Citizen Scientists Given the Green Light on Accountability

Last week, I wrote the post, Triple J and the Sports Reporter Full of Hot Air, which discussed the overly opinionated sports reporter, Matt De Groot, telling everyone what he thought about anthropogenic climate change. I didn’t hide that I thought this bloke was tooting the horn of ignorance and annoyed me no end.

This Friday Matt reappeared with his ‘Hack regrets’;

“I came on and felt the need to do two things. One was to sound informed and other was to sound passionate on the issue and to be completely honest, I’m not passionate on the issue.”

He did make a great point;

“I tried to come across as an expert that I’m not, I tried to quote science that I don’t know. You ask people to literally explain the science of climate change, they won’t be able to…

“People feel like they should [know what they’re talking about on climate change], because politicians have made it a big issue. But for most people it’s become over politicised, over hyped…”

It’s true that for many, the subject of climate change is more about their political standing than the science that underlies the issue. It’s mostly about the public opinion – hence why we have a committee designed to gauge the public opinion on climate change. This is also expressed through the blogosphere being awash with warped understanding of the science and many illusions about scientific certainty.

Of course, for instance, there will be many studies that question the results of previous studies. That’s the heart of sceptical scientific methodology; how we manage to chip away at ignorance and test the validity of the standing ideas.

However to the general public, this can be exploited, such as Poptechs, 850 Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of “Man-Made” Global Warming (AGW) Alarm, to produce unreasonable doubt. It’s clearly not a sentiment shared within the scientific community, as Lockwood (2010) states,

“The Internet has played a useful role in conveying some of the understanding, images and data that lead climate scientists to their conclusions. However, it has also become a haven for un-refereed pseudo-science with dangerously incorrect inference. It has served to give the false impression that there is a serious, widespread academic debate on the basic nature of climate change. The most popular argument runs like this: ‘The Sun drives Earth’s climate system. Therefore changes in the Sun must drive changes in Earth’s climate system’. The first sentence is, of course, absolutely correct; but understanding why the second sentence does not follow from the first requires scientific training and study.”

Never before did we require a committee to decide if the public agreed with the science or whether we should ignore the evidence. We have had similar situations, obviously, such as with ozone depletion, the relationship between tobacco and health risks, and as far as the public debate goes, Einstein’s theory of relativity, but such ‘politically correct’ terms as “citizen scientists” were not entertained. Never before were there roaming individuals, with no scientific training of any sort, demanding that scientists refute any paper that they hold which happens to disagree with the standing ideas within the scientific issue at hand.

The more you thing about it, the more the idea of such is quite disturbing. It’s a devaluation of technical training and many people-centuries of scientific investigation. That’s not to say people without such training should step aside and “leave it to the experts”, but rather take the time to learn about the subject if it interests or concerns (in many cases scientists are geeks who love the opportunity to discuss a subject that they’re passionate about); ask questions and develop an understanding, don’t simply fall for such a cheap trick as a selection of cherry picked papers.

To truly engage with the science from a lay perspective is very different to this current group of “citizen scientist” who try to come across as an expert on the subject; it’s very different to the trolls that blog-hop, with a fist full of papers, demanding that the blog authors respond to this handful of cherry picked studies (anyone could simply hold onto Poptech’s list and simply refer, paper by paper, until the other grows bored and then simply celebrate illogically, that the science behind AGW is thus refuted).

All of this citizen science scepticism of AGW is meaningless at the end of the day, any way (to what end does you and I engaging in a war of the studies available in the literature achieve?), but as Matt stated – there is an expectation that we all know about the subject, can (and should) argue about it and be passionate about it.

As much as Matt admits no real passion or knowledge of the subject, he remained committed to his initial belief that climate change is not our fault and won’t effect him, so really his only regret seems to have been so vocal. This seems to be the best we can expect. It’s nothing short of a “get out of jail card” – “I have an opinion, it’s an not based on much interest or evidence, but I believe it and it’s up to you to agree with it or prove me wrong.”

Accountability, as we’ve seen with the many times Monckton has been discredited, is not the AGW deniers strong point – which is without a doubt imbalanced by their outspoken nature on the subject. I have no doubt that such people will forever remain “unconvinced” by the evidence. I’m also sure that they will blame others, or such as Matt, plead ignorant and pressured into having an opinion when it bites them in the arse. It’s we whom create PC terms, such as “citizen scientists” and attempt to argue with their bizarre war of articles that validate the climate denier. Something needs to change.

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6 thoughts on “Citizen Scientists Given the Green Light on Accountability

  1. I dont understand how people like Mat can hold such a strong opinion that we are not cuasing AWG when like me they have no expertise in the field , I wonder if its more of a convience thing in that I dont believe it therefore I dont need to do anything about it .

    So it either believe people like Monckton and the bloggers who cling to the few scientists who try to disprove AWG (nothing wrong with that) or the scientific consenus that been built over the last 80 yrs umm gee whats more resonable , what would Spock do apply logic and probabilities its not hard !! .

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    1. I think for a lot of them – especially those who have nothing better to do but troll around the blogs demanding people “prove them wrong,” or “convince them with the evidence,” it’s more about bravery and they justify it with conclusions that if they seriously thought about, they’d write-off without a second thought (ie. the one world government / scientists cashing in on grants etc).

      When I started out this blog, for me, all I knew was a high level of confidence in the reality of AGW based not only on modelling, but a clear understanding of the greenhouse effect, environmental observational data and various stake holders convinced that their environment has changed. I told myself I wouldn’t be drawn into the public climate change debate, not only because it’s just silly – as you say, there’s such a plethora of evidence behind it and as much as there are many sceptical scientists (as most scientists are) testing and retesting AGW, it continues to stand – but also because the public debate is pointless.

      Within the next 10 years (most likely sooner rather than later) we will hit peak oil. Sure we’ll have coal and natural gas peaking later in the century, but neither can replace oil and by 2020 we’ll have the rude shock perpetually getting worse – 2008 GFC was only a taste of this. Removing oil from the equation would dramatically reduce our emissions and even after peak it will be with us for much longer, but it will become less and less affordable – effecting poorer people first. In all regards we should attempt to diversify our energy source. I’ve got similar reasoning behind both food and water security also; all of which measures would do a lot of what needs to happen to address the challenges of AGW.

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      1. Just a note, since I am a computer analyst it is the misplaced faith by non-computer scientists in modeling that makes me skeptical of AGW Alarm.

        Virtual reality can be whatever you want it to be and computer climate models are just that, they are the code based on the subjective opinions of the scientists creating them. The real world has no such bias.

        I am actually amazed by the amount of computer illiteracy in the scientific community.

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      2. Firstly, this is irrelevant to the post.
        Secondly, I find it rich that you’re playing, “I’m the expert so I’m right,” when you don’t accept the expertise of scientist you disagree with (ie. “they’re just alarmists”).

        Climate models are in a way virtual reality, but how you put it is entirely wrong. More misinformation..

        “I am actually amazed by the amount of computer illiteracy in the scientific community.”
        But this doesn’t go for the scientists who use models. They’re not simply no better that game creators. They have to justify their parameters, which are built into the initial situation and left to run (often many thousands of replications). This is compared with reality or used for risk management. Any meteorological forecast you’ve ever hear/seen is the result of models and I bet if they tell you by the end of the week there’ll be rain, you’ll get out in the garden or do the washing before then. In my career I’ve seen the results of many models and been involved in a number of projects that either utilise models or develop new ones, from Aust BOM weather and climate models, CSIRO ecological models, geographical information models in relation to flood and bush fire movement and most recently models used in eddy correlation analysis.

        The scientist using models understand them and have to explain the models used in their papers which others also trained in computer based models later critically review.

        Again, I can’t believe you of people is playing the ‘expert card’ when you’ve got no respect for other experts in other fields, climate models are not simply producing whatever you want it to (that just wouldn’t be science) and thank you yet again for providing an example of the quality “research” done by ‘citizen scientists’ who most often start their speech (generalising as it fits creations, anti-vax, AGW, New Age metaphysics/remedies) “I used to believe the science, but then I started to look at it and realised that…”

        Anyone who provides a junk heap of random papers as evidence, thinks peak oil isn’t a concern if governments just got out of the way and who supports Monckton (but conveniently sidesteps questions over the quality of the man’s “research”) isn’t thinking about the subject critically or if is, doesn’t know enough to provide valid criticism.

        Again, I won’t bother supporting another one of these long and pointless exchanges with you and I suggest you simply move on or accept that your comments are very likely to be deleted.

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  2. Computer climate models are virtual but there use real world data , physics and chemistry as their rules of how the models run , they run models of past climates repeatedly to compare to what really happened and if it does not match up try to work out why .
    Do you think the researchers bias there models to only give an outcome of a hotter earth ? yes one could and do do it just to see the outcome , but there are many universities that run models so they all would have to be in on running models that don’t match up with the real world and if we go there we are entering the loony conspiracy world .
    You say model “code based on the subjective opinions of the scientists creating them” but the models have to be based on real world data and fact otherwise the results would be just wildly wrong , do you honestly believe scientist just make this stuff because why even run the models at all and how would it stand up to peer review?
    Have a look at Climateprediction.net they use their own plus home PCs to run millions of models , at the moment I am running four models 1st one runs from 799 till 999 the next from 1799 till 1999 the next again 1799-1999 but with different parameters for comparison .
    If you look at their website you may learn something about how climate modelling is done because from your few line of “expert” opinion you display an obvious lack of knowledge on the subject .
    There I’ve just wasted 20 mins of my net time LOL .

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    1. Exactly… they may be virtual, but their parameters need to be justified by real world information. Poptech as with his fan, Adam, clearly are under the illusion that anything that comes to the conclusion that AGW is correct much be the result of alarmist scientist because-climate-just-changes-because-it-just-changes.
      I’ve given up tried to reason with them, so much so their comments are monitored and for Adam I even needed to start filtering his vial emails straight to the trash (he shows many of the traits of a creepy stalking troll).

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