Monday, July 26, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice Briefly Continued

This is from David Friedman's blog. I know you'll find it of interest -- particularly the last paragraph.

I had a couple of recent posts, pointing out what appeared to be an inconsistency between the claim on a JPL page that the latest data showed arctic sea ice continuing to shrink and the publicly available data, which appears to show that a ten year decline reversed a bit over a year and a half ago. None of the commenters on the posts managed to explain away the discrepency, so I emailed someone at NASA. He was a pleasant and courteous correspondent, but seemed unable to distinguish between the question "do we have reason to expect arctic sea ice to continue to shrink" and the question "is what JPL said on this page about the evidence true?" Eventually he conceded that he was a media person, not a scientist, sent my question off to a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and sent me the response.

That response again ignored the question of whether what JPL said was actually true, to focus on whether the conclusion they were arguing for was true. I emailed him, pointing out that what I was asking was not whether there was good reason to expect further shrinking but whether the JPL assertion about the current data was true or false.

I got back an evasive answer that came down to (not a quote) "the long term trend is down, so objecting that JPL says the current data shows that trend continuing when it doesn't is merely a technical semantic objection."

I concluded that he, unlike the gentleman at NASA, understood my question, and that his real answer was that it was all right to lie to people about the evidence as long as you were telling them what you thought was the truth about the conclusion. I sent him off a reference to the Orwell piece that discusses the dangers of suppressing the truth for fear that it would "play into the hands of" the opposition.

And I now know that nothing said by NASA/JPL ought to be trusted. Readers of this blog may want to check the JPL claim against the data for themselves before deciding whether or not they agree with that conclusion. I have provided the links above.

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