The Scientific Method and Global Warming

I’ve listed definitions of the scientific method from 5 different sources as follows:

A method of investigation involving observation and theory to test scientific hypotheses
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

A method of discovering knowledge about the natural world based in making falsifiable predictions (hypotheses), testing them empirically, and developing peer-reviewed theories that best explain the known data
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scientific_method

Systematic approach of observation, hypothesis formation, hypothesis testing and hypothesis evaluation that forms the basis for modern science.www.emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/BioBookglossS.html

The set of rules used to guide science, based on the idea that scientific “laws” be continuously tested, and replaced if found inadequate.
chandra.harvard.edu/resources/glossaryS.html

A process that is the basis for scientific inquiry. The scientific method follows a series of steps: (1) identify a problem you would like to solve, (2) formulate a hypothesis, (3) test the hypothesis, (4) collect and analyze the data, (5) make conclusions.
www.ncsu.edu/labwrite/res/res-glossary.html

I was a little surprised by what I read. I remembered scientific method in a more strict sense. But scientific method is a heck of a lot of observation with conclusions that become more and more fine tuned as more and more is observed. Relative to global warming, reports will change either for the better or worse as more data is collected. Observation is the first step of the scientific method.

The second step in most of these definitions is the need to test a hypothesis. I thought I’d better refresh my memory on that one too. The definition of hypothesis: A hypothesis (from Greek ὑπόθεσις [iˈpoθesis]) consists either of a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or of a reasoned proposal predicting a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena. The term derives from the Greek, hypotithenai meaning “to put under” or “to suppose.”

There is also the phrase empirical testing. Hmmm looked that one up too and it seems the word empirical gets confused with experimental more often than not. According to Wikipedia: “Empirical method is generally taken to mean the collection of data on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion in science. It is part of the scientific method, but is often mistakenly assumed to be synonymous with the experimental method where data are derived from the systematic manipulation of variables in an experiment.” I know we’re talking reliable sources here and encyclopedias aren’t considered reliable sources because they constantly change and are updated, but this is just for definition sake.

Finally there is the term “theory.” A theory, in the scientific sense of the word, is an analytic structure designed to explain a set of empirical observations. A scientific theory does two things:
1. it identifies this set of distinct observations as a class of phenomena, and
2. makes assertions about the underlying reality that brings about or affects this class.

Our climate scientists have clearly been using scientific methods for global warming predictions. For instance:

Identify a problem to be solved: Global warming. The most commonly cited indication of global warming is the trend for globally averaged temperature near the Earth’s surface. Expressed as a linear trend, this temperature rose by 0.74°C ±0.18°C over the period 1906-2005. The rate of warming over the last 50 years of that period was almost double that for the period as a whole. Temperatures in the lower troposphere have increased between 0.12 and 0.22 °C (0.22 and 0.4 °F) per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Temperature is believed to have been relatively stable over the one or two thousand years before 1850, with regionally-varying fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age.

Formulate a hypothesis: Global warming has doubled over the last 50 years of the decade. It may be due to industrialization and the pollutants big industry produces, as well as population growth and loss of forest areas. But what exact pollutant has an affect on massive warming trends? CO2 and methane were found in ice core samples dating back thousands of years to the first Ice Age. There is a need to test the hypothesis that rising amounts of CO2 cause rising global temperatures.

Employ the empirical method to test the hypothesis: Data collection begins for changes in air, the earth, the oceans, and ecosystems on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion that an overabundance of CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels for industry and transportation is causing a rapid rise in global warming compared to the earlier part of the century. This is the climate model most skeptics claim is faulty. This empirical method is, however, part of the scientific method. Perhaps the skeptics confuse empirical with experimental too.

Even though the scientific method does not include the experimental method, global warming scientists have accomplished that also. In my blog, “New Findings Show Relative Relationship between CO2 Emissions and Global Warming,” http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2009/07/new-findings-show-relative-relationship-between-co2-emissions-and-global-warming/, scientists report they found that there is a linear relationship between CO2 and global warming, which means X amount of CO2 in the air will result in Y amount of global warming at some point in time. A formula can be applied. This theory will be published in the journal Nature. And the online journal Science published findings that “appear to confirm the validity of the types of computer models that are used to project a warmer climate in the future,” like the theory that is being published in Nature.

Both Nature and Science are peer reviewed journals! Peer reviewed reports have become very important in the argument over global warming. Not only are many global warming skeptics out of their realm of expertise to report about climate change, but are highly motivated by the industries that produce excess CO2, and have not published properly peer reviewed material. They exist to cause doubt.

Global warming theory comes from climate scientists who have employed the scientific method using observations that many of us are witnessing. They will continue to collect data regarding changes around the world in an effort to gain more and more insight to tackle the problem. The results will produce as with all things new in science a constant evolution of facts and predictions. The face of global warming will continue to change. Let’s hope that the time factor involved is correct–that we still have time to act.

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17 thoughts on “The Scientific Method and Global Warming

  1. Thank you for this post…..You did a lot of work.

    However, you state “scientists report they found that there is a linear relationship between CO2 and global warming, which means X amount of CO2 in the air will result in Y amount of global warming at some point in time.” If this is true, why has there been global cooling in the last 10 years when the amount of CO2 has increased????? This would not presume cause and effect as you have stated.

    Also, .74 degrees over 100 years….is this really “warming?” Who knows as we don’t have enough data to support it….the plantet is way older then 100 years…

    You said “This theory will be published in the journal Nature. And the online journal Science published findings that “appear to confirm the validity of the types of computer models that are used to project a warmer climate in the future,” like the theory that is being published in Nature.”
    My good friend “appear to confirm” and a “computer model of the future result” are hardly the proper use of the svientific method…..

    http://xtronics.com/reference/globalwarming.htm

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1779594/posts

    http://ker-plunk.blogspot.com/2007/03/global-warming-and-scientific-method.html

    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=79760

    Again you don’t want to have a discussion.

    You constently refuse to accept my comments that this is a politically motivated agruement yet you ALWAYS revert back to politics. You said “Not only are many global warming skeptics out of their realm of expertise to report about climate change, but are highly motivated by the industries that produce excess CO2, and have not published properly peer reviewed material. They exist to cause doubt.” So you are dismissing all agruement as motivated by money/politics…..don’t you see the conflict in your logic?

  2. The Global Warming “Falsifiable Predictions” is that world wide temperature will continue to increase. The past 10 years has ‘falsified’ that prediction thereby disproving the theory. For this reason, Global Warming is not a scientific theory. It relies on ‘Scientific Consensus’ which is not part of the scientific method.

  3. Matt and Billy:
    How much warming would an increase of ~5% CO2 over a decade cause, directly? If I remember correctly, it’s something like 1-2°C of direct warming from a doubling (+100%) of CO2, so we’re talking 0.05-0.10°C of warming per decade.

    Over a 10 year period or shorter, the noise is going to more than drown out this signal. Using a single year, or even a single decade of “cooling” to “disprove” AGW is fallacious at best. Moreover, the supposed ‘cooling’ we’ve had over the past 10 years is almost entirely dependent on starting during the exceptionally warm El Nino year of 1998… it’s cherry-picking at its worst.

    Best of all, what you didn’t mention is that global temperatures have risen every decade since 1950, and the 2000-2009 decade is no exception. This decade has been warmer than the 1990-2000 decade. So your argument doesn’t really even have a leg to stand on from the beginning.

  4. its easy to test if global warming is indeed real.

    get two boxes, fill them with normal air. have one as the control. the other fitted with an inlet and outlet valve plus a temperature guage and a guage that can measure co2 concentration. have a heat and light source pointed at both boxes. measure the temps of both boxes to ensure they are receiving the same amount of energy and thus reading the same temp. record the co2 concentration in both boxes. should be about 0.038%

    open the outlet value of box 2 and bleed some air put while opening the inlet value and letting co2 in. stop the intake when it reaches twice the atmospheric level, ie 0.076% and the hold it there whilst measuring the temperature. increase the co2 again to triple, the 4x, 5x, measuring the temp each time until suck a point is reached where the level of co2 would be toxic. collate this data and see if any measurable increase in temperature occured.

    if there was a substantial increase at any level of co2 concentration, then apply this to the earth. to do this, measure again the average co2 concentration of the earths atmosphere. then measure the earths average temperature. perform both measurements on an annual basis for 10 years. if there are any changes to either figure, record which increases first and which increases second, ie a cause and effect.

    this experiment would solve two questions. firstly, whether co2 is a significant factor in global temperatures and whether increase in temperature causes and increase in co2 or vice versa.

  5. Hello!

    I’d like to alert you to a couple of mistakes in your statement that “Our climate scientists have clearly been using scientific methods for global warming predictions.” First, the models don’t make predictions. What they make are what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls “projections.” A model that made predictions would be falsifiable. A model that makes projections is not falsifiable.

    Second, as their models are not falsifiable, the “scientists” of the IPCC are not scientists. As they represent themselves to be scientists, the proper name for them is “pseudo-scientists.”

    The distinction between a “prediction” and a “projection” escapes most people. A prediction is an example of a logical proposition. This proposition states the future outcome of a statistical event. A projection is a mathematical function that maps the time to the average global temperature.

    A projection supports comparison with the measured average global temperature. However, such a comparison is incapable of falsifying the associated model. On the other hand, a proposition that states the future outcome of a statistical event has the property of being true or false; it follows that predictions support falsification of the associated model.

  6. If the standard for falsifiability no longer includes projections then all science related to medical testing would have to be excluded. Testing of say, cancer drugs, is based on projected cancer rates and the rate at which treatment impacts these rates. Since nobody knows exactly what the base line cancer rate is, how exactly it changes in response to different variables, or how it changes from subject to subject, scientists use instead projected rates based on prior data. This is a well established practice in many branches of the sciences. Climate projections can be falsified if one knows and understands the methods being employed and the mathematical tools best suited to analyzing the data sets. Any scientific truth worth investigating will be complex and multi-layered. Science is a process of fine tuning the truth as more and more data become available. The reason why many people believe global warming skeptics are politically motivated is because they seem to hold climate science to a standard that is far beyond the standard they have for other forms of scientific inquiry. The data supporting climate change is not only rich but it is diverse. Multiple data sources, taken from widely different types of climate indicators, all point in the same direction. Anytime I have ever read about a climate skeptic’s conflicting data I find, in the end, that the data in question has been mis-represented, mis-interpreted or both. It’s fine to be skeptical. In fact, it is a necessary part of doing good science. However, being contrary just for the sake of being contrary isn’t particularly helpful.

  7. Why does Matt push the urban legend it’s been cooling?

    It is very much warming!!!

    Here are the weather station temperature data == per NASA

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

    Here is the satellite data

    look at the UAH dataset in the same Dr Spencer page. Scroll down to the end and read the global trend: 0.14 �C/decade. RSS gives 0.153 �C/decade.

    UAH
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_Aug_10.gif
    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt

    RSS
    http://www.remss.com/msu/msu_data_description.html#msu_decadal_trends

    By the way the UAH data is maintained by the skeptic Roy Spencer. He was reporting there was cooling through 2005, even though the land weather stations and the other satellite RSS showed strong warming.

    Then OOPS — RSS scientists reviewed Roy Spencer’s data, and Spencer/Christy revised their data set.

    Seems UAH had shown warming all the time — it was a simple clerical error Roy Spencer said, pay no attention.

    They are forced to post honest data now. Check out their data, if anyone is skeptical.

  8. Thanks. I posted all the local average temps going back a decade in the Detroit area. Deniers have a tendency to toady frog around between no global warming to it is warming but man has nothing to do with it. After watching man screw up the gulf (the environment) in a massive way, I can’t fathom why it’s assumed man doesn’t indeed affect climate change.

  9. The hypothesis of “global warming” has yet to been proved. You too are playing fast and lose with the facts. Mann’s hockey-stick graph which is the foundation for most if not ALL researchers of the subject has been PROVEN false, based on bad and/or manipulated data. The emails recently release confirm that climate data is still being manipulated (manufactured?), which further VIOLATES the scientific method.

    If you believe in the scientific method, then you must agree global warming is but an hypothesis, just like the earth being the center of the solar system was a hypothesis until we learned better.

  10. Anyone can write whatever they like about global warming, climate change or global climate disruption, but not even climatologists really know what they’re talking about or researching.
    Climate science is still at the crawling stage of its infancy, yet to take its first baby steps, when it takes that first step, we’ll all be better informed, and until that time arrives, we’ll remain in the dark.
    The ‘Eureka’ moment in climate science is a long way off.

  11. We went to war based on a 1% principle introduced by then VP Cheney that basically said that if there is even a 1% CHANCE there are weapons of mass destruction that threaten us then it is our duty to try to stop it. DITTO for climate change. It’s not an exact science but that is rapidly changing and if there is even a 1% chance we may be causing climate to change too drastically then we have the duty to try to stop it. Simple.

  12. The emails proved nothing. And it’s obvious you didn’t comprehend this article at all. I’m not playing fast and loose with facts. Everything I gather comes from other sources so I’m doing nothing but relaying.

  13. Baloney. Look around at the world temps. Our environment is a closed sphere. It can be filled with garbage that it can no longer handle and that’s exactly what we are doing to our world, and everything in it. It doesn’t take a scientific genius to understand that. We’re almost reaching the 7 billion mark for world population and we’re pigging up the planet royal. In the past history of our planet, when things are out of balance, Mother Nature purges the problem. Humans are the current problem. And Mother Nature will purge us just the same.

    Funny how people in the U.S. will hold out for more information on global warming when it affects all life on earth, but Cheney’s 1% principle to go to war was all it took. Well, I say the same goes for the environment. If there is a 1% chance that humans are affecting the massive climate change we are SEEING, then we have the duty to intervene and stop it because it affects every living thing on the planet!

  14. Cheney, war, politics, etc…your last three posts here expose you. You’re not interested in science.

  15. GVO is the better network marketing chance for currently. Require a excursion of the usb ports you need to your online promoting small business!!

  16. Warmist always refer to the “Big Oil Conspiracy.” In reality, there is no one “Big Oil.” For example, Russia and the United Arab Emirates push the Warmist theory in the UN in order to make us buy their oil. This is wonderfully illustrated in the FrackNation documentary.

    There is no liberal privilege or confirmation bias.

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