, whether voluntarily or under subpoena to the Commission’s enquiry and any criticisms subsequently provided to the Commission would be published as a supplement to the final report.

If governments are going to make policy decisions based upon forecasts by a relatively new science, decisions that will mean major, orchestrated changes to our lives, it is fundamentally important to establish if that science can be trusted.

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