Climategate/Copenhagen roundup: after words

This will presumably be the last ClimateGate update for a while.

The nuance of modeling is that while scientists ask the objective question “is this true,” engineers ask the subjective question “does this solve my problem”?

We know what problem the wizards of Wall Street were trying to solve. “How do I develop derivatives models that maximize my year-end bonus?” That approach delivered fantastic bonuses right up until it didn’t, at which point the entire world economy was driven into a ditch.

And climate modelers? Scientists living on the public weal get compensated via a mix of government grants and scientific prestige. Their problem they are trying to solve is “How do I get my papers published in the most prestigious journals so I can maximize the size of my next grant?”

If you’ve ever done computer modeling you know that there are a thousand ways to make a set of curves fit retrospective data in underconstrained systems. And right now, both the government grant and scientific prestige markets are dishing out significant rewards for models that predict runaway climate disaster. So which curves do you think savvy modelers are going to pick?

Calling these climate models “science” and then having the audacity to call them “settled” is the same kind of Big Lie that allowed Congress to assure us that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were completely safe so we had nothing to worry about when they embarked on an orgy of sub-prime lending. Every computer model predicting the future behavior of the mortgage market fit all the historical data – right up until the moment that they didn’t.

Before we let suspect computer models developed by a handful of people drive the entire world economy into a ditch, don’t you think we should take the covers off and invest a little more time and effort to thoroughly examine how these models work? Hopefully this will include analytical critiques from a wider cast of characters than the self-serving cabal whose mendacity and ham-handed attempts to marginalize dissent were recently exposed. Perhaps an open process will help both “sides” focus on attacking weaknesses in the models themselves rather than attacking each other’s tribal affiliations. Only then can we hope to get real value for all the money we taxpayers fork over to support these scientists.

<– Link to previous roundup —

— Link to tomorrow’s “aftershocks” roundup –>

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