‘Climate change’: the medical analogy

I came across a little video in which Gavin Schmidt, the Deputy Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science, an important temple of the AGW orthodoxy, sets out to explain how dealing with ‘climate change’ is like going to the doctor. It’s a short and straightforward little explanation. You turn up at your doctor’s surgery and he gives you a number of tests. Individually they might not seem directly related to your condition, whatever it is, but the set provides data for the doctor and when all the pieces of data are put together he is likely to see a pattern that will give him clues to the right diagnosis, and to a cure for you.

I’ve come across this little analogy many times, and every time I do it seems to me that there’s an important missing bit in the analogy. Because I (in this case, the planet)  haven’t gone off to the doctor with a condition. I’m healthy and well, so far as I can see. What happens in the ‘climate change’ domain is that the doctors are coming to me, and telling me, indeed, hectoring me, that I have a dangerous condition and that I must do something about it — now! In vain do I tell them that I’m fine, and things are going well. No, they tell me. We know better: you are in a serious situation, and things will go alarmingly wrong unless you do as we say.

The doctors have taken it upon themselves to seek out the patient, rather than the patient seeking out the doctor. Well, the orthodox doctors might reply, it’s only an analogy, because the world can’t go and seek the doctor. To which I might respond  but there’s no real evidence that the world is actually in serious trouble: food production is way up, arid areas seem to be a little greener, people are living longer and healthier lives, hurricane frequency is down, and so on. Ah, you’re living in a fools’ paradise, say the doctors, and they turn to governments and berate them for not doing anything about it, and whip up concern within the community.

It’s not a good analogy at all, because it breaks down when you look closely at it, and it leads to another problem for the orthodox. Which is that people employ the argument by analogy when it is hard for them to explain to someone why they ought to do something they don’t want to do, or can see no great good in doing. To say it once again, wearily, the science is not by any means settled.

Yes, most sceptics would agree that increasing CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere will in time increase temperature. But the increase is logarithmic, not linear, which means it happens slowly, and in any case there is climate variation caused by a range of natural factors as well, which can and do seem to buffer the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. And in any case a warmer world, at least on current indications, looks like being a better world for planets and animals.

Ah, but it could get much worse, say the climate doctors, and we are the experts, and you must listen to us — look, it’s like going to the doctor! But it isn’t.

To return to the usual practice in medicine, if I were to become increasingly worried about my losing weight and other disagreeable symptoms connected to my stomach, it is indeed highly likely that a panel of doctors would use tests and agree that I have stomach cancer of some kind. They would show me the test results, the X-rays, the specialists’ reports and so on, and I would go away, read, study and come to a view. It would likely be that of the doctors.

But in the absence of my plainly having something wrong with me, presenting at the surgery and asking for an opinion, nothing would happen. I am not yet a patient, and on the present evidence the planet is in fine shape. Humanity is conserving and caring for it as never before, in some respects overdoing it. I can’t see any clear sign that it needs a climate doctor, and even if it did I would be going to a wide range of specialists indeed.

[Update: Coincidentally, I did go off to my GP this morning, for a routine matter. I remarked that I felt extremely healthy, to which I got the following: ‘What is the definition of a healthy man? Someone who hasn’t had enough tests!’ I think that could be applied to the ‘climate change’ business, too.]

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