The problem with science is that few people can do it, or really understand its implications, but everybody gets to interpret scientific studies as they see fit.
Often they see fit to be utterly misleading.
Descriptions like “convincing evidence” (usually supporting a political, not a scientific, agenda) are often nothing more than slogans attached by political partisans to misreadings of the scientific data, or even of what scientists themselves have clearly said about their understanding of it.
For example, recently a group of CERN scientists completed an experiment (with the acronym CLOUD) designed to test the possibility that cosmic rays hitting the Earth’s atmosphere may contribute to cloud formation. The test was never intended to conclusively demonstrate such a phenomenon was actually occurring—for one thing the test was conducted inside CERN’s atmosphere chamber, a closed and highly controlled environment—and not in the much more complex atmosphere of Earth.
When the test provided results that indicated that some change was happening when CERN’s simulated atmosphere was bombarded with simulated cosmic rays, the scientists in charge recorded this result, and called it an important first step in their research.
However, Jasper Kirkby, the lead scientist on the project, whose work is often pointed to by climate-change skeptics as “proof” that any climate change taking place is not manmade, said the following regarding his experiment, noting that the level of change in chemistry found in the experiment was insufficient to support a cloud formation process:
“At the moment, [the experiment] actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate.”
This “nothing” was magically transformed by climate-change skeptics and deniers into the aforementioned “convincing evidence”.
For example, Lawrence Solomon, a climate-change skeptic writing for the Financial Post, claimed:
“The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates…[t]he new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.”
Solomon noted that Jasper Kirkby had declared the matter all but decided over a decade ago, even though that isn’t what Kirkby actually said at all, and as noted above he specifically denied the CERN cloud formation experiment concluded anything about the cause of climate change.
Solomon claims any such denial on Kirkby’s part comes from a conspiracy of pressure placed upon him by CERN and other political and ideological interests who wish to support an anthropogenic model of global warming.
In fact, the science the CERN experiment was intended to give some insight concerning, is some of the most complex scientific work there is. The CLOUD research was never intended to be conclusive concerning a political agenda, but to provide a better understanding—to scientists—of what additional elements might be in play in atmospheric chemistry. That may, eventually, give scientists a better understanding of the cumulative effects of different contributors to climate change.
But, in no way does the CERN experiment point to the conclusion claimed about it by so many commentators and bloggers. In fact, the CLOUD press release plainly says:
“it is premature to conclude that cosmic rays have significant influence on climate.”