Basically, I still kind of think ClimateGate is rather a tempest in a pot of tea, even though The Transportationist (David Levinson)–who is way more savvy about evaluating scientific research than I am–has made a strong case for why the revelations around East Anglia should cast doubt on climate change science.*
Andrew Gellman—whose work I just think is wonderful—and Phil Klinker write one of the best social science blogs out there—Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science—and it should be required reading for all graduate students. They have a nice series about ClimateGate, including
1. Phil’s first contribution, which is very similar to my original response (only his is more intelligent and better written). So there are some climate scientists who were sloppy with their data and one guy who fiddled a graphic; the data are available elsewhere: get off your dead fanny and work on it and start proving people wrong if they are, in fact, wrong.
I have trouble believing that there are no scholars out there yearning to be the scientists that disprove warming. The payoffs are too high for me to believe that there aren’t contrarians itching to grab the spotlight. Get the data, get busy.
2. Andrew’s ideas on “how I form my attitudes about scientific questions” and
3) Phil’s post: Say a little prior for me post which cracks me up largely because I am easily won over by statistic puns.
*I should say that I think Professor Levinson and I probably agree more than we perhaps disagree. Having played with some of the aggregate data on climate change myself, the temperature trends are clear. That is basic. Extrapolating physical effects via models–ho boy. Arthur Viner at UCLA, who was one of my favorite professors and who tried to teach me atmospheric science, said “one well-designed experiment with original data collection can invalidate a thousand model runs” which air quality modeling has prompted me to take to heart.
So it’s fair game to test and challenge models. Attributing causation to specific human sources? Ho boy.
For my corner of the policy world, climate change is discussed a lot but it has never struck me as an issue that required proof. How can I possibly say that, given what a hard-core empiricist I am? In transportation we’ve been worried about petroleum consumption, energy, and air quality for almost 50 years now. The policy goal in transportation has been VMT reduction since I entered the field decades ago. Just so: what’s the proposed strategy for addressing climate change in transportation? VMT reduction. So it is not as though the cities and climate change question–no matter the science of climate change–really suggests a radical departure from the existing policy and planning goals in passenger transport. It does pertain to the timing and urgency of changes many have wanted for some time. But whether one justification for VMT reduction is true (or not) doesn’t factor all that much into my thinking.