Says Alan Reynolds in Newsweek, although originally at Cato. But Michael Mann says he wants you to let @Newsweek know what you think about them running Koch-funded Cato Institute climate denial propaganda. But I only care because someone called “Lawrence Torcello”1 Tweeted Quoting Popper against climate science signals Pseudointellectualism.
Obviously, quoting Popper against any genuine Science must be wrong. Although equally obviously it can’t possibly, of itself, signal pseudo-intellectualism; it could simply signal stupidity or error. But the more extensive implicit claim – that quoting Popper against anything said about climate science must be bad – is obvious nonsense. But enough generalities, what of the present case?
Before going on, it might be helpful to read, say, Neptune’s revenge by mt, who cannot possibly be accused of being Koch-funded or anything of that ilk.
The core of the Newsweek article is attributing today’s extreme weather to “climate change” regardless of what happens ( maybe droughts, maybe floods ) is what the philosopher Karl Popper called “pseudoscience.” If some theory explains everything, it can’t be tested and it is therefore not science. (Popper’s favorite examples of pseudoscience were communism and psychoanalysis.) [The article also contains various stats and numbers that I wasn’t very interested in and didn’t trouble myself to check; and some other rather dubious assertions that are uninteresting but which would earn my ire if I could be bothered to analyse them.]
I think it is interesting to ask if Popper’s viewpoint has any explanatory power in the ever-widening debate about how to say something meaningful about the relationship between hurricanes and GW. So for example I think it was inevitable that Harvey and so on would be “blamed” on GW, but that if they hadn’t happened, that wouldn’t have cast doubt on GW. But that latter point is uninteresting, because there are so many lines of evidence for GW that it isn’t possible to honestly doubt it. The Newsweek article, though, is too un-nuanced in its accusations to be much use. I’ve read lots of pieces about the connection between Harvey etc and GW, and almost all of them have been pretty equivocal about the causal connection. But is there any testable theory that Harvey would be evidence for or against? Remember, whatever the theory is, it must be proof against the absence of Harvey last year, or the year before that. Perhaps More on Bayesian approaches to detection and attribution is relevant.
Anyway, I wondered (sea-ice betting having rather faded out due to lack of diverging opinions) if we could translate this into a bet. Does anyone think that “GW caused Harvey (or Irma, or whatever)” translates in any way into a meaningful prediction ability for next year, 2018? Or if the storm season for 2018 reverts to normal, will everyone be completely unsurprised? I’ll take the “revert to normal” side of the bet, of course. If anyone has $1,000 or above for the “Ha! 2018 will make 2017 look like a picnic!” side, we can discuss terms. Actually, you don’t need to be that extreme, I’m sure something far more moderate would do.
Incidentally, if 2018 did turn out anything like 2017, it might be time to revive a piece of pure speculation I made on sci.env perhaps 20 years ago now. I was talking about tornadoes in the Southern US, but the concept works as well for hurricanes: how much stronger / worse would they have to get, to make the entire area economically uninhabitable? People will rebuild from one year, and perhaps even from one year a decade, but not from every year.
* Bonus Quotation of the Day at CH: on new ideas.
* Eli says that climate change increased the DAMAGE from these storms.