On The Intersection Of Scientist And Politicians—Guest Post by An Engineer

When science and politics meet Red is the result?
“An Engineer” is a gentleman who has practiced Civil, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering for more than 40 years. He has been granted patents for a number of practical inventions, and continues to invent while enjoying retirement. He also is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who served proudly in the Corps of Engineers.

Scientists don’t make anything. They discover new knowledge, and the process of discovery is well organized but the outcome is messy, subject to wide debate, and extensive revision.

Politicians don’t make anything. They talk about problems, real or imagined, and make policies and laws to address those problems. Their process is well organized but the outcome is also messy, subject to wide debate, and extensive revision.

Here is the intersection. Politicians rely on scientists to give them a problem to talk about for there is a lot of talking in politics. Politicians then award more money to scientists to discover more problems. Hint: the best problems for both are those without solutions. For neither is equipped to solve problems, just to discover, talk and tax.

The top 259 scientists comprising the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 30 countries, mostly funded by politicians from the 30 countries, announced an important finding after 52 hours of non-stop revision and then danced in celebration when they released their latest giant climate report on September 26th.

Only a summary of the report was published—the million-word full version will follow—but over the last week “every single word” has been justified to 110 governments. Their conclusion: mankind is causing global warming with 95% confidence. The report is released just in time for a conference to forge political agreement in Paris in December.

What will the scientific-political-media event in Paris decide? Certainly there will be a lot of discussion about the damage mankind is doing to the planet. Likely there will be statistical affirmation showing a high probability of disaster looming in the future. The conferees may conclude, with high confidence, that people have the power and means to irreversibly alter the earth and its atmosphere by emitting carbon.

So when the conference report is adopted and implementation guidance is published, mankind will have acquired god-like power to change 5.97219 x 1024 kg of mass, not including the atmosphere (pegged at 1 millionth of total earth mass), in the span of but 253 years (1760 to current). Who is responsible for the mile-thick glacial ice over Cincinnati 100,000 years ago?

Paris is cold in December; often, but not always. Assume there is a warm spell. After all there could be, for the only certainty we have about weather is its variability. And hundreds of millions of days of weather equals climate. Climate change is a well-established scientific premise. Not well established are predictability and causes. Here is a simple test. How accurate was last night’s low temperature forecast and if inaccurate what was the cause? Chart ‘predicted’ verses ‘actual’ for a month and note the variability. Variation defeats certainty, and without an identified cause prediction becomes a best guess—just like climate forecasting.

But politicians do not need to consider variability. They do not need nor most do not want to understand science. They have paid for scientifically generated, peer-reviewed, “statistically sound” findings. And remember, the best political problem is one without a solution, and climate change will produce lots of sound bites for the media who will scare us into compliance for the TAX. For politicians decide who pays for all this carbon that if unchecked will destroy civilization as we know it. Their only dilemma is figuring out how to tax us for comfortable homes, cars and the like. On reflection, there might be one problem politicians are capable of solving—deciding who pays the bill. I wonder where the money will go!


  1. Scotian

    Good article overall and I would make only two alterations. First scientist is not a well defined term. Some make things but some do not. Some discover things but many do not. Some are well organised but others are not. I suppose much the same can be said for engineers. The difference, when it occurs, relates to employment and professional status. For example, in Canada, engineering societies periodically petition the government to make it illegal to work as a scientist by defining everything as engineering. This may seem like an exaggeration but it is not and science is only saved by the eternal vigilance of the scientific societies. It may be different in the US.

    Second, politicians are kleptocrats, if not at the beginning soon after taking office, and when scientists or engineers interact with them some of the kleptocracy rubs off.

  2. Ken

    THE KEY ITEM seems to be: “…mankind is causing global warming with 95% confidence…”

    FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUEMENT, let’s say that’s true.

    Then, the next obvious factors to consider include:

    – Who, specifically, is most accountable for the damaging emissions?
    – Who, specifically, “should” (or “ought”) to be accountable for remedying the damaging discharge?
    – If the perpetrator can’t clean up their mess, or refuses to, who can offset their pollution?

    There’s a fairness issue at play nobody wants to address…in addition to the more obvious issue of ‘How much difference can we make if we really truly tried to make a difference?’

    China, for example, has brought on line for a number years (perhaps is still bringing on line) highly polluting coal-fired power plants at a rate sufficient to energize regions roughly comparable with France or the United Kingdom EVERY YEAR.

    If China won’t stop polluting more & faster than any modern industrialized nation can reduce its emissions (not to mention other modernizing countries like India polluting at increasing rates) how much can ‘The West’ really do to make any difference?

    Any review of those considerations reveals the answer to be, ‘not much’–maybe enough such that we could measure the difference we’d make at some future date. Maybe. And that after imposing tremendously harsh, costly, self-sacrificing restraints on all manner of economic activity.

    Regardless, countries “on-board” with the IPCC still want to impose burdensome rules — rules that, coincidentally, generate lots of revenue for those same governments. No doubt that “coincidence” is just a “coincidence”…right???? (Benchmark: Someone invented a device to identify specific cars that were polluting the most [www.faqs.org/patents/app/20100328660] in lieu of mandating every car be subjected to emissions tests — IF implemented this would catch the worst polluters and make a real difference…but…no municipality opted to pursue this–because it would reduce their revenue…which goes to illustrate what priorities they really had regardless of the official rhetoric)

    The people, the personalities, driving the imposition of what are agreed to be such ineffectual pollution-reducing (CO2 is now a pollutant) emissions reductions agree on their ineffectuality (James Hansen conceded this in a trial some years ago in response to something Dr. Christy or Spencer [I think it was] presented in some trial somewhere).

    So why do they persist? Because they are anti-capitalists. Or, put another way, their behavior & statements are indistinguishable from what one could attribute to anti-capitalists.

    To understand them, consult: http://www.libertymind.com & read the summaries there, or better, read the book available there: “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.”

    Brett Stephens of the Wall St. Journal wrote a succinct piece summarizing the same basic theme in 2008: “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis” where he concludes it is a “sick-souled religion” (drawing on the “sick souled” concept from another author’s description). It’s worth a read: http://www.commonsense2day.com/global-warming-as-mass-neurosis/

  3. MattS

    “I wonder where the money will go!”

    The more important question is where will it come from?

  4. Ken

    PEER REVIEW — that’s another Climate Change community buzz-theme upon which they assert competency & authority — they “peer review” each other’s stuff.

    Turns out “Peer Review” pretty much sucks [term of “art”], overall, at least in some arenas. Illustrating this: A technical guy did a version of the Alan Sokal paper with technical drivel and sent it to 308 open access technical journals, 98 rejected & 157 published it.

    Most publishers were Indian, many were fee-for-publish open journals (the author pays to have the paper published…obvious conflicts of interest there…but…PLOS ONE was competent!), etc. Read about this at:


  5. I showed my website to a friend who attempts to unravel the mysteries of the stock market to fund his retirement. As he peeked at the data (aka BEST Quality Controlled Single Valued) I have plotted at my site, he started mumbling about moving averages. His first inclination was to smooth the data.

    He uses moving averages (30-Day, 90-Day, and exponential) to help him determine what a particular stock will do in the upcoming days and months. It is easy to see why he would immediately start to apply moving averages to the temperature record. We apply our knowledge from other experiences to any new situation.

    He applies a model to his stock prices to predict when he should buy and sell.

    Look at the chart of temperature data. Here is my application of his process.

    In the northern hemisphere, buy in January or February, sell in July or August. For maximum return, short in August and cover in January.

    Don’t play this game on the equator. The best returns are to be had away from the equator. The absolute best returns can be had in regions far from large bodies of water. But the periodicity of those investments is 6 months. Anyone attempting to go long or short for 30 years is guaranteeing themselves a loss on commission.

    Looking at the Quality Controlled Single Valued Berkeley Earth Data, all I can say is that Dr. Muller has to dance fast and hard with himself to keep himself from recognizing the idiocy of his underlings analysis. The vast majority of locations do not show any increasing or decreasing trend. They do show vast variations. You can see multimodal sinusoids. But they are sinusoids.

    I start my charts at 200K because the minimum temperature in the data set is 204K. I chose 200 because I am biased towards round numbers. It is possible that that biases my viewpoint excessively. I have an underlying reason that I think is sound. Don’t lose track of the context of your data. If you start playing games with the data to extract a signal, make sure you don’t create a signal that isn’t there.

    The job that pays my bills involves looking at cyclical data from a bottling company. The first time I plotted the volume data, i started rationalizing the peaks. January was the lowest month. People don’t drink as much in winter. There were peaks in March, June, September and December though. Post hoc, I realized that what I really saw was the fiscal accounting in action. 3.75 weeks in Jan, 4 wks in February, and 5 weeks in March. The company in question solves this particular hurdle by running 3 month and 12 month rolling averages… They take out the seasonality of the data.

    We live in an atomic world these days. We can parse the data down to very fine levels automagically. There are 45,000,000 points of data in the complete data set for the BEST QCSV data. 15 M each for TAVE, TMIN, and TMAX. Each of those points is actually an average itself comprising a months worth of observations. We have the ability to view all of the data all of the time instead of just compressing the data into an average. Why is it that we don’t have more means of viewing all of the data available to us vs just the compiled average. A temperature anomaly chart compresses 45,000,000*30 data points (there is significant inaccuracy in what I just wrote there), into 12*60 points.

    The previously mentioned bottling company using statistics to maximize their ability to deliver product. When they can though, they flip their finger at the statisticians. Every can on the line is weighed, not just every xth can. They will pull every xth can/bottle/jug to test the internals of the product. If there is an automated way to discern a defect (economically) individually though, they do it. Statistics comes into play when you can’t feasibly test every single one.

  6. obiwankenobi

    Last year and much of this year we were in a severe drought, neither rain nor snow would caress our woods or prairie. This summer the drought broke as it rained and rained and rained. It’s raining now and we’ve received 2.5″ since sunrise today. At 10am the Northern Black Hills (SD) had received 2 feet of snow since last night and will likely get another 1-2′ by Sunday. We are in a blizzard warning till 7 pm tomorrow night and it’s October 4 at 44.3680° N, 100.3364° W.
    Like someone posted elsewhere, no snow = global warming; too much snow = global warming. Snow job.

  7. It’s enlightening to read commentary on the IPCC report from statisticians, engineers, and naive opinion consumers and regurgitators. I don’t recall ever seeing a geophysicist commenting here. The fundamentals of radiation physics are not beyond the grasp of a statistician or an engineer.

  8. V

    “The top 259 scientists …” bzzzt wrong.

  9. Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for info about this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I have found out so far. However, what about the conclusion? Are you certain in regards to the source?

  10. Rob Ryan @ 4 Oct 2013 —

    Why did the Hubble telescope require bifocals?

    Given that the fundamentals of optics were not beyond the grasp of the original development team, why did that team develop selective blindness to the benchmarks?

    In theory, theory and practice should be the same; in practice, they’re not.

    I apologize for being trained as a mere biologist. Accordingly, to that training, we have a good record of warming via searise proxy [which grossly absorbs variation] for the last 11 k-years that’s fairly smooth with a couple of significant inflections including a flattening effect ending roughly 2000 ya.

    Per the Hubble assembly defect (which was a failure to use gross rule of thumb or, more aptly, looking out the window when theory mandated sunshine and seeing rain), radiative-forcing theory does not match reality. It has neitherretrodicted nor predicted successfully.

    Something else, more complicated, is at play.


  11. magnificent publish, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t realize this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  12. An Engineer

    @ Rob on the “fundamentals of radiation physics.” True, but climate change has a multitude of causes, and the combined-effect of these causes are is not well understood, at least by me. But, I use physics to make stuff so I could be wrong.
    @ JJ the “Hubble assembly defect” is a fine analogy for getting lost in so many details, one forgets the job is to complete the road, a common error condition for humans. Group think, reinforced by political funding is another.
    @ Darrell thank you. This is my first “big time blog.” But, I firmly believe we have many problems to solve and ought to devote limited resources to fix what we can and ignore what we can’t.

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