A couple of years ago Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, published a cartoon which sent up the ‘climate change’ orthodoxy in a merciless way. If case you’ve never seen it, here it is.
Needless to say, such a publication, from such an eminent cartoonist, was bound to get up the noses of the orthodox, and it did. It has taken some time, but there is now a rebuttal, from the Yale people (Yale Environment 360). Trouble is, it seems to confirm the argument of the original comic strip. You can read the whole piece here.h
Written by Ross McKitrick, who is no slouch, and writes well, it takes you through the argument and counter-argument. The Yale response was a video, and while I don’t seem to be able to find a copy I can lead interested readers to bits and pieces of it. It is all fascinating, and there are links to other pieces which I also found most interesting. McKitrick begins like this: The video is full of impressive-looking scientists talking about charts and data and whatnot. It probably cost a lot to make and certainly involved a lot of time and effort. The most amazing thing, however, is that it actually proves the points being made in the Dilbert cartoon. Rather than debunking the cartoon, the scientists acted it out in slow motion.
How do they accomplish this? A lot of it by simple assertion. At the end Andrew Dessler, a prominent orthodox climate scientist, says ‘It’s inarguable — though people still argue it heh, heh…’ In short, those who do argue it are fools. In any case, what does ‘inarguable’ really mean? Well, says McKitrick, By selective editing we are led to believe that everything said in the video is based on multiple independent lines of evidence carrying such overwhelming force that no rational observer could dispute it.He gives an example from the video, where a scientist [a Dr Myhre] says: It’s irrefutable evidence that there are major consequences that come with climate warming, and that we take these Earth systems to be very stable, we take them for granted, and they’re not stable, they’re deeply unstable when you perturb the carbon system in the atmosphere.
How does she know this? She can’t, of course. Statements like hers are based on models, and the models don’t all show the same thing. Indeed some new research suggests that fears of a runaway heatwave are hardly feasible, while other models show little sensitivity to greenhouse gases at all.
Even the IPCC itself says thatFor most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers (medium evidence, high agreement). Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance, and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.
McKitrick is unimpressed by the scientific rigour of the video: Much of what she [Dr Myhre] says in the video is unsubstantiated and sloppy. For instance she talks (2:14) about paleoclimatic indicators like tree rings, ice cores and sediment cores as if they are handy records of past climate conditions without acknowledging any of the knownproblems extracting climate information from such noisy sources. The well-known Michael Mann, responsible for a number of ‘errors’, says emphatically that there are dozens of lines of evidence that all come together, ‘telling us the same thing’. ‘That’s how science works,’ he adds.
McKitrick is scornful. Really? The lines of evidence regarding climate do not all lead to one uniform point of view, nor is that how science works. If that’s how science worked there would be no need for research. But that’s how activists see it, and that’s the view they impose to drive climate science along in service of the activist agenda. What is science and scientific leadership for, then? Dr Myhre quoted above has no doubt. She says: Our job is not to objectively document the decline of Earth’s biodiversity and humanity, so what does scientific leadership look like in this hot, dangerous world? We don’t need to all agree with each other – dissent is a healthy component of the scientific community. But, we do need to summon our voices and start shouting from rooftops: “We have options”, “We don’t have to settle for cataclysm”. Hmm. It seems that from her point of view the job of scientists is not objectively to gather and present evidence, but to impose their own view and yell it from the rooftops. It’s certainly not mine.
It’s a pity I can’t find a copy of the video itself. But someone will, making this essay more checkable. McKitrick’s attack, however, is straightforward. What the viewer gets is selective editing. Here’s an example: [In] the process of presenting responses, the video flits back and forth between lists of observational evidence and statements that are based on the outputs of models, as if the former prove the latter. For instance, when Myhre says (2:45—2:55) that the climate systems is “deeply unstable” to perturbations in the carbon “system” (I assume she meant cycle) the video then cuts to Andrew Dessler (2:55) talking about satellite measurements, back to Myhre on paleo indicators, then to Carl Mears and Dessler (3:11) talking about sea ice trends. None of those citations support Myhre’s claims about instability, but the selective editing creates the impression that they do.
Another example is a sequence starting at 1:14 and going to about 2:06, in which various speakers lists different data sets, glossing over different spatial and time scales, measurement systems, etc. Then an assertion is slipped in at 2:07 by Ben Santer to the effect that the observed warming can’t be explained by natural causes. Then back to Myhre listing paleoclimate indicators and Mann describing boreholes. The impression created is that all these data types prove the attribution claim made by Santer. But they do no such thing. The data sets only record changes: claims about the mechanism behind them are based on modeling work, namely when climate models can’t simulate 20thcentury warming without incorporating greenhouse gas forcing.
I found this essay and the links in it to be a frustratingly bad advertisement for orthodox climate science. I have no time for Michael Mann, nor for those who got rid of editors who didn’t see things their way. Surely to goodness we have reached the time where there can be a civilised discussion about global warming and its importance. It is certainly time for it.