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Fix Your Damn Page, NASA

September 27, 2016

Time after time when discussing climate issues, people direct me to NASA… because they are a trusted source, and to those that don’t know better, an argument from authority is a powerful weapon. And this is where I am sent:

http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

There are a number of issues with this page. Some more obvious than others. From the very first paragraph:

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.”

First off, you lead with “peer-reviewed”. This carries much more weight with laypersons unfamiliar with the term. Peer-review is simply a read through by someone knowledgeable in the field to rule out egregious and obvious errors, to ensure it is plausible. It is NOT a confirmation of results.

“97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree” – This is NOT true. No poll indicates any such thing. This is extrapolated from text search of selected abstracts, something you bury in footnote 1. To claim 97% of climate scientists agree from text searches of selected papers borders on fraudulent.

“Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities” – This is NOT part of the conclusions of the “97 percent or more” text search of papers. From the referenced Cook study, all that can be said is 97% of some selected papers attribute some warming to humans. There is no breakdown of how much warming they believe is happening, how much they attribute to humans, or if they consider it a problem.

“most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position” – This is a misleading statement with neither any statistical nor scientific value. Even if we assume it is true, scientific orgs could be endorsing based on the word of one spokesman. And if the statements are analyzed, most do not say their members were polled. They are the endorsements of a few directors. There is no way to quantify what the members (that are the ones involved in science) believe.

“The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources” – The implication is that NASA and the listed organization have confirmed the claims. There is no indication that any endorsement is based on independent research confirming these findings at all. And if one follows to their webpages to find their sources, it is in many cases the very same list of text search “studies” listed in your footnote 1.

And since the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers is also referenced, it is only fair I point out that the IPCC has acknowledged that there is a pause in warming over the last 15+ years, and that 111 of 114 climate models (a rather ironic 97%+) they reference for their projections overstate warming compared to real world observation. This is SYSTEMIC bias.

AR5 Excerpt

IPCC AR5 Evaluation of Climate Models Performance

But even more troubling than the rest of these problems is the continued assertions by (once) respected institutions that science can somehow be decided by committee, with the decision beyond questioning. What step in the scientific method includes “consensus”? I’ve never seen it mentioned. Consensus science is a contradiction in terms, something an organization of your well deserved reputation should be embarrassed to repeat. It is an EXPLICITY anti-science position. No advance in science, not even one, not ever, has come from enforcing a faux “scientific consensus”. If this was the position of NASA at it’s founding, you never would have reached space, let alone reached the moon.

Considering the dismal inaccuracy of climate projections, and the IPCC’s admission of model failures, asserting certainty (something good science NEVER does) is silly. Richard Feynman’s words ring more true now than ever…

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

In short, your webpage as it is isn’t worth the electrons wasted to display it. Kindly fix it.

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