by Kip Hansen
Some problems require a restart.
Let’s say Windows is running very slowly. It’s possible that a misbehaving program is using 99% CPU and draining the computer’s resources.
In all cases, a restart wipes away the current state of the software. Any code that’s stuck in a misbehaving state will be swept away, too. When you restart, the computer or device will bring the system up from scratch, restarting all the software from square one.
Ultimately, the answer is that “resetting a computer wipes away the current state of the software, including any problems that have developed, and allows it to start over from square one. It’s easier and faster to start from a clean state than identify and fix any problems that may be occurring — in fact, in some cases, it may be impossible to fix problems without beginning from that clean state.”
Is it time to hit that RESTART button?
I have been fooling around with computers since the first “less than room-sized” computers became available. I have built 8 inch by 12 inch computer memory cards from near-microscopic ferro-ceramic donuts and tiny copper wire matrixes. Yes, I have entered simple programs into computers using toggle switches on the front panel, carefully saved programs and results on 8 inch floppy disks (and myriad versions of recording tape), and I remember my joy at my first computer with a 10 megabyte hard-drive, my first dot matrix printer and the joys of BASIC. I “graduated” computer science from IBM International HQ where I was on the original Olympics and Sports Internet Team, building (and helping to invent the technologies for) the first massively-scalable dynamic-content websites for such events as the tennis grand slams, the Masters golf tournament, and the three IBM-supported Olympic games (Atlanta, Nagano, and Sydney). So I know a little bit about using modern personal computers. When these computers get bogged down, and they do, one inevitably saves whatever is worth saving (if possible and if anything) and hits the RESTART button.
Has Climate Science become hopelessly bogged down? Has Climate Science reached a point where misbehaving programs [paradigms] are using 99% of research efforts and thus draining away – frittering away – the field’s resources? Are far too many precious hours, days, years being spent fighting the Climate Wars – the deadlocked scientific and policy debate surrounding climate change issues – defending scientific positions, many untenable, most based on their policy implications, rather than attempting to discover the underlying nature of the Earth’s climate itself? Has Climate Science been co-opted by the “CO2-induced Global Warming” hypothesis, starting off on the wrong foot, down the wrong path, led on inexorably by confirmation bias, enforced group think and bias in funding proposals, thus inevitably arriving at what appears to be a scientific dead-end?
Is the seemingly unending battle over tiny changes in metrics such as LOTI (Land-Ocean Temperature Index), ocean heat content, Annual Global Mean Temperature Anomaly Over Land & Sea (and its plethora of alphabet/version variations), fledgling measurements of global sea level rise, [and the list goes on] . . . is this the purpose of Climate Science? Can we justify the effort and resources being spent on this activity? Does any of it produce new understanding of the Earth’s climate or lead us to answers about potential solutions to changing climate?
Or is a major portion of the entire scientific endeavor we call Climate Science just an exercise in spinning our wheels, getting the subject mired further and further into the mud?
Does the current state of Climate Science resemble your venerable Windows computer – churning and churning, but producing nothing of value, “using 99% [of the] CPU and draining the computer’s resources.”?
What Would It Mean to Hit the Climate Science RESTART Button?
I don’t know. I am not knowledgeable enough, nor do I have the scientific background necessary, to answer that question. But there are readers here aplenty – many of them professionals and leaders in their scientific fields – that are knowledgeable enough and that do have the scientific backgrounds necessary. Certainly, there is enough brain power and scientific muscle here to make a stab at laying out at least the bare bones of an outline of how to approach the question.
Let me be pragmatic – do I think that it is possible to actually start a scientific field over from square zero? No, of course not. But it would be a fascinating group thought experiment. An experiment probably best performed by a dozen or two acknowledged experts from the various scientific disciplines involved – preferably non-combatants in the Climate Wars – to get together for a four-day weekend conference somewhere — possibly under the Chatham House Rule to protect participants from the sometimes-vicious personal and professional attacks all-too-common in the Climate Wars — to consider this question:
What Would It Mean to Hit the Climate Science RESTART Button? Some things that might be considered:
If we started to investigate the Earth’s climate from first principles, where would we start? What questions would we seek to answer?
If we pretended we had just arrived on this planet, and wanted to learn about its climate system, what would we study? How would we study it? What things would we measure to inform us of which physical characteristics of the climate? How would we measure those? How would we determine the meaning, the significance, of the measurements we made?
If we hypothesized “CO2-induced Global Warming”, what approach would we take to investigate it? What metrics would we use? How would we gather them? How would we test them to ensure that they truly informed us about that hypothesis? Would we recommend focusing on annual averaged temperatures of the air 2 meters above ground level and of the sea’s top few meters? Would be combine those two metrics into a single number?
How would we propose to test whatever hypotheses we posited, with true Popper-esque Risky Tests?
If our findings pointed to needed societal changes, in our collective opinion, how would we suggest that our discoveries be translated into societal policies?
It should be obvious to all that I am out of my depth here – in over my head – let me be the first to point this out. I don’t know what questions should even be asked.
But the right people would know – and maybe someone should/could ask them to get together and develop an outline which could then be compared to what is currently being done. This might lead to some insight in how to break the current Climate Science deadlock. It might lead to some new ways of thinking about the subject. It might open up new research directions. It might just help direct the next generation of climate scientists in new directions.
This wouldn’t cost that much – a four day conference somewhere away from the hustle – a dozen or two bright, open minds focused on a fascinating thought experiment. Reputations protected by the Chatham House Rule. Results issued as a joint working paper. The idea needs only a champion to head it up and move it from a pipe-dream to an event.
Post Script: My purpose in writing this essay. making this proposal, is simply to put this idea out in the wild where it can be seen and, hopefully, generate some interest in the professional climate science world.
I’d like to see your comments including your take on what questions such a forum, if it were ever to be held, should consider. – Kip Hansen
I’ll start off the discussion. I agree that pushing the ‘restart’ button would be desirable, from the perspectives of both the science and policy – both are in a really big rut.
The main impediment is the monolithic climate science-government-industrial complex. A lot of money, reputations, and political capital are tied up in the status quo. I can’t imagine a forum such as proposed by Kip working; the key element is who would attend, and it would be boycotted by the establishment types. If they didn’t attend, they would dismiss any outcome. Such is the sad state of affairs, whereby there are large-scale institutional violations of the norms of science.
Specifically with regards to climate scientists, there is a large number of scientists, including those in influential positions, that regard 100% of the warming to be anthropogenic, and the only scientific challenges are to refine our estimates of radiative forcing and refine climate model parameterizations. Think Gavin Schmidt, among many others.
What might trigger pushing the reset button? Well in the U.S., election of any of the Republican presidential candidates might do it. Funding priorities for scientific research and energy policy would change. Many scientists would be relieved, I’m sure others would be horrified. If the U.S. climate change funding were to be redirected to be predominantly for natural climate variability, would the rats desert the sinking funding ship and start focusing on natural variability?
What research findings, following the current trajectory, might trigger a rethink? Apart from continuation of a slow rate of warming, I am thinking that failing to close the carbon cycle in a simplistic way might prove to be very illuminating, as well as the satellite observations of atmospheric CO2.
From the policy perspective, failure to implement meaningful reductions in carbon emission and to change/improve the climate in a material way could promote a rethinking of this whole thing, but it will be a decade at least before any meaningful evaluation can be made.
I think the only practical thing that can be done in the very near term is paying much more attention to research ethics, the traditional norms of science, and the problems generated by scientists that become activists, particularly the journal editors and professional societies.