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First let's get a disclaimer here that I hope everyone reads and allows to soak in. To say something is scientific is not to say that it is true or false. I repeat, being scientific has nothing to do with being true or false. 2=2=4 is not scientific, but it is true.

Here are the standards that any scientific theory must meet. It must first be testable and second it must be falsifiable.

Testability is important because it will root the theory in the natural world. We can't test supernatural hypotheses. Falsifiability is the check on the power of testability. For instance, if an astrologer predicts that "you will meet someone interesting today" that is not falsifiable, but it is testable.

So a theory must be testable, i.e. in the natural world, and falsifiable, i.e. it must make predictions that can possibly be falsified in the experiments.

Can Global Warming meet that criteria? If not, then to call it science is wrong or to seek to change the definition of what counts as science.

Let me again reiterate that I'm not concerned with whether the theory of Global Warming is true. The collection of data on the environment and climate can lead reasonably to the deduction of man made global warming. But the scientific status is a totally different question. The scientific status of Global Warming hinges on two questions already outlined: can we form experiments to test Global Warming and does it make predictions that are falsifiable?

One thing to remember is that at its core Global Warming as a theory is a cause-effect theory. Global Warming theory advocates the increase in pollutants causing an increase in global temperature. It gets deep and is backed by much data, but the basic hypothesis is accessible to anyone. Let's look at what this implies.

To test Global Warming, it seems we would have to know all the factors that move the climate and a way to recreate them to test the introduction of heightened entities in that climate. First, we don't know the full causal picture of climate. We know of countless causal factors, but we don't know the complete picture. This is a problem for science. How do we test this theory? We can't physically test it in ideal experimental conditions because we can't recreate a climate, and even if we could physically do it we don't know the causal climate picture. We don't know what percentage of impact sun spots, currents, pollution, urban jungles, etc etc have on the climate.

And what about the predictions of Global Warming? I googled a couple of things to illustrate the problem of falsifiability in regards to Global Warming predictions:

Global Warming may

If you look at the search results for "Global Warming may" it is clear that the predictions are all across the map including predicting localized cooling There is also a prediction that Global Warning may stop.

From the links respectively:

Global warming may include some periods of local cooling, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Results from satellite and ground-based sensor data show that sweltering summers can, paradoxically, lead to the temporary formation of a cooling haze in the southeastern United States.

Researchers studying long-term changes in sea temperatures said they now expect a "lull" for up to a decade while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

So let's get this straight on predictions. Global Warming may cause local cooling and it may stop. do we falsify that? Because science is adversarial and theories are supposed to take severe tests. But if you look at these predictions you see that a drop in temperatures or a halt in rise in temperatures both prove the Global Warming predictions posed here. Now isn't that a good set-up for a theory? If the planet gets warmer you are right, if the planet gets cooler then you are right, and if the temperature stays the same you are right. This is fundamentally not falsifiable.

I also googled Global Warming could:

This is an example of the sort of predictions that come out of a theory that is so broad that it can encompass everything and this is why I think we must jealously guard what we consider scientific.

Examples of what Global Warming "could" do:

This is one the Global Warming community wish they could have back because as of yet it has been sort of falsified as much as a vague prediction can be:

Global Warming could create stronger hurricanes.

Global Warming could make you sick.

Global Warming could increase terrorism.

These are just a small sample of what type of predictions swirl around a theory that is free-wheeling.

One last example.

I googled Global Warming might.

Here are some things Global Warming "might" do:

Global Warming might benefit certain crops.

Counter this with what Global Warming could do: Cause World Crop Collapse.

From the links respectively:

Citing scientific reports, the agency allowed that some crops will initially benefit from rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. But the agency said yields of corn and other commodities could fall as the climate continues to warm and some areas experience more frequent droughts.

With the U.N.-affililated Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) already warning of declining grain harvests due to extreme weather, a U.S. study released last week suggests that global warming could cause world agricultural systems to face possible collapse by 2080, with countries in the south being the hardest hit.

More that Global Warming might do: affect Hawaii? Aren't they a part of the globe?

Global Warming might eliminate warm weather clouds.

Now what is the point of all this? Science requires testability and falsifiability for good reason. The reason is to force the hand of potential theories.

For anyone it should be a problem when a theory can predict all of the above (and this is just the tip of the melting iceberg). But also note the ease with which "researchers", "scientific studies", and the like throw around predictions using words like "may", "might" and "could". These are qualifiers not predictors. That is to say that even if we could falsify these predictions that the advocates would just say they said it was possible. This is not science. It could be true, but it is not science.

I'm not saying we should burn the candles at both ends in regards to the environment. I'm not saying we don't need regulation. I'm not saying we don't need energy independence and a greener economy. I'm just saying Global Warming does not appear to meet the criteria for science.

Originally posted to Common Cents on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  um, really? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth, bunk, Toon

    even many of the most strident "deniers" and the skeptics at least acknolwedge that the Earth is warming.

    sorry, this diary is full of Fail. It's completely your right to be skeptical about AGW (or climate change, or whatever you want to call it) but to suggest that the process that led to the conclusion that is accepted by many is not science is ridiculous.

    (+0.12, -3.33) perpetually amused by the silliness.

    by terrypinder on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:52:53 AM PDT

  •  You're right. Global warming itself isn't science (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    rather its a unifying theory based on a vast number of SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS conducted in a variety SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINES supported by the vast majority of SCIENTISTS. You might as well say the study of the big bang or evolution isn't science.

    •  Evolution is falsfiable. (0+ / 0-)

      It makes predictions that can be disproved by study of viruses, species, and the fossil record.

      by Common Cents on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:57:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  First of all as an actual scientist I won't get (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happy camper

        into your rather interesting definition of science or terminology. And secondly how is the theory of evolution any more "falsifiable" than global warming?

      •  Study of viruses... (0+ / 0-)

        falsifies evolution???
        Lost here...

        So the terrorists of Gitmo are stronger, faster, and better than the USDOJ? The Senate thinks so. My. How "American".

        by RElland on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:44:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Means it could be proved false (0+ / 0-)

          has yet to be done. So far, evolution still in agreement with general theory. Virus studies have strengthened the theory.
          Any proper hypothesis (and theory) in science has to be stated in a way that allows it to be "falsified". If X, then Y type of question, and if you don't get Y, then its considered 'falsified', but usually you've learned something new and posit a better hypothesis. Falsifying data can be handy to eliminate avenues to pursue in a complex science hypothesis. "Oh, that didn't work so therefore that X isn't part of the big ABC hypothesis. Skip it and on to Z!"

          -7.50/-7.90 Everyone knows I'm out in left field.

          by WiseFerret on Fri May 22, 2009 at 12:11:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Epic Fail (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, terrypinder, thaddeus74

    Your counterexamples are mostly about local or regional phenomena.  To say that there can be episodes of local cooling within a regime of global warming is not a contradiction, it's a recognition that we're dealing with a large, complex, noisy system.

    And it's simply wrong to say that something is not scientific because we can't account for every tiny detail of how it all functions yet.  We don't know every detail of how evolution functions either, but that doesn't mean it isn't science.

    "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jrooth on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:53:58 AM PDT

    •  There is a problem of faslifiability. (0+ / 0-)

      How can Global Warming predict warming, cooling, and no temperature change all at once? You do expect a scientific theory to make falsifiable predictions don't you?

      by Common Cents on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:56:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  please note jrooth's evolution example. (0+ / 0-)

        (+0.12, -3.33) perpetually amused by the silliness.

        by terrypinder on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:56:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It predicts warming (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        arrows theorem

        globally with the proviso that one must smooth the data to account for various relatively short-term but high amplitude events like el Nino/laNina, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, etc.

        And indeed, we observe such warming.  And before you come back with the "the world has been cooling since 1998 canard, that false claim is the result of cherry-picking an endpoint (the strongest el Nino in recorded history) and not performing data smoothing over a sufficiently long period.

        There are some regional effects which were consistently predicted and which have so far verified - most notably the relatively greater warming in the Arctic region.

        "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

        by jrooth on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:04:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A problem indeed. (0+ / 0-)

        How can GW predict warming, cooling, and no change all at once? The same way weather forecasts across the world do every day. Some days are warmer than yesterday, some cooler, some the same. So some areas get warmer, some cooler, some stay the same.  The DFC? Really?
        Why should GW theory predict warming over the entire surface of the planet? Have you ever heard it posited that it would be 72º from pole to pole? Of course not. Climate change is not climate uniformity, indeed broader swings in storm severities and such would indicate the opposite.
        The dichotomy between weather and climate is the disparity between the view of today versus the century or millenium.
        This tet-a-tet over definitions is specious at best.

  •  Instead of googling everywhere and reading trash (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Spend some quality time at

    That is if you actually care about science, as opposed to internet "victory" via straw man destruction.

    •  or Dot Earth at the NYTimes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I prefer that over Real Climate.

      (+0.12, -3.33) perpetually amused by the silliness.

      by terrypinder on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:57:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is this a "True Scotsman Fallacy" (0+ / 0-)

      No true Global Warming research would say "X". I will admit that you can't believe everything you google, but the point I was making is that there are plenty of across the spectrum predictions available in the Global Warming hypothesis because it is not testable or falsifiable.

      by Common Cents on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:59:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Each individual model is eminently falsifiable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, jrooth

        A climate model predicts a narrow range of probable outcomes, based on a set of reasonable assumptions within the constructs of climate science.

        It needs to both explain data from the past, as well as predict future data. Some of the models out there are quite possibly on the wrong track and in need of replacement/revision (apparently on data of polar melting, many were too optimistic in their predictions).

        If you want to remain at the very abstract generalization of "global warming", rather than discussing a particular climate scientist's work, then you really can't go much beyond the basic elements of the Greenhouse effect. The basics of the greenhouse effect - what molecules absorb / transmit what types of electromagnetic radiation, are perfectly verifiable in a chemistry lab.

        A better way to frame the state of climate science is Newtonian Physics vs. Quantum Physics. Newtonian explains the basics, but only gets you so far. Eventually you get to nuance that your average USA Today reporter (high Google rank hits) is just going to butcher.

  •  Check your math in the first paragragh. (0+ / 0-)

    You may want to replace one of the = signs with a different opperator.  
    You have multiple choices that actually are true.

  •  Reason #931 why DKos4 should include Smite button (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, RElland

    fka indigoblueskies

    by RLMiller on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:05:28 AM PDT

  •  It is science (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth, terrypinder, Olon, RLMiller

    One of the key myths is that it's not testable.  And you're incorrect in defining that testable must be in the natural world.  Obviously, that would be non-testable.  And that has no bearing on whether or not it's scientific.  Many, many (in fact most) scientific theories are tested in laboratory enivornments.  This makes them no less science.  This is how the interaction between solar radiation and CO2 (for example, as it is only one greenhouse gas) has been successfully proven and, in fact, measured to extreme precision.

    The only source of debates comes in the application of this information in the modeling step.  If you want to argue that variations in model parameterizations prove that it's not science, well, then we can end the discussion there... that, for those of us in the meteorology/climatology fields is a major portion of the scientific work we deal with.  And, yes, it is testable... by hindcasting.  And, yes, the hindcasts of climate models have been superb.

    Finally, some of your points show a stark lack of knowledge about Global Warming.  I don't mean that to sound condescending, but the fact is... every climatologist who is convinced of Global Climate Change (and that is the more accurate term for it) knows that some regions will see more warming than others, and that some areas will actually see cooling.  You make that statement as if it's incredulous that areas would cool under a global warming scenario.  There is nothing incredulous about it... it is absolutely expected.  In fact, the warming (and localized cooling) so far has occurred almost entirely as expected (Desert SW U.S. seeing maximum heating).  Yes, within the last couple of years conditions have run a bit on the cool side, but that is also well understood... due to impacts beyond the temporal scale of the mean global climate model ensembles (e.g., the strongest La Nina on record).

    In short, it's very simple... it is science and it is fact.  And, amongst those who actually study it (climatologists ...not your rogue meteorologists, physicists, geologists, mathemeticians, etc), it is virtually unanimously agreed upon science.

  •  Global climate change (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is observed phenomenon, or data. Now based on what has been observed there have been a number of theories to explain it and predict what happens next and those theories are science (even the ones that have been proposed, tested and found wanting.) But GCC is not science, its a fact that researchers are working to better understand.

    Blackwater is changing its name to Xe.

    by Toon on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:24:13 AM PDT

  •  Well first off (0+ / 0-)

    global warming is a distraction.
    It's technically climactic change. Global warming is just one of the results of climactic change which is in itself a result of other causes. (Like for example, let's dump billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over many decades and see what happens...)

    So the terrorists of Gitmo are stronger, faster, and better than the USDOJ? The Senate thinks so. My. How "American".

    by RElland on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:43:24 AM PDT

  •  So if earth is warming, as you admit (0+ / 0-)

    ... what's the scientific, testable, falsifiable explanation for the increase?

    There are only two possibilities. Either we are getting more energy from the Sun. Or, we are getting the same amount of energy, but losing less of it (which pushes the equilibrium temperature higher). The former implies natural heating. The latter implies increased greenhouse effect.

    Fortunately, there are testable, falsifiable ways to distinguish between these alternatives. We have been running that experiment for 200 years, in a lab the size of the entire planet. And the results are in.

    If we are getting more energy, then the whole planet, including the whole atmosphere, should be getting warmer. If it's greenhouse, then we're getting the same amount of energy, but it's being distributed differently: more heat is trapped near the surface, so less heat escapes to the stratosphere. So if it's the Sun, the stratosphere should be warming, but if it's greenhouse, the stratosphere should be cooling.

    In fact, the stratosphere has been cooling for as far back as we have global records (roughly 1959). Here's the data.

    Also, if it's the Sun, then we're getting more energy during the day, so daytime temps should be rising fastest. But if it's greenhouse, we're losing less energy at night, so nighttime temps should be rising fastest. In fact, nighttime temps are rising about twice as fast as daytime temps. Here's the science.

    Next time, read a few real scientific journals first. You won't find anything useful googling newspapers.

    If you don't stand for something, you'll stand for anything.

    by Keith Pickering on Fri May 22, 2009 at 12:21:31 PM PDT

  •  The last Ice Age was 11,000 years ago and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Common Cents

    the glaciers came down to as far south as Dayton, Ohio.  They then began to retreat.  They retreated past Columbus, past Toledo, past Detroit forming the Great Lakes, past Canada etc.  The fact is the planet has been warming for the last 11,000 years or the glaciers would still be in Dayton.  The science of global warming is stating the obvious, that the planet has been warming.  Now, is it man's fault?  Well, if you look at the long term trend (11,000 years) it is pretty hard to make the case that the planet is warming due to man's impact.  Rather, if you look at the history of the planet, there have been several warming and cooling periods.  So, I don't think you can scientifically say the planet is warming due to the impact of people.  To do so would be to ignore the last 11,000 years.

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