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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
A Research Revolution

By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM

In a Newsweek article this week, Sharon Begley reported that during the time Andrew S. Grove spent at Intel, the computer chip company he co-founded, the number of transistors on a chip went from about 1,000 to almost 10 billion. Over that same period, the standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease went from L-dopa to . . . L-dopa. Grove (who beat prostate cancer 12 years ago and now suffers from Parkinson’s) thinks there is something deeply wrong with this picture, and he is letting the pharmaceutical industry, the National Institutes of Health and academic biomedicine have it.

What stands in the way of more and faster success in getting cures to patients? “The peer review system in grant making and in academic advancement has the major disadvantage of creating conformity of thoughts and values.” Grove said

I would argue the same applied in the climate sciences.  Just last month, a paper in Nature reported the Scientific Consensus on Man-Made Ozone Hole May Be Coming Apart.  Nature reported that new experimental data threatened to shatter established theories of ozone chemistry. If the data are right, scientists will have to rethink their understanding of how ozone holes are formed and how that relates to climate change. “Until recently everything looked like it fitted nicely,” agrees Neil Harris, an atmosphere scientist who heads the European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit at the University of Cambridge, UK. “Now suddenly it’s like a plank has been pulled out of a bridge.” You may recall that two decades ago, the scientific ‘consensus’ and the scare that the destruction of our protective ozone layer could lead to increased cancer risks, led to the Montreal Protocol and the banning of chlorofluorocarbons, used in spray cans and air conditioning and refrigeration.

Now with again a push from environmentalists, we have a new ‘consensus’ based on circumstantial evidence, in this case, global temperature which have oscillated up and down regularly for centuries, but which for two decades have paralleled increases in carbon dioxide. The theory of greenhouse warming took flight and was supported by research biased by a peer review process polluted with ideology. Even as temperatures level off and begin to decline, the global warming gravy train is accelerating down the track with politicians and scientists with government grants in hand jumping on board and calling for immediate action on major, sure to be enormously costly, programs to control our use of energy and potentially many other aspects of our lifestyle.

As Andrew Grove has advocated for medical research, we need a research revolution in the climate sciences and an open door peer review process to facilitate pure research to better understand the major unknowns in our science - how land use changes affect climate, water vapor, cloudiness, the ocean circulations that exhibit multidecadal behavior, all the many aspects of solar output, aerosols and so on.  Otherwise twenty or ten or even just five years from now we will find planks to the greenhouse warming bridge pulled and we will again find that we have spent our precious money and time unwisely with some people very rich, most the rest of us and our national economies in far worse financial shape and with so many real dire needs in our country and around the world unresolved. 

Posted on 11/06 at 03:36 AM
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