Back in November, the NOAA published a simple science experiment on their website for teachers to use. The experiment was made to simply demonstrate how CO2 can retain heat. The experiment was deeply flawed and was later removed from their website, but not before the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) got ahold of it.
In a live event on television in the UK, the BBC recreated the experiment on December 17th, in the midst of the “Climategate” scandal that was also centered in England (specifically the University of East Anglia). The experiment was done before a live audience, who sat idly by and asked no questions.
But someone else, halfway across the world, was watching. His name? Professor of Physics Kevin Kilty of the Laramie County Community College (LCCC).
Kilty had re-created the experiment with students in the lab at LCCC, originally, using the NOAA guidelines. Not to prove global warming, but to show how bad scientific method leads to poor results. A short writeup titled “A Silly Experiment About CO2” was written by Professor Kilty on the experiment, showing pictures of the process in action along with commentary as to where the flaws are and why they are important.
Quoted on Andrew Watts website (WattsUpWithThat), Professor Kilty says, regarding the BBC experiment:
You can see that the two bottles start at temperatures of 32+ C. Perhaps the house is this warm, we don’t keep ours this warm, but more likely they have run the experiment and know pretty well in advance how it will turn out. I tried to see from the size of the spot on the bottle if one or other is obviously closer to the lamp–I can’t– but what really matters is the thermocouple, of course. The NOAA description in “its a gas, man” looks like the epitome of careful research in comparison.
This is just kid science. The BBC did their best. Not as good as the ten-year old of a couple of weeks ago, though. It is funny that the journalist sells this as “proof” of global warming early in the sequence.
Kilty’s version of the experiment is much more scientifically rigorous and, impressively, disproves not only the BBC’s conclusion but also the conclusion that NOAA hoped to derive from their schoolhouse plans.
As he says at the end of his writeup of the experiment:
“This is an important lesson about the value of skepticism in climate change research, observations, and publicity. If X, Y, and Z cause B just as readily as does A, then what allows one to claim A causes B?”
Bravo, professor. Well said.