New York Magazine’s Climate Change-Pushing Jonathan Chait Blown Up by His Own ‘Science Bomb’

scientific method stepsThere’s a long article in the grown-up Australian magazine Quadrant which I wouldn’t expect columnist Jonathan Chait to be capable of finishing, let alone comprehending.

But since it’s quite germane to a silly piece he has published in New York magazine entitled “Scientists Drop Science Bomb on Climate Skeptics,” I thought I might kindly help the afflicted by offering a precis.

The piece is by science writer Matt Ridley (well known to readers of London’s Times, The Wall Street Journal, and of books including Genome and The Rational Optimist) and it’s called”What The Climate Wars Have Done to Science.”

Ridley, formerly a believer in Catastrophic Man Made Warming (CAGW), describes how the scales fell from his eyes and he came to realize that climate change alarmism was a massive fraud akin to Stalin-era Lysenkoism or the persistent myth (invented in the 1950s by Ancel Keys) that dietary fat is the main cause of heart disease.

He reached this conclusion using the traditional scientific method of “looking at the evidence.”

From Michael Mann’s utterly discredited “Hockey Stick” to the similarly bankrupt nonsense that there is a “97 per cent” consensus on CAGW, Ridley demonstrates that almost all the evidence climate alarmists have marshaled in order to support their extravagant claims about man-made climate doom is in one way or another doctored, dishonest or corrupt.

The problem has got so bad, Ridley argues, that “it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science”.

Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudo-science ‚Äì homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.

Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

One of these dogmas, just like Lysenkoism, just like Ancel Keys’s now discredited theories on dietary fat, is Catastrophic Man Made Global Warming theory.

Ridley goes on to provide lots of examples of this establishment-endorsed junk science in action ‚Äì many taken from an excellent book which I highly recommend (not least because it features me) called Climate Change: The Facts (which you can buy here at Mark Steyn’s place).

He tells the tale of Camille Parmesan who produced a paper on the Edith checkerspot butterfly which, though subsequently proved to be utter nonsense by an ecologist, nevertheless earned her 500 citations, an invitation to the White House and a slot contributing to the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report. Why? Just because her paper conformed to the Establishment’s approved narrative that almost everything going wrong in the natural world can be blamed on “climate change.”

Read the article. There’s plenty, plenty more where this came from. So much, indeed, that you can’t help wondering: how do these shysters get away with it? How can so many scientists have been bent from the true path? How come their work gets such unquestioning coverage from science correspondents whose job ought to be to sniff out dishonesty and fraud? Why are these scientists not held to account by the supposedly distinguished institutions where they work or by the government bodies which fund them?

The answer, Ridley explains, is that the truth has fallen victim to a greedy and out of control green industry.

“…inch by inch, the huge green pressure groups have grown fat on a diet of constant but ever-changing alarm about the future. That these alarms ‚Äì over population growth, pesticides, rain forests, acid rain, ozone holes, sperm counts, genetically modified crops ‚Äì have often proved wildly exaggerated does not matter: the organizations that did the most exaggeration trousered the most money.

In the case of climate, the alarm is always in the distant future, so can never be debunked. These huge green multinationals with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and the media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous.”

So when Jonathan Chait pompously invokes the name of “Science” to support his cause ‚Äì and accuses “skeptics” of being anti-science ‚Äì what he in fact means by “Science” in nothing that Newton or Einstein would have understood by the word.

Chait is not a scientist. Neither am I. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that Chait ‚Äì presumably ‚Äì considers himself to be a journalist and something of a master of snark.

You can tell from the sarcastic relish of his concluding paragraph:

So now that we know there is no pause, or even a slowdown, science-loving conservatives can rest assured that the conclusions of the climate-science field are correct, and the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere does in fact trap heat. Obviously, right? Conservatives placed so much weight on the apparent existence of this pause that there’s no way they would just immediately switch over to some other justification for their same skepticism, like some kind of reflexive ideologues.

Well all I’ll say, as a fellow snark practitioner, is that if you’re going to adopt a tone as lofty and sneery as that, then you’d better be damned sure of your facts.

You’d better be aware, for example, as Chait so clearly isn’t, that there is a very effective counterargument to this “Science” paper he has set so much store by, which shows it up for the dishonest, incompetent, politically motivated artifact it really is.

If not, there’s a severe danger that you’ll end up being accused by the better-informed of having churned out an article which we in England are fond of dismissing with a phrase not unakin to, “This is a load of complete and utter Chait!”