Thursday, September 22, 2011

Real scientists study climate

There is often an argument, usually heard from the math/ engineering wing of the global warming skeptic industry, which suggests that climate scientists are a separate and distinct group of researchers. A cabal who don’t do real science, and who train and study in isolation, cut off from the rest of the scientific endeavor.

This is generally not the case. Most of the climate scientists I know started out doing something else. Some worked in the gold mining or oil & gas industries. Some studied the formation of continents, or the origin of granite. Some were volcanologists, or modeled deep mantle convection. A few were not even geoscientists at all, but came from disciplines such as chemistry, or nuclear physics. There are some people who go the other way, and move from climate science into archeology, or astrobiology.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, the analytical tools used to study non-climatological processes can often be applied to climate questions. And more importantly, when scientific discoveries of all types are first made, it is not necessarily clear where that discovery will have the most impact. It is not unusual for something in a seemingly unrelated field to get picked up by climate research.

There is also the funding aspect. Here in Australia, there has been an increasing reluctance to fund basic research. Most climate science is considered applied study, not basic science, so there has been a real trend for researchers chasing the funding dollar to go into areas like climate, mining, or forensics, where funds are easier to obtain.

But the point is that as professional scientist wind their way through various scientific inquiries that lie on their career paths, they don’t turn off the analytical parts of their brains when there is a climatological implication to their studies. Ultimately, climate science is just like any other sort of science, and it is studies using many of the same tools and methods as the rest of Earth science.

No comments: