More Great Moments in Climate Science

We lost track of a caribou herd, so since we can't find it, we will just tell the press it was destroyed by climate change.   (Happily the herd has been found, right where it always was, so we won't have to see caribou heads on our diet coke bottles).

I joke about this but it is really a serious statement about the quality of science and science journalism that there was really a big climate-related panic over the disappearing caribou a couple of years ago.   This is climate science in a nutshell - make a measurement error, assume the faulty data is real, and then without evidence blame the changing data on climate change.

(Update:  Yes, I actually spelled caribou herd "heard" in the original.  I am a big believer there is no such thing as a single metric for intelligence, but that there are multiple intelligences of various sorts.    We can argue about the other kinds, but I clearly did not get much of the spelling and proof-reading sort.

  • John Anderson

    herd

  • Mark

    Well everybody's heard about the herd, herd herd herd, herd is the word.

    Don'tcha know about the herd? Well everybody's heard that the herd is the word.

    ...

  • Ted Rado

    One of the distinguishing features of a democracy is that everyone has a right to speak on any subject, including caribou. Most people wouldn't dream of spouting off on things about which they are totally ignorant. However, out of 300+ million folks, there are bound to be many who do.

    Even on this blog, we repeatedly have had people, who obviously having no background in science or engineering, argue forcefully with those that do. While this may be irritating, it is democracy in action and is to be applauded.

    What is REALLY upsetting is that we have IDIOTS in Washington who do it repeatedly, to the detriment of the country. Just because they are elected to high office does not make them a scientific or engineering expert. A little humility on their part would go a long way toward doing away with our country's problems.

  • Allen

    I think ironic is the term to use that they'd blame made-made global warming for causing the caribou to disappear when they could arguably legitimately be pointing a finger at Big Oil. Have the environmentalist really become that obsessed with blaming climate change on mankind?

    So it goes.

  • DrTorch

    "people, who obviously having no background in science or engineering, argue forcefully with those that do. While this may be irritating, it is democracy in action and is to be applauded."

    I see no reason to applaud what is legitimately defined as "foolishness."

    People asking skeptical, penetrating questions? People asking silly, ignorant questions, but are willing to listen and learn? All that's great.

    People arguing about things they don't know or understand? That's a recipe for ruin.

  • Mark

    @Allan pipelines in Alaska have actually increased reindeer populations, since they can hang out by the relatively warm pipes and so don't suffer as much ill effects due to winter cold.

  • Don

    Mark, the pipes also extend the growing season around the pipeline, which saves the herds from their normal annual starvation.

  • caseyboy

    The best post goes to Mark and the "herd is the word".

  • Ted Rado

    DrTorch:

    I agree with everything you say. However, stifling the idiots is, in my opinion, worse than letting them prattle on. That option would undermine our democratic principles.

    As I recall my ancient history, in Plato's Utopia, only the brightest would run the government. In principle, that makes sense, but it destroys freedom and democracy. As I recall, he also proposed that only the brightest and healthiest should reproduce. The reality is that we have no alternative than to deal with our fellow men as they are, even the idiots. They must have their say. Perhaps there is a better way than what we are doing, but I am not aware of it.

    Members of the government, on the other hand, need to be held accountable for what they say and do, as it impacts all of our lives. That is where my complaint lies. And, you are right. The idiocy in Washington is indeed a recipe for ruin. In fact, we seem to be well along in the process. $15 trillion and rising!

  • http://harries@free.fr blokeinfrance

    Don't listen to the heard. Speek it as you sea it.

  • JAB

    Related, new 'climategate' emails came out today: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/22/climategate-2-0/#more-51549

    They do not appear to paint 'climate scientists' in a favorable light. I know people untrained in science or engineering who are way more intellectually rigorous when analyzing facts and data than these PhDs and Nobel laureates, who are nothing more than political activists. The emails refer to 'the cause' which is not an appropriate concept in a truth seeking profession.

  • marco73

    I have to wonder: If James Hansen had his $8000 Rolex stolen, would he blame the theft on global warming?

  • Craig Loehle

    The Canadian north country is vast and empty. Not really hard to lose such a herd.

  • Evil Red Scandi

    Herds go in. Herds go out. You can't explain it!

  • Fred from Canuckistan

    "Craig Loehle:

    The Canadian north country is vast and empty. Not really hard to lose such a herd."

    True . . but it is impossible to lose the thousands of piles of Caribou turds they leave behind . . . trust me, I have been there, done that

    Now if the scientists prefer to do "science" from a desk in Ottawa rather than pick up Carbou pooh like a hunter would, smell it, roll it around to see how old it was, if it came from a male or female, figure out how many animals were up ahead and how fast they were moving, . . . well you would have to expect they would be able to lose a herd or two.

  • Not Sure

    I lost my car keys the other day.

    I blame global warming.

  • Mark

    @Fred

    When you roll poo, how do you tell if it is from a male or female?

  • Fred from Canuckistan

    Mark . . the hunters smell it . . . I could never figure it out but they knew.

  • pascvaks

    Idiots can and will say anything.
    Frightened casual observers can be led by idiots to say anything.
    The worst of the lot, however, are the idiots with PhD's who, for some incredible reason, can lead normal idiots to repeat what they say and they just impress the heck out of frightened casual observers.
    People are funny.

  • jay

    This is the the way it always goes: when there's a run of bad weather or some seeming problem like this, it's blame on anthromorphic* warming. If there's a run of GOOD weather it is NEVER attributed to global warming. The fact is, however, there is nothing sacred about the current CO2 balance, there is no reason whatsoever to assume that the current, or recent levels are in any way optimum. They're just what we happened to inherit. But the very unscientific Goldilocks mindset seems to prevail.

    *Note that in many discussions, it is not enough to acknowledge climate warming. Unless you accept it as man-made, you are still considered a 'denier'. Apparently there is a strong guilt component in this whole mess.

  • Anon

    "Apparently there is a strong guilt component in this whole mess."

    The parallel between the AGW parable (well, the whole green movement) and Genesis is amazing. Tree of knowledge, original sin/fall of man, and getting kicked out of Eden.

    It's almost like humanity has an inner need for this story. Paging Joseph Campbell.