So Ars Technica sent a young man who bills himself as an “educator” and hydrologist to the 10th International Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the Heartland Institute, that was held last month in Washington DC. This educator, Scott K. Johnson, gazed about himself in wonder and came to believe he had fallen into an “echo chamber of outrage.”
Kids these days.
I’m sure young Scott won’t mind me calling him a kid, he being a novice to the field and because he takes criticisms of his cherished beliefs rather too seriously, as the young are apt. So worked up was this fellow that he tells us, “On the first night of the conference, one of the presenters actually invaded my dreams.” Dude. We’d rather not know about your nocturnal entrancements.
Incidentally, I, a (distinguished) gray-haired, middle-aged man, was a speaker at the conference. My topic was “The Need To Believe In The ‘Solution’ To Global Warming.” I don’t know if Johnson took note, but it was folks like him that I had in mind. Lot of people who aren’t up on, say, radiative-transfer physics and model-cloud parameterizations, to name just two of dozens upon dozens of need-to-know subjects, are convinced the world is going to end in heat death, because why? Because they desperately desire the proposed solutions—even in the absence of a problem. And what are the solutions? The usual: increased size and scope of government and furthering corporate cronyism.
Of Course Humans Affect the Climate
All of the talks are online so anybody can see if there was any “outrage.” I didn’t notice any, even from some environmentalists who tried several times to crash the conference. One of them perched outside the hotel and tried in vain to hide behind a lamp post. Whenever someone emerged from the exit, this man, also young, popped out and snapped pictures, and then darted behind his cover to wait for his next victim. (I was Air Force-trained, so I gave him a sharp salute.)
The discrepancy between the predictions and reality has been growing ever wider.
What are Johnson’s main complaints about the conference? He said, “Many climate ‘skeptics’ have recently defended their movement by saying that of course they don’t deny the Earth is warming. They simply disagree with the degree to which humans have caused that warming.”
This is true. I am an actual climate scientist and have never heard even one of us—nary a single one, mind—say that mankind does not influence the climate. Indeed, it is a trivial truth. Every species affects the climate. Radishes do, aardvarks do, even human beings do. It was always and only a question of, “How much?”
Here, young Scott got it right. We do say “‘alarmists’ are wrong—and comically so.” Alarmists have been promising for years, for decades, even, that temperatures were going to soar ever upwards. But they haven’t. They have instead remained relatively steady. The discrepancy between the predictions and reality has been growing ever wider.
Climate Science Is Killing Science
Now it used to be a fundamental principle of science—one still known to conference attendees—that when a theory made predictions that were not just wrong, but lousy, we knew with certainty that the theory was false, that it was broken, that it was no good, that it should not be used as a basis for decisions, that it should be scraped or hidden from view until it was fixed. Remembering the old saw that “science was self-correcting”? That was the principle.
The principle is effectively dead. We are still asked to believe in global-warming-of-doom even though this theory cannot make good or skillful predictions. Why? Because denier! And because it is in your best political and financial interest to do so. Let me explain.
Johnson noted sneeringly that Lord Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon were at the conference. So were David Legates and myself. The four of us earlier this year wrote a (peer-reviewed) paper called “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model.” We knew the standard models sucked wind (to use a technical term) and we proposed a reason why. In that paper, we claim that some warming because of mankind’s activity is expected, but we say it’s not likely to be as monumental as do the failed models.
None of us took a penny, or any other form of compensation, for writing that paper; each of us did it on our own time. The paper was publicized internationally and a firestorm erupted. Nobody could think of how to answer us scientifically, until a Scott-Johnson-like reporter hit upon the idea of saying Soon had received money, at one time in his career, from an energy company. Minds weakened by true belief clutched this non sequitur as proof our paper was wrong. Johnson himself tried to squeeze some life out of this dessicated lemon by saying Soon “made news for apparently failing to properly disclose funding from fossil fuel concerns.” He saved himself with a journalistic “apparently.”
See what I mean about kids? Bratty.
Come Before the Thought Tribunal
Anyway, the fictional controversy reached the ears of senators Edward Markey, Barbara Boxer, and Sheldon Whitehouse, who sit on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and who saw in it an opportunity. These wily politicians wrote letters to 100 “fossil fuel companies, trade groups” and “Climate Denial Organizations” and demanded they hand over all information for their role in funding research—get this—”designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution.” Who wants to speak out when faced by this kind of Lysenkoism?
How do we reach educators like Johnson? We can’t do it with reality.
Mark Steyn, for one. Johnson was unhappy that Steyn used the venue to joke about the litigious Michael Mann, he of “hockey stick” fame. Mann is suing Steyn for calling out Mann’s statistical silliness, and Steyn is counter-suing Mann. The speech was such a rollicking good time that even C-SPAN broadcast it.
Johnson complained that he saw science only “in passing” at the conference, but this is only because he dismissed the science he didn’t like. For instance: “University of Alabama in Huntsville climate scientist Roy Spencer gave a tame, technical talk about the satellite temperature record he manages.” “Tame” because Spencer’s results were not in line with Johnson’s desires.
This brings us to the crucial question: how do we reach educators like Johnson? We can’t do it with reality. Temperatures aren’t increasing, storms are down in number and strength, sea levels aren’t chasing folks from beaches, droughts are not increasing, parts of the world are growing greener.
I don’t have the answer. Do you?
William M. Briggs is a writer, philosopher, and itinerant scientist living on a small but densely populated island in the Atlantic Ocean. He earned his PhD from Cornell University in statistics, where he is an adjunct professor. He maintains a lively blog at http://wmbriggs.com and tweets at @mattstat.