Roger Pielke Jr: The unstoppable momentum of outdated scienceTallbloke’s Talkshop /
by oldbrew / 2h
A 2015 literature review found almost 900 peer-reviewed studies published on breast cancer using a cell line derived from a breast cancer patient in Texas in 1976.
But in 2007 it was confirmed that the cell line that had long been the focus of this research was actually not a breast cancer line, but was instead a skin cancer line. Whoops.
Even worse, from 2008 to 2014 — after the mistaken cell line was conclusively identified — the review identified 247 peer-reviewed articles putatively on breast cancer that were published using the misidentified skin cancer cell line.
A cursory search of Google Scholar indicates that studies continue to be published in 2020 mistakenly using the skin cell line in breast cancer research.
The lesson from this experience is that science has momentum, and that momentum can be hard to change, even when obvious and significant flaws are identified. This is particularly the case when the flaws exist in databases that underlie research across an entire discipline.
In 2020, climate research finds itself in a similar situation to that of breast cancer research in 2007.
Evidence indicates the scenarios of the future to 2100 that are at the focus of much of climate research have already diverged from the real world and thus offer a poor basis for projecting policy-relevant variables like economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions. A course-correction is needed.
In a new paper of ours just out in Environmental Research Letters we perform the most rigorous evaluation to date of how key variables in climate scenarios compare with data from the real world (specifically, we look at population, economic growth, energy intensity of economic growth and carbon intensity of energy consumption). We also look at how these variables might evolve in the near-term to 2040.
We find that the most commonly-used scenarios in climate research have already diverged significantly from the real world, and that divergence is going to only get larger in coming decades.
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