Education, Environment, recent, Science / Tech

When a Question of Science Brooks No Dissent

Back in December 2012, six days after a mass shooting ended the lives of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama seized the opportunity created by our period of national mourning to hold forth on a surprising topic: catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. The deaths at Sandy Hook, he told a group of foreign diplomats, had elicited from the world community “a fundamental human response that transcends cultures and transcends borders.” The Earth’s rising temperatures, instructed the president, should induce a similar response from world leaders. “This must be our work,” Obama implored the assembled ambassadors and chargés d’affaires regarding the need to forestall climate change. “That, I think, is one of the ways we can honor all these beautiful children and incredible teachers who were lost this past Friday.”

Perhaps I should refrain from condemning too harshly a partisan figure’s routine decision to make political hay in the aftermath of a tragedy. For one thing, the president’s remarks may have been prepared by the same inept speechwriting staff who had coached him seven months earlier to refer to Auschwitz as a Polish death camp. But even if these mystifying sentiments did not originate from Obama himself, they strike me as so egregiously ill-timed I can’t fathom why he agreed to read them off the teleprompter. Nothing about his administration’s campaign to extend government subsidies to so-called green energy companies, establish a carbon trading scheme, or frighten voters with flood-and-fire climate scenarios was in any way connected, in my mind at least, to the slaughter of children by a mentally ill person with a semi-automatic weapon. Clearly, something strange is afoot in those fiefdoms of our culture where controlling forces face only weak or maligned opposition. Academics, journalists, entertainers, and politicians frequently make inappropriate pronouncements like Obama’s when they’re not actually censoring or harassing political opponents. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., for one, wants charges of treason brought against corporate executives unsympathetic to his environmentalist views—the punishment for treason being, if I’m not mistaken, death by firing squad.

*     *     *

As a university professor, I am best positioned to report on the widespread incompetence and malfeasance found specifically in academe. A work colleague once corrected me on a matter concerning the greenhouse effect. With no scientific training, he had recently moderated a panel discussion on climate change in an attempt to convince students to support our university president’s Green Initiative, which as far as I could tell reduced carbon dioxide emissions not at all but placed undue strain on the university’s finances, which in turn put upward pressure on tuition costs. I mentioned to my colleague in passing that, from an educational standpoint, the term greenhouse gas was an unfortunate misnomer since the architectural design of an actual greenhouse is not closely related to the physical properties of tropospheric greenhouse gases. 

This has been my go-to analogy to explain how some people have confused the two phenomena:  The sentence “Like Placido Domingo, Bob Dylan sings for a living” does not convey the same meaning as “Bob Dylan sings like Placido Domingo for a living.” It’s true that carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and other gases drive the Earth’s average temperature higher than it otherwise would be, just as the design of a greenhouse makes the interior of that structure warmer than the surrounding environment. But the processes by which the warming occurs in these two instances are quite distinct, in the same sense that a troubadour’s vocals in no way resemble an operatic tenor’s. The confusion resulting from the term greenhouse gas, I suggested to my colleague, made it that much harder to explain the general workings of our climate to students, who might end up believing greenhouse gases form a solid barrier to convection or, conversely, that a greenhouse reradiates invisible light energy as heat energy at select frequencies.

My colleague assured me I was misinformed. As a bonus, he did so in front of our department chairwoman just as I was about to go up for tenure. Greenhouses, he explained, are in fact warmed primarily by extra concentrations of carbon dioxide imbedded in the glass plates of the building. Well, I conceded, a small, perhaps even measurable amount of warming might occur in a greenhouse as a result of elevated CO2 levels in the glass panels; indeed, a greenhouse’s temperature also rises when a human being steps inside and exhales warm air. But these are insignificant considerations that have nothing to do with the structure’s basic design. During the day a greenhouse will be warmer than the surrounding environment regardless of whether a human enters it and breathes or whether the clear panels contain extra CO2 or are carbon free.

My colleague—our department’s self-appointed expert on climate matters—was undeterred. “It’s just like my front porch at home,” he insisted. “In the afternoon the porch is much warmer than the rest of the house during the summer—you really bake in there—because of the carbon dioxide in the windows.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond politely to this new assertion. Glass is an insignificant reservoir of CO2—that much was still true. Moreover, as the sun reaches its zenith on a summer day, perpendicular windows serve as fairly ineffectual portals through which visible light energy may pass. Under these conditions an enclosed porch becomes warmer than the rest of the house due largely to a third process, called conduction, owing to the porch’s uninsulated roof and walls, which receive the brunt of the sun’s rays and pass heat into the building. (Björk sings nothing like Bob Dylan or Placido Domingo, in other words.) If you’ve ever lived in an attic apartment in the summer, even if you kept the window shades drawn, you have felt the power of conduction.

I thought I saw signs of sympathy on our chairwoman’s face as she looked on, and a sense of relief passed over me, but it turned out her sympathy was not on my behalf but, rather, my colleague’s. After I reaffirmed that carbon dioxide was an incidental consideration in these cases, the chairwoman asked: “Well, how does a greenhouse work then?”

I first inquired whether she was serious, for I didn’t want to believe that two college professors in succession both lacked a basic understanding of the simple workings of a greenhouse, but that was the reality. I therefore explained, “Visible light energy passes through the transparent panels and gets converted into heat energy when it strikes the plants, tables, and floor. This warms the surrounding air, which rises, but the convection process is impeded by the solid glass panels, trapping the heated air inside.”

My department chairwoman glanced at our colleague, then at me. “Oh,” she said. Then she turned and walked away.

*     *     *

When I was a college undergraduate, incidents like the following would happen with some frequency: Noticing how haphazardly fellow students punctuated their essays or how flustered they became attempting to compute simple mathematical equations in an introductory statistics course, I would wonder whether I had been the one member of my generation who paid attention in high school. Nowadays a different thought hits me: Perhaps I alone did not sleep through fourth-grade science class. It’s bad enough that an academic can be so thoroughly misled by the term greenhouse gas that he becomes confused about a physical process he probably understood correctly at one point (say, at age ten). But I don’t think my department chairwoman had been misled by that unfortunate term. I believe she had simply been going through life with only a vague notion of how a greenhouse works. Even decades of global-warming alarmism had not impelled her to give the pertinent physics much thought before now. Still, she understood precisely what beliefs were expected of an academic—that greenhouse gas emissions are dangerous, catastrophically so, and the science regarding such matters is settled—and these marching orders were good enough for her.

How are educated and credentialed people able to get things so wrong? By remaining ignorant about technical matters. And as I see it, trained scientists offer scant help. At yet another campus event intended to alert our students to the threat of climate change, the speaker, an earth-science faculty member, expressed at the outset his irritation at being challenged on occasion with skeptical questions when he had spent decades educating the public on this matter. During the discussion period that followed his talk, I took the speaker to task for making what I saw as a preemptory strike to silence young people in attendance who, perhaps giving climate change serious consideration for the first time, might have wished to press him on his more provisional assertions. As an educator, he should have welcomed challenging questions from them, I maintained, not tried to shut them down. “We hear it said often enough,” I concluded, “but still we forget what our job is: Not to tell the students what to think, but rather to teach them how to think for themselves.”

“I totally disagree,” interjected one student in the audience. All eyes shifted. “I don’t like having to evaluate complicated material,” she admitted. “I prefer when my parents teach me to recycle or when my professors tell me how to fight global warming. That way I know I’m doing the right thing.”

Neither the scientist on stage nor any faculty members in the audience took issue with this student’s passive approach to learning, offered as it was in defense of a political agenda everyone supported. Perhaps my university colleagues sensed they could simply close ranks and ride out the embarrassment in silence. They certainly understood that environmentalist orthodoxy was accepted almost universally among faculty members and that students live in fear of retribution from professors in the form of low grades, indifferent letters of recommendation, or a bad corridor reputation, so there was minimal risk of this young woman’s damning admission serving as an effective red-pill moment for others. Finally, a student sitting next to the woman who had spoken broke the silence by remarking, “But we’re not children anymore.”

Oh, but we are, if being a child means assuming a credulous and grateful attitude toward experts who assume a parental role. The episodes I have recounted above don’t begin to suggest the extent of the submissiveness shown by educated people toward Those Who Know Better. A friend of mine, having been offered a teaching position at a university in the Deep South, confessed her reluctance to relocate and buy a house there for fear that rising ocean levels would reduce her investment to driftwood, leaving her homeless—some ninety miles from the Gulf coast. Similarly, an English department colleague—not the porch owner, but one of our co-workers—once warned me that our river town in southeastern Minnesota was likewise threatened by flooding, not from rising oceans in our case, but from glacial run-off. I asked how this could be when there are no glaciers between the headwaters of the Mississippi River and our town—no glaciers within a thousand miles of Minnesota, for that matter. She had no answer but she didn’t need one, for as almost always happens when a leftwing academic’s discreditable statements are challenged, a colleague of equal ignorance jumped to her defense. “But glaciers feed the Great Lakes, and the Great Lakes feed the Mississippi River,” her rescuer claimed, “so flooding could become an issue as the glaciers melt.”

Let me break this down. The Great Lakes are not fed by glaciers and haven’t been since ice from the most recent glacial maximum receded thousands of years ago. Nor do the Great Lakes feed the Mississippi River upstream from our university town. Leaving aside for a moment my colleagues’ shared ignorance of geography, I believe their misstatements derive from a more fundamental confusion. They don’t understand the difference between annual snowpack melt (which does feed the Mississippi River and replenish the Great Lakes every spring) and glacial melt, which is the eroding of a semi-permanent icepack built up over many winters. Glacial melt, of course, cannot occur in the absence of glaciers, which outside of Greenland, Antarctica, and their neighboring islands require fairly tall mountains in order to form. The topography of Southern Ontario and the Upper Midwestern states features no such mountain peaks. Even worse, my colleagues seemed not to understand how climate change would ultimately affect places such as Switzerland, Nepal, or Alaska, where glaciers actually do exist. Additional heat energy from a warming climate does not cause a wall of water to come sluicing downriver all at once. Snow has an insulating effect on the layers underneath, so every spring the accumulated annual snowpack melts gradually as warmth from above reaches the next exposed layer. Should the winter’s accumulation of snow become depleted before summer’s end, the semi-permanent icepack would then begin to melt at roughly the same pace the snow had, extending the melt season by a week or two and eating away at the glaciers.

Under such conditions, rivers that swell every spring from snowpack melt would stay swollen into late summer from glacial melt. This is almost always a good thing while it lasts since the extra water helps people downstream irrigate their crops. (Moisture trapped in a mountain glacier is useless when it is not downright destructive.) This is yet one more reason why a warming climate is preferable to a cooling one. When the climate cools and glaciers expand, the melt season shrinks and farmers are deprived of some of their annual water supply.

*     *     *

I could regale you with numerous additional anecdotes from my university experiences, so great is the ignorance of our nation’s elites and so widespread are their attempts at gaslighting friends and colleagues so as to camouflage the weak foundations to their arguments, but I will offer just two more. Several years ago, while eating dinner with an academic acquaintance, I directed our conversation to this exact topic: the scientific illiteracy of my work colleagues. Immediately, I detected a noticeable shift in my dinner date’s demeanor, as though he feared I might challenge him to design a primitive nuclear device without consulting notes. “Let me just say this,” he offered as a diversion, addressing the issue of carbon dioxide emissions more generally, “my philosophy is you shouldn’t shit where you eat.” He smirked at his own witticism, then asked, “Are you thinking of ordering dessert?”

I understood his point, as indelicately as he may have phrased it over dinner, but I couldn’t let the issue drop. “You are committing a logical fallacy called begging the question,” I explained. “Whether burning fossil fuels constitutes shitting where you eat is the larger issue under discussion. That’s what we’re ultimately trying to determine. You can’t sway intelligent people simply by declaring your fundamental assumptions valid.” Surprise: I never heard from that fellow again.

I realize I am sounding like an ornery person at best. Here’s why: I’ve decided not to tolerate groupthink among educators any longer, now that I’m a tenured full professor. These days, when my colleagues try to box me in, I strike back hard. My only other option is to start drinking heavily. (The anti-anxiety medication isn’t working.)

On another occasion, I was (what else?) kvetching to a friend, this time about being ripped off by my employer. As part of my university’s Green Initiative, faculty members had been offered a five hundred dollar bonus for including materials about climate change in their course curricula. Since I had for some time been assigning essays about the greenhouse effect to my freshman composition students in order to analyze the authors’ use of the three rhetorical appeals, this seemed like an opportunity for me to effortlessly ween from my school a small chunk of change—enough to buy a new bicycle, I figured. Unfortunately, a colleague serving on the Green Initiative committee got wind of my funding application. He warned me that my request would be denied, not because I wasn’t augmenting my reading list with new texts but because the financial incentive on offer was intended only for instructors whose pedagogy supported the university president’s political agenda. A rhetorician who planned to analyze and possibly critique the arguments of the environmentalists was therefore undeserving of a bonus.

Unfair, right? “No, it’s your own fault,” suggested the friend I was kvetching to. “You could have just pretended to agree with your university president’s views. If you had taught the material the way she wanted, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I’m really growing tired of your complaints,” this woman added. “It was a fairly simple matter to get that money. You really have no one to blame but yourself.”

Am I taking crazy pills? Or did I simply miss the memo about not being true to thine own self anymore? Apparently, I am expected to adopt the survival strategy featured in numerous film adaptations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which instruct that, if you take care not to act in an authentically human manner, you can blend in among the pod people. Let me add that when I asked my friend how she justified accepting the most alarmist predictions about climate change when she had never devoted as much as ten minutes to studying the fundamentals of climate science, she replied, “Well, all my friends believe in global warming, and they’re good people.”

*     *     *

Here’s my point: Intellectuals who brainlessly push climate-change alarmism need to wise up for their own good. By making disingenuous arguments in an echo chamber, university instructors undercut support for their own political agendas and facilitate the electoral success of politicians they abhor. I fully recognize Donald Trump’s unattractive qualities—his gauche demeanor, inflammatory rhetoric, and appalling braggadocio—but Obama’s successor has never suggested that educators must engage in demeaning forms of playacting so as to leave unchallenged a questionable scientific consensus. Nor has he implied that the unrelated slaughter of schoolchildren adds urgency to such a task. Condescension and bullying by the environmentalists may have worked for a while, but most voters are not children anymore. It’s time for the academic and especially the scientific communities to reembrace Enlightenment principles, the most important of which is intellectual honesty.

To that end, I hand out to my composition students every semester a list of questions testing their command of basic climate facts. What is the average global temperature? is one question. What do scientists call the current interglacial period? is another. A third is Which greenhouse gas accounts for more of the tropospheric greenhouse effect than all the other greenhouse gases combined? I don’t expect first-year students to enter my classroom knowing the answers to the questions on this list (and they never do). But I do hope they recognize that the courses they took in high school fed them conclusions rather than providing them with a solid base of knowledge from which they might launch their own scientific investigations. (Following, by the way, are the correct answers to the questions above: just below 15 Celsius; the Holocene; and water vapor. Gotcha.) Mastery of a subject, I explain to my charges, will allow them to let their minds wander over a wide terrain of data and construct tests of falsification that will either confirm or debunk the reigning orthodoxy.

Still, even a solid grounding in science seems to leave people unprepared for the rigors of autonomous inquiry. During the aforementioned question-and-answer session with the earth-science faculty member at my university—just before I harangued him for shutting down skeptical students—I asked a question I ask every scientist regarding climate change: “If money were not a consideration, what experiment would you conduct in an attempt to falsify the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming? That is, what obtainable data would most usefully isolate the effects of natural, cyclical warming and, once those effects had been removed from the equation, leave us with a clearer picture of how much of the recent warming, if any, has actually been caused by CO2 emissions?”

“I don’t know,” the scientist replied. “I’ve never thought about that.”


Myles Weber is professor of English at Winona State University. He is currently completing a book about tragedy in an age of identity politics.

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash


  1. Cynical old biologist says

    So Myles, as one scientist to… an English professor … why not answer your own question? What experiment would you conduct in an attempt to falsify the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?

    For something like an answer, maybe watch this scientific lecture…

    • Yavor says

      I was also curious how he turned out to be an English professor in the end.

      • David of Kirkland says

        An English professor yapping that Obama is less informed than Trump.
        “so there was minimal risk of this young woman’s damning admission serving as an effective red-pill moment for others” What’s this use of “red-pill” that doesn’t “actually” exist, as if the “greenhouse effect” caused by “greenhouse gases” is too confusing to understand because it’s not a physical “greenhouse.” That you have some scientifically/technologically uninformed professors isn’t amazing, but using those examples of ignorant humans to extrapolate that the thought-out and well documented science behind the greenhouse effect is also bad.

        • Grant says

          It’s not just professors, it’s everyone. The lack of knowledge about the subject is stunning. The science behind the greenhouse effect is not terribly complicated but estimating feedback, the amount of warming caused by humans since 1850 and the possibility of future warming are, and they are far from settled.
          The point of his stories is to demonstrate that people who earn a living ostensibly teaching kids about climate change, haven’t the god damn foggiest idea about what they’re talking about.

          • Alan Appel says

            And after you completely understand the mechanics of climate change, you need to understand the entire chemical process for producing vaccines, to understand the nuances of comparing economic theories, and to be able to discuss clearly the processes of nuclear waste disposal. All of these have the potential for practical and immediate effects on our lives. So where does it end? At some point we all have to rely on information and judgements from others about topics which we know nothing about. Thank you.

          • Warren says

            Actually climate scientists know exactly what they’re talking about. It’s found in all the peer reviewed research, in textbooks, and alongside other fundamental conclusions of Physics: ‘earth is Warming, Man is the Cause, and the net effects are strongly negative. ‘ Agreed by every scientific institution on the planet.

          • But, to HIS point, they DO understand that those who hold the purse-strings, promotion power and peer-review process, also face pressure to hold this house of cards together. Any individual, including themselves, will be discarded at the first sign of weakness in upholding this sacred issue. It is built on the weak sands of peer-pressure and bullying, not the tried and true bedrock of scientific discourse.

          • “Warren” posted at least two replies committing the same logical fallacy addressed in the article: “begging the question” …”You can’t sway intelligent people simply by declaring your fundamental assumptions valid.” As the title of this article suggests, rabid suppression of dissent is telling of a weak theory. The IPCC went to extraordinary lengths to prevent internal communications from coming to light.

        • Kevin Herman says

          Dave are you still under the impression 66 million racists and ignoramuses came out from under there rocks to vote for Trump and it wasn’t the usual Republican voters plus people who voted for Obama 2x like it was in in fact? I don’t know if Obama is dumber then Trump or not but one guy made a billion dollars in his life and the other guy as far as I know has created absolutely nothing, and I mean this, nothing of value in his life unless pitting people against each other in the name of social justice and “progress” is valuable in your book. At least millions have enjoyed Trumps hotels and golf courses. The main difference between Obama and Trump as presidents is Obama actually thought he knew everything. Trump while he say outlandish stuff actually gets his policies from fairly mainstream conservative advisers. Trump is actually a moderate who sometimes engage in questionable rhetoric while Obama is a nutjob prog in moderate sheep’s clothing who talks a good game.

          • Eli Rabett says

            It’s not clear that Trump ever did anything but lose money and take casinos bankrupt. He did inherit a pile from his dad

        • Ryan says

          He doesn’t say Obama is less informed, he doesn’t say anything like that.

        • Austin says

          He didn’t suggest that Obama is/was less informed than Trump, he simply said Trump isn’t using catastrophe, social-shaming and group-think to push a political agenda. As for the “thought-out and well documented science behind the greenhouse effect,” I believe you’re just expressing your own scientific ignorance here, and appealing to authority as all the professors and colleagues cited in the article did.

          • Eli Rabett says

            Have you listened to Trump speaking about people coming to the US from Central America and the three Mexicos? And how he talks about those who oppose his self defeating nonsense. . . .

        • David of Kirkland, the author used “red-pill” (and “gas lighting” too, don’t forget that!) in this article to us, here, as part of his narrative. Both terms describe human behavior. No one, not even political scientists or sociologists, are claiming that the terms are descriptive of physical phenomena. In contrast, “greenhouse effects” and “greenhouse gases” CAN be explained. If one is advocating for making massive changes to industrial and public policy that have vast immediate and long-term effects on humanity, some level of understanding of the physical phenomena motivating such actions, by academics and college students, seems reasonable.

          THIS is what the author is decrying, the college student who said this:

          “I don’t like having to evaluate complicated material,” she admitted. “I prefer when my parents teach me to recycle or when my professors tell me how to fight global warming. That way I know I’m doing the right thing.”

          Yet no one among the knowledgeable professors present said anything. That is a real problem.

        • Centrist Gal says


          The science IS bad behind the ‘greenhouse effect’! It does get tiresome listening to people who know nothing about the problems with AGW theory defending it on the basis that somebody told them that the science is ‘thought out and well-documented’. Is that why eminent professors of physics disagree? Nobel Laureates? The author is correct. The lack of understanding of this issue, and the laziness surrounding it, is incredible! Mind boggling. Do some research for goodness sakes, and stop using lazy appeals to authority to attack those who have a far better understanding of the problems with both the physics of the theory, the difficulty of extrapolating the effects of an observed property in a lab, to a complex system of many, many interacting variables, not all known, and the broader problems of trying to determine an anthropogenic ‘signal’ against a background of constant change.

          • Warren says

            The science of climate change is as well founded and robust as gravity or relativity. You’re simply wrong.

          • Jeff Norman says

            @Centrist Gal,

            Exactly. I particularly agree with your laziness comment. Calling “carbon dioxide” just “carbon” leads to all kinds of confusion with the uneducated. I once explained that diamonds are pure carbon only to be called a liar. Organic chemistry is all about carbon, “denier”.

            And it is lazy to call “climate change due to global warming caused by an enhanced greenhouse effect” just “climate change”. This leads to all kinds of vague and incorrect presumptions.

            And the comment to which you were replying, demonstrated a degree of laziness that allowed David to misinterpret the authors words to suit his own preconceptions. Sad.

        • Paul Taylor says

          Obama generally does not have some of the background that relates to the real life experiences Trump has had with Buildings for example. I am not saying to totally discount President Obamas views however that can be said with more force in regards to President Trump . With a life of supervising the construction and operations of large buildings ,especially in the NYC area , one has to employ the most energy efficient technologies to have profitable lease offerings. President Obama’s EPA and Department of Energy actually created sound policy in regards to Combined Heat and Power in America . 1500 large Buildings in New York City use this exact technology and Trump Buildings would be amount that list. AS a community organizer and lawyer President OBama was not likely to know of this simply because he would not be dealing with energy efficiency for buildings of a million square feet like TRump.

        • rikstarling says

          His point is not that it is “not a physical greenhouse.” His point is that the mechanism by which CO2 is believed to contribute significantly to atmospheric warming is completely unrelated to convection, and people do not understand this. Moreover, the overall point of the article is not that “well documented science behind the greenhouse effect is also bad.” It is that people are accepting the results on the basis of false beliefs. His attack is on the tendency of universities to promote and reward uncritical acceptance of findings that deserve–as all important findings do–the dignity of sceptical evaluation.

        • David C Herman says

          Can someone please translate sheep-speak?

      • ADM64 says

        An understanding of basic science (i.e. how a greenhouse works) was once part of a liberal arts education, just as a basic knowledge of history, literature and philosophy was – for the same reason – part of the education of a scientist or an engineer. And none of the examples or points that the gentlemen made (e.g. how the snowmelt feeds the Mississippi or the Great Lakes) requires detailed, specific, technical knowledge.

    • Karl says

      I too enjoyed the video you reference, though perhaps for different reasons. I was particularly impressed with Dr Daniel Britt’s graph [at 39:09] showing his enormous success in modelling earth’s climate based on only 4 variables – sun spots, volcanic dust, ENSO and CO2. As he claims “You can actually model the instrumental surface record (‘reality’ as he likes to call it) pretty damn well.”

      What might strike you, as it struck me, at this point is the incredible detail in his modelling curve, as he claims – accurately matching every dip, rise and squiggle in the temperature record. Right up to 2010 (the video was published in 2012). After which his graph suddenly and inexplicably becomes just a vague undifferentiated rising line. With absolutely no detailed resolution at all. And incidentally, very poorly matching the actual temperature record since 2010.

      I’m constantly amazed by the ability of these genii of climate modelling to predict the past. Now if only they had anything approaching the same competence at predicting the future, why, then I might have some level of respect for their claims.

      • Cynical old biologist says

        Well Karl, I’m sure those missing two years entirely invalidate Britt’s arguments so that your view of reality is not threatened.

        • Karl says

          Good lord, did you really read my comment and conclude that I was complaining that there were two years between the end of his detailed prediction and the date the video was uploaded to YouTube?

          Perhaps you should consider updating your username to ‘Senile biologist’?

      • Grant says

        It’s not difficult to do and is often done. Tweeting models to reflect the past record, whatever that is, it constantly changes. They invariably fall apart. Climate models have quite consistently, and vastly overestimate the effect of CO2 on temps.

        • theunderscoretraveler says

          Shouldn’t ‘Tweeting models’ be “Tweaking models’?

    • Donald Tikkala says

      So, Dr Biology, what’s your specialty? “Climate Science” which is not even a science? My first degree was in Political Science, which, unlike Biology, but very like Climate Science, is not a science. As a biologist, why do you profess to possess more qualifications than an English professor on climate matters. What’s your area of specialization?

    • X. Citoyen says

      Donald Takkala beat me to the punch. Biologists are no more experts in climatology than anyone else. It’s doubly ironic that you would attack the author’s credentials while anonymously claiming to have authority that would be irrelevant anyway.

    • Myles Weber, Winona State University says

      @Grumpy old biologist

      The argument I make in my article does not pertain to climate science per se but to the echo chamber within academe and the resulting bubble of ignorance among academics, both of which hinder scientific progress, particularly in the field of climate science. None of the hostile responses in this comment section have touched on that point, probably because every academic is aware of the ideological blinders commonly worn by their colleagues, so it’s not a point one can easily refute.

      But to the science: I take seriously any arguments made by other academics when the ideas are interesting or seem promising. This is a professional courtesy I hope all educated people extend. Academics often serve as what rhetoricians call hostile readers, which simply means we prod people to defend their ideas. This does not mean, however, that when someone’s ideas falter, I am obligated to abandon my own research and pick up the ball for them, as you are suggesting I do. I am no one’s bitch. Because the scientist in question at my university had no answer to my question, and because a number of people responding here to this article have suggested that my question is not a reasonable one owing to the difficulty of evaluating climate developments, I feel that the ball has been officially dropped. To expect me to abandon my own work to rescue a research project that is proving too difficult for the scientific community strikes me as unreasonable. Even if we can’t perform a grand experiment to show what would happen to the earth after eighty more years of CO2 emissions versus eighty years of no emissions, the scientific community should still be able to perform smaller experiments that act as rigorous tests of falsification of the catastrophic global warming arguments. If the scientific community cannot manage that task, then I don’t feel we are in the realm of science any longer. We are instead in some secularized version of Pascal’s Wager, obediently capitulating to threats of unthinkable suffering.

      But let me offer one suggestion for a test of falsification. The recent climate history of Antarctica would seem to offer data for just such a test. As I understand it, CO2 emissions should cause considerable warming in East Antarctica, as remote as much of it is from moderating forces of the ocean and cold as it is, thus having relatively little redundant water vapor over it, which mutes the effect of additional CO2. The Antarctic peninsula should see the least warming, since it juts out into the moderating ocean and has more water vapor present. And West Antarctica should fall in the middle. If, on the other hand, the warming is coming from a cause other than greenhouse gas emissions and heat is being brought down to the Antarctic continent by ocean currents, then the reverse would be true: the peninsula would be warming much the fastest, and East Antarctica would be warming the least, or even cooling. And voila: the peninsula is in fact warming much the fastest, while East Antarctica is warming the least and, by some measurements, is actually cooling, in direct contradiction to various global warming theories. At least that’s one test I can think of (it may not pan out, but it’s worth looking into, I believe). That scientists I speak to never have a similar suggestion makes me less and less willing to devote my attention to this issue.

      • K. Dershem says

        Are you sure about that? (Do you not have access to Google?)

        Your “falsifiability challenge” is equivalent to Creationists who ask, “If humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” It betrays a shallow understanding of the science.

        Do you honestly think that you’re free of the “ideological blinders” that are distorting the vision of your critics? Does your essay reflect perfect objectivity and impartiality, or are you (as I suspect) a libertarian who rejects climate science because you oppose government intervention in the economy?

        • Centrist Gal says

          @K Dersham

          The sources you provide are all so skewed to reinforce what are clearly your beliefs. You suffer from such blatant confirmation bias it’s amusing. Can you explain why there was record ice growth in East Antarctica up until 2014…130 years into the period under review and more than 40 years into late 20thC warming? Are you aware that there are active geothermal vents in West Antarctica?

          Can you explain why the Arctic has recorded mass GAINS for the last few years? Shouldn’t ice loss be accelerating as was predicted, with an already warmed world, and further increases in CO2?

          The reason AGW is so scientifically dodgy is that it manages to fit ALL eventualities into the theory. Whenever things aren’t going their way, ‘believers’ claim ‘other factors’. That means that down, flat or up, alarmists can come up with excuses to make the data fit their narrative. That is NOT how science works.

          There is an important qualitative difference and weighting between warming and cooling events and alarmists ignore this. Because the theory is that anthropogenic warming OVERRIDES the ‘natural’ trajectory of the climate, cooling events carry far greater weight in falsifying the theory than warming does in confirming it. Warming may well be caused entirely by natural events but CO2 is supposed to prevent ‘natural’ cooling from happening, or at least reduce the scale of the cooling. Remember the theory is that CO2 ‘traps’ heat.

          The fundamental problem is that we don’t know what the trajectory of the warming would have been without us. There is no ‘correct’ temperature of the earth, there is no ‘correct’ CO2 level. Are you suggesting that the temperature of the earth would have flatlined at 1880? Temperatures were LOW then because the earth was coming out of the LIA. What is the basis for using that as a reference point? Alarmists hang their entire theory on a correlation of CO2 with temperature, but refuse to accept it when the correlation fails, which is what is happening now, as the ‘pause’ continues.

        • Centrist Gal says

          @K Dershem

          It’s quite embarrassing to watch your confident declarations about a subject of which you clearly have little knowledge. Maybe it never occurred to you to research the other side of the argument thoroughly? You seem to think that reading and accepting the arguments put forth by Skeptical Science constitutes balanced research. Then you accuse others of motivated reasoning?

          I used to ‘believe’ in AGW too until I engaged my brain and starting reading widely and at great depth. What becomes apparent when you do that, is that the layered assumptions and outrageous claims of certainty and disaster have absolutely NO basis. To say that CO2 can cause some warming is accepted by most skeptics. To then pretend they know how much warming it causes is disingenuous. To pretend they know how much of OUR CO2 in particular causes warming is even more disingenuous. To then pretend they can project that into the future is getting into insanity land given the incredibly complexity of the system and many unknown unknowns, and to claim on the basis of that the consequences of T rise will be dire, is pure propaganda and fear mongering. What is the basis for those claims? The globe has ALREADY warmed more than 2C since 1800. Who decided the point of comparison should be 1880? Where are the catastrophes? Where is the evidence that a warmer world with more plant food (CO2) is BAD? The figures they throw around are political figures, they have no basis in science.

          Have you ever thought about trying to refute the claims made by Skeptical Science and the papers they use to bolster their arguments instead of lapping them up? It’s very easy to do with careful, critical reading. There is a wealth of scientific literature that shows many of the claims that they present as ‘settled’ science, are not settled at all!

        • Bart says

          From your link: “Those results, at odds with a large 2018 study, could dramatically reshape projections of sea level rise if confirmed.”

          Looks more likely that it’s damage control to me. That’s one of the big problems: after the Climategate emails, we can no longer presume good faith on the part of researchers. Too many convenient studies that use dodgy methods to “prove” the authors’ already publicly expressed opinions.

      • K. Dershem says

        Your article is comprised of anecdotes about students and Humanities faculty who not very knowledgeable about climate science. What, exactly, is that supposed to prove? Most people on every side of every issue are ignorant, including denialists. That’s why we have experts. It’s rational to accept the consensus view of scientists in a well-established field in the absence of good reasons to reject it. You haven’t provided any.

        • Grant says

          There is no consensus in the amount of warming that may be caused by the doubling of CO2.

          • Villi John Petersen says

            Yes, there are: almost nothing! CO2 temperature driving effect is logarithmic! From 400 ppm to 800 ppm the y-curve is almost paralles to the x-curve: There is – almost – no extra warming.

        • Karl says

          @K. Dershem

          Though I can quite understand your determined ignorance of climate science, it’s harder to accept your blind faith in the claims of consensus. These claims (97% from Cook, Oreskes, 99.99% from Powell, etc) are not themselves scientific. They are based on interpreting paper abstracts, surveys or questionnaires. Their validity can be determined by any intelligent inquirer. Perhaps your excuse for not doing so is that the consensus of mainstream journalists is that there is a consensus of climate scientists, and that’s good enough for you?

          • K. Dershem says

            Sorry, but the consensus is real.


            “Authors of seven climate consensus studies — including Naomi Oreskes, Peter Doran, William Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed Maibach, J. Stuart Carlton, and John Cook — co-authored a paper that should settle this question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper are:

            1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.

            2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.”


          • Karl says

            @K. Dershem
            So, the authors of papers each claiming to find a consensus have jointly published a further paper declaring that they are all in consensus about the consensus. And this you find persuasive? Seriously?

            What I’m saying is not so much that the claim above is laughable (it is), but that it is actually possible for you, yourself, personally, to investigate their original papers and determine if their claims are reasonable. You do not need to rely on third parties to evaluate them for you. You do not need to rely on the authors THEMSELVES to evaluate their work for you. There is no climate science in these papers. If you do this and remain convinced that there is genuine 97% scientific agreement, then so be it, you have done all that might reasonably be expected of you. And more power to you.

            However, it’s clear that you have not done so, and that you seem to have no inclination to do so, preferring to simply rely on what others assure you would be found if you were to do the work. Which given the overwhelming importance people like you claim for these climate concerns seems somewhat odd.

            Almost as if it were more important that you express your belief in climate alarm than to actually establish your belief in climate alarm.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @K. Dershem

          You make a good point. Even many educated people are ignorant about scientific matters that should be common knowledge.

          Examples from a professional astronomer:

          “……….the day-to-day misconceptions that I encounter when talking to normal folks about astronomy. The most common 3 are: The seasons are caused by the Earth getting closer and farther from the Sun, the full moon occurs when the moon is between the Earth and the Sun, and the Sun’s path is always exactly the same through the sky (rises straight east, passes straight overhead, and sets due west). The problem I run into in combating these misconceptions is I have no idea where they come from, and I can’t remember learning the real reasons for seasons and phases of the moon myself, so I don’t know what it’s like to not understand these things. This actually makes it harder for me to teach these things…..”

          Note the confusion about where seasons come from. There are lots of examples of scientific facts that many people would struggle to explain:

          Why do hurricanes and typhoons in the N. Hemisphere rotate counterclockwise?
          Why do hurricane tracks tend to curl clockwise in the N Hemisphere?
          Why are the patterns reversed in the S. Hemisphere?
          Why are hurricanes rare near the equator, where water temperatures are warmest year round?

          We can’t all be experts about everything. When reading about topics like climate change, be sure to examine the credentials of so-called experts.

        • Ryan says

          The thesis of the article is not that global warning doesn’t exist, but that the activists are unable or unwilling to explain it to a skeptic. The author is an English professor who teaches intro classes, so a lot of what he does he is teach critical thinking and how to make good arguments. In this respect, most climate activism fails.

        • Paolo Pagliaro says

          The problem is that’s not a “well-established field”: did you ever compared the predictions of the models proposed with the actual outcomes? When you look at the abysmal difference you could ask, as I did, if science is still guided by the accord between theory and experimental results.

          Try to read with an open mind some alternative and very competent considerations, like Judith Curry’s. If you are interested in truth, I mean.

          • K. Dershem says

            Please stop identifying yourself as a “Centrist” when you’re a denialist troll.

      • Grant says

        Thanks for the article. Few kids know who was president during WWII let alone the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere, but you’d expect teachers to spend a little time understanding the science of it. It’s quite disturbing. When the subject comes up people just glaze over. They don’t know and don’t want to know the details so they say it’s a consensus. That was the beauty of Cooks 97% fallacy. Such a scientific percentage.
        I don’t think, and I haven’t heard that the theory is testable because of the complexity of the system. Certain claims such as mid tropospheric warming that didn’t materialize, or even the fact that CO2 increased about 40% with no warming are summarily dismissed with vague answers like it’s hiding in the oceans, or aerosols are masking the warming.
        No, it’s enough to point to every fire, flood, snowstorm or hurricane to assert that it must be true.

      • Jon Sáenz says

        Climate scientists know you are just forgetting the convergence or divergence of horizontal energy fluxes by the atmosphere (to begin with) and this makes your experiment invalid. That’s why they never propose you something like that, they know it does not work. The real experiments were conducted long ago by spectroscopists who measured the absorption lines of CO2. This, together with a solid knowledge of the physics of radiation and fluid mechanics is a solid ground. You can not build a second Earth just to tell people like you: “see what happens”. For me, it is amazing that you focus on the minor things, while you try to hide the major ones. You try to make your students aware of the fact that water vapour is a major greenhouse gas (something you got from atmospheric physics) but you didn’t continue reading your atmospheric science books to the part that calculates the residence time of water vapour (close to ten days). This makes a long-term impact of water vapour impossible. I, particularly, see your “essay” as a big (huge) strawman with you trying to play the role of director in a field in which you miss all the details.

      • Ryan says

        I think there is some limitation to the ability to make a falsification test. The problem is that you would need a control earth. That, and you would need a more specific hypothesis than humans cause global warming.

        The closet realistic possibility would be to develop a model and then to test it. Which is basically what you suggest. However, There are different models and if one fails then it doesn’t mean there isn’t a model yet to be developed that works.

        I do agree that climate activists make poor arguments.

      • Nova Scotia Steve says

        You have written a convincing piece, Myles, about a problem that is obvious to many of us but spoken about by few. That so many here have taken up opposing rants about climate change suggests that your point has been missed. Sigh …

      • Tucker says


        I want to make certain that the speech you’re referring to is this one: (as quoted by the Washington Examiner) or (footage of the speech via YouTube).

        The title of the article draws a similar conclusion to your opening, and I was hoping to gather a bit of your thoughts on Obama’s speech and it’s purpose.

        You open your article by citing the timing of Obama’s remarks in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook – saying that his comments are “egregiously ill-timed” when, the speech you’re referring to is to the Diplomatic Corps (an organization whose aim is to manage international relationships and deal with sensitive issues in an effective way) – and the aim of which was to compliment the hard work of diplomats from across the world and express his appreciation for the cooperation and partnership between countries.

        Did it also strike you as ill-timed that he opened his speech by complimenting Deputy Secretary Bill Burns? Is it a time for compliments in the wake of a school shooting? Or jokes?

        I’m also curious as to why you would cut out a very large section of the speech to bring two quotes on very different topics together:

        The deaths at Sandy Hook, he told a group of foreign diplomats, had elicited from the world community “a fundamental human response that transcends cultures and transcends borders.” The Earth’s rising temperatures, instructed the president, should induce a similar response from world leaders. “This must be our work,” Obama implored the assembled ambassadors and chargés d’affaires regarding the need to forestall climate change. “That, I think, is one of the ways we can honor all these beautiful children and incredible teachers who were lost this past Friday.”

        It’s true that his comments on climate change come after his comments on humanity banding together in the face of tragedy, but “this must be our work” was directly referencing how diplomats from around the world need to take responsibility to tackle the issues of war, democratic transitions, violent extremism, deadly weapons, political prisoners, education, and of course, climate change.

        Also, the end of your opening paragraph is distorting as well – saying that, “Obama implored the assembled ambassadors regarding the need to forestall climate change” when in fact it was in reference to all of the other issues he had talked about through his whole speech.

        Why set up the quotes this way and not let the words speak for themselves? Why not link the actual speech and then reference it?

        If you listen/read the speech, climate change is simply a sock in a laundry list of world issues. Yet you used it to highlight how there is this great malfeasance among the educators of the world by teaching on something that they know nothing about (which – by the way I’m doing by giving notes to a tenured English professor as an anatomist).

        All this makes me think that you’re English comprehension’s bitch.

        p.s. A commonly used bad misnomer debunks someone’s ability to speak on climate change? Really? Well, we better throw out our entire understanding of chemistry since 1913 since atoms look nothing like the Bohr model.

    • Chad Jessup says

      Those climate models Dr. Britt claims to be so accurate to not live up to the hype. To verify the validity of a climate model it is necessary for it to accurately hind cast temperatures, and so far, all the models he brags about fail miserably in that aspect.

      One does not need to conduct an experiment to falsify the theory of CAGW, for all that is required is to apply known, confirmed laws of science, such as water vapor is 97% of the (unfortunately named) greenhouse gases, and that CO2 comprises most of the remaining 3%. There is also no proof that one extra molecule of CO2 per 10,000 air molecules will cause the degree of warming the alarmists predict.

      The big elephant in the room Dr. Britt omits is the CLAUSIUS-CLAPEYRON RELATIONSHIP (the alarmists bank on this) which shows that the equilibrium vapor pressure of water is only related to temperature. As temperatures rise, the equilibrium vapor pressure increases. As the equilibrium vapor pressure just above the water surface increases, more evaporation occurs resulting in more humidity, creating a linear increase in precipitation.

      Real-world data shows those relationships are more complex and not well understood. During the period of 1979/2011, water vapor decreased. The Warmistas claim the extra evaporation in the Sahel dessert generated by additional atmospheric CO2 should cause less precipitation thus amplifying existing drought conditions; however, between 1996 and 2011, that area received more precipitation.

      The Clausius-Clapeyron relationship functions fine in a controlled laboratory setting where it was discovered; however, our climate is a non-linear highly chaotic little understood system, and so to mandate that the world revert to grossly lower standards of living based upon incomplete knowledge of climate systems is scientifically moronic and irresponsible.

      We know for certain the world is exiting a Little Ice Age; consequently, atmospheric temperatures and sea levels will rise, and contrary to misinformation published in the MSM, there has not been an accelerated increase in sea levels.

      Dr. Britt claims Miami would normally be 80′ underwater – Baloney. The earth is more often in some degree of an ice age, so that would place Miami 300′ to 400′ above sea level. There is quite a bit of error in his presentation that cannot be covered here.

    • Drakhor T says

      I don’t think this article is meant to be about climate change, but the hypocrisy of so-called “educators” not even questioning their own beliefs anymore.

    • A small nitpicking, the speech by Obama that the quotes were from, was five days after the mass shooting, not six days. The Sandy Hook shooting was the 14th of december the speech that the quotes was from was the 19th of december.

      This leads me to a far more serious criticism of Professor Myles, namely his very poor use of citation, for while Obama said the words that Myles quoted him for, the professor puts forth the claim that Obama was making it about Global Warming, something that simply is not true. Such a demonstration of base dishonesty, or lack of judgement, throws the entire article that the professor wrote into question.

      For those who would like to read the full text of Obamas speech, here it is:

      As is evident from the speech, the professor is misusing the speech to put forth his own partisan agenda.

      • Myles Weber, Winona State University says

        @ Lars L

        Thanks for the full transcript of Obama’s speech. I did not intend to misrepresent the president’s words. I will have to dig through my notes, but I distinctly remember the article I consulted about Obama’s speech suggested he got sidetracked from the issue of the shooting onto the issue of global warming, and that the comments I quoted applied to that. Indeed, according to the transcript, his comments about climate change immediately precede his statement, “This must be our work.” If I had had the full transcript at hand, though, I would certainly have chosen a different way to introduce my argument.

    • Ardy says

      Cynical old biologist, thanks for the link. He was interesting and amusing.
      Still didn’t answer why the world did not warm for 15 years from 1998 during a sunspot high and also why it was so cold in the 70’s that scientists were suggesting we should burn more fossil fuels!

      I suspect the world will continue to spend trillions of dollars on this ‘unquestionable’ science and then claim success when the world goes back into the 60-70 low sun cycle in about 10-15 years.

      Still the big problem is always in the data and that is very poor in AGW.

    • Kumar Manish says

      so, according to him climate change is a political agenda? Or when many people do not understand it, does it become incorrect?
      Or, has he critiqued the findings of the scientists who say greenhouse gases have a role in rapid global warming?

  2. C. Satwell says

    Professor Weber must yearn for Zembla, where due regard for intellectual consistency is instilled in every student.

    • Will Sidney says

      What is ‘Zembla,’ and what does it have to do with this article?

      • C. Satwell says

        It is the fictitious homeland of the preening academic and main character of Nabokov’s ‘Pale Fire.’ An egotist who believed he was clearly more qualified than almost everyone, and a fine (and ridiculous) example of self-promotion by way of denigration.

  3. E. Olson says

    Outstanding essay. Your last paragraph regarding how to falsify anthropogenic global warming theory is 100% on target, as are your points about lack of scientific literacy among academics. Science is about proving theory with empirical evidence, and more importantly seeking to falsify theory with empirical evidence to determine the limitations and need for new theory. AGW fails on both counts, because the climate models have by and large not predicted temperatures over the last 20-30 years, nor have the predictions of melted glaciers, floods, increased hurricanes come true, and there is no apparent way to falsify the theory since floods, droughts, cold, heat, rain, and snow are all signs of global warming. A theory that is impossible to falsify is not scientific, and AGW is not science, it is purely a political movement designed redistribute wealth from wealthy to poor, and from Right to Left.

    • Nick says

      Nnnnoooo, poor people don’t see any benefit from green schemes. These schemes are making energy more expensive for the poor and paying off landowners so that net-negative wind turbines can litter the countryside.

    • Anonymous says

      ” it is purely a political movement designed redistribute wealth from wealthy to poor”
      Seems more like a political movement designed to redistribute wealth from wealthy corporations to powerful politicians like Al Gore.

      But also, corporations are getting green energy subsidies – so that redistributes from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

      • E. Olson says

        Nick and Anonymous – you are correct – I should have more accurately said that AGW is a theory marketed as “helping the poor”, but in reality usually puts money into the pockets of the Al Gore’s of the world or the 3rd world kleptocrats that are being compensated for their lack of greenhouse gas emissions, while the poor get expensive solar power for up to 12 hours a day.

      • David of Kirkland says

        The expectation is that the cost of such energy sources will continue to fall, to be competitive without the polluting effects and never-ending wars with nasty regimes that control oil (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iraq…).

        • Jim Gorman says

          David –> The cost of energy sources will never “fall”. You also don’t have a clue about the operation of the electrical grid. Tell us what backs up solar when the sun doesn’t shine! Is it coal, gas, or nuclear? What backs up wind when the wind isn’t blowing? Is it coal, gas, or nuclear? Can wind and solar force frequency control onto an electrical grid? If not, what must be used? How quickly can a fossil fuel power plant be brought up to speed to backup solar or wind?

          You also conveniently forget that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and gas. Heck, a war that shuts down some of those production areas would benefit the U.S.

          • peterschaeffer says


            “You also conveniently forget that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and gas.”

            Alas, ignorance abounds. The U.S. is a net exporter of natural gas. However, the U.S. is rather large net importer of oil. Check the actual statistics.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Some science is harder to be as strict on, relying on observations about data rather than dual blind experiments. We cannot run such experiments on human beings, nor on the planet, but that doesn’t mean the science is wrong.
      It’s certainly fair to argue over the forecasts as predictions of the future are complicated by not knowing what happens in the future. The warming planet due to CO2 and related gases primarily released by human activity is pretty convincing, even if not proven by scientific experiments that cannot be done on a planet with us living on it.

      • Jim Gorman says

        David –> You are trying to snow people who know more about climate than you do.

        Two questions: 1) Has the earth’s temperature ever been lower with CO2 also being much higher? 2) Has the earth’s temperature ever been warmer with CO2 concentrations being lower?

        If the answer to these is yes, then how do you explain CO2 being a control knob for the earth’s temperature?

        • Peter from Oz says

          Well said Jim
          I nderstand that there is a basis for the conclusion that in fact the increase in CO2 is driven by a previous increase in temperatures.

        • Alex c says

          Jim, these are interesting questions, but you are using them to support a remarkably silly argument (it’s been hotter before with lower levels of CO2 and therefore CO2 has little to nothing to do with temperatures). That’s like arguing that the air conditioner in your home has no effect on the temperature because your home still gets hot in the middle of the summer. It is possible to show that one thing affects another without it being a perfect correlation; so it appears to be with CO2. I don’t think anyone is arguing that there’s a perfect correlation between CO2 and global temperature. What people are arguing is that it is one significant factor over which humans have direct control, and therefore can take or not take action on.

          • Jim Gorman says

            You are equivocating. CAGW proponents absolutely profess that CO2 controls the temperature. Otherwise, why all the necessity of eliminating our CO2 output? Perhaps you are a denier?

            If CO2 is the bugaboo, then it must be causing the warming. If the atmosphere’s sensitivity to CO2 is such that we are endangering the earth, then why would this have been different in the past? If this can’t be answered, then one must admit that they don’t know what they don’t know.

            Look, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t believe that the earth has warmed somewhat. It is not surprising that we are still recovering from the Little Ice Age. And that is the point, is the current warming due to natural variability or due to CAGW? Is it hotter now that it was in the 20’s and 30’s of the last century? If not, are we just kind of in a cycle?

            Global Circulation Models just can’t answer this. Again, these just average a bunch of incorrect projections and hope to come up with a correct answer.

            I’ll be honest, in a way I wish CO2 could be a control knob. More and more scientists are starting to wonder if we are entering a cooling period. Cooling has much more dire consequences to humankind than warming. If the possibility that CO2 could mitigate this cooling, we should be looking to increase it.

          • Centrist Gal says

            @Alex C

            It’s not that the correlation isn’t perfect; there is NO correlation for 99.99% of earth’s history. For the part where there IS a correlation, temperature leads CO2. The issue is that there is no evidence that it IS a significant influence on temperature. In the modern period the rates of T rise are the same during the early part of the century as the latter, and then we have the pause, where the rate flattens, despite large increases in CO2! People are completely misled on this issue! We are only ONE source of CO2, and it is currently LOW in geological terms at only 0.04% of the atmosphere. CO2 has been as high as 5000ppm during an ice age. You can’t have it both ways: it’s significant until it’s not and other factors override it, but when the correlation is working for alarmists then the cause is definitely CO2??

          • Alex c says

            @Centrist Gal

            I’ll assume you are commenting honestly and not merely trolling. You argue that for 99.99% of earth’s history there has been no correlation between CO2 and temperature and you use the ice age as evidence…well no, that doesn’t follow. All that one can conclude is that a confluence of other factors overrode CO2 factor at a given moment in time. we use models that include all the known factors that have an impact on temperature, and scientists can demonstrate how CO2 can be 5000ppm and still have an ice age. But those ice age conditions are not relevant for the conditions we live in now and thus a straw man argument. Given the factors we know affect global climate, Scientists build a model that includes all these various factors to explain temperature (volcanic activity, solar radiation, water vapor, etc)… and scientists cannot explain our current warming without including human activity and human CO2 production. It is as simple as that. Theoretically we could have an ice age with our CO2 production as is and less water vapor or changes in solar activity…but that is irrelevant because those aren’t the natural conditions we live in. At a certain point you either have to be forthright and say you are ignoring climate models altogether, or come up with peer reviewed research that explains our warming conditions without human activity as a factor….or I guess you could make an argument that there is some unknown factor affecting temperature that would better explain warming/cooling…but that is a pretty specious argument.

    • John says

      I agree. “Climate change” is not a scientific outcome: it is not refutable and is clearly open of confirmation and reporting bias. We are told constantly about the disaster that is imminent, but never on the possible positive effects of warming, or the contradictory evidence – I did not know about the growth of the Arctic ice cap until I read it here.

      I also struggle with the hypocrisy of many of the most fervent advocates of extreme measures to combat global warming: flying around the world preaching about climate change, wearing clothes and furnishing their homes with goods produced in several different countries through the globalised economy (ie, dependent on transport), and eating meat. These measures seem apply to others, but not themselves.

      When there are so many real problems in the world (including environment problems like waste disposal), the zealotry around global warming seems like a sort of global hysteria.

  4. Jay Salhi says

    “I believe in science” is almost always invoked these days in support of one particular scientific claim: catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. And in support of one particular political solution: massive government regulations to limit or ban fossil fuels.

    But these two positions involve a complex series of separate scientific claims—that global temperatures are rising, that humans are primarily responsible, that the results are going to be catastrophic for human life, that rising temperatures can be halted—combined with a series of economic and political propositions. For example: that action to ban fossil fuels would be more efficacious than using the wealth made possibly by fossil fuels to help humans adapt to future climatic changes.

    The purpose of the trope is to bypass any meaningful discussion of these separate questions, rolling them all into one package deal–and one political party ticket.

    The trick is to make it look as though disagreement on any of these specific questions is equivalent to a rejection of the scientific method and the scientific worldview itself.”

    • neoteny says

      That article under the link you’ve given is outstanding. Thank you very much for it.

  5. It is nice that an english professor actually understands what the greenhouse effect is and that greenhouses do not principally work because of it.

    The last paragraph is however fundmanetally dishonest. Global warming is an observation, the common explanation for it is ‘anthropogenic global warming’ something for which there is a lot of evidence and which is eminenty falsifiable and has not been falsified despite concerted attempts to do so.

    ‘The theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming’ is a strawman. It is not and cannot be a theory being at best a prediction from climate modelling which involves many assumptions of human behaviour and a value judgement about the outcome.

    Inherent within the modelling process is the possibility that new unmodelled factors may become significant or that errors in the model which had not been apparent in the historic data become significant in the future. That does not mean the result of modelling should be disregarded, they are our best predicition, but no one should think that they will be perfect predictors.

    • E. Olson says

      AJ – AGW has been frequently falsified, but the falsifications aren’t accepted by the followers of the AGW religion. The only thing that the climate science community falsifies are the temperature records to juice up the warming in modern times, and make it colder in more distant times.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Those are some highly credentialed links to be believed over all that’s been published about the topic.

        • Austin says

          David, are your appeals to authority ever going to end?

          • Centrist Gal says

            That is all they’ve got. Appeals to authority, the very reason that this scam has rolled on for so long. People have lost the ability to reason.

            Reading some of these comments is like being an accomplished chess player listening to overly confident novices teaching other people the rules, and mistaking the game for drafts.

            AGW is the biggest scientific fraud in history.

    • John Gardner says

      “‘anthropogenic global warming’ ….. is eminently falsifiable”. I’d be keen to understand the basis for this assertion. TIA.

  6. TJR says

    I’m glad none of the academic colleagues I talk to are anything like yours. Mind you, mine are all mathematicians, statisticians, engineers and the odd sensible social scientist.

    I give our PhD students an introductory lecture on experimental design, and I mention global warming as an example of observational data. We get one year of data per year, on n=1 planets with no control group (i.e. planets with no industrial revolution).

    Hence the whole problem is that we can’t really do proper experiments (at scale), the closest we can do is use models to make k-years-ahead predictions and see how they pan out. However, any sensible approach should give prediction intervals as well as point predictions, and the level of uncertainty involved is likely to be high under any reasonable assessment of this. Hence we would get wide prediction intervals with a good chance of including the future real value even if the predicted mean is not great.

    The best you can probably do is compare the predictions of no-anthropogenic models to with-anthropogenic models and see which do better. Which of course leaves you heavily dependent on model quality.

  7. Doug says

    How to falsify global warming? That’s dead bang easy. The premise is that result in warming. The experiment is to radically decrease the concentration of those gases being released across the world, wait 100 years, and see if the concentration of those gases has dropped and global temps have decreased. See? Easy peasy. I hope this rather sarcastic reply has helped you understand why scientists don’t have a ready answer for your question. In order to really get at the issue, the experiment has to be global in nature. As an aside, this is exactly what scientist are proposing we do. The evidence of warming is all around us. The climate/weather predictions made by climate scientists are in evidence. The link to human activity is well established. There is no cabal of scientists working to scam the world. There is an overwhelming consensus that it’s real and it’s now. A simple primer on the topic is here:

    • E. Olson says

      Doug – You are correct that a true AGW experiment would be impossible, but the next best alternative is to simply demonstrate enough knowledge of the factors the influence climate that their climate models are able to make relatively accurate predictions over time. Unfortunately, the models have not been accurate, and new data constantly demonstrates their very incomplete knowledge of this very complicated issue. For example, none of the climate models have predicted the growing glaciers over the last 2-3 years in Greenland, but all have assumed that melting West Antarctica ice was caused by climate change, when instead it is caused by active volcanoes below the ice.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Once again, you claim that “climate models” failed to predict the “weather in a particular place for a particular couple of years.” Good grief…the models did not suggest this could not occur either.
        Throw out the weather models because they sometimes get predictions about the future wrong. Models are all worthless because they are not accurate all the time, which is why economics and medicine all fail because they are not always accurate.

          • K. Dershem says

            E.: just once, I’d like to see you link to peer-reviewed research (or a popular summary of research) rather than a denialist website.

          • E. Olson says

            K – peer reviewed AGW research is problematic for several reasons. First, the Climategate scandal clearly demonstrated the pro-AGW bias of the peer review process in climate journals, which means non-supporting research will less often be published. Second, any single academic article is almost always focusing on only a small research problem, which gives little insight into the bigger picture. Thus the typical academic article references many dozens of other articles, which is something not allowed by the the format of Quillette because there seems to be an upper limit of about 2 links per post.

            Fortunately, the solution is to provide links to many sites that have already taken the time to review relevant literature and datasets to provide nice overviews of the “state of knowledge” in the AGW field. All the links I provide are linked to academic articles and official government temperature records, which allow the reader to dive into the source material more deeply if they distrust analysis of the author or website. In that respect, my links are much more diverse and documented than your continual reliance on the skepticalscience link that appears to be skeptical in name only.

      • Farris says

        The ability to falsify s theory is not a weakness but it’s greatest strength.

        “A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is nonscientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.”
        Karl Popper

        AGW is based upon computer modeling. If the predictions fail to materialize and/or if the satellite data fails to substantiate that would certainly create reasonable doubt in the modeling. If an economic model predicted continual growth but the reality showed 17 years of no growth, doubt in the model would be justified.

        Climate science in a nutshell:

        There exists a computer model which demonstrates that the radical left agenda is the fix for Armageddon.

        • Farris says

          “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,”
          Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

          Sounds like a falsifiable test.

          • Grant says

            Lol similar claims over the past 40 years have fallen as this will.

          • E. Olson says

            Jerry – in other words, Beto wants to be the last US President.

    • Centrist Gal says

      The link to human activity is NOT established. Nor is there evidence of climate/weather predictions being correct. In fact, predictions have been spectacularly wrong! The IPCC’s most recent report stated that there is little evidence of an increase in extreme weather. It is easy for anybody to check this themselves. Hurricanes/cyclones have DECREASED in intensity and frequency. That is a FACT. Droughts and floods have NOT increased. It’s frustrating when people who don’t have a grasp of the issue at any depth, think they are armchair experts because they can provide a link to NASA. There WAS a cabal of scientists working to scam the world. That is beyond dispute. Why don’t you try reading the Climategate emails?

      More have since been released, and they are damning.

      The biggest difficulty people have is in accepting just how bad the science around this is, and just how much corruption is involved. Not ALL climate scientists are corrupt. Most go into university with the unquestioning belief that the theory is correct, and then spend their lives working under this paradigm; modelling future potential impacts based on a faulty assumption for which there is little evidence.

      • K. Dershem says

        CG, how are you able to see through this “tissue of lies” so easily when professionals who dedicate their lives to studying the issue are misled? Are you just that brilliant? I doubt it. The fact that you’re completely misrepresenting “Climategate” shows that you’re an ideologue who is not, in fact, a critical thinker — you’re simply repeating denialist talking points that have been repeatedly and decisively debunked.

  8. Paolo says

    While I sympathize with the spirit of the article and agree that ignorance in scientific matters puts to shame large sways of academia, I am saddened by the faint smell of denialism that permeates the last part of it. How come scientists are good enough when they taught you about the working of a greenhouse and they are not good anymore when they study and produce results, and try to falsify theories in the context of climate change? What sort of smart ass question is the closing one supposed to be? I am a regular reader, but on this topic Quillette is less than brilliant.

    • mirrormere says

      I think the concern here is the lecturer’s reply: “I’ve never thought about that.” Not a hallmark of an authentic scientist.

    • Austin says

      I’m saddened by your use of the term “denialism” and your appeal to authority… You might as well be saying “how dare those pagans question the teachings of the church!”

  9. S Snell says

    The falsification lies in the failure of key predictions of AGW to actually occur. For example, AGW theory unambiguously predicts an area of elevated temperature in the stratosphere above the equator. This so-called “hot spot” has not materialized, which calls the underlying theory into question. Nor have other key predictions–melted sea ice, the end of snow, rapidly rising seas–come to pass.

    The problem with AGW is that it takes a stupendously complex thing–the climate–and renders it stupidly simple. The central premise of AGW is essentially that Carbon is Bad! Full Stop.

    If you are intelligent, have some understanding of the science, and are not particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, you naturally resist such gross oversimplification. But if your science education ended in grade school, you tend gullible, and are keen on being part of the crowd, then AGW is your baby, baby!

    The warm spell we have lately experienced, and for which we daily ought to thank our lucky stars, is primarily the global climate rebounding to the Holocene normal from the anomalous cold of the Little Ice Age, which peaked about 350 years ago.

    This will be realized, too late, when inevitably the climate trends cold again in a few years or decades. At which point AGW will be quietly forgotten and replaced by the next manufactured crisis.

    A deeply unhealthy self-hatred motivates the most ardent proponents of AGW. Perhaps we should all chip in and get them some therapy.

    Apologies if this turns out to be a double post. Glitchiness trying to post under Firefox.

    • Foyle says

      AGW is just the ancient disease of religious millennialism dressed in a shiny sciency suit. It speaks to exactly the same sort of population wide psychological and political receptors through exactly the same sort of priestly profiteers.

      The climate scare profiteers are trying to accurately predict a change in heat flow at top-of-atmosphere of about 0.3% of total, in an absurdly complex chemical/biological/radiative/convective coupled system with huge lags and massive historic cyclic temperature and sea level variances that we have little to no predictive understanding of. And in running these incredibly simplified and insanely low-resolution global climate models they don’t ‘do’ water and clouds – they can’t model condensation, evaporative convection (storms and incredibly important vertical heat convection at all scales), wave mixing, oceanic circulation, ice accumulation and thermohaline circulation, sublimation and other ice cap effects or most terrain effects, or biological feedbacks (eg more CO2=faster growth and more vegetation cover). And even at their best they model grid cells of no better than 100km on a side. It’s beyond appalling that they attempt sell them as having any predictive skill. Like claiming a stick-figure drawing captures the complete visual description of a person.

      The lower atmosphere is warming at about 1.2°C per century, the Sea is warming at about 0.3°C per century (ultimately a limit on lower atmospheric warming), the sea level is rising at about 1-2mm per year (from more accurate tide gauges corrected for subsidence as opposed to wildly inaccurate radar satellites). Rising CO2 is probably partially responsible for this warming, but there is no great risk or damage that will eventuate, and no way that it is worth spending money on changing – particularly as we are now at threshold of transition to a photo-voltaic/battery powered civilisation (PV is now cheapest power). There is just no apocalypse in the offing.

  10. Daniel says

    Fascinating article. Can you imagine how smart university students would be if they were confronted non-stop with intellectual rigor like the author mentioned?

    Heck, global warming might actually be a compelling argument if people knew what they were talking about.

    My own experience with a scientist (by training and by occupation) who was a true global warming fanatic made me convinced that the movement was suspect. He was going on and on, and I sort of carelessly tossed out the fact that the earth had been warming up since the last ice age. He looked at me and, dead serious, said that the campfires of the early humans caused a carbon spike that melted the glaciers and ended the ice age. I kid you not. Here I was, ready to listen, and he unloads that nonsense on me.

    • Sydney says


      Agree, this was a great post. No idea why commenters are hell bent on slamming it. They must be Excellent-Post Deniers. The Obama-Sandy Hook bits are horrifying.

      Who was your global-warming fanatic? Suzuki? He’s the worst.

  11. Lightning Rose says

    There are quite a number of good books available on Amazon and elsewhere which explain the known history, observations, and controversy over models in language the non-specialist or layman can easily understand. If only more people availed themselves of them, this hysteria over mostly nothing (certainly nothing proven) could be addressed rationally by both sides. Just for starters, the atmosphere does not function like a simplistic “greenhouse.” CO2, methane, and most other trace gases have a half-life of a few years, after which they dissipate into space. The buildup that would cause “tipping points” etc. doesn’t even exist. Plus, the largest driver is water vapor, which dwarfs trace gases that makes up only a few parts per million of the whole.

    Somewhere along the line “conservationism” mutated into an anti-growth, anti-human, nihilistic retread of Olde Tyme Religion. It’s particularly galling to those of us who’d like to see money go to tangible, solvable, obvious problems like waste management and habitat preservation that would improve “the environment” for everyone.

    The idea that energy development and use is necessarily “anti-environment” got rolling due to the Exxon Valdez incident and, later, the BP spill in the Gulf. Yet every day, all over the world, gas and oil are extracted, shipped, and consumed without incident for decades at a time.

    Like gas fracking which has enabled the USA to be the ONLY nation to meet or exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement, the marketplace can and will take care of most of the “problem.” Any intervention that requires vast g’ment. subsidies or downgrading of standard of living is by definition non-competitive, non-sustainable, and will not be the first choice of intelligent consumers.

    Until “science” can clearly show a human signal in the chaotic noise of natural drivers of climate variation, I see no reason to get all excited and make major, expensive, and mostly symbolic life changes. Show me the falsification. As far as I’m concerned, after 40 years of not one of the alarmist predictions coming true, the CAGW theory is a bust. But as an English teacher said to me at a drinks party once with a wink, “Why let science ruin a GOOD STORY?!”

    • peterschaeffer says

      LR, Methane has a pretty short half-life in out atmosphere. 7-9 years appears to be a decent estimate. It does not dissipate into space. It is oxidized (ultimately) into water and CO2. CO2 has a molecular weight of 44. That’s more than O2 or N2. Given that O2 and N2 don’t dissipate into space, CO2 definitely will not. CO2 in the atmosphere has a half-life of hundreds of years. Note that lower estimates for the half-life of atmospheric CO2 exist.

      • S Snell says


        CO2 actually has a very short half-life in the atmosphere, in single digits of years, because it is very much in demand by plants and marine carbonate secreters, and because there are many carbon sinks in nature. In actuality there has been a severe CO2 drought for the last few hundred thousand years.

        Note the one outlier.

        Given the enormous demand for CO2, the (very) erroneous claim that the “excess” lingers for centuries makes no sense. But it does hint at the desperate determination of climate doomsters to demonize this essential trace gas, upon which all life on the planet depends, directly or indirectly.

        • peterschaeffer says

          SS, Individual CO2 molecules may have a short half-life, but CO2 overall does not.

          Let me offer the following model. Say all human-related methane emissions went to zero tomorrow (including cows presumably). However, long would it take for atmospheric methane to fall back to preindustrial levels? A few decades at most.

          However, if all human-related CO2 emissions went to zero, atmospheric CO2 would still be at elevated levels hundreds of years from now.

          That’s a large and highly germane difference.

          • S Snell says

            I repeat: Thirty six, out of thirty seven, studies show a mean residence time of CO2 clustering at less than 10 years. A half life is a half life is a half life.

            Historically speaking we are in a severe CO2 drought, which has limited plant growth. The recent mild increase in CO2 levels has partially offset this drought, with the result that there has been an explosion of new plant growth across the planet. This stuff is in heavy demand.


            The Earth, if it could speak, would likely thank us profusely for our modest contribution of this indispensable trace gas, in very short supply for the last few hundred thousand years.

  12. timothy says

    I applaud your intellectual honesty in calling out groupthink.

  13. Jayden Lewis says

    Obama is Ron Bergundy. He will read whatever is on the TelePrompTer

  14. Paolo asks: “How come scientists are good enough when they taught you about the working of a greenhouse and they are not good anymore when they study and produce results, and try to falsify theories in the context of climate change? ”

    The answer is that in the first case they’re dealing with a technical issue without political implications, but in the second case they’re dealing with an issue that has large political implications. And unfortunately, much as we’d like to think of scientists as Priests of Reason, they, the various institutions that support them, and especially of course the media that publicize them to the laity, are all vulnerable to the pressures of political orthodoxy. That’s all the more so when that orthodoxy has so much invested in a position. It’s not a cabal, in other words, it’s just the way a zeitgeist works, and it’s why we all need not to leave our critical intelligence behind when we encounter claims made in such contexts, even — or especially — when they’re labelled “science”.

    • Alex Russell says

      The only “vested interests” involved in the global climate change issues are the existing energy companies that are making good money selling fossil fuels. It certainly was not “political Orthodoxy” to want to stop burning fossil fuels when this research first started.

      Scientists do NOT make more money saying that the global climate is warming, and CO2 emitted by human activity is the main cause. The scientists are just stating the what the data supports.

      So Global Climate Change is happening. Now what do we do? Pretending it isn’t happening will cause a lot of misery. On the other hand, you can’t just ban a global industry overnight. What I would like to see, and even the USA Republicans seem to be slowly leaning this way, is a calm discussion about how bad this will be, what we should do about it, how fast we need to act, and what good policies would be (carbon tax vs regulations vs??).

      It would be great if the hyperbole on both sides would calm down a bit, and we get on with fixing things like we did with acid rain and the ozone hole.

      • It’s politically naive, but sadly common on the left, to think that the only political motivation is money. Environmentalism in general, of which “global warming” is just a prominent part, has long since taken on quasi-religious motivations, and these, like other ideologies, can become much more deeply set, more resistant to change, than simple monetary considerations. But that’s not to say that nothing should be done about real threats, and I largely agree with the rest of your comment. I’d just add that we should start thinking outside the box of trying to force down global carbon emissions.

      • Stephanie says

        Alex, in a super-saturated academic market, scientists absolutely do “make money” off of AGW. It makes you more appealing to a hiring committee and more attractive for funding. If you don’t tow the line, there are hundreds of equally-qualified starving PhD students willing to.

        • K. Dershem says

          Right. People spent years becoming climate scientists in order to get rich. I suppose you also think that oil company executives have altruistic motivations!

          • E. Olson says

            K – unlike the climate “science” community, the oil company executives earn their salaries by producing a product of value. If you don’t believe it, perhaps you should try fueling your car using the products produced by the climate “science” community, or going without anything made of plastics for a few weeks, or anything shipped by truck, or any food grown with carbon-sourced fertilizers.

      • Jay Salhi says

        The AGW alarmists are much better funded than the skeptics. And the fossil fuel industry is not challenging alarmist orthodoxy. It pays lips service to the rhetoric and makes investments in renewable energy.

      • Jim Gorman says

        Horse hockey! Do you know how much government grant money goes to scientists and universities whose studies “confirm” CAGW?

        “Scientists do NOT make more money saying that the global climate is warming, and CO2 emitted by human activity is the main cause. The scientists are just stating the what the data supports.” This is pure bullshyte. How many studies where the hypothesis is that CAGW isn’t going to happen get approved for government grants?

  15. Morgan Foster says

    Given the impossibility of humans actively holding the average global temperature at the same point, year after year and century after century, I have to say I’m pleased that the earth is warming rather than cooling.

  16. Bill Haywood says

    “Visible light energy passes through the transparent panels and gets converted into heat energy when it strikes the plants, tables, and floor. This warms the surrounding air, which rises, but the convection process is impeded by the solid glass panels, trapping the heated air inside.”

    This is a perfectly good analogy for planet warming.

    The same process of converting light to heat occurs planet-wide; the only difference is the lack of a physical barrier. Instead, CO2 reflects the heat back down instead of the glass. (Actually, glass is partially opaque to infrared, making it even more like CO2.)

    If the comparison were any closer it would not be an analogy — it would be a duplicate process.

    Using the present author’s style of argument, I conclude from this anecdote that right wing English teachers do not understand analogies. This demonstrates a general conservative group-think and lack of science literacy, as well as a lack of proficiency in English pedagogy.

    • “The term “greenhouse effect” is a misnomer that arose from a faulty analogy with the effect of sunlight passing through glass and warming a greenhouse. The way a greenhouse retains heat is fundamentally different, as a greenhouse works mostly by reducing airflow so that warm air is kept inside.”

      I conclude from this that the the one who doesn’t understand analogies is the commenter above, who demonstrates a general left-wing group-think, as well as a lack of reading ability.

      • Bill Haywood says

        Read better, dude. Greenhouse “works MOSTLY by reducing airflow.” That caveat allows for limited heating also coming from glass being “partially opaque” to infrared. Even if glass let all infrared through (unlike CO2) it still works as an ANALOGY because analogies are always imprecise and you are as pedantic as the columnist. Nice use of Wiki as authority.

        • Whoa, “dude” — if something works MOSTLY in a manner different than something else, then it’s misleading to call it an analogy to the something else. And you’re the one who started quibbling about this. Nice use of nothing as authority by the way.

    • S Snell says

      @Bill Haywood

      The processes are quite different. The glass of a greenhouse prevents the air heated by convection from dissipating. A layer of glass one micron thick would do this as effectively as a layer a foot thick. GHGs like CO2 do not “reflect the heat back down.” They absorb and reradiate, in all directions, some portion of the outgoing long-wave radiation emanating from the Earth’s surface.

      These may seem like trivial distinctions but they are not. You see this kind of unclear thinking frequently in the Alarmist camp. Unclear thinking leads to unwise decisions.

      • Grant says

        Nor will you ever hear about the fact that most of the warming cause by CO2 has already happened and that the effect is logarithmic. CO2, absent positive feedbacks, will warm the planet about 1C as it doubles from day 300 to 600 ppm, it will have to double again to 1200 to warm another 1C.

    • peterschaeffer says

      BH, The notion that convection and radiation are a “perfectly good analogy” would astound anyone in Physics. A better point might be that the “greenhouse effect” is simply a common misnomer and leave it at that.

    • D-Rex says

      @ Bill
      Except that CO2 does not ‘reflect’ heat back down to earth, it absorbs Infra red radiation and MAY re-radiate it in all directions IF it hasn’t already transferred the energy via collision with other gas molecules. Thus less than half will make its way back to the lower atmosphere to warm the air near the surface.

    • Jim Gorman says

      BH –> You are quoting talking points from CAGW folks. First, CO2 technically doesn’t “reflect heat” back to earth. That makes it sound like a mirror that continually holds heat in. The real term is radiation. A molecule of CO2 absorbs a photon and nanoseconds later reradiates that photon. Some of those photons are radiated back to earth but most are radiated toward the sky and away from earth.

      In essence, CO2 acts like the insulation in your house, it slows the reradiation of some of the sunlight’s energy back into space and that slowing raises the temperature slightly.

      Here are two questions:

      Have there been warm periods in earth’s history when CO2 was lower, for example, the Holocene Optimum.

      Have there been cold periods in earth’s history when CO2 was higher (and much higher)?

      Affirmative answers to these leads one to the conclusion that CO2 is not a temperature control knob and models are not accurate the way they are designed.

      • Dusty says

        No, affirmative answers to those questions do not lead to the conclusion that CO2 is not a temperature control knob. It leads to the conclusion that CO2 is not the SOLE temperature control knob. It doesn’t falsify AGW.

        • Jim Gorman says

          Then why are so many CAGW scientists, politicians, and others so adamant about getting rid of CO2. They must believe that CO2 is the main driver.

          You simply said that other that there are probably other temperature control knobs. Kind of wishy washy. That would mean we should be looking at other things. Also, if CO2 is not the main control knob, what is? Could it be water vapor that we should get rid of?

          • Jay Salhi says

            @ Jim Gorman

            You hit the nail on the head. In common parlance, the discussion is only about CO2. But the IPCC’s attribution statement is not that precise. It says that more than half the surface warming since 1951 has been caused by human activity (including CO2 emissions, aerosols and land use). Other human activity like land use is ignored in practice but then when you turn around and point out that CO2 is not the control knob it is made out to be, you get the response you got from Dusty.

            If alarmists think it really is all about CO2, they need to say so. If they think other factors play a role, they need to quantify the role played by those factors. But alarmists have no interest in quantifying such factors because it might lead people to worry less about CO2 and the whole objective is to scare people about CO2.

          • Dusty says

            You are clearly an intelligent person, so I must assume that you are being intentionally obtuse and thus uninterested in an actual response…but I’ll bite and give one anyway. We HAVE looked at other things. We know solar and volcanic activity affects temperature. We also know water vapor does too. But that is ultimately irrelevant, because we cannot influence solar/volcanic activity, and human activity has little to do with water vapor concentrations. We focus on CO2 because scientists believe that carbon emissions explain recent temperature changes, and that humans have a great deal of influence on CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

            I’ll give an example to illustrate my argument. Let’s assume that my weight is a function of several variables: my height, my bone density, my resting metabolism, my caloric intake and diet., etc. etc. It is clear that some portion of my weight is entirely out of my control — I can’t change my height; I can’t change my bone density. Does that mean that my weight is fixed or that diet has nothing to do with my weight? Of course not. My diet is clearly a “control knob” for my weight. That is to say, I can influence my weight significantly by what I eat. Moreover, I can eat so much (or so little) to become morbidly obese (or anorexic), regardless of my genetics. So, given this fact, I naturally focus on adjusting my dietary behavior because that’s what I have control over.

            Just like diet is to weight, while there are other meaningful variables, CO2 is enough of a “control knob” to have profound effects on the globe…just like my diet can have profound effects on my weight, regardless of my genetics. It is ludicrous to suggest that because there are other factors that affect temperature, CO2 does nothing. If we know that one variable has a significant impact, and that we have control over that variable, then that is what we should be focusing our attention on. It is simply irrelevant from a human behavior or public policy standpoint to argue that geological activity or solar radiation is a bigger impact on temperature…

  17. GrumpyBear says

    As part of my university’s Green Initiative, faculty members had been offered a five hundred dollar bonus for including materials about climate change in their course curricula. *

    Am I the only one shocked at this? I had no idea that tenured profs, theoretically free from administrative influence, can essentially be bought off?

  18. Andy Patton says

    I have a question. Like many, I’m not competent to assess the science of global warming. (I’m mathematically and scientifically illiterate.) I tend to assume that the scientific consensus is correct, as I do with vaccines, cancer therapies, the fossil record, the expansion of the universe etc.

    As a citizen, how should one find a reasoned stance on a subject in which they lack all competence?

    • E. Olson says

      Andy – science is not consensus of opinion, but consensus of empirical proof until the day the theory is falsified. Vaccines have been empirically proven to stop the maladies they are supposed to prevent, and cancer therapies that don’t demonstrate empirical reductions/reversals in cancer are abandoned. Newtonian physics were considered true until Einstein came along, and now there are increasing doubts about Einstein’s theories. There is consensus and empirical proof that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and CO2 is emitted from the burning of carbon sourced fuels, but there is no empirical proof of climate models as they have almost universally been too hot relative to actual temperatures for over 30 years, despite record CO2 emissions during that period.

          • Jay Salhi says

            For people who don’t like to click on links, the conclusion to E. Olson’s link is as follows:

            “This is not a scientific hypothesis:

            More CO2 will cause some warming.

            It is arm waving.

            This is a scientific hypothesis:

            A doubling of atmospheric CO2 will cause the lower troposphere to warm by ___ °C.

            Thirty-plus years of failed climate models never been able to fill in the blank. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report essentially stated that it was no longer necessary to fill in the blank.

            While it is very likely that human activities are the cause of at least some of the warming over the past 150 years, there is no robust statistical correlation. The failure of the climate models clearly demonstrates that the null hypothesis still holds true for atmospheric CO2 and temperature.”

        • Jim Gorman says

          Invariably climate projections are done by taking multiple runs from multiple Global Climate Models, say 100 runs from each of 25 models. Than all the runs are averaged to obtain a possible outcome. The problem is that any given run from any given model is inaccurate, i.e. WRONG.

          If you read what I just said carefully, the chosen outcome is an average of a number of wrong projections that is then declared to be accurate. In other words, the claim is that you can get the right conclusion by averaging a large number of wrong projections. Gosh, why doesn’t Wall Street do this? How about rocket scientists or artillery officers?

          One of the things that bothers me is that numerous temperature databases have continual modifications being made to old data. Invariably these modifications lower old temps which makes current temperature trends look like accelerating warmth. I could understand one change at one weather station for a given date but when there are multiple changes, all to lower and lower temperatures something funky is going on. I suspect that the algorithms being used are circular. Basically they change one temp, which then causes the algorithm to change another and another and them you get back to the original that gets changed again and so on and so on.

          The biggest problem is the measurement errors. Older temps are recorded with integer values and are accurate to +/- 0.5 degrees. Yet when the numbers are averaged, scientists make the mistake of reading the calculator out to many, many decimal places. This how they come up with temperature increases of 0.001 degrees using temperatures that are recorded in integers. This violates every measurement concept taught in physics and chemistry concerning error budgets and significant digits. Technically, 0.001 degrees is within the measurement error and is basically noise, not a real change.

          • Jay Salhi says

            “If you read what I just said carefully, the chosen outcome is an average of a number of wrong projections that is then declared to be accurate. In other words, the claim is that you can get the right conclusion by averaging a large number of wrong projections.”

            Thank you for pointing that out.


    The so-called “academic” dean at my law school (with two degrees from Harvard), was unable to calculate 15% of 3. Not in her head immediately, mind you, but with a calculator, spreadsheet, whatever. She had to call me to her office to tell her the answer.

    • X. Citoyen says

      I actually believe this story. We seem to be witnessing a strange degeneration of the learned. I recall argument with a graduate student over alternative energy. In response to my remarks about the efficiency of wind power, she told me that she’d toured a wind farm and that wind turbines “turned on their own once they got going.” “You misunderstood,” I said, “they still need wind at a certain speed to propel them.” “No,” she replied indignantly, “they turn on their own, the scientist told me!” I asked her if she’d ever heard of a perpetual motion machine. Her blank stare said it all.

      I picked up a book called Practical Mathematics for All by Herbert McKay years ago. It was published in 1947. The book starts with arithmetic, but introduces calculus by page 327. Imagine teaching this book “for all” of yesteryear to university students of today.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @X. Citoyen

        I knew you were a reasonably intelligent man with well-informed views, but having said that, what would ever prompt you to pick up a book on practical mathematics, and by happenstance, it reads to me? Surely, you would agree that even for those squarely on the right side of the curve, rarely are books on practical mathematics “picked up” for leisure reading. Do you have a touch of Aspy going on? That would at least provide some explanation for this behavior, your obvious allegiance to La Marseillaise notwithstanding.

        Listen, I’m an avid reader myself. It would not be an exaggeration to say reading probably accounts for at least three quarters of my free time; whether that be books, articles, journals, or even research studies. That is to say, I can certainly understand an appreciation for exposing oneself to an eclectic mix of reading material. To be sure, the unquenchable curiosity of the renaissance man is still something to be admired. Nonetheless, it is still something more than difficult to imagine that even the most impressive of mathematical treatise as holding primacy during the polymath’s intellectual pursuits.

        So, what’s the deal there, X? Were you simply trying to brush up on your binomial distributions or something? I mean, I could probably use a quick refresher myself, but it’s pretty low in the queue.

        • X. Citoyen says


          The rationalization at the time was that I or someone else would find some use for it later on.

          The real reason, which is a little embarrassing to admit, is that it was in a pile of other used books at a charity sale, and the guy selling them mentioned they’d be thrown out if they didn’t sell. I grabbed that book and a few others because I couldn’t bear to see them destroyed. As you probably know, we Anglo-Frenchmen can be sentimental.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            Nothing wrong with sentimentalism in measured doses. Anyone who says otherwise is not to be trusted.

    • neoteny says

      Back in the mid-90s, I once rattled off the top of my head to a few (average Joe) guys that

      1/2 = 50%
      1/3 = ~33.33%
      1/4 = 25%
      1/5 = 20%
      1/6 = ~16.67%
      1/7 = ~14.3%
      1/8 = 12.5%
      1/9 = ~11.11%
      1/10 = 10%

      They looked at me like I’ve just grown another two heads.

      • D.B. Cooper says


        I’ve always found it useful to simply take 10% of the cardinal number (which most people can do in a couple at most), and then partition, reproduce, or multiply the term accordingly.

        So, for 15% of 3 it would be:

        10% x 3 = .30
        5% x .30 = .15 (10% + 5% = 15%)
        .30 + .15 = .45

        Writing it out, makes it appear more complicated than it is. It’s much easier when performing as a mental calculation. A 20% tip is as simple as doubling the numerical term of 10%. Quick and simple.

    • Stephanie says

      If none of those were science degrees, that’s not at all surprising. When I realised my (mostly Humanities) students didn’t have a clue how to use Excel, I redesigned one of their labs to teach them some super basic competency, no more complex than 15% of 3. The two science students were done in literally 10 minutes, the rest bitched and cried for three hours, and most still couldn’t finish even with a tremendous amount of hand-holding. My course evaluations that semester were unsually mean.

      • D.B. Cooper says


        Excel? Stop pulling your punches, Stephanie. Sensible academics, like yourself, need to start thinning the herd. Morons are already overrepresented in U.S. colleges. If I may be so bold, what you should’ve done was gave that bunch misfits Microsoft Access, not Excel. While Excel might make them cry for a couple-three hours, Access would’ve had them either withdraw from your class (hopefully the school as well) or shit their pants and forget who they were every time they walked in the door. The only thing worse than an moron, is moron with a college degree.

        This is a bit of an aside, but it somewhat pertains to the point I’m trying to make. I played football at a college preparatory high school that is regularly ranked among the top H.S. in the nation (top 15% go Ivy every year). After taking the SATs (junior/senior year, I believe), I recall one of my teammates – called Mr. X – got really pissed with another guy on the team – called Mr. Z – because Mr. Z had been offered a conditional admission into one of the ivies, I believe, despite only scoring something like a 900/1600 on his SATs, while Mr. X was rejected across the board, despite his 1500/1600 SAT score. Want to take a guess how that happen?

        Mr. Z was 6’4″ 230lbs and a top ten linebacker in the nation. Mr. X was just another privileged white guy from a college prep school, and Mr. X made it clear that he thought it was horseshit Mr. Z’s 6’4″ frame trumped his 1500 SAT. At any rate, in some sense, it all worked out. Mr. X went to Georgetown and is now a D.C. lawyer; while Mr. Z took a job with Merrill Lynch after graduating college, but was fired within a year, presumably, due to his intellectual mediocrity being exposed. Moral of the story. Colleges need to stop pushing alone people who have no business being there in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with trade schools. Besides there’s a lot of electricians, plumbers, and contractors who are millionaires.

  20. Kessler says

    Is there proof, that global warming, now known as climate change, is bad? Humans generally thrive in warmer temperatures, rather than cold ones. Some places would become inhospitable – will previously inhospitable places become fertile lushlands? Changing weather patterns may mean there are more tornadoes in one place, well, maybe, there’ll be less in other places. It seems incredibly unlikely, that something as complex as weather would only change for the worse, with zero positive effects. Or that we can’t just adjust to it, like we always did. Tokyo & San Francisco live in expectation of destructive earthquakes. There are cities built in places, regularly hit by tsunamis. Weather didn’t begin with Al Gore’s documentary on global warming (or global cooling before that). We’ve always had it.

    • Alex Russell says

      Sea level will rise causing flooding that will displace millions of poor people. Where crops grow best will shift which may cause famines in some places while causing prosperity in others. Storms will be larger and more powerful (heat is what powers large storms). Some large scale weather patterns will change. A few places will get cooler, most will get warmer on average. Areas depending on glacial melt for water may run out in a hundreds of years. If snowfall decreases then places nearby will have less water if supplied by melting snow in spring and summer.

      Rich countries will weather these changes with some discomfort. It could be catastrophic for low lying poor countries.

      These changes will happen over decades and centuries. Short in terms of climate, long in terms of political planning.

      • Lightning Rose says

        Alex R., quite frankly what you describe sounds like the Biblical end-times, and there’s just about as much evidence to support it. People accept arguments from authority in both cases; “because I said so.” Evidence is GIGO models? Sorry, that’s not “proof.” But if y’all want to live in fear of CAGW population displacement or the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, knock yourselves out I guess. Glaciers have also melted before, then regrown–which is why they keep finding whole trees and well-preserves specimens of early man under the ones now shrinking! We’ve seen this before . . . and will again . . . and guess what, it is NOT under our control! (Perhaps that’s the REALLY scary idea . . . ?)

        BTW, at present there is NO major, regional-level severe food shortage anywhere on the planet. Even the local and acute few are caused by acts of war (Syria) or stupidity (Venezuela) not “climate.” I strongly recommend reading Hans Rosling’s recent book FACTFULNESS to bring anyone suffering from Paul Ehrlich’s last-century worldview up to date, particularly as concerns the vast alleviation of global poverty.

      • Stephanie says

        Even the projected rate of sea level rise is too slow for anyone to be “displaced.” Any movement will be intergenerational, with kids buying new property further inland as their parents’ property gets a little squishy.

        The best way to handle this is not by attempting to control the weather, it is by trading with poor countries so that they may become rich, and thus handle the painfully slow changes they may or may not experience for themselves. The solution is to expand and accelerate world trade, not destroy the global economy with the Green New Deal and socialism.

      • Centrist Gal says

        @Alex Russell

        What is your evidence for that claim about SLR?? All those ‘this will happen, that will happen’ are based purely on modelling! These scenarios have NO basis in reality and have been predicted for the last 30 years. NOAA gives the current absolute SLR as 1.7mm. This is the same as last century! Where are all the catastrophes from natural sea level rise to this point? Sea level has been rising since the end of the last ice age. NASA also states that the increase in Arctic winter ice growth has SLOWED its decline, and a major glacier is now growing. Where is all the catastrophic water coming from? Once you start to critically analyse the claims you realise they are based purely on modelled scenarios, and bear no resemblance to observed reality. There are many scientific papers which actually show INCREASES in land area, for example, the islands of Tu va lu have grown. The Maldives was also predicted 30 years ago to be underwater by now; it has just put in a new international runway! Similarly Bangladesh’s land area has increased slightly. The gap between what the media is saying, and what the data and the science actually says is enormous. Models are NOT reality; they predict the future based purely on the assumptions that are put into them! GIGO.

      • derek says

        What would the consequences of not using fossil fuels? I would pursuit that the human population would decrease by about three billion. How? Starvation, catastrophic societal breakdown.

        This is why the article’s point is important. The rise in CO2 is a problem caused by the solution to what has ailed human kind since the beginning of time. The solution is technical; find ways to produce and distribute food, transport people and goods, heat and cool living spaces, etc. using less energy. All the while maintaining social cohesion so that the solutions can be implemented carefully. None of this is trivial, and stupid people believing will not solve it.

        These people getting an education don’t need some remedial propaganda course but a list of the gnarly technical issues in search of a solution. The technical issue may be how to advance a high speed rail project in California, to how to fix the social divisions that are threatening the French state, to how to grow food using less energy.

        But i don’t hear this. What i hear is my municipality pushing green initiatives all the while increasing the energy use of their facilities ten fold. Seriously. It is so easy to preen morally on this subject while actually making the situation worse.

    • Lightning Rose says

      So far, the results seem overwhelmingly positive. The Sahara and other deserts are greening from the edges in, growing seasons are longer and more sensitive plants are thriving in higher latitudes. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere is causing plants to grow faster, aiding not only reforestation of areas formerly clearcut, but also higher yields from food and forage crops. Both the numbers of high-energy hurricanes and tornadoes in the US are at near record lows from the beginning of the 20th century, and also vanishingly fewer lives are being lost to them. While property damage from weather is bad, that has far more to do with the enormously increased amount of assets we’ve recently placed in harm’s way (e.g. immediate seacoast) than any increase in violently destructive weather. And you nailed it–human civilization prospers and expands in warmer times, and in the past has suffered devastating famines, wars, and plagues in colder eras such as the Little Ice Age.

      BTW; even a cursory examination of any geological history will show that we had the Roman and Medieval warm periods which were MUCH warmer than the present, at a time when humans could not possibly have had an influence. Livestock were grazed on Greenland and wine grapes grown in the UK! If we warmed back into that, I wouldn’t be disappointed a bit. Unfortunately all signs are that we’re entering a cold phase again, likely culprit a new solar minimum.

      The web site Watts Up With is very useful for the technically literate weather geek and open minded folks who want to know more. Entertaining as well!

      • mirrormere says

        Lightning Rose – the oceans are acidifying due to the increased temperature. That’s not good.

        • Brett Keane says

          mirror: the oceans are alkaline by a factor of 1000, and sit on, nay, permeate to a great depth and pressure, a bed of basalt rock. There is not going to be enough CO2 to ever acidify them. Check this out in proper scientific Papers eg google scholar. Brett Keane.

          • TarsTarkas says

            The basalt is generally buried beneath hundreds if not thousands of feet of sediment except at seamounts and oceanic ridges. So the basalt has minimal effect on the PH of ocean water except locally. And deep down ocean waters are acidic. That’s why there is a carbonate compensation depth, where the skeletons of forams and other carbonate producers dissolve without forming sediment. And the ocean can get quite acidic, where the CCD can rise all the way to the surface. It happened after the Chixlub impact, when the natural buffering effect of surface seawater was overwhelmed by the enormous quantities of nitric and other acids washing off the burnt continents.

            I wonder if anyone has done spot-checking of CCD’s on continental shelves and slopes, to see if they’ve changed for better or worse in the few decades we’ve known about them.

        • D-Rex says

          ‘the oceans are acidifying due to the increased temperature. That’s not good.’ Is about as ignorant a statement as I’ve read today. There is no direct correlation between temperature and ‘acidification’, if anything, warming oceans will cause an out-gassing of CO2 which will reduce the ‘acidity’ of them.

  21. Craig Willms says

    So why the switch from Global Warming to Climate Change a decade or so back? Seriously what’s the answer?

    Climate Deniers does sound better than Global Warming Deniers, that’s true.

    For one the climate changes, that’s not in dispute, no one can seriously say otherwise. Is the climate actually warming? Dangerously so? Now that’s not as clear. The dire predictions of the last two decades certainly have not been realized. However, the alarmists have successfully blamed every bad storm and other natural weather related incident on ‘climate change’ when the evidence in many cases doesn’t support it at all.

    The bottom line is the evidence does not support the destruction of the modern economy and Western way of life. The reality is that a high tech and vigorous market-based capitalist economic base coupled with the overwhelming caring of the climate histrionics will most likely to get us where we need to be.

  22. Sylv says

    Let me pose this question in terms you are best qualified to understand: You are reading a novel set in a lifeboat, and among the numerous inhabitants of that lifeboat is a tenured English professor. He spends the whole book explaining to his fellow passengers, patiently and condescendingly, that the only acceptable proof that the boat is leaking is if the boat, with everyone aboard it, sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Only then will it be possible to know if they should’ve been bailing the accumulating water. Only then will it be possible to know if the water truly leaked into the boat or if it fell from the sky or condensed from the air. Until that point any actions meant to address water in the boat are premature and potentially harmful.

    Explain why the other passengers begin to show signs of impatience with the English professor’s repeated entreaties that absolutely nothing must be done until all the facts are in. What is their motivation for telling him to keep his opinions to himself after the thirtieth time he’s given one of his “let me break this down for you” speeches? Explain why his fellow passenger, a traveler from the Maldives, considers hitting him over the head with an oar and throwing him overboard upon hearing yet another hair-splitting discussion about the semantics of the word “leaks?”

    Explore the larger themes of this work.

    • Interesting premise, but I don’t know who your “tenured English professor” refers to — if you think it’s the author of this article, you need to read more carefully. A better story, in any case, might be that of Chicken Little.

        • Missing the point that the author, while a tenured English professor, is not saying anything remotely resembling Sylv’s scenario — hence the advice to read more carefully.

      • mirrormere says

        The author is a tenured English professor at Winona State University, so I don’t know what article you’ve been reading.

        • Missing the point that the author, while a tenured English professor, is not saying anything remotely resembling Sylv’s scenario.

    • rickoxo says

      I love thought experiments and I suggest them all the time so I’ll dive in here

      First, it would be an easy experiment to get a reasonable measurement of how much water is currently in the boat, measure some amount of time (group counting, if anyone has a watch, etc.) and see how fast (if at all) the water level is rising. In the face of easy to obtain, irrefutable data, very few people argue incessantly (not none, but few).

      Second, if there were no danger or difficulty involved in getting the water out of the boat, who would complain about bailing out the water? But if the proposed solution was, “We must immediately draw lots and throw half the people on the life raft overboard or we’ll sink in the near future”, I’m betting everyone involved would become a bit more skeptical 🙂

      This is the problem with coming up with analogies. I get the basic idea, but like with many things, the devil is in the details. The general idea of arguing endlessly while avoiding any effort to solve a problem is a clear danger and your analogy helps make that clear. But what if the rate of water gain is minimal? What if simple human actions can completely mitigate the water gain?

      In your analogy, you make the English professor a caricature, which is what most people do to those who ask questions about global warming. In your story, of course he would be a fool to refuse to bail out a boat if it was clear it was filling with water to a dangerous degree. But I’ve canoed and kayaked a ton and I’ve seen people who freak out at any water in the bottom of a boat. They’re convinced that the presence of a few gallons in a large canoe is somehow going to spell disaster. There’s an equally problematic version of your story where a group of people drum up a fake impending disaster to use as a pretext for forcing some policy decision on a group of unwilling passengers.

      The problem most people have with AGW advocates is that the data and science are supposedly beyond discussion and the only possible conclusion allowed is that it’s a global catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs. Go back to your boat analogy, imagine an inch or less of water in the bottom of the boat and people start getting lots ready to see who has to be thrown overboard. Wouldn’t you hope someone would speak up and help fight off a ridiculous over reaction to a problem that is not as drastic as the proposed solutions?

      • rickoxo says

        I did a horrible job with the worst part of your lifeboat scenario …

        Imagine there’s a group of people in the boat, led by a few sailors, who swear that the water problem is life threatening, and that they must be put in complete charge of solving this problem. Anyone who disagrees with them is a denier and is not allowed to speak and should be treated as a boat traitor.

        First, the food must be rationed (don’t want people getting fat) except for the strange issue that they seem to eat as much as they want. They also have determined that in order for the boat to be saved, a number of passengers must be thrown overboard. They are of course to be in charge of the lot drawing, deciding how many passengers to throw overboard and when and if people need to go. And because they are the sailors, the true experts, there is no arguing with them.

        Sound like a boat you want to be on? Sound anything like much of human history?

        If nothing else, the behavior of the AGW crowd is one of the main reasons why I’m a skeptic. Any time this many people are absolutely sure about something that just happens to line up with them being in power and them getting to do what they’ve been wanting to do for a while is a sure sign that something strange is going on.

  23. Dominic says

    What a vapid article. I’ve been trying to follow Quillette for a while now but it seems simply to be a forum for disgruntled college professors to air their grievances about bitter ex-student lovers and liberal colleagues. The validity this entire platform has to life at large is not even remotely evident

    • Morgan Foster says


      I would never fault a person for writing an article out of a sense of disgruntlement.

      Contented people seldom feel motivated to write about the issues of the day.

    • S Snell says

      Well you can always go back to reading Jezebel. Now there’s some piercing analysis.

    • Raas says

      hahahaha…well said! I am in the same boat. Always try to support publications that take a contrarian stand and challenge the orthodoxy. But this is degenerating into mediocre professors bitching about exactly what you said!!

      • Stephanie says

        No one knows or cares who you are, and certainly no one will miss either of you. Your last desperate attempt at being recognised here has failed, so go make good on your promise to leave and never come back.

  24. Adam Selene says

    It is not for nothing that the Royal Society founded in London in 1660 took as its motto the Latin phrase ‘nullus in verba’, meaning ‘take nobody’s word for it’. It is, says the Society’s web site, “an expression of the determination of Fellows of the Royal Society to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”

    I am reminded of Einstein’s comment in his Preface to a translation of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: “A man is here revealed who possesses the passionate will, the intelligence and the courage to stand up as the representative of rational thinking against the host of those who, relying on the ignorance of the people and the indolence of teachers in priest’s and scholar’s garb, maintain their positions of authority.”

    Galileo himself wrote in seeking to encourage people to think for themselves, that we should “give up this idea and this hope … that there may be men so much more learned, erudite, and well-ready than the rest of us as to be able to make that which is false become true in defiance of nature.”

    It is disappointing enough to see politicians invoking the authority of science for their political ends; it is so much worse to see so many scientists becoming peddlars of authority by asking us to just take their word for it.

  25. Donald Tikkala says

    Dominic says: “The validity this entire platform has to life at large is not even remotely evident.”

    Your opinion is unfounded. I’ve seen some exceptional articles here – not that I’ve always agreed with their authors. Nor does the author of this quite humorous piece seem “disgruntled” – after all, he has achieved tenure despite his obviously cantankerous nature – nor is there any reason for you to think and then to imply that he has ever hit on a student.

  26. peterschaeffer says

    “because of the carbon dioxide in the windows”

    Can anyone really be that dumb? Can anyone really think glass can absorb CO2? I guess the answer is yes.

    • rickoxo says

      Dual-pained glass, can’t believe you didn’t know that! And the air is just full of CO2 as well, now that we’re polluting so much …

      • peterschaeffer says

        r, dual-pained glass is used in some greenhouses… Because it provides better heat insulation. CO2 in the greenhouses or between the panes has nothing to do with it. This is what happens when liberal arts types pretend to know something about science (or reality in general). See “You Should Judge a Greenhouse by its Cover — Your Plants Will!” and “Greenhouse Glazing Options” for some details.

        Currently, the earth’s atmosphere has 411 PPM of CO2. On the scale of a greenhouse, CO2 has no effect at all (of course, plants need it). On the scale of the gap between two panes of glass, the effect is unimaginably small.

        “And the air is just full of CO2 as well, now that we’re polluting so much …”

        Can anyone really be that dumb?

  27. rickoxo says

    Dual-pained windows of course, how could you not know that? And there’s CO2 in the air you know, it’s everywhere now that we’re polluting so much …

    • peterschaeffer says

      r, dual-pained glass is used in some greenhouses… Because it provides better heat insulation. CO2 in the greenhouses or between the panes has nothing to do with it. This is what happens when liberal arts types pretend to know something about science (or reality in general). See “You Should Judge a Greenhouse by its Cover — Your Plants Will!” and “Greenhouse Glazing Options” for some details.

      Currently, the earth’s atmosphere has 411 PPM of CO2. On the scale of a greenhouse, CO2 has no effect at all (of course, plants need it). On the scale of the gap between two panes of glass, the effect is unimaginably small.

      “And the air is just full of CO2 as well, now that we’re polluting so much …”

      Can anyone really be that dumb?

  28. Donald Tikkala says

    “And there’s CO2 in the air you know, it’s everywhere now that we’re polluting so much …”

    If only we humans, and all animals, would stop exhaling CO2. Not to mention those cow farts.

    Of course, plant life thrives on CO2, but that’s a discussion for another day.

  29. K. Dershem says

    Since I teach in the same college system as the author, I decided to send him a message. Here are excerpts:

    I assume your educational background is in English rather than science. Mine is in Philosophy. Although I’ve read numerous books about environmental issues, I don’t have any formal training in climate science. Given that fact, I think it’s reasonable to accept the consensus of experts in the field. In your essay you refer to that consensus as “dubious,” but you don’t really explain why. Most of your article consists of anecdotes demonstrating that students and Humanities faculty are not terribly well-informed about the details of climate science. I suspect you would have found comparable levels of ignorance if you asked them about any other branch of science — this is not surprising, nor does it seem relevant to evaluating the likelihood that the consensus is correct. It’s undeniably true that most Americans who are concerned about climate change lack a detailed understanding of the science. So what? Do you think that people are obligated to achieve mastery in a discipline before they’re entitled to express an opinion about issues that relate to it? By this standard, the vast majority of people should remain silent about the vast majority of issues. Following the same standard, it seems unlikely that you’re qualified to write your article.

    Intellectual humility is another core Enlightenment value that is central to critical thinking. From my perspective, it seems astonishingly arrogant to think that someone who lacks formal scientific training could understand a complicated issue better than thousands of scholars who have dedicated their lives to studying it. As you may know, the consensus about anthropogenic climate change did not emerge overnight. Scientists became increasingly confident as evidence accumulated over a period of decades. It seems extraordinarily unlikely that amateur critics could spot crippling flaws in climate science that have somehow escaped the notice of experts. The only alternative explanation for the existence of an overwhelming consensus is that scientists are engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoax the public. Is that your view? If so, what do you think motivates the conspirators? Grant money? Obviously, the money scientists can receive in grants is dwarfed (by multiple orders of magnitude) by the profits of fossil fuel companies, and by the value of the oil, coal and gas they’d be forced to leave in the ground if the world gets serious about reducing carbon emissions. The claim that scientists are engaged in a climate conspiracy seems extremely dubious to me, especially since they could make far more money working for energy companies. In contrast, there’s abundant evidence that oil companies have perpetrated a conspiracy. Although scientists in their employ have known about climate change for decades, they engaged in a decades-long effort to create doubt about the science in the public mind, using many of the same tactics (and the same P.R. agencies!) utilized by tobacco companies to obfuscate the link between smoking and cancer. Essays like yours demonstrate how successful they’ve been.

    If you’re genuinely interested in the question of whether climate change is falsifiable, I recommend this discussion:

    • Ray Andrews says

      @K. Dershem

      ” Most of your article consists of anecdotes demonstrating that students and Humanities faculty are not terribly well-informed about the details of climate science.”

      Exactly so. It hardly falsifies anything that some body of people do not understand it. However sad the ignorance of the author’s colleagues might be, that has next to zero force as an argument that AGW is false since those people have zero input into the science anyway. Ok, it might be relevant to some claim that there is a bandwagon, and indeed there is a bandwagon, but that’s a cheering section not anything of relevance to the science itself, one way or the other.

      I myself continue to be interested in Denial, but as you say, if anything the Vast Conspiracy will be funding the Deniers, not the other way. Frankly the whole thing is a political football to the point where I despair of finding honest guidance. I’d love to see a debate between a leading Denier and a leading Warmist if I could believe that both of them were honestly interested in the science, not the politics. Meanwhile I observe with my own two eyes that the sea level is rising, and you have to be a flat earther not to understand that CO2 is a ‘greenhouse’ gas. So I remain a Believer however skeptically.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “I myself continue to be interested in Denial, but as you say, if anything the Vast Conspiracy will be funding the Deniers, not the other way.”

        Perhaps you should compare that annual budget of Green Peace to that the Heartland Institute?

        Most scientific research is funded by governments and the governments and that funding tilts heavily in the favor of AGW. Indeed, the IPCC’s mandate is to study AGW. That limitation (ignoring research into natural causes) leaves scientists who might otherwise be interested in exploring other explanations at a disadvantage.

        • K. Dershem says

          Jay, do you honestly think that climate scientists haven’t investigated natural causes of warming and incorporated them into their models? The level of arrogance and ignorance reflected in that statement is nothing short of astonishing.

          • Jay Salhi says

            K. Dershem

            Anyone modeling any complex system (climate or otherwise) has to make assumptions about things the modeler cannot possibly know. There are too many variables and too many unknowns. As a result, all models have limitations. Climate is highly complex.

            Remember the nuclear winter theory? The theory was based on a flawed computer model that made assumptions about the amount of smoke that would arise during a nuclear war. The number the scientists plugged into the model was not based on empirical observations of nuclear explosions it was just number they made up and plugged into the model.

            The limits of models of complex systems were identified by MIT Meteorologist Edward Lorenz in 1963 (chaos theory):

            “Two states differing by imperceptible amounts may eventually evolve into two considerably different states … If, then, there is any error whatever in observing the present state—and in any real system such errors seem inevitable—an acceptable prediction of an instantaneous state in the distant future may well be impossible….In view of the inevitable inaccuracy and incompleteness of weather observations, precise very-long-range forecasting would seem to be nonexistent.”

            Modeling is still a helpful tool but only if you recognize its inherent limitations. In the current political climate, such limitations are routinely ignored.

          • Jay Salhi says

            @K. Dershem

            Science of Doom, which is a site authored by an AGW believer who tries to explain climate science in terms lay people can understand, has a great 9 part series on climate change. Here’s what he says about climate models:

            “This is the reality in climate models. They do include giant fudge factors (sub-grid parameterizations). The “right value” is not clear. Often when some clarity appears and a better “right value” does appear, it throws off some other aspects of the climate model. And anyway, there may not be a “right value” at all.

            This is well-known and well-understood in climate science, at least among those who work closely with models.

            What is not well-known or understood is what to do about it, or what this means for the results produced by climate models. At least, there isn’t any kind of consensus.”


        • Ray Andrews says

          @Jay Salhi

          I don’t doubt there’s money flowing both ways. But Greenpeace (not to be pedantic but it’s one word), has many irons in the fire not just AGW, but Big Coal has one, focused agenda and one dedicated wad of cash to advance it. And to say that the Trump government is AGW is nonsense. Tho of course that does not apply to all governments. And there is always the off chance that even a government funded scientist might tell the truth about AGW being false if that were indeed the case. Denial seems to me to be a near perfect parallel to the denial by the cigarette industry that their product caused cancer. Remember that? The list of scientists? The claims of persecution, the warnings that freedom was being crushed beneath the heel of Big Government, the obfuscations and diversions. It’s the same thing.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, Trump might not be pro-AGW, but the funding decisions are made on much lower levels, where leftists with otherwise-useless humanities degrees dominate. This “deep state” is extremely difficult to root out, and we’ll likely see minimal change even after 8 years of Trump. Sadly he can’t just fire everyone.

          • Jay Salhi says


            The tobacco companies’ own research contradicted their public statements. Hiding the data got them sued for billions of dollars in damages.

            Are the skeptics here the ones hiding the data? They have been fighting a long and enduring battle for disclosure of hidden data, with limited success. Skeptics routinely argue that all data and all computer code should be made public so that third parties can try to replicate the results any given scientific paper claims to have found.

            Have you considered that past scares like nuclear winter or acid rain might be better analogies? In both cases, the science was manipulated in furtherance of political objectives.

            This is most evidence when it comes to media reporting of extreme weather events. Every hurricane, flood or tornado is presented as evidence of global warming. Unfortunately, some activists scientists are complicit in this process. The actual IPCC findings on extreme weather events and trends are much more sober and not nearly as alarming.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Jay Salhi

            “Are the skeptics here the ones hiding the data?”

            As E said in reference to Mann, and as I replied: anyone hiding data can be presumed guilty unless proven innocent. However, science facts are science facts irrespective of human foibles. Your side is fond of pointing out that consensus does not make truth, which is correct, but then again neither does misbehavior make falsehood, tho it does of course compromise their case.

            “Have you considered that past scares like nuclear winter or acid rain might be better analogies?”

            That’s fair. Mind, nuclear winter is still always possible if someone pushes the button, and the acid rain scare was not ‘wrong’ it motivated legislation to reduce acidic emissions, did it not? But I take your point — we are susceptible to panic attacks. There most certainly is a bandwagon and it makes it hugely more difficult to separate fact from fashion.

            I remain skeptical of CAGW, but I can’t believe that virtually the entire world has been sucked in to the greatest hoax in history. I am unlikely to be persuaded that essentially the entire world’s scientific community are part of a grand conspiracy, but it might be shown that some model or other needs tweaking. Heck, of course they need tweaking, they never stop tweaking them. Meanwhile the laws of physics have not been repealed. CO2 is, colloquially put, a greenhouse gas, as are so many of the others that we pump into the sewer that we breathe.

      • BrainFireBob says


        I spent 10 years as an engineer in solar, before that I did work in an atmospheric lab.

        Follow the money. Yes, fossil fuels are well-heeled. If there is a societal turn against them for, say, solar, the money in the sector doesn’t disappear, it moves to new players, like solar companies. Incidentally, check the states in the US big into wind and solar industries. Then check those that produce oil. They don’t overlap. If they convince everyone in the Sahara there’s about to be a downpour, the guy making umbrellas is going to make a killing.

        Tenured professors make more money than associates. Highly published profs, same. It’s not CEO money, but relative to their profession, pushing the consensus pays.

        • K. Dershem says

          Check the states in the US big into wind and solar industries. Then check those that produce oil. They don’t overlap. What about Texas?

          • BrainFireBob says

            Texas is a bit unusual. The San Antonio-Austin area has a lot of satellite campuses of major semiconductor fabs; driven by (originally) solar fabs owned by big oil. Solar uses the same supply chain- silver and aluminum pastes, semi grade silica, etc. TX kind of ran this backward.

            If I wanted to continue in solar, my choices stateside would be Oregon, Arizona, Austin-San Antonio, and a strip in New York/New Jersey. Leapt to medical a year back instead, family means not working in trade war industries

    • Centrist Gal says

      @ K Dersham

      It is truly painful watching a philosopher floundering around and spouting words like ‘consensus’. Perhaps you should have studied the philosophy of science?

      You are failing to grasp the fundamental problems with the assumptions that underlie the theory and the ability to test it, as pointed to by the author. The earth is not a ‘stable’ system; it is a constantly changing, dynamic system. In order to determine that something is not ‘natural’, to what do we compare it? We know what a human body’s temperature ‘should’ be, and we can observe cause:effect if there are perturbations. Again, what is the ‘correct’ temperature of the earth??? The temperature data from the early part of the century is not robust as there were few temperature stations anywhere but parts of the NH. So how do we know the temperature that we are comparing a ‘rise’ against, is correct? Many papers show, contrary to claims, that there is nothing unusual or unprecedented about 20thC T rise. Even if the T record WERE absolutely correct, we are still left with the problem of trying to unravel coincidence from causation, and all the different factors that affect temperature, and we still have to explain the long periods of non-correlation. All we really have is a correlation from 1970-1998, then we have the rather large problem of the pause, during a period of rapid increases in CO2.

      When you throw in the unquestionable evidence of data tampering and politics, it is hard to see where Enlightenment science fits into all of this.

      PS Using Skeptical Science as an authority is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    • Peter P. says

      Oh, goodness. Sharp reason. Your writing is impeccable. Thank you very much.

    • hail to none says

      I’m with @K. Dershem on this. I believe the consensus that the globe is warming and people are contributing to this. The conspiracy would seem to be too vast.

      What I still remain most skeptical about, however, is what to do about it. Would it be best to take extraordinary measures now at very high cost? Or to change the incentives by making companies pay for the cost of the pollution they are creating, and investing in technological solutions. As demand to cut emissions grows, innovation will follow, spurred on by the entrepreneurial opportunities in devising solutions.

      • K. Dershem says

        @hail — that’s exactly the debate we should be having! If a revenue-neutral, incremental carbon tax had been implemented twenty-five years ago when the consensus was already robust, we’d be well on our way to a carbon-neutral economy. As it stands, unrealistically severe sacrifices would now be required to keep us below the two-degree threshold. I don’t think we should give up on mitigation, but some form of geo-engineering will almost certainly be necessary.

      • Foyle says

        It’s not a vast coordinated conspiracy, it is a whole lot of individuals acting in their own self interest. If they don’t tow the politically acceptable line they will lose prestige, promotions, jobs, etc. Whereas if they sex-up the conclusions and always look for and promote the most extreme possible interpretations and results (do a google search for ‘mikes nature trick’ or ‘hide the decline’, or ‘the most influential tree in the world’ for examples) they will enhance their careers and incomes. It is very noticeable that those with the least to lose financially (scientists nearing or past retirement) are the most scathing of the ‘science’.

        “When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong – faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.” Frank Herbert

  30. Royce Cooliage says

    “These days, when my colleagues try to box me in, I strike back hard. My only other option is to start drinking heavily. (The anti-anxiety medication isn’t working.)”

    This is a cry for help from an angry narcissist who is isolating himself because he is angry that the rest of the world doesn’t “know” he’s right.

    Sir, please get help. Your bitter rambling betrays a troubled state of mental health.

  31. Donald Tikkala says

    K. Dershem who teaches at the same college as Myles W. (I would call K.D. a Professor, except I don’t know if he’s an associate, an adjunct or a full professor) writes super long paragraphs, nowhere near as long as Proust, but still, it’s a bit hard to analyze his thoughts. But here goes:

    “I don’t have any formal training in climate science. Given that fact, I think it’s reasonable to accept the consensus of experts…”

    In other words – You know nothing and must trust that the majority opinion is correct? The problem with that, my friend, is that science is not a consensus occupation. It’s a rebel occupation. Think of Kepler, Copernicus, Avogadro, Mendel, and – my personal favourite – Joseph Lister (although Ignaz Semmelweis thought of hand washing before Lister did).There are others, but I’m sure you’re just as acquainted with Wikipedia as I am.

    “Do you think that people are obligated to achieve mastery in a discipline before they’re entitled to express an opinion about issues that relate to it?”

    If you think that you and I are entitled to express opinions on issues we know little about and (more importantly) having expressed them, our opinions should be taken seriously – I think that must be a logical fallacy, but I’m not a logician or a philosopher. At any rate, that contradicts your first assertion. (Item 1).

    “As you may know [so condescending saying that to a colleague who you disagree with] the consensus about anthropogenic climate change did not emerge overnight.”

    Indeed, it did not. I still remember a Time magazine from the 1970s featuring a Mammoth on the cover that seriously asked whether a new Ice Age would occur before humankind was wiped out by overpopulation, which was another consensus scientific prediction from that era. (c.f. Paul Ehrlich).

    “Grant money?…The claim that scientists are engaged in a climate conspiracy seems extremely dubious to me, especially since they could make far more money working for energy companies.”

    Another logical fallacy. I think the name for it is tu quoque, but as I say (supra) I’m not a logician or a philosopher. Are you suggesting that scientists do not tell their funders what said funders want to hear when said scientists apply for research grants? That seems rather naïve, if not naff.

    But it’s late now…
    Should Michael ‘Hockey Stick’ Mann Be Prosecuted For Climate Fraud?”

    • K. Dershem says

      @Donald: since you evidently have trouble with long paragraphs, here are some short responses to your post.

      I never said I “know nothing”; I’m fairly confident that I know more about climate science than you.

      The vast majority of scientific “rebels” turn out to be wrong. Disputing a consensus does not make you right, especially in a mature discipline with strongly supported theories. There was no consensus in the 70s about the world entering a new Ice Age; it was a speculative hypothesis that turned out to be wrong.

      My second paragraph was contrasting an extremely implausible conspiracy theory (scientists are falsifying warming in order to get rich from grants) with a far more plausible one, which has already been proven (oil companies funded a disinformation campaign to cast doubt on climate science). Since you’re not a philosopher or a logician, let me offer my expert opinion: not a logical fallacy.

      • Donald Tikkala says

        K. Dershem: Thank you for your reply. I don’t want to have a bun fight and the only reason I’m replying to your reply is to correct your misapprehension as to what I meant by my sentence reading – “You know nothing and must trust that the majority opinion is correct? I was referring to the man on the Clapham omnibus (a.k.a. the man in the street) and not to you personally. Have a good day.

        • K. Dershem says

          Donald: thanks for the clarification, and for introducing me to the term “bun fight.”

      • georgopolis says

        K. Dershem, thanks for your input.

        I don’t think the claim is that there is a vast conspiracy of scientists trying to get rich through grants, though I have no doubt this occurs in some (rare?) cases. The general notion is even subtle incentives result in a scientific push in a given direction. And lucrative government funding is hardly a subtle incentive. As the paradigm sets in, dissent from that paradigm gets treated with hostility (those damn deniers and their pesky questions!). We see this take place in public health and nutrition research all the time (Ancel Keys’ dietary saturated fat hypothesis being a good example).

        Monetary gain is also not the only influence. Prestige, ideological conviction (sometimes pseudo-religious), incentive to publish to advance ones career, fear of being ostracized by one’s peers, fear of the wrath of activists, and plain old cowardice, to name a few.

        It should be mentioned that there are virtually no incentives to disprove CAGW theory, despite falsifying long held beliefs supposedly being the cornerstone of scientific progress. This is why resorting to arguments from authority will not suffice, even for many who generally believe the “consensus”.

        • K. Dershem says

          It should be mentioned that there are virtually no incentives to disprove CAGW theory

          To the contrary, any scientist who successfully overturned a well-established theory would be virtually guaranteed a Nobel prize. I don’t think you understand how science works. It’s a self-critical and self-correcting process which is driven by peer review, not peer pressure.

          Appealing to the consensus is an argument from authority, but it’s not a fallacious one. It’s perfectly rational to accept the prevailing view of experts in a field, especially if you lack the expertise to independently evaluate their claims. Critics only dispute consensuses when they have ideological reasons for doing so: Creationists reject evolution, Truthers claim that the Twin Towers could not have fallen without additional explosives, anti-vaxxers persist in their belief that vaccines cause autism, anti-GMO activists continue to claim that GMOs are dangerous “frankenfoods.”

      • Grant says

        Hockey stick was and is a joke and McKitrick proved it. When Mann’s own proxie results didn’t show post 1960 warning, he grafted temperature data on to to it and disregarded his own data. Why? The world wonders. It is a sloppy piece of work bordering on fraudulent.

        • S Snell says

          Michael Mann, arguably the world’s most influential climate scientists, became rock-star famous almost overnight on the strength of the “hockey stick” graph, which he authored in 1999. The irony is that the hockey stick is the result of extraordinarily sloppy science. He relied heavily on ring data from a single tree, ignoring the fact that tree rings are more a proxy for rainfall than for temperature, and when the ring data did not match his hypothesis, it was quietly dropped for another data stream. This a huge no-no. The abandonment of the tree-ring data was hidden in a cluster of other graphs. The statistical method Mann used produces the upward slope when even random data is inserted. His results could not be confirmed even by friendly researchers. It has been completely refuted and was quietly dropped by the IPCC, after showcasing it heavily for years.

          Mann is the key figure in a cult of personality, with the charming habit of suing anyone who publicly criticizes him. He falsely claimed for years to be a Nobel Prize winner (He was a co-winner of the Peace Prize, along with every other member of the IPCC, some 5000 total.)

          He has a reputation as a bully, and is widely disliked. Here’s how unpopular the guy is: In his defamation lawsuit against Mark Steyn, Mann did not receive even a single amicus briefing in his favor, while Steyn had dozens. Steyn also had no trouble recruiting dozens of Mann’s fellow scientists to criticize him, on the record, for “A Disgrace to the Profession,” which ought to be require reading for everyone with an opinion on the issue of climate change.

          • K. Dershem says


            The hockey stick was repeatedly attacked, and so was Mann himself. Congress got involved, with demands for Mann’s data and other information, including a computer code used in his research. Then the National Academy of Sciences weighed in in 2006, vindicating the hockey stick as good science and noting:

            “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world.”


          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            … and Mann once was caught jay walking! Is this sober scientific critique, or is this a swarm of mosquitoes trying to stop a tank by harassing it to death? Albert E, was a lousy husband! Relativity is debunked! Newton was a lousy dinner guest. Rutherford had bad breath. Somebody, somewhere voted Democrat so he must be a fraud. And so it goes.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            “apparently Mann doesn’t want to share his methods and data, he lost a court case in Canada”

            That’s heavy duty. But over a year and a half ago, what’s the status of that now? As you frame the thing, it would blow him out of the water in my estimation.

          • Jay Salhi says

            Mann is influential but James Hanson has been, by far, the most influential climate scientist.

  32. Donald Tikkala says

    Myles Weber says: “My only other option is to start drinking heavily.”

    Royce Cooliage says that Myles Weber is crying for help.

    It was a joke. I don’t think it betrayed “a troubled state of mental health”

    But I’m all out of Laphroaig. Goodnight.

      • Royce Cooliage says

        @Donald Tikkala @grant Maybe he was joking, but I still think something is wrong with this guy. He’s not a scientist, he’s a professor of English. Yet somehow he believes he knows more about climate science than climate scientists. And he’s angry about it. So much so that it’s interfering with his job and his relationships with his colleagues. That’s not normal healthy behavior.

        BTW, looks like my submissions don’t go through when I use Chrome. Odd.

        • BrainFireBob says

          No, he’s angry that his colleagues are pushing global warming when they understand it as well as they understand how to calculate Pi by using the limits process to the ratio of an n sided polygon’s sides and bisecting line.

          As in, they should not politicize their courses on subjects which, to them, are as well understood as magic. Stick to where you are an expert, don’t leverage your credentials where they don’t belong. PhD’s in lit shouldn’t walk in and insist that as a doctor, they can perform brain surgery!

          • Royce Cooliage says

            “As in, they should not politicize their courses on subjects which, to them, are as well understood as magic. Stick to where you are an expert, don’t leverage your credentials where they don’t belong.”

            Isn’t he an English professor using his credentials to get his students to write about global warming? Sounds like he’s guilty of the very thing you claim he is angry at. Also, one of the professors he mentioned was an Earth Science professor. Wouldn’t that be ab example of someone who is qualified to speak on this issue? Certainly more so than an English professor (which is what the author is), no?

            I think both you and the author are climate deniers and you simply don’t want to hear the scientific consensus.

      • Royce Cooliage says

        @Donald Tikkala @grant Maybe he was joking, but I still think something is wrong with this guy. He’s not a scientist, he’s a professor of English. Yet somehow he believes he knows more about climate science than climate scientists. And he’s angry about it. So much so that it’s interfering with his job and his relationships with his colleagues. That’s not normal healthy behavior.

    • Royce Cooliage says

      @Donald Tikkala @grant Maybe he was joking, but I still think something is wrong with this guy. He’s not a scientist, he’s a professor of English. Yet somehow he believes he knows more about climate science than climate scientists. And he’s angry about it. So much so that it’s interfering with his job and his relationships with his colleagues. That’s not normal healthy behavior.

  33. Blue Lobster says

    I think the author’s challenge to devise an experiment which would isolate natural climate variability from anthropogenic forcing is more an exercise in rhetoric than a legitimate appeal to even theoretically feasible inquiry.

    In fact, this is the single greatest challenge facing academic experts engaged in the study of Earth’s climate dynamics. This is the fundamental problem which, if solved, would represent a scientific and intellectual achievement on par with those of Newton, Maxwell and Einstein. There are, quite frankly, a whole shitload of true Will Hunting-style geniuses out there, whether within the academy or without, some proportion of which must be at least peripherally engaged with this problem and unless there exists some monumental conspiracy to stifle their potential creativity, an increasingly unlikely proposition in, this, the age of ultimate information availability, I would wager that no definitive answer is forthcoming.

    It’s not a matter of funding because it is simply beyond the scope of human ability to generate a second Earth identical in every way to the original but devoid of human life in order to observe the climatic variation between Earth 1 and Earth 2. Our best guesses, which are nothing to sniff at, based on highly sophisticated statistical models beyond the capability of the typical Quillette commenter to formulate or even understand, are nonetheless guesses, however well informed and constructed.

    The Earth’s inextricable systems of atmospheric and oceanic circulation are so complex that even our most powerful supercomputers can only crudely model their interaction and the idea that we might definitively extricate natural variability from anthropogenic effects, regardless of conceivably available resources, is rendered comical given that even the skill of short-term weather forecasts drops to little better than a coin toss beyond 72 hours.

    • K. Dershem says

      Very well put. The claim that AGW is unfalsifiable is nothing more than a debating trick similar to those used by Creationists and Flat Earthers.

      • Jim Gorman says

        Praytell, what would falsify the AGW consensus? Thus far I have seen climate scientists say both hot/cold, rain/lack of rain, snow/lack of snow, arctic ice melting/not melting, and a whole bunch of other things. In essence the CAGW adherents claim it is all climate change brought on by an increase in CO2. CO2 can’t both trap heat and not trap heat.

        I need a climate scientist to explain the Medieval Warm Period, Roman Warm Period, Little Ice Age, Vikings living on Greenland for around 500 years and other different climate changes in terms of CO2. The claim is that around 1950 AGW began. Was there AGW at these other times too. Where is the evidence of CO2 levels being high when the temps were high and low when the temps were cold.

        As to deniers not being climate scientists. Most climate scientists don’t have degrees in “climate science.” Most have little background in statistics, physics, and chemistry to make adequate assessments of climate. Most engineers have more math and physics than climate scientists. I am an electrical engineer and I would like to see how many climate scientists could solve something as difficult as Maxwell’s Equations. Atmospheric conditions are a non-linear chaotic system. How many climate scientists have the mathematics background to deal with this. I assure you not many.

        • D-Rex says

          The term ‘climate scientist’ is used as a knight in shining armor facade as if they are the ones riding in on a white horse to save the world. In reality there are very few actual climate specialists and M.Mann is not one of them, he is a dendrochronologist who studies tree rings to determine past temperatures and so has a very limited paleoclimate view. He is also a bloviating hack who rose to fame on the back of a dodgy piece of research. Most scientists in the 97% consensus aren’t climate scientists either but rely on the IPCC to tell them what to believe.

      • BrainFireBob says

        It determines commonality, such a question should lead into what proxies are used and why- like the author’s own ending example

      • Stephanie says

        That there is only one experiment and it’s already run (or currently running) does not mean scientists are off the hook for crafting a falsifiable hypothesis, or else all of Earth science would be bunk.

        With AGW research, they are in a better position than any other Earth scientist to falsify their hypotheses: they are making predictions. If their predictions match with reality (without further tinkering) for 10-20-30 years, we can have growing confidence in their accuracy. If, instead, they are changing the model every year because the model didn’t predict recent changes, the model and underlying science should be considered no more than a faulty hypothesis with a way to go towards saying anything meaningful. This realism and humility would go a long way.

        There have also been three hyperthermal events in the Cenozoic, so comparison with what happened then can be used to falsify claims about the results of catastrophic warming. For instance, none of these hyperthermals produced a mass extinction.

      • Jay Salhi says

        @K. Dershem

        Are you claiming that falsifiablity is irrelevant in science (i.e., you disagree with Karl Popper)? Or are you claiming that AGW is falsifiable?

        Read literally, you’ve lumped Karl Popper’s definition of science in together with the flat earth society.

        • K. Dershem says

          @Jay: Denialism is comparable to Flat Earthism because it rejects a robust scientific consensus for ideological reasons. Falsifiability is an important principle in science, but the English teacher in question is applying it in a very simplistic and misleading way.
          Although you’re not a fan of skepticalscience, I’m going to quote a commenter there:

          Falsifiability is a strange concept of limited use in science, despite its popularity. The reason is that when we test any hypothesis, we must make background assumptions both about other conditions, and about how our instruments work. These background assumptions then form auxilliary hypotheses which are tested alongside the hypothesis we actually desire to test. As a consequence, if our test gives a negative result, we do not falsify any individual hypothesis (including the one we wanted to test). Rather we falsify the conjunction of the hypotheses. We show that not all of them can be true together. This is known as the Duhem-Quine Thesis, after its two independent “discoverers”.

          In very simple theories, we can radically reduce the number of auxilliary hypotheses making the particular hypothesis of interest more amenable to falsification in a “crucial test”. We can also vary our experimental methods so that we are testing the theory with different auxilliary hypotheses. Thus, for very simple hypotheses, we can reduce the impact of the Duhem-Quine Thesis, but we can never entirely avoid it.

          Because AGW is a complex theory with many auxilliary hypotheses, it is difficult to develop “crucial tests”, ie, any individual test that will show it to be false. In fact, in the very short term it is impossible. What we can do is develop “crucial tests” for important elements of the theory, but not for the whole theory at once. We can also measure relative likilihood with respect to competing theories. Doing so, we can show that AGW easilly is a superior theory to its competitors. But we cannot pick a single experiment to falsify the theory, so you will not find much discussion of falsification with respect to AGW.

          When you do, it is often for critics of AGW who take a farcically simplistic view of falsification to declare that “AGW is falsified”. Spencer and Christy played this game for a while, declaring the UAH satellite temperature index falsified AGW. Then (on several occasions) they were embarrassed when it was shown that their auxilliary hypothesis that they had eliminated all significant errors from their temperature record was what was false, and that UAH tends to confirm rather than falsify AGW.

          • Jay Salhi says

            @K. Dershem

            “Denialism is comparable to Flat Earthism because it rejects a robust scientific consensus for ideological reasons.”

            Are you suggesting we know as much about climate as we know about the shape of the earth? I agree that the geography department should have no time for the flat earth society but what is this consensus that is being denied? Please define it in precise terms. Not with links to the site maintained by the propagandist John Cook whose mission in life is to manufacture a fake consensus and call anyone who asks any questions about a complicated topic a denier. Never mind that some of those “deniers” have been departmental chairs in climate science at some of the world’s leading universities. And others have been contributors to IPCC reports. Disagree with John Cook and you are denier!

            How much temperature change will result from a doubling of CO2? Is there a consensus about that? Please provide a precise answer along with evidence that 97% of climate scientists agree with the figure.

            What is the optimal average temperature of the earth? Please provide a precise answer along with evidence that 97% of climate scientists agree with the figure.

      • S Snell says

        @ K Dershem

        AGW is most definitely falsifiable, which is probably why it was abandoned in favor of the admirably nebulous “climate change,” a stroke of genius, I have to admit. Now any outlier event is automatically the fault of this all-purpose villain.

        In theory, I suppose, climate change is falsifiable. In practice, not so much.

        Hardly anybody is arguing that humans have not played a role in influencing the climate. That would be silly. It’s the simplistic overselling of CO2 as a villain, and the sheer unshakable certainty of those who claim doom-is-nigh-and-it’s-all-our-fault that has skeptics riled up.

        • K. Dershem says

          AGW was not “abandoned in favor of climate change.”

          What is global warming?

          Global warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet since the early 20th century, and most notably since the late 1970s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Worldwide since 1880, the average surface temperature has gone up by about 1 °C (about 2 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980). This is on top of about an additional 0.15 °C of warming from between 1750 and 1880.

          What is climate change?

          Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.

          There’s not “unshakable certainty” among scientists: there’s a high level of confidence that has increased over the past several decades due to the accumulation of evidence and the disconfirmation of alternative hypotheses. The consensus is not the product of a conspiracy; it’s the result of individual scientists analyzing the data and arriving at the same conclusion.

          • Jim Gorman says

            The problem is that no one denies that there has been some warming, nor that human derived CO2 may have some part in that. However, it is not as hot as it was in the 1930 yet. Wait, how can that be when there was lower CO2?

            It is very likely that what we have seen the last 20 – 25 years is only natural variation in temperature. That hypothesis can not yet be falsified either because there have been hotter times with lower CO2 in the past and colder times with higher CO2. .

          • K. Dershem says

            “The year 1934 was a very hot year in the United States, ranking sixth behind 2012, 2016, 2015, 2006, and 1998. However, global warming takes into account temperatures over the entire planet, including the oceans. The land area of the U.S. accounts for only 2% of Earth’s total surface area. Despite the U.S. sweltering in 1934, that year was not especially hot over the rest of the planet. Globally, 1934 temperatures were actually cooler than average for the 20th century.

            Climate change skeptics have pointed to 1934 in the U.S. as proof that recent hot years are not unusual. Choosing the year 1934 is an obvious example of cherry-picking a single fact that supports a claim, while ignoring the rest of the data. In fact they have to cherry pick both a location (the U.S.) and a year (1934) to find data that is far from the global trend. Globally, the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 are the hottest on record, so far.”


          • S Snell says

            @ KD

            You are overstating the value of consensus, which literally has no place in science. Five hundred years ago, the consensus of experts was that the Earth was the center of the universe. You are also seriously understating the ginormous, enduring uncertainties inherent in this fantastically complex topic. Certainty is for zealots, not scientists. And the most ardent climate advocates have plenty of it. Just ask them.

            So the globe has warmed one point something degrees in the last 150-odd years? Well I should hope so, given that the Little Ice Age still had a grip on the planet in the mid-nineteenth century.

            This little warm spell, from 1976-2000, now pretty much paused, almost exactly mirrors the warm event of 1915-1945, which, it should be noted, also produced its share of alarming headlines at the time. The larger warming event of 1680-present is merely the latest of ten such events, total, since the Holocene interglacial began roughly 12,000 years ago. This one is actually notably milder than previous events. Which could be taken as an indicator that the current interglacial period, already significantly longer-lived than average, might be starting to wind down.

            Everything we are seeing has happened before. It’s the nature of life on a dynamic, ever-changing planet.

            Note that citing skepticalscience as a source reduces your credibility. It is a hit site run by partisans.

        • Foyle says

          Exactly, the vast majority of informed skeptics are ‘lukewarmers’ that would probably agree with the statements:
          yes there is warming,
          no it doesn’t appear problematic,
          CO2 is probably contributing to the warming, but it is unclear how much.

      • Centrist Gal says

        @K Dershem

        Did you even read what Blue Lobster wrote?

        “The Earth’s inextricable systems of atmospheric and oceanic circulation are so complex that even our most powerful supercomputers can only crudely model their interaction and the idea that we might definitively extricate natural variability from anthropogenic effects, regardless of conceivably available resources, is rendered comical given that even the skill of short-term weather forecasts drops to little better than a coin toss beyond 72 hours.”

        That means that the claims that CO2 drives temperature, and that we can know what portion we contribute to warming now and into the future, is patently absurd.

        Specific hypotheses can and have already been falsified. Models have already failed, specific predictions of the claimed effects of CO2 on temperature and the impacts of those temperatures have already been falsified.

  34. John Ashton says

    Writer is too polite. In my department people are roasted for scientific incompetence.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @K. Dershem

      It is proof that you cannot force people to see something if they prefer to keep their eyes closed. I’m open to critiques of AGW, yet in this entire thread I’ve seen very little attempt to even present evidence. Most of it is the usual Vast Conspiracy stuff, personal attacks, and statistical harassment, like the 1934 canard. Somewhere around the word one is going to find some deviation, this is to be expected, yet these things are jumped upon as proof that it’s all a hoax. The Chinese must be very gullible then. The best argument I’ve seen is that this Mann person lost a court case. Everything else is theater. Honestly, every time I enter one of these debates, I come away more firm in my belief in AGW because the opposing arguments are so terrible.

      • S Snell says


        I have read and enjoyed your many comments. You are obviously a very bright guy with a unique perspective. But in this case I think you are missing the point.

        Nobody is saying the planet isn’t warming, and that humans aren’t playing some role in this. But climate change has become a political, even quasi-religious issue, with partisans insisting that we are doomed, I tell you DOOMED! unless we make radical changes starting RIGHT NOW. That’s a pretty bold prediction and a gigantic ask. So this needs to be a rock-solid case, and it’s not.

        In a nutshell (1) CO2 is a weak GHG. (2) It’s effectiveness declines rapidly with increased concentration. (3) The alarming predictions of large temperature increases rely on (thermodynamically iffy) “feedbacks” to amplify the relatively weak warming caused by elevated CO2. (4) This feedback has demonstrably NOT occurred. (5) Other key predictions of AGW have also failed to materialize, e.g. the equatorial stratospheric “hot spot.” This failure in and of itself is almost a death blow to AGW. (6) Temperature fluctuations are the norm, not the exception, as there have been nine previous warm spells of note since the onset of the Holocene Interglacial 12,000 years ago. (7) There is nothing remarkable whatsoever about the current warming event.

        This is just scratching the surface. There are many additional points to consider, but space constrains.

        The most vocal AGW partisans, who drive this debate, have irresponsibly oversimplified a hugely complex issue, and grossly oversold CO2, one variable out of thousands regulating climate, as a driver of climate change. They use every dirty trick in the book to keep this issue alive and their opponents off-balance. When you question them, they tend to respond not with logic and data but with harsh personal attacks. Their favorite slur “denier” is an intentional comparison to the awful Holocaust deniers. Note also how much “denier” sounds like “heretic.”

        Hard-core Greens do not really like their fellow humans very much, and are deeply offended that we have become such a successful species. They aim to fix this by radically restructuring society, from top to bottom, in line with utopian ideals. AGW is the vehicle for achieving this.

        I also think you misrepresent the nature of skeptics. The ones I am familiar with are, almost without exception, highly educated, literate, articulate professionals who steer clear of ideology and ad hominem, in sharp contrast to their opposites.

        The 97-percent, lockstep consensus is a myth. If you asked a hundred scientists about climate change, you would get a hundred different answers. Furthermore, half of meteorologists and a whopping two-thirds of geologists and geophysicists identify as skeptics.

        There are lots of excellent skeptical websites. is a good jumping off point.

        When somebody tells you that you need to do this or buy that right now or else, a perfectly reasonable response is to ask “What are you selling?”

        We humans possess an innate existential paranoia that makes us suckers for every doomsday prediction that comes along. You spoke of theater. AGW is just the latest installment in the long-running show: Doomsday Theatre Presents.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @S Snell

          Thanks for a most reasonable post S, on its own, it draws me closer to skepticism.

          “Nobody is saying the planet isn’t warming, ”

          Some do, and they discredit the more reasonable skeptics.

          “and that humans aren’t playing some role in this.”

          Some do, and again, they drive me away.

          “But climate change has become a political, even quasi-religious issue, with partisans insisting that we are doomed”

          I agree. Unfortunately it always ends up with the fanatics on both sides bashing away at each other. A reasonable non-expert is left shaking his head.

          “feedbacks” to amplify the relatively weak warming caused by elevated CO2.”

          Yes. This is the sort of rational doubt that I can readily respect, it does not deny physics, it rather points to a very real weakness in predictions. Even I know — and it is easy to understand — that some trivial change in cloud cover trumps all the CO2 in a trillion cans of pop.

          “There is nothing remarkable whatsoever about the current warming event.”

          Did you view that YouTube posed above regarding the Milankovitch cycles? I find it very credible, and according to him, we should now be cooling.

          “Note also how much “denier” sounds like “heretic.”

          Sure. I am very disturbed by the bandwagon, and by the religious tone. Unfortunately both sides engage in this kind of thing. Dispassionate, civil discussion is rare.

          “AGW is the vehicle for achieving this.”

          For some greenies this is doubtless true. Alas, it proves my case that Denial is more intentioned by resistance to that politics than it is to resistance to the science. The science is in fact a proxy for the political war. This is very dangerous in my view. Science must be kept above that.

          “Doomsday Theatre Presents.”

          I can’t deny that. OTOH we have a long history of ignoring other things. Funny monkeys, aren’t we?

        • Peter from Oz says

          ”Nobody is saying the planet isn’t warming, and that humans aren’t playing some role in this. ”
          Actually a lot of people, some who are very distinguished scientists with the relevant experience are saying that.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            It would help the cause of Denial if it could be agreed what was being denied. What I often see is: “The planet is not warming, but man isn’t causing it.” Can we, or can we not take the planet’s temperature? Perhaps the Celsius scale itself is a commie plot (Reagan seems to have thought so)?

            Do my own two eyes deceive me that the sea level is rising — by about 4″ in my lifetime? Have the record fire seasons in the last few years been faked? The footage on the nightly news sure was convincing, those diabolical Warmist conspirators, what won’t they fake? Ponds that were routinely skated on when I was a kid have seen no ice for decades. The weather here in March was more what one might expect in LA. Northwest passage now routinely open in summer. Or have the commies gotten to me?

          • K. Dershem says

            Hard-core Greens do not really like their fellow humans very much, and are deeply offended that we have become such a successful species. They aim to fix this by radically restructuring society, from top to bottom, in line with utopian ideals. AGW is the vehicle for achieving this.

            Snell’s claim (which is false, except for the radical extreme of the environmental movement) nicely encapsulates the motivation behind denialism. Deniers don’t like some of the proposed solutions for climate change, so they deny that the problem exists.

            Sorry, but “denier” is the proper term. “Skeptic” already has a well-established meaning: “A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.” Actual science-based skeptics like Steven Novella (the source of that quote) and Michael Shermer (who was previously dubious about the reality of AGW) now accept the consensus. As he writes,

            “we have time to fix the problem without drastic and draconian governmental intervention. For example, I believe that if we start the transition now, we can make the shift from burning fossil fuels to alternative fuels through normal market channels. The market for hybrid automobiles, for example, will continue growing at a breakneck pace such that within two decades the vast majority of cars will be hybrids and the transition to purely electric cars (or cars that run on some other combination of electricity and a cleaner alternative fuel), will be successful. In other words, I would much prefer to see governments establishing pollution standards and carbon dioxide levels that the marketplace is then free to work around in its usually efficient manner (more efficient, in any case, than most government programs are capable of achieving).”


  35. Jackson Howard says

    “The Earth’s inextricable systems of atmospheric and oceanic circulation are so complex that even our most powerful supercomputers can only crudely model their interaction and the idea that we might definitively extricate natural variability from anthropogenic effects, regardless of conceivably available resources, is rendered comical given that even the skill of short-term weather forecasts drops to little better than a coin toss beyond 72 hours.”

    You see, this is exactly why the climate models care about averaged values rather than the high variability ponctual values as done for weather forecast.

    Models were crude in the 80’s/90’s with the FAR models having a 500km resolution and many interaction shortcomings. Recent models can go down to lower than 100km resolution, and the coupling terms are much better dealt with. All models are wrong (as in being perfect mirrors of reality) of course, like every model used like ever. But there is a wild gap between inaccurate but good enough and totally useless. I have yet to see a modern model that can mirror the temperature increase seen since the 70’s without the added forcing from anthropogenic CO2.

    There is two facts and one question to consider when speaking about all of this :

    First, we know that we humans are the cause of the CO2 emissions from carbon isotope ratios. Second we know the absorption and emission bands of CO2 really well (aka we know that it’s a greenhouse gas). The question is then : Is there a compelling reason for the added CO2 not to cause warming ? I have yet to find one able to sustain peer review scrutiny. The endpoint warming amount is sure open to debate though, but we can get hints from the past and present both (by looking at the high climate sensitivity regions)

    About the OP : A lot of what he says is unfortunately sounding rather true. Students out of high school not able to compute a simple derivative or vector product. Tenured professors confused by spherical coordinates. Phd students in plasma physics failing horribly at basic plasma equations. Over specialization coupled with Dunning-Kruger is a potent academic poison, especially when using complex models or working cross-discipline. This is why model cross validations, toy models and keeping an eye on first principles are so important. As done in climate science.

    Some sciences like particle physics are now 100% reliant on proper experimental modeling to be able to detect and analyse the signals. Climate modeling is bit the same but harder because the experiment is run once and in a non-controlled setting. But complicated is not the same as inscrutable.

    • Centrist Gal says

      @Jackson Howard

      “The question is then : Is there a compelling reason for the added CO2 not to cause warming”

      How about 600 million years where CO2 cannot be seen to be driving temperature? How about Rasool & Schneider’s 1971 paper which stated that CO2 could NEVER cause much warming, due its logarithmic relationship to T and the problem of saturation, a fact that nobody denies? How about the fact that it is only the claimed amplification effect of water vapour that can provide the necessary increase in temperature, but there is no evidence of this amplification, and certainly no ability to model clouds, a key factor in global temperatures. How about the possibility of negative feedbacks? How about the fact that the key claim re tropospheric warming has been falsified?

      “I have yet to see a modern model that can mirror the temperature increase seen since the 70’s without the added forcing from anthropogenic CO2”

      That presumes they know what all the forcings are and have not mistaken CO2 for other factors! If CO2 is so pivotal then how is the same rate of temperature increase prior to 1940 explained? Why was there general panic about the pause, where all the models failed, and why are there so many different explanations as to why temperatures didn’t behave in the way they were ‘supposed’ to? Why is that panic continuing today as global temperatures drop back to the pause levels?

      “None of the models used by the IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed state”. Kevin Trenberth, lead author 2001 2007 IPCC report chapters.

      And until you have read the Climategate emails, you will never understand what a clown show you are defending.

  36. Alan Geal says

    Setting aside the commentary as to whether or not the views of a “Professor of English” can have validly on a scientific issue, his fundamental point is that the basic understanding of climate science of many students and academics is highly deficient and often contingent on spurious ‘authorities’ – or even purblind groupthink. His implied assertion is plainly valid.

    Perhaps a short and simple explanation of the inappropriately named “greenhouse” effect could cast more light than heat here: .

    Dr Weber’s somewhat muddled account of the physics (Kirchhoff’s Law) is also succinctly clarified here: .

    A disclaimer: I’m not a physicist, but an architect and mathematician.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Science of Doom is a good site. Much better than Skeptical Science (which is pure propaganda).

  37. Cameron says

    It is amazing to see how many in the comment section missed the point of the article’

  38. Alan Geal says

    Quite, although the points of the article are several, its basic burden can be taken as that there is a widespread lack of intellectual humility and integrity in the academy: too many vicariously vicious academics have too high an esteem for their pretended knowledge, which is rather a deep poverty of understanding. That someone does not kowtow before the ascendent orthodoxies is ground enough for their aggression. Still they should be beware, Newton’s First Law of motion entails the Third Law: the academy has been ‘moved’, but there will be a reaction. However much reality can be denied, it persists.

    Perhaps we should all take heed of Charles Sanders Peirce: … in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to think, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy: DO NOT BLOCK THE WAY OF INQUIRY.

    • S Snell says

      @Alan Geal

      The OP is calling attention to a syndrome, which might seem outwardly like just another form of office politics, if a rather toxic one, but which in reality has far-reaching implications because of the influential nature of the Academy.

      There is probably more ego per unit of area in the average humanities faculty lounge than anywhere else on the planet. And such people are wont to foist their opinions on others under color of authority, and do not generally take kindly to criticism.

      • Alan Geal says

        @S Snell

        I have little experience of humanities faculty lounges, but hear enough of the output to recognise your point. Likewise I agree with you that given the ‘influential nature of the Academy’ this brouhaha could pose a serious threat: though the signal to noise ratio from the non-STEM pan-coterie is too weak to merit much attention in itself, even a herd of braying and stampeding asses (do they herd?) can trample the unwary.

        I suspect the academic humanities will eventually disappear, having earned sufficiently wide contempt for their noisy and disruptive irrelevance – but I would regret the fate of the remnant of real scholars, the loss of their learning would be grievous.

  39. Raas says

    Regardless of what you may or may not understand, study or know about climate change, this article is absolute pile of garbage. Hey I have a couple of idiots around me and I asked them some witty questions and they could not answer!! must be something about academia in general. While I am generally a sympathetic reader of Quillette, this kind of anecdotal rubbish peddled by english professors about subjects, they themselves understand very little about and engage in symantics to demonstrate how smart they are, cannot be the way forward. If you want to argue against dogmatism do it based on some real data. not anecdotes where you encountered a couple of idiots. Go back to shakespeare!

  40. Ray Andrews says

    @K. Dershem

    This was worth watching:

    It tells one something about the honesty of one’s opponents that they make absurd caricatures of the AGW science. It is bleeding obvious to anyone that the first and greatest causes of climate change must be natural. I don’t have time to get a PhD in climate modeling, but the scientists who I’ve listened to on the subject do not seem to me to be AGW zombie-fundamentalist-commie-hack-charlatans, they freely admit the difficulties.

    Nevertheless, whereas the magnitude of CO2 effects on the climate are debatable, that their IS an effect is undeniable. The first guy who burned a lump of coal warmed the planet. Not by very much, but he DID warm it. I can listen to folks who say that AGW may be exaggerated, but the people who say it is completely wrong are just liars.

    Sorry. And I honestly don’t think they really care about the science, they care about the politics. They think that admitting AGW must lead us to AOC’s Green New Deal — and, frankly, their fears are not unfounded. But if you are worried that someone is going to drop a rock on you, the solution is not to deny gravity. Jesus!

    The sweet irony in this is that the Milankovitch cycles predict an ice age and it might just be the case that our CO2 emissions will stave that off. In which case Big Coal might just go from denying AGW to demanding credit for keeping us all out from under a glacier.

    There is no warming! … but it’s been exaggerated! … but it’s not man’s fault anyway … but we need it to stave off the ice age so praise Exxon for AGW and buy a Hummer today!

    I’ll leave it to students of logic to examine that. For crying in the sink.

    • K. Dershem says

      Interesting link — thanks.

      In other developed countries, conservative parties are offering market-based solutions to the address climate change. In the U.S., the majority of Republicans deny the reality of the problem, so the “Green New Deal” ends us by default as the only proposal that gets media coverage. Whatever the merits of the GND, it feeds into right-wing conspiracy theories that AGW is a hoax designed to destroy capitalism. This is deeply unfortunate. I wish the U.S. could get past the pseudo-debate about the science (as scientists themselves have) and have a serious discussion about policy options. Alas, climate change has become yet another front in the culture war and the opposing sides have dug deep trenches. Future generations will not forgive us for our inaction, nor should they.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @K. Dershem

        “In other developed countries, conservative parties are offering market-based solutions to the address climate change.”

        It could be a capitalist stampede, but it seems old money trumps new money. Oil talks. It has been stated many times here that Denmark is a capitalist economy. Ok then, capitalist Denmark has more wind turbines than anybody, IIRC.

      • Jay Salhi says

        There is no solution, market or otherwise, to the problem with current technology. Fossil fuels power industrial civilization and until we have cost effective alternatives that can work at scale, no policy is going to change that. The only thing we can do in the meantime is more nuclear, more natural gas and more R&D. Activist obsession with unreliable wind & solar is a huge step in the wrong direction.

        The energy components of the GND (not to be confused with social welfare objectives and the social justice rhetoric, which have nothing to do with energy) have no merit whatsoever. When GND light comes along (as it inevitably will), it will be less ridiculous but no less a non-starter.

        • K. Dershem says

          This study may be overly optimistic, but it demonstrates that numerous experts disagree with you. Are you completely sure you’re correct? If so, what’s the basis for your confidence? Perhaps an “activist obsession” with the alleged unreliability of wind and solar?

          “A comprehensive study by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that the U.S. can generate most of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050.

          The Renewable Electricity Futures Study found that an 80 percent renewables future is feasible with currently available technologies, including wind turbines, solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, biopower, geothermal, and hydropower.

          The study also demonstrates that a high renewables scenario can meet electricity demand across the country every hour of every day, year-round.

          Variable resources such as wind and solar power can provide up to about half of U.S. electricity, with the remaining 30 percent from other renewable sources.

          Increasing renewables to supply 80 percent of U.S. electricity does not, however, limit energy choices to one specific pathway. Rather, the NREL study shows that a range of renewable energy scenarios provide the nation with multiple pathways to reach this goal.”

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            It is all so fascinating, figuring it all out. The troglodytes are such boring people. What is the West but the traditional home of can-do innovation? I guess that’s now gone. If you want innovation that’s now from Asia.

          • S Snell says

            @K Dershem

            We are prepared to spend great heaps of money to “solve” a non-problem. And the end result of this grand experiment will be a much clunkier, more expensive, less reliable energy-generation apparatus. Perfect for the technology-dependent world of the future!

            Bear in mind that our economic competitors will carry out no such foolishness, so our sacrifice will have zero net effect on carbon emissions.

            We have a reliable, well-vetted system that is scalable and meets our current and projected future needs. Is it perfect? Hell no. But the alternative will lead to much higher costs, much lower reliability, and a radically transformed landscape, with absolutely no compensatory benefit for reasons outlined in the previous paragraph.

            Sign me up!

          • Jay Salhi says

            When talking about renewables, it is important to use consistent definitions. In common parlance, most people have wind and solar in mind when talking about renewables. In practice, there no standardized definition and different categorizations are used all the time. This is arbitrary. There is no correct definition.

            This particular study includes wind, solar, biopower, geothermal and hydropower. I have no issues calling hydro renewable but most greens are anti-hydro. So if an organization that is anti-hydro nonetheless counts hydro as a renewable when promoting green energy, they are being dishonest. This happens all the time. Hydro has been proven to work at scale. I have no issues with it except when it is used dishonestly to exaggerate the efficacy of wind and solar. People promoting green energy are usually not advocating more hydro.

            Hydro and geothermal both have serious geographic limitations meaning they will always be minor players.

            Biopower is a sick joke. It is neither green nor carbon neutral. Yet, it is counted as zero carbon using dishonest math that ignores the concept of. The EU is cheating on its carbon emissions by pretending that biomass (burning wood) is carbon neutral because, in theory, you plant new trees and recapture the carbon 100 years later. Nearly half the EU’s “renewable” energy is biomass. North American wood is harvested using fossil fuel technology, shipped across the ocean on fossil fuel powered ships and then burned emitting CO2, yet this is all carbon neutral by green math because we plant some new trees.

            The study you cite claims that half of electricity demand can be met by wind and solar by 2050. That is highly unrealistic but let’s assume it is true for arguments sake. Electricity makes up only 18% of world energy consumption. It is a small piece of the energy puzzle. Getting off fossil fuels for electricity does not reduce dependence on fossil fuels for mining, industry, agriculture, transportation, heating, etc. Moreover, you cannot produce wind turbines or solar panels without fossil fuels. The technology needed to harness the wind and the sun is dependent upon fossil fuels from cradle to grave. To use just one example, you need fossil fuels to make steel. Fossil fuels are the feed stocks for so many products upon which modern civilization depends. They are going to be with us for a long time.

            Finally, the US produces only 15% of global CO2 emissions. Radically reducing fossil fuel use to generate US electricity is not going to have a material impact on global CO2 emissions. A small number of Western democracies who collectively emit less than 30% of the world’s CO2 have managed to achieve minor reductions in CO2 emissions (the US is highest with a 13% reduction from 2000 to 2017). The rest of the world’s emissions are increasing. We are powerless to stop that unless we are willing to invade foreign countries and destroy their coal plants.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Jay Salhi

          No market solution? I’d typecast you as someone who believes that only the market can solve anything and that the market is responsible for all past technologies and all those that will ever be. All good is the market, and the market is all good, no? But it is a doctrinal assumption that low cost is the only parameter that matters. Governments can and are concluding that the externality of pollution, especially CO2 must be taken into account.

          There is no doubt what the problems are. And of course there are zealots who’s views are not entirely sober. But there are also legions of people working on effective solutions. Many new technologies go thru a stage of being unprofitable, do they not? The very sober Chinese are building wind turbines all over the place. I suppose that they execute their zealots.

          “more nuclear, more natural gas and more R&D”

          I agree. But that R&D might very well continue to improve renewables, no? And let’s not forget conservation it can make a difference.

          • Jay Salhi says


            To clarify, I said no market solution with current technology. I believe that, in the long run, markets will provide a solution. But I have no idea how long “the long run” will be nor does anyone else. As Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead.

            The alarmists are concerned about hypothetical effects of global warming that might have negative effects many years from now. In order to deal with hypothetical threats, they are proposing solutions (outlawing fossil fuels) that, if implemented, would kill billions of people alive today. Of course, it will never get that far in actual reality but the thing to understand is that the proposed solution is much more dangerous than the alleged disease.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Jay Salhi

            I don’t doubt that some Alarmists go too far. I oppose AOC’s GND. But the solution to extremism is not Denial of science, that merely makes your side look bad. As I’ve said, it would violate the laws of physics for our emissions not to be warming the planet. The climate should be cooling, but it is getting warmer. It is, frankly, impossible that CO2 is not responsible for some fraction of that.

            Your side asks me to believe that a species famous for ignoring pending trouble has fallen for a hoax that will cost it trillions of dollars. Which government wants to come up with some new demand on its money? They don’t have money to repair the roads, but they choose to believe, against your better science, that they are facing a crisis that will cost trillions? And virtually everyone has fallen for this hoax? The Chinese have fallen for it? They are converting to renewabables faster than the rest of the planet combined, so I hear.

            Personally I’d reduce burning oil simply to conserve the stuff. We need sober voices and that starts will abandoning blanket Denial. Both sides should admit that things are not a clear as they tend to claim. Me, I’m listening to people who can discuss science without hysteria — the Warmists saying we’ll all be dead in ten years, the Deniers saying that billions of people will die if we try to conserve fuel. Both sides have their fanatics if you ask me. Let’s try to be reasonable.

        • Foyle says

          Jay: Photovoltaic Electricity in Idaho is now costing <$0.03/kWh in Utility scale installations. It’s even cheaper in sunnier locations. Combined with high efficiency batteries for night time and on-grid transport and low efficiency but cheap hydrogen production for off-grid transport and seasonal storage it is good enough to undercut all other non-renewable energy production and drive a switch from fossil fuels to this cheaper alternative. The revolution is now underway, and doesn’t need any political intercession to occur – it will proceed and grow purely as a result of economics.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “It is bleeding obvious to anyone that the first and greatest causes of climate change must be natural.”

      Not to the IPCC, who tells us with 95% confidence that at least half of the increase in surface temperature since 1951 has been caused by human beings.

      “Nevertheless, whereas the magnitude of CO2 effects on the climate are debatable, that their IS an effect is undeniable.”

      Nobody disputes that. The critical question is how much? If you double CO2, how much warming do you get? Despite all the noise about 97% consensus and the debate being over, there is no agreed answer to that very basic question. Nor is there a consensus as to what the optimal global average temperature might be.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “at least half” should say “more than half”

      • Ray Andrews says

        Jay Salhi

        “who tells us with 95% confidence that at least half of the increase in surface temperature since 1951”

        I mean in the long term. Since we are by all rights now beginning the next ice age, AGW could be ‘true’ even if the temperature were declining, since a decline is expected and AGW might be moderating it. As I posted previously, this could be very good news — AGW might be just what we need, presuming we keep it under control. I’m composing the commercial in my mind: “Exxon, doing our bit to keep the glaciers at bay. Yes, folks, Exxon’s oil is estimated to have reduced temperature decline by half. Exxon! a proud contributer to the greenhouse.” — with a picture first of an advancing glacier then seque to a big gas flare.

      • Jim Gorman says

        Does anyone here know how many scientists were included in the so-called 97% consensus? How many papers were included? Read this article from Forbes to get a better idea.

        • K. Dershem says

          “Authors of seven climate consensus studies — including Naomi Oreskes, Peter Doran, William Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed Maibach, J. Stuart Carlton, and John Cook — co-authored a paper that should settle the expert climate consensus question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper are:

          1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.

          2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.”

          • Jay Salhi says

            John Cook and Skeptical Science have zero credibility on this issue. Cook is the author of the most influential and heavily flawed study.

            The methodology of John Cook’s study:

            Google the internet using search terms to identify scientific papers about climate change.
            Get a team of volunteers (non-scientists) to read the abstracts of such papers (only the abstracts, not the papers themselves).
            Volunteer makes a determination as to whether the abstract endorses the idea of human caused AGW.
            What is the definition of human caused AGW? This was discussed online in advance. They arrived at the following:

            “We’re basically going with Ari’s porno approach I probably should stop calling it that) which is AGW = ‘humans are causing global warming’. e.g. – no specific quantification which is the only way we can do it considering the breadth of papers we’re surveying.”

            If the abstract does not explicitly endorse human caused AGW, count it anyway if the reviewer thinks it implicitly endorses human caused AGW.
            If the abstract takes no position on the issue, throw it out. Only abstracts where a position can be identified were counted. The vast majority of abstracts took no position even using the broad “porno” definition and counting implied positions.
            Only a small minority of abstracts expressly or implicitly endorsed the very broad “porno” definition of human caused AGW but by ignoring the fact that the vast majority of abstracts stated no position they arrived at the 97% calculation.

            Does that methodology sound remotely scientific?

            “The ‘97% consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country [UK] that the energy minister should cite it.”

            Mike Hulme, Ph.D. Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia (UEA)

            “Cook’s sample is not representative. Any conclusion they draw is not about “the literature” but rather about the papers they happened to find. Most of the papers they studied are not about climate change and its causes, but many were taken as evidence nonetheless. Papers on carbon taxes naturally assume that carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming – but assumptions are not conclusions.”
            Richard Tol, University of Sussex, lead author of several IPCC reports.

            Cook’s paper has been refuted five times in the scholarly literature by Legates et al. (2013), Tol (2014a), Tol (2014b), Dean (2015) and Tol (2016).

            Legates et al reviewed the 11,944 published climate papers Cook examined and found that only 41 explicitly stated that humans caused most of the warming since 1950. Cook himself flagged just 64 papers as explicitly supporting that consensus, but 23 of the 64 had not in fact supported it. The 41 papers that supported the consensus as defined by the IPCC declaration represents only 0.34% of the papers examined, not 97%.

            The link below contains a list of 97 articles debunking Cook’s study. Yet, the debate is over.


          • Jay Salhi says

            All of those studies have serious flaws that have widely critiqued. The debate about the studies highlights the fact that the consensus is not what it is claimed to be. Why don’t you cite the surveys of the American Meteorological Society which show very different results?

            Verheggen et. al (one of the studies you cite) is an interesting study because they intentionally compiled a pool of scientists they believed would be pro AGW by targeting contributors to IPCC reports and scientists who had signed petitions about AGW.

            The good thing about the survey is that they specifically asked scientists whether they agreed with the IPCC’s attribution statement (that more than half of the post 1951 warming has been caused by humans). But they did not get the results they expected.

            When asked what fraction of global warming since the mid 20th century can be attributed to human induced increases in greenhouse gases, 64% of scientists responded 51% or higher.

            When asked what confidence level would you ascribe your estimate, 65% said certain or fairly certain. The IPCC’s attribution statement ascribes 95% or higher confidence.

            So, yes, a majority of scientists (from a cherry picked pool) agreed with the IPCC attribution statement. But the agreement was nowhere near 97% and only two-thirds of the scientists expressed confidence similar to IPCC’s 95% confidence.

            The 97% consensus is a manufactured myth. Even the studies claiming to prove it do not do what they claim.

          • Jay Salhi says

            @K . Dershem

            The American Meteorological Association has surveyed its members. Here’s the summary of the 2016 survey results (copied and pasted) with a link to the full report below:

            Nearly all AMS members (96%) think climate change – as defined by AMS – is happening, with almost 9 out of 10 (89%) stating that they are either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ sure it is happening. Only 1% think climate change is not happening, and 3% say they don’t know.

            A large majority of AMS members indicated that human activity is causing at least a portion of the changes in the climate over the past 50 years. Specifically: 29% think the change is largely or entirely due to human activity (i.e., 81 to 100%); 38% think most of the change is caused by human activity (i.e., 61 to 80%); 14% think the change is caused more or less equally by human activity and natural events; and 7% think the change is caused mostly by natural events. Conversely, 5% think the change is caused largely or entirely by natural events, 6% say they don’t know, and 1% think climate change isn’t happening.

            AMS members have diverse views on the extent to which additional climate change can be averted over the next 50 years, if mitigation measures are taken worldwide. Only 18% think a large amount or almost all additional climate change can be averted, while many more think a moderate (42%) or a small (25%) amount of additional climate change can be averted. Only 9% think almost no additional climate change can be averted, and 6% say they don’t know.

            AMS members also hold diverse views about the extent to which harm – to people’s health,
            agriculture, fresh water supplies, transportation systems, and homes and other buildings – can be prevented over the next 50 years. About one quarter to one third (22% to 37%) think a large amount or almost all of the harm to these things can be prevented, while approximately another one third(30% to 43%) think a moderate amount of harm can beprevented, and about one quarter (17% to 28%) think only a small amount or none of the harm can be prevented. About one in ten (7 to10%) don’t know, and about one in twenty (3 to 5%) don’t think there will be any harm from climate change in the next 50 years.

            Nearly one in five AMS members (17%) say their opinion about climate change has changed inthe past five years. Of those, the large majority (87%) say they now feel more convinced thatclimate change is happening, most commonly because of one or more of the following reasons:new peer-reviewed climate science (66%); the scientific community becoming more certain(48%); having personally seen evidence of of climate change (46%); or one or more climate scientists who influenced them (30%).



            (i) There is a consensus among AMA member that AGW is happening.

            (ii) Two thirds of the members say AGW is largely or mostly caused by human activity. This is similar to the IPPC attribution statement but the support is lower than one might expect given the IPCC’s 95% confidence in its statement.

            (iii) Views on related questions vary considerably.

            If you want to take this as evidence of consensus, I agree. But be clear about what the consensus is. It is not the 97% agree about everything, the debate is over and anyone who questions anything is a denier standard you have repeatedly promoted at Quillette.

            The consensus still leaves quite a lot open to debate.

  41. Lightning Rose says

    There really is no excuse for people who pride themselves on their intelligence and erudition to be ignorant of the FACTS of climate science. A great many books written for the layman, or at least the non-specialist, are widely available and readily comprehensible. I know “math is hard,” but there’s no reason for a “humanities” prof’s brain to seize up at the thought of some readings in hard science.

    As one who manages grazing lands, I wanted to know about 5 years ago how bad it was really going to get, and whether I might need a “Plan B” for my career if everything was really going to toast. A long-time NPR listener and member of conservation orgs., I had swallowed the CAGW Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker. Right up UNTIL I started to read . . . BOOKS, that is, not agitprop articles in The New Yorker, The Atlantic or The Guardian!

    Well, nowadays “climate change” doesn’t make even the top 25 of my concerns. 1.5 degrees C. in 150 years? “Sea level rise” of 3mm/year? Shoot, that’s 3 of my horse’s TAIL hairs laid side-by-side. I’m damned if I believe something so miniscule can be measured on a planetary scale, even by satellite! Never mind it’s “rising” at the same rate as it has for the last 12,000 years, since we emerged from the ice of the last glaciation, and the rate of warming has flattened for the last 18 anyway, CO2 be damned. Frankly, the probability of big trouble due to a second American Civil War or Chinese aggression is a HELL of a lot more probable than problems from this miniscule “warming.” And we ought to be damned happy it’s not going the OTHER way–yet!

    As a political issue, this is literally the weaponization of scientific ignorance with arguments from authority. Replacement of the Old Testament (I will SMITE thee!) with Gaia worship. Pathetic.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Having given up on this “debate” for much the same reason, I can sympathize. I was told there was a consensus. Fine. How much of a rise, how soon, and what’s the effect? At the time, the IPCC prediction for the rise over the next century was (as you said) around 1.5C and that cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1991 levels (or to whatever historical benchmark) would have no measurable effect on the warming. That’s all I needed to know.

      “Wait,” you say. “What about the effects of climate change? Don’t you want the answer?”

      I don’t need the answer because there’s nothing that can be done about it. This is the part the consensus-floggers leave out of the story. If the IPCC represents the consensus—their claim, not mine—then, according to the IPCC, there’s nothing we can do to stop global warming. The damage has been done. Now we have to live with it until we can do something about it—if we even have to.

      So when I and likeminded others say that global warming is disaster-mongering to rationalize massive gov’t intervention, it’s not because we’re “deniers” of The Consensus (TM); it’s because the policy is not a rational response to the facts.

      • K. Dershem says

        In other words: we’ve known about the problem for decades but have refused to make the necessary reforms. Because efforts to obfuscate the science and obstruct action have been successful, radical changes are now required to prevent potentially catastrophic warming.

        • S Snell says

          @K Dershem

          Why is the current warm spell any different than the nine others–generally of greater duration and magnitude–that have occurred since the Holocene Interglacial began 12,000 years ago? What makes this episode special? I’m curious.

          • K. Dershem says

            Not curious enough to conduct a Google search, apparently.

            One of the most often cited arguments of those skeptical of global warming is that the Medieval Warm Period (800-1400 AD) was as warm as or warmer than today. Using this as proof to say that we cannot be causing current warming is a faulty notion based upon rhetoric rather than science. So what are the holes in this line of thinking?

            Firstly, evidence suggests that the Medieval Warm Period may have been warmer than today in many parts of the globe such as in the North Atlantic. This warming thereby allowed Vikings to travel further north than had been previously possible because of reductions in sea ice and land ice in the Arctic. However, evidence also suggests that some places were very much cooler than today including the tropical pacific. All in all, when the warm places are averaged out with the cool places, it becomes clear that the overall warmth was likely similar to early to mid 20th century warming.

            Since that early century warming, temperatures have risen well-beyond those achieved during the Medieval Warm Period across most of the globe. The National Academy of Sciences Report on Climate Reconstructions in 2006 found it plausible that current temperatures are hotter than during the Medieval Warm Period. Further evidence obtained since 2006 suggests that even in the Northern Hemisphere where the Medieval Warm Period was the most visible, temperatures are now beyond those experienced during Medieval times (Figure 1). This was also confirmed by a major paper from 78 scientists representing 60 scientific institutions around the world in 2013.

            Secondly, the Medieval Warm Period has known causes which explain both the scale of the warmth and the pattern. It has now become clear to scientists that the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a time which had higher than average solar radiation and less volcanic activity (both resulting in warming). New evidence is also suggesting that changes in ocean circulation patterns played a very important role in bringing warmer seawater into the North Atlantic. This explains much of the extraordinary warmth in that region. These causes of warming contrast significantly with today’s warming, which we know cannot be caused by the same mechanisms.

            Overall, our conclusions are:

            a) Globally temperatures are warmer than they have been during the last 2,000 years, and

            b) the causes of Medieval warming are not the same as those causing late 20th century warming.


        • X. Citoyen says

          K.D. writes:

          In other words: we’ve known about the problem for decades but have refused to make the necessary reforms. Because efforts to obfuscate the science and obstruct action have been successful, radical changes are now required to prevent potentially catastrophic warming.

          Well, well, what a surprise. Another Mr. Consensus forgets all about the Consensus when the Consensus puts the lie to What Must Be Done. Makes a person wonder whether What Must Be Done is the effect of the Consensus or the cause of it.

          I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I can see why so many people are. You write 100 comments berating people for their irrational rejection of The Consensus—“We must bow to the experts! Action must be taken!” Then when someone points out that The Consensus also says that nothing can be done about global warming, you pivot to a quixotic alternative history to persuade us (and probably yourself) that there’s no discontinuity between the Consensus and What Must Be Done—“Forget the experts! Magic could’ve happened!” But hypothetical pasts can’t save you from cognitive dissonance: Nothing could be done decades ago. We didn’t have the technology or the power to force emissions reductions on other countries then, and we don’t have them now.

          Wind, solar, and the rest of the potpourri of alternative energy sources are pipedreams sold by the green industry to symbolism-loving pols and the legions of scientifically-illiterate True Green Believers. We can’t stop or even slow global warming without a viable alternative energy source like fusion or a massive investment in fission. But then the proselytes of What Must Be Done also reject fission, giving us all more reason to think that the political What Must Be Done, not the scientific Consensus, is the one in the driver’s seat. After all, people who really believed the planet’s demise was imminent surely wouldn’t be turning up their noses at the best short-term solution, would they?

          Anyway, I know this line of argument has thrown you off kilter. You don’t have a stock twelve-paragraph response and a website to throw at me because I’m not playing the Baddie to your Goodie in this piece of political theatre. I’ve done my own analysis of the situation and come to my own conclusions based on the evidence. You should do the same. Instead of sending condescending missives to other faculty members, you should embrace the philosophy you claim to teach so you can see the bigger mote in your own eye.

          By the way, let me pre-empt the go-to objection before you waste your breath on it. You’ll want to reply with some variation on we have to do something now. This objection fails a basic cost-benefit analysis. We know the things we can do now don’t work—it’s box-of-rocks stupid to make massive investments in tech that we know—theoretically and empirically—doesn’t work. Ontario’s green energy boondoggle is all the empirical evidence one should need—extremely high electricity rates, next to no green electricity. Indeed, Canada is probably the world-leader in multibillion-dollar green-energy failures. The only rational thing a person who feels the need to “Do something!” is to advocate for more research.

          • K. Dershem says

            It’s had to respond to your argument because there’s no consensus that “nothing can be done.” There is a consensus that a certain amount of warming is unavoidable because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for decades, but significant changes now can avoid catastrophic effects. Multiple analyses have found that a relatively rapid transition to renewable and nuclear energy (I’m not categorically opposed to nuclear, although I do have concerns about its cost) is technologically possible; we simply lack the political will.

            Sorry if you find my tone condescending, but this issue actually matters for the future of the planet. It’s not trivial, culture-war nonsense like hysteria about transgender people in bathrooms or righteous indignation about Jordan Peterson getting deplatformed. From a scientific perspective, denialists are epistemologically equivalent to Creationists, anti-GMO activists and anti-vaxxers — it’s difficult to maintain a respectful tone in the face of such determined ignorance.

            I literally don’t know WTF you’re talking about regarding renewable energy: it’s already cheaper than coal, and that’s without the carbon taxes that should be imposed to internalize the externalized costs of fossil fuels. If revenue-neutral carbon taxes had been implemented thirty years ago when the science was already clear, we would be well on our way to achieving carbon neutrality. Moreover, if the technology had been shared with developing countries like China and India, they would be far less reliant on coal today. In other words, it would have made an enormous difference.


          • K. Dershem says

            @X., it’s hard to be respectful when commenter after commenter makes demonstrably false claims that can be debunked with a five-second Google search. The power of motivated reasoning is truly remarkable.

          • X. Citoyen says


            First, the claim that the U.S., let alone China, India, and Africa can be rapidly transitioned to anything is laughable. As for sharing tech with China, well, China has been sharing our tech with itself for decades. So, as I said, nothing can be done.

            Second, you wouldn’t be so condescending if you knew how little you know. The Lazard report (on which the Forbes piece draws) only looks at the cost of supply from, say, the investor’s standpoint, not the cost of meeting demand, two very different things when you compare renewables to coal, gas, and nuclear.

            The report puts the capacity factor for wind at 55%, which means a wind farm will produce an average of 55% of its nameplate capacity over the year (cf. coal is 93% and nuclear 90%). The unpredictability of wind, seasonal changes, and so on means the capacity might vary from day to day between 0% and 90% of nameplate, whereas coal and nuclear will remain constant. All this means that to replace any portion of the baseload provided by coal or nuclear will probably require quadrupling the nameplate capacity thereby quadrupling the capital investment, which explains why the real cost of wind is far higher than the report shows. Wind can only ever be added to a grid; it cannot replace coal/nuclear.

            In simpler terms, you can only get similar prices for wind and coal if you assume that a coal or nuclear backup is there to cover the baseload. So the real capital investment for the demand side—like a city—is coal/nuclear capacity to cover baseload plus the capital for any wind power capacity.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @Lightning Rose

      “……. “Sea level rise” of 3mm/year? Shoot, that’s 3 of my horse’s TAIL hairs laid side-by-side. I’m damned ……..”

      You aren’t damned AFAIK, but you ARE ignorant. 3mm=1/8inch, approximately.

      • Lightning Rose says

        If you think 1/8″ is going to shatter your world, you’re way more ignorant than I am. And do you really think we have fine-tuned control over that?

        Watch what the “smart money” DOES, not what they SAY. There’s no slowdown of investors building enormous high-rise hotels and condos right on the edge of the sand in Florida, Hawaii, take your pick of resorts around the world. FEMA picks up the tab for rebuilding in known hurricane floodplain zones, even New Orleans which is actually below sea level. I don’t see former president Obama divesting from his beachfront mansion, nor anyone else of the Davos crowd doing so either. Al Gore told us by now the “rising” would have flooded NYC up to the 3rd floor windows on 33rd street. You can only lie to the common people so long; unlike you “academics” (our Betters!), WE know how to look at a ruler. Cheers!

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Lightning Rose

          Thank you for demonstrating that opposition to the idea of climate change is political, not scientific. Hence your mention of Obama, Gore and the ‘Davos crowd.’

          Opposition to science frequently has an anti-elitist, ‘common man’ basis. Examples include climate science deniers, anti-vaxxers [in that case, doctors and Big Pharma are the elites], Lysenkoism in the USSR through the 1950s, creationism, natural healing & homeopathy, and so on.

          Only the federal govt. [FEMA/NFIP] will underwrite flood insurance in the most disaster-prone coastal areas, and they have accumulated a $30B debt–because policyholders are also taxpayers and voters in politically influential states like Florida. So rates have been held artificially low to avoid the sudden collapse of real estate values in those flood-prone areas. But the subsidies can’t go on forever. See: .

          • Jay Salhi says

            @Jack B. Nimble

            What do bad decisions made by the government about insurance have to do with climate change? Here’s what the IPCC reports regarding floods have said:

            “There is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods at regional scales because the available instrumental records of floods at gauge stations are limited in space and time, and because of confounding effects of changes in land use and engineering. Furthermore, there is low agreement in this evidence, and thus overall low confidence at the global scale regarding even the sign of these changes.”

            “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”


            Morever, the IPCC’s statements regarding extreme weather events are not cause for concern.


          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Jay Salhi

            You seem to be confusing river bottom flooding from heavy rain with coastal storm surge. In peninsular Florida, for example, there are few major rivers and the main concern is storm surge. The NFIP DOES protect against coastal storm surge, if the homeowner has a policy.

            That is what I was referring to, as was [I think] @Lightning Rose

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Jay Salhi

      Thanks for some honest data.

      “It is not the 97% agree about everything, the debate is over and anyone who questions anything is a denier standard you have repeatedly promoted at Quillette.”

      I don’t think K is unreasonable. Anything that is truly scientific would meet with respect from him as from me. But there is so much smoke and noise.

      • Jay Salhi says

        The opposing sides actually agree on quite a lot once you sort through all the smoke and noise. But the smoke and noise gets most of the attention.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Jay Salhi

          God knows. When I see a few mutually respecting scientists sit down and have a civil discussion on the possible difficulties with AGW theory, what is agreed, what is questionable, with no one shrieking “Heretic!” at anyone else, I will watch it with interest. You monkeys are such noisy, meddlesome, irritating pests. We dolphins settle these things far more amicably.

  42. Kevin Herman says

    “I totally disagree,” interjected one student in the audience. All eyes shifted. “I don’t like having to evaluate complicated material,” she admitted. “I prefer when my parents teach me to recycle or when my professors tell me how to fight global warming. That way I know I’m doing the right thing.”

    Thats the view point of the vast majority of the uber progressives and sjws. Insert various experts, celebrities, and other elites for the role of parents after a certain point. What a waste of CO2.

  43. jimhaz says

    Gosh this article was pathetic. If I was gay and this bloke was my partner, I’m pretty sure I’d get arrested for domestic violence.

    So much ego. Yes Myles, it is all about you and your anal retentiveness.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Thank you for your enlightened contribution to the discussion.

    • Myles Weber, Winona State University says


      Of all the odd responses to my article, the threat of gay bashing must be deserving of some sort of award.

      • K. Dershem says

        Myles, this is the comment which merited a response? Why not engage with some of the more substantive critiques of your essay?

        • Myles Weber, Winona State University says

          @K. Dershem

          I did post, at excruciating length, above, in response to Cynical Old Biologist, the very first poster. In any event, veiled threats of violence merit a response in all cases, I should think. I’m happy to respond to other postings, if that is standard operating procedure on Quillette.

          • K. Dershem says

            Some authors engage with commenters, most don’t. If you’re willing, I’d be interested in reading your response to my comment (which I also emailed you):

            I assume your educational background is in English rather than science. Mine is in Philosophy. Although I’ve read numerous books about environmental issues, I don’t have any formal training in climate science. Given that fact, I think it’s reasonable to accept the consensus of experts in the field. In your essay you refer to that consensus as “dubious,” but you don’t really explain why. Most of your article consists of anecdotes demonstrating that students and Humanities faculty are not terribly well-informed about the details of climate science. I suspect you would have found comparable levels of ignorance if you asked them about any other branch of science — this is not surprising, nor does it seem relevant to evaluating the likelihood that the consensus is correct. It’s undeniably true that most Americans who are concerned about climate change lack a detailed understanding of the science. So what? Do you think that people are obligated to achieve mastery in a discipline before they’re entitled to express an opinion about issues that relate to it? By this standard, the vast majority of people should remain silent about the vast majority of issues. Following the same standard, it seems unlikely that you’re qualified to write your article.

          • K. Dershem says

            In addition, I think you’re applying the concept of falsifiability in a simplistic and misleading way — as illustrated by this explanation provided by Tom Curtis.

            Falsifiability is a strange concept of limited use in science, despite its popularity. The reason is that when we test any hypothesis, we must make background assumptions both about other conditions, and about how our instruments work. These background assumptions then form auxilliary hypotheses which are tested alongside the hypothesis we actually desire to test. As a consequence, if our test gives a negative result, we do not falsify any individual hypothesis (including the one we wanted to test). Rather we falsify the conjunction of the hypotheses. We show that not all of them can be true together. This is known as the Duhem-Quine Thesis, after its two independent “discoverers”.

            In very simple theories, we can radically reduce the number of auxilliary hypotheses making the particular hypothesis of interest more amenable to falsification in a “crucial test”. We can also vary our experimental methods so that we are testing the theory with different auxilliary hypotheses. Thus, for very simple hypotheses, we can reduce the impact of the Duhem-Quine Thesis, but we can never entirely avoid it.

            Because AGW is a complex theory with many auxilliary hypotheses, it is difficult to develop “crucial tests”, ie, any individual test that will show it to be false. In fact, in the very short term it is impossible. What we can do is develop “crucial tests” for important elements of the theory, but not for the whole theory at once. We can also measure relative likilihood with respect to competing theories. Doing so, we can show that AGW easilly is a superior theory to its competitors. But we cannot pick a single experiment to falsify the theory, so you will not find much discussion of falsification with respect to AGW.

            When you do, it is often for critics of AGW who take a farcically simplistic view of falsification to declare that “AGW is falsified”. Spencer and Christy played this game for a while, declaring the UAH satellite temperature index falsified AGW. Then (on several occasions) they were embarrassed when it was shown that their auxilliary hypothesis that they had eliminated all significant errors from their temperature record was what was false, and that UAH tends to confirm rather than falsify AGW.


        • Jay Salhi says

          @K. Dershem

          You posted an interesting post from Tom Curtis below. His site “And Then There’s Physics” is a much better site than Skeptical Science. The country I live in recently blocked Skeptical Science for unknown reasons so I can no longer visit. But posting to that site as frequently as you do here would be the equivalent of me going to Slate and posting nothing but links to Breitbart. John Cook is a propagandist.

          Back to Curtis’ interesting explanation, which I found to be a good answer to my question about falsifiability. He states:

          “In very simple theories, we can radically reduce the number of auxilliary hypotheses making the particular hypothesis of interest more amenable to falsification in a “crucial test”. We can also vary our experimental methods so that we are testing the theory with different auxilliary hypotheses. Thus, for very simple hypotheses, we can reduce the impact of the Duhem-Quine Thesis, but we can never entirely avoid it.

          Because AGW is a complex theory with many auxilliary hypotheses, it is difficult to develop “crucial tests”, ie, any individual test that will show it to be false. In fact, in the very short term it is impossible. What we can do is develop “crucial tests” for important elements of the theory, but not for the whole theory at once. We can also measure relative likilihood with respect to competing theories. Doing so, we can show that AGW easilly is a superior theory to its competitors. But we cannot pick a single experiment to falsify the theory, so you will not find much discussion of falsification with respect to AGW.”

          I am not competent to assess Curtis claim that “we can show that AGW easilly is a superior theory to its competitors” but even we take it at face value it does not mean the theory is perfect or even mostly correct. What if all existing hypothesis are flawed and the answer remains unknown?

          This degree of nuance and recognition for complexity in the two quoted paragraphs from Curtis posted above is completely at odds with 90 percent of your posts about climate science at Quillette where you routinely over simplify and smear anyone who questions any aspect of the John Cook version of the narrative.

          • K. Dershem says

            Obviously the issue is complicated. The consensus includes recognition of the complexity.
            But the basics are very simple: the climate is changing due to human activity and the long-term consequences are likely to be catastrophic if carbon emissions are not reduced. People who reject that view are engaged in denial, almost certainly for ideological reasons.

          • K. Dershem says

            I am not competent to assess Curtis claim that “we can show that AGW easilly is a superior theory to its competitors” …

            This is exactly my point! Climate scientists are competent to render that judgment, not English or Philosophy professors or non-scientists who derive their talking points from denialist websites. They have carefully considered and debated all of the points being brought up in the comments — that’s how science works.

  44. Aylwin says

    Oh dear. Someone has come across a lot of folk ignorant of some aspects of physics. Therefore he’s right that the scientific consensus is wrong.

    Quillette: just because someone disagrees with something, it doesn’t necessarily make it worth publishing.

    • Aylwin says

      Actually, is this article an April Fool? It seems a good parody of the kind of stuff you might hear from a climate change denier.

  45. Pingback: Never Yet Melted » Taking a Poke at “Settled Science”

  46. Yikes says

    Applying Occam’s razor here, I believe the hostility the author receives is better explained by the author being a pompous jerk who thinks their English degree gives their ignorant opinions preeminence.

  47. Hillel Gazit says

    Real science has one test – predicting future events. Either you can predict the climate next year, or ten years down the road, or your “global warming” is not science. The global warming theory failed, a lot. Manhattan is not under water and there is plenty of ice in the North Pole. No matter what the climate of this year was, the “global warming” guys have great explanations how it was caused by “global warming”. Ask them “what will be the climate next year?” and they have no idea what to say.

    • K. Dershem says

      Hillel, I’m afraid that you’re projecting your own ignorance on people who actually understand the science. Models never predicted that Manhattan would be under water or the North Pole would be ice-free by 2019. They have, however, accurately predicted that average global temperatures will steadily increase.

  48. Karla says

    “Obama’s successor has never suggested that educators must engage in demeaning forms of playacting so as to leave unchallenged a questionable scientific consensus”

    Obama’s successor is an imbecile.

  49. Pingback: Questions Of Science | Transterrestrial Musings

  50. Dror Harari says

    In a Heartland Institute video titled “Debunking the Climate Consensus” ( Christopher Monckton offered the crowd 6 claims relating to the topic of climate change, asking for them to vote their approval:

    Does climate change?
    Has the atmospheric concentration of CO2 increased since late 1950s
    Is man likely to have contributed to the measured increase in atmospheric CO2 since the late 1950s
    Other things being equal, is it likely that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will cause some global warming?
    Is it likely that there has been some global warming since the late 1950s?
    Is it likely that Man’s emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses have contributed to the measured global worming since 1950?

    Unsurprisingly, there was not a single dissenting voice answering No to any of the questions, and this means that at least in this event of ‘climate skeptics’ there was a real 100% consensus about these claims.

    What remains? Remaining are the questions of measurements and predictions. Seemingly questions of hard facts (on one hand) and falsifiable claims (on the other). The fact that there is such a schism about this topic is an evidence that it has been contaminated by political partisanship and other non-scientific considerations.

    Regardless of the determination on any of those claims, the only way man-made CO2 creation can be reversed (and to the degree it is proved desirable) and without incurring much worse human suffering at our own hands, is by means of safe, cheap and abundant nuclear energy.

    See this mind boggling tweeted thread by Nuclear Scientists Mark Schneider for the solution that would render the climate debate moot:

  51. Justin P says

    Great article.

    I would offer GMOs and Glyphosate being another one of these subjects that everyone “knows” the right answer, regardless of what the actual science says, that GMOs are safe and glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

    It’s all virtue signalling. We live in a virtue signalling economy, where signals mean more than actual facts and data. As AOC put it so well, (parapharse) People are to concerned with being factually correct than morally right. I think she’s 90% right. The thing she is wrong about is that most people are not actually concerned with being factually right, only a small minority of people are…the ones that didnt’ sleep through 4th grade science classes.

    • K. Dershem says

      So you’re accepting the scientific consensus when it concurs with your ideological position (GMOs are safe, Roundup is not a carcinogen) but rejecting it when it contradicts your view (AGW is real)? That doesn’t seem very scientific.

      • John Gardner says

        Until mid-19th century, consensus was “all swans are white” which is clearly falsifiable. And it was when explorers landed in W Australia and found black swans.

        So in like manner, how is consensus that “Recent Human-related emissions of CO2 are producing catastrophic climate outcomes” falsifiable? With no identical, but uninhabited planet earth 2.0?

    • Lightning Rose says

      Another example is the “nutritionists” exhorting the world to a “plant-based diet” when it’s well known that we have neither the anatomy nor the enzymes of herbivores necessary to digest cellulose. Not to mention that what they’re selling would render most of us nutrient-deficient, infertile, and eventually likely senile. But don’t let that stand in the way of Health Puritanism driven by the long-debunked piece of hyper-politicized junk science (Ancel Keys’ heart/diet theory) that brought the world the diabetes and obesity epidemic. . .

      Don’t see much tofu served at Davos. Plenty of ribeye . . . do read up on this–it’s an eye-opener.
      Search the work of Nina Teicholz among others.

  52. M Kapoier says

    Sir, thank you for a well-written and sobering article.
    May I suggest that you follow Jordan Peterson’s lead and begin publicizing your views and knowledge via social media: In addition to performing a valuable public service, you will most likely have the opportunity to earn enough for several new bicycles

  53. Lightning Rose says

    The question of safety of both GMO’s and Roundup lies in the realm of attempting to prove a negative, which is impossible. So far, evidence of direct harm is lacking. Does that mean it will not come to light in the future? Or they’re 100% safe? No one knows! The question is unanswerable with the data at hand.

    Likewise, we don’t know what the weather’s going to do 72 hours from now, let alone 72 or 7200 years. We can GUESS; but so can my cat with his paw on a Ouija board. Suppose I say the world will bust out tomorrow with intestinal worms from outer space. You call BS, I say, “yeah, but can you PROVE it won’t happen?” Nope! So far, the evidence for CAGW is precisely as convincing as my assertion that tomorrow you’ll wake up with worms.

    Of course, if you’d LIKE to take thirty trillion dollars’ worth of anthelcides . . . 😉

    • K. Dershem says

      In your view, a hypothesis that has been endorsed by every major scientific body in the world has the same likelihood of being correct as made-up nonsense about space worms? And you’re qualified to make that judgment, despite the fact that you apparently don’t know the difference between weather and climate? Hmmm.

      • rickoxo says

        #K. Dershem
        The point I don’t think you’re taking into consideration was made quite well by Dror Harari above. Maybe 20 years ago people argued about whether the planet was warming or not or whether humans were significantly changing atmospheric CO2 levels, but that’s not a debate any more. Everything your scientists agreed to in the consensus papers pretty much everyone agrees with today. The planet has warmed, we’re emitting lots of CO2, it’s having an effect, all of that is a done deal.

        But what you don’t seem to get is that that admission, that consensus is a nothing burger. It’s not a problem that the planet has warmed over the last 150 years, it’s actually pretty helpful for humans. The question is, what’s going to happen over the next 100 years? And what will the implications be for the planet?

        Neither of those questions are settled science nor is there any meaningful consensus on the science involved. The problem for the AGW crowd is that there cannot be anything like consensus or declarations of settled science about these questions. Take something pretty central and basic, the latest IPCC prediction of 1.5 degrees celsius by 2050 or so (+/- 20% error range). That prediction is based on complicated models of complicated systems that very few scientists are equipped to understand. There’s consensus amongst the IPCC scientists, but the actual number of scientists who know and understand how those predictions are made, and can estimate their accuracy and confidence intervals is a tiny percentage of the thousands of scientists referenced in the different articles on scientific consensus about global warming.

        This is the key point that is critical to understand. There is a clear consensus by tons of scientists who can look at some fairly simple data that the planet has warmed over the last 150 years and that human CO2 emissions have played a role. Almost any lay person can look at the basic data and see the numbers.

        But there is nothing close to that level of consensus on what’s going to happen to the temperature in 30 – 70 – 100 years because the systems and modeling involved are highly complicated and specialized and only a tiny percentage of scientists understand it well enough to have an informed opinion.

        This problem only gets worse when you get into specific predictions about what the climate implications will be for the planet. IPCC scientists say that by 2050 the plant will be 1.5c warmer, but there’s a whole new layer of complicated models and systems, with their own tiny subset of scientists equipped to argue about the likely outcomes of whether or not the glaciers will melt, how natural disasters will respond to climate change, how oceans play a part in all of this, etc. The scientific specialization in each of the areas is incredible, and there are very few experts equipped to have scientifically valid opinions on these topics.

        So in summary, settled science and consensus that the planet has warmed, there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere, humans are emitting it, it’s have a significant effect on temperatures. But there’s no consensus, no settled science in the way that you keep indicating about all the important parts of the AGW debate (i.e. what will temperatures be x number of years from now and what will happen to the planet because of those temperature changes).

      • Jay Salhi says

        Has every major scientific body in the world told us how much warming CO2 causes?

        CO2 casuses some warming. Everyone agrees, including skeptics. Now please tell us precisely how much warming will will get for a doubling of CO2.

      • Jay Salhi says

        @ K. Dershem

        For a philosopher, you sure like to straw man.

        CO2 causes some warming, nobody disagrees. How much warming from a doubling of CO2? Has every major scientific body agreed a figure? No, neither has the IPCC.

        (i) How much warming will we get from a doubling of CO2?

        (ii) Will the effects be, on balance, negative or positive?

        (iii) Realistically, what can be done to change course?

        (iv) If the effects are largely negative, can humans nonetheless adapt?

        (v) Is green energy a viable option?

        The above are all legitimate questions yet you smear anyone who asks as a denier. Personally, I answer those questions as follows:

        (i) I don’t know. As far as I’m aware, neither does anyone else.

        (ii) I don’t know. The IPCC crowd leans negative but the press and activists tend to exaggerate what the IPPC actually says, particularly regarding extreme weather events. And long term forecasts involve lots of uncertainties.

        (iii) With current technology, very little.

        (iv) I hope so. Adaptation is our best hope unless and until new technologies are developed.

        (v) Hell, no. The proposed cure is far worse than the diagnosed disease. It will not materially reduce CO2 emissions but will have catastrophic effects on human welfare which will undermine the ability of future generations to adapt to climate change.

  54. Scott Lund says

    His point is the schools are not teaching critical thinking. That’s all….

    • K. Dershem says

      I think he would have made that point more effectively had he discussed the ways in which scientifically illiterate people are bamboozled by denialism, and offer transparently fallacious arguments to support their view. I guess he did that unintentionally via the comments the article inspired. Truly a master class in motivated reasoning.

  55. What’s your point? You cherry-picked some scientifically illiterate arts students/faculty and took them to task for their tendancy to defer to peer reviewed scientific authority. A fine achievement.

    But what exactly do you have to say to the entire community of atmospheric scientists, climate scientists, oceanographers, physicists, geographers, geologists, geomorphologists etc. who have been painstakingly collecting data, cross-referencing their results, publishing in peer reviewed journals, and who are almost universally UNBELIEVABLY alarmed by anthropogenic climate change??

    What do you have to say to them clever man?

    It’s not very hard to bamboozle arts students or faculty who are (admittedly) quite daft about fairly basic scientific facts. It’s funny that some poetry major – or professor! – thinks carbon dioxide in glass heats up greenhouses. So freaking what? I’m sure they don’t understand how sails work either – maybe they think that wind pushes a boat, maybe they don’t understand Bernuli’s principle either – but what damn difference does that make when they are on a yacht? What possible difference do their intellectual shortcomings amount to when it comes to the physics of global warming? If you really have such a sharp scientific brain why don’t you tangle with someone on your level? Why don’t you make a decisive contribution to the scientific literature and prove to all those silly bean counters just how off base they really are?

    It’s pretty weak tea, mate

    • K. Dershem says

      Very well put, Morgan! I’m sure Myles won’t respond to your post, however.

  56. Kvetching over spilt milk. I’ve come to expect nothing more from Quillette now.

  57. Nate in Seattle says

    This is pretty typical of so-called skeptics, so frequently aligned with the right.

    No, English professor, it’s not a misnomer at all. The glass in your greenhouse, or your car for that matter, also absorbs infrared radiation. It’s not simply a matter of reduced convection. You would know this if you’d taken university thermodynamics courses, as I had to.

    They’re called “greenhouse gasses” because they do exhibit the same ability to absorb infrared energy, albeit without the ability to block convection as a solid would. If students don’t understand that a gas won’t stop convection, we have some bigger problems.

    In any case, there’s basically no convection through the tropopause, anyway, so the inability of greenhouse gasses to limit convection isn’t terribly important for this effect.

    Way to go, Quillette.

    • Myles Weber, Winona State University says

      @ Nate in Seattle

      You seem to be implying that the heat within a greenhouse originating from visible light energy is minimal compared to that from infrared absorption, and that this fact justifies the term “greenhouse gas” in reference to CO2, water vapor, methane, and other gases. My understanding is that the reverse is true regarding the amount of heat in a greenhouse, but I’ll leave it to others to confirm or refute this. (In my essay, I concede to my colleague that infrared absorption might provide a measurable amount of heat in a greenhouse, but that it is dwarfed by the heat originating from visible light energy.) On the issue of the term “greenhouse gas” itself: it obviously misleads people such as my colleagues, which, to my mind, makes it a poor analogy.

      By the way, your suggestion that views “frequently aligned with the right” are categorically disreputable only underscores the problem I was trying to address in my essay.

      • K. Dershem says

        Nate wasn’t implying that right-wing views are necessary disreputable. He was making the point that climate-change denialism is motivated by right-wing ideology: deniers dismiss, distort or misrepresent the science because they dislike the solutions which have been proposed to address climate change. There are multiple examples of this in the comments to your article.

  58. Bob C says

    This article argues that universities discourage individual inquiry and promote group think. It cites opinions on global warming simply to illustrate this point. Yet many commenters here seem to think that the article is primarily about global warming, and they castigate the author, sometimes violently, for advancing heretical opinions on that subject. It does not seem to occur to these commenters that their responses might serve to confirm the author’s thesis. Here’s another thesis: universities may ostensibly exist to promote scholarship and independent thought, but their true purpose is to cement social conformity. This thesis is falsifiable. It would also account for everything the author complains about.

    • K. Dershem says

      If that was his point, it could have been made far more effectively if he focused on anti-GMO activists, an example of left-wing groupthink that rejects sound science.

  59. JH NYC says

    Awesome article. Keep digging and fighting.

  60. Jay Salhi says

    A climate modeler explains why climate modeling is so difficult.

    “The computational power of computers has risen many millions of dollars, but the prediction of global warming is as imprecise as ever. “It is deeply frustrating,” says Bjorn Stevens of the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.”

    Read more of the interview here:

  61. Henry says

    The phrase “questionable scientific consensus” reveals the author’s hand. The consensus that human activity is the greatest contributor to climate change, is supported by numerous scientists (as opposed to English teachers) from a wide range of disciplines.

    I stopped by because I’m frustrated with groupthink on the Left, but this piece is embarrassing, an ego-saturated rant filled with straw-man quotes. I’m out of here.

    • K. Dershem says

      Exactly right. Quillette publishes some worthwhile and thought-provoking articles, but this essay is an embarrassment.

  62. Geofiz says

    There is a relatively easy and straightforward way to test your question as to whether the increase in the earth’s temperature is caused by AGW (anthropogenic global warming) or by natural processes. That is to compare changes in the temperate of the Troposphere with change in the temperature of the stratosphere. The troposphere is the lower portion of the earth’s atmosphere. It is where most weather occurs and it is where the “greenhouse effect” manifests itself. What we see is something quite interesting. From 1900 to around 1950, the temperature of the troposphere and the temperature of the stratosphere increased in tandem. This suggests an increase in overall total solar irradiance (TSI) consistent with warming in an interglacial period which the Holocene is. From about 1950 to 1970 both the troposphere and the stratosphere begin to cool in tandem. However, around 1970 the troposphere began to increase in temperature while the stratosphere continues to cool This relationship continues to be seen to the present day and many other references

    If climate variations were controlled by variations in TSI either as a function of Milankovitch (variations in the earths orbit, precession and tilt) or by absolute variations in solar energy, we would see the temperatures of both the stratosphere and troposphere increase or decrease in tandem. The fact that the temperature of the troposphere is increasing while the temperature of the stratosphere is decreasing suggest the troposphere is trapping more infrared radiation, which is exactly how the greenhouse effect works.

    As the AGW debate has become l politicized, huge amounts of complete and total bulls**t have been spewed out by both sides. For example, there is no evidence the frequency of hurricanes have increased over the past 100 years. We will not go extinct in 12 years.

    However, when you leave the agenda websites and the politicians behind you will find that the science regarding AGW is very solid.

    • Myles Weber, Winona State University says


      Thanks for your example about the stratosphere, about which more below. First, though, when you say “the science regarding AGW is very solid,” we would all benefit from greater specificity. Is the science suggesting that more than half of the warming since 1950 is anthropogenic very solid? Or is the silence solid which suggests that all of the warming is anthropogenic? Or is it solid only when it suggests that a small but measurable fraction of it is anthropogenic? How can you arrive at even a rough estimate? If you can’t arrive at a rough estimate without a “model earth” to test out one scenario with emissions and one without, how has the IPCC arrived at such a high confidence level regarding their claim that more than half of the warming is anthropogenic? I’m trying to make clear these are serious inquiries and not snotty rhetorical questions. That my colleagues and students aren’t even curious about asking such questions is what troubles me. And the fact that asking such questions elicits a deluge of ad hominem arguments (“You’re an English professor!”) troubles me even more.

      About your stratosphere example: How do you reconcile the apparent confirmation of various AWG theories with the apparent refutation of those theories by the missing mid-tropospheric hot spot (I hope I have labeled that correctly). Do you have reservations about the hot spot evidence? If so, why? Moreover, can you explain why the stratosphere would actually cool? I can understand why the troposphere would warm more than the stratosphere at first, but why would additional heat energy in the troposphere cause the higher layers of the atmosphere to cool? Isn’t the only thing “trapping” the heat, as you say, just more heat, which must ultimately find its way into the stratosphere and beyond? You make it sound like the earth would never arrive at a new equilibrium if the CO2 level doubled, and that only the heat from first 280 parts per million can leave the system. The heat converted by the second 280 p.p.m., you seem to imply, is forever contained in the system, permanently accumulating. Please assist a non-scientist.

      • K. Dershem says

        Myles, do you think there’s a conspiracy of climate scientists to perpetuate the hoax of AGW? I don’t see any other explanation for the existence of an overwhelming consensus (which is real, despite attempts to “debunk” it). It seems to me that they’re either corrupt (but very well-disciplined, because almost all of them continue to maintain the fiction) or incompetent, in that they haven’t considered objections that are evidently so obvious that non-scientists like you can see them. Do you dispute other well-established scientific consensuses, or is climate change different for some reason? I’ve asked variations on these questions several times but so far you haven’t responded. You also haven’t addressed my claim that your question about falsification is misguided. You’re obviously entitled to ignore any comments that you’d prefer not to answer, but I would appreciate a response.

        • Jay Salhi says

          Define consensus. Without a precise definition, it is a useless concept.
          Are people arguing about the consensus as you define it or other things?

          The debate is not about whether the earth is warming or whether CO2 is a cause. It is about how much the earth is likely to warm going forward, how big of a role CO2 plays, what the consequences of a warmer planet will be and what we steps we should take to address the changing climate, among other questions. There is no 97 percent consensus on any of those questions.

          By treating the entire issue as a single true / false question rather than a series of questions you arrive at a false dichotomy whereby you have only believers and deniers. There is no conspiracy among climate scientists. The consensus you imagine is an oversimplification. Look below the surface and the believers and skeptics agree on quite a lot, and there in no monolith of believers who agree on everything.

          The most basic question is how much warming will we get from a doubling of CO2? There is no consensus about that. If you disagree, provide a precise figure along with the evidence that 97 percent of climate scientists agree. The inability of climate models, thus far, to provide a precise answer that corresponds with the observed warming is something the modelers themselves openly acknowledge.

          • K. Dershem says

            To the contrary:

            “Climate models published since 1973 have generally been quite skillful in projecting future warming. While some were too low and some too high, they all show outcomes reasonably close to what has actually occurred, especially when discrepancies between predicted and actual CO2 concentrations and other climate forcings are taken into account.

            Climate models since 1973 have shown ‘close match’ between projected and observed warming. Models are far from perfect and will continue to be improved over time. They also show a fairly large range of future warming that cannot easily be narrowed using just the changes in climate that we have observed.

            Nevertheless, the close match between projected and observed warming since 1970 suggests that estimates of future warming may prove similarly accurate.”


            The uncertainty is due to feedback loops.

            It’s absurd to refer to people who accept the consensus (a consensus which includes recognition of that uncertainty) as “believers.” Am I a “believer” because I accept the best judgment of the scientific community on evolution, plate tectonics, germ theory and the safety of GMOs? Is someone who insists that vaccines cause autism a “skeptic”? No, they’re a denier, because they are rejecting a robust and well-established scientific consensus for ideological reasons.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “do you think there’s a conspiracy of climate scientists to perpetuate the hoax of AGW? I don’t see any other explanation for the existence of an overwhelming consensus (which is real, despite attempts to “debunk” it)”

          (i) In a different comment, you have stated “The consensus includes recognition of the complexity. But the basics are very simple: the climate is changing due to human activity and the long-term consequences are likely to be catastrophic if carbon emissions are not reduced. People who reject that view are engaged in denial, almost certainly for ideological reasons.”

          (ii) You have made two separate proposition: (a) the climate is changing due to human activity and (b) the long-term consequences are likely to be catastrophic if carbon emissions are not reduced.

          Your defined of consensus conflates AGW with catastrophic AGW. What is your evidence for a consensus regarding catastrophic AGW? None of the (very flawed) studies alleging 97% consensus investigated catastrophic AGW, they only looked at support for AGW. The IPPC’s attribution statement is about AGW not catastrophic AGW.

          If you have evidence supporting a 97% of scientific consensus on catastrophic AGW, please provide it.

          Conflating AGW with catastrophic AGW is common. Some people do it unwittingly, others do it consciously. Regardless of the motivation, it is an unhelpful practice that should be done away with.

          If you focus only on AGW, then the false dichotomy you imagined whereby it must be “a conspiracy of scientist to perpetuate a hoax” or the “consensus is correct’ disappears. The things people are arguing most about are not matters of consensus.

        • Jay Salhi says

          “Models are far from perfect and will continue to be improved over time. They also show a fairly large range of future warming that cannot easily be narrowed using just the changes in climate that we have observed.”

          So you admit that there is a large range of uncertainty about future warming yet you jump to a comparison with vaccines, which is a horrible analogy. We eradicated smallpox and polio with vaccines. We have very good evidence about the efficacy of vaccines. The vaccine analogy is valid only if the state of our knowledge about the two topics (vaccines and climate) is equal. It isn’t.

          A person who argues that climate sensitivity is closer to the lower end of the IPCC’s range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C, it not the equivalent of an anti-vaxer.

          ““I believe in science” is almost always invoked these days in support of one particular scientific claim: catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. And in support of one particular political solution: massive government regulations to limit or ban fossil fuels.

          But these two positions involve a complex series of separate scientific claims—that global temperatures are rising, that humans are primarily responsible, that the results are going to be catastrophic for human life, that rising temperatures can be halted—combined with a series of economic and political propositions. For example: that action to ban fossil fuels would be more efficacious than using the wealth made possibly by fossil fuels to help humans adapt to future climatic changes.”

          Let’s parse that out:

          (i) global temperatures are rising;

          (ii) humans are primarily responsible;

          (iii) results are going to be catastrophic; and

          (iv) getting rid of fossil fuels is the solution as opposed to using increased wealth from fossil fuels to better adapt to a warmer planet.

          Skepticism about points (iii) and (iv) is not a denial of points (i) or (ii).

          Asking for precision on point (ii) about the role played by CO2 relative to other human activity or relative to natural variation is also not denial. These are legitimate questions the answers to which are being actively explored.

        • Jay Salhi says

          For anyone genuinely interested in the topic, the link below contains analysis by three different climate scientists who have researched the hotspot, including the author of the study in K. Dershem’s link (Steven Sherwood). The other two are Carl Mears and John Christy.

      • Geofiz says

        1) The stratosphere is cooling because there is less heat being radiated upward from the troposphere due to the increased efficiency of the greenhouse effect. In addition, we are approximately midway through a Milankovitch cycle. We can measure total solar irradiance (TSI), the amount of energy coming form the sun in watts per square meter. Since 1950 the rate of increase in TSI has greatly slowed. It is too soon to determine what this means, but it is very interesting. However, don’t look for a glacial event for very very long time

        2) No we will not become Venus. If you turn off the heat in a greenhouse in winter it will still get cold. The greenhouse effect is not a perfect seal and temperature will not continue to increase linearly with increase in CO2, there is a point at which equilibrium will be reached.

        3) The mid-tropospheric hot spot is a bit of a red herring. A IPCC model predicted that we should see it. Monckton, a well-known AGW skeptic seized on it a proof that AGW is not occurring. But:

        a. Recent research by Sherwood in 2015 suggest that it does exist.

        b. Documenting this is not easy. The earth is a complex system and computer models, buy their very nature, are simplifications. They provide a guide to where to search for data, not an answer. It is the data that documents the theory, not the model. Finding the mid-tropospheric hot spot has been extremely difficult because it required a large amount of sensor recordings at various altitudes in the troposphere at various geographic locations over a long period of time. There has to be enough data collected to cancel out the effects of random weather fluctuations, decadal fluctuations in oceanic currents, and La Nina El Nino fluctuations, all of which effect the measurements. Political proponents of AGW like to cast scientists as demi-gods who make supernatural revelatory pronouncements from on high. The phrase “scientists say” means it must be gospel. Conversely, skeptics try to find unresolved issues and use them to pontificate that if one thing is not proven then the whole theory is wrong. Neither are correct. Science is an iterative process. We are still answering questions about evolution 160 years after Origin of the Species was published. Scientific theories are based on a preponderance of evidence, not absolute truth. Even though I disagree with some of the AGW skeptics, I listen to them, as the problems they point out help to direct future research. However, the data supporting AGW is overwhelming.

        In the end you can make a political statement or you can search for the truth. You cannot do both.

        Geofiz means geophysicist.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Geofiz, a question.

      The IPCC’s attribution statement addresses warming since 1951. Is your comment meant to suggest that warming during the first half of the 20th century was due to natural variation whereas warming post 1970 is not? This his how I interpret your comment but I’m not sure my interpretation is accurate. Adding to my confusion is the fact that many explanations of AGW start with the late 19th century and refer to the warming since about 1880.

      • Geofiz says


        One could argue that AGW started when the first caveman built a fire to stay warm. I don’t know where the 19th century attribution for the beginning of AGW came from but I assume that it is largely based on increase in usage of coal associated with the industrial revolution. I do not see scientific evidence for this. We were coming out of the “Little Ice Age” at that time but that was due to natural causes. I am in agreement with the IPCC’s 1950’s number. That is when we first begin to see the effects of AGW as separate from warming by increased solar energy. The 70’s is when it really become apparent. Warming before the 1950’s is associated with documented increases in solar energy and thus is largely due to natural causes. AGW may have been a factor, but not the dominant one.

        • Jay Salhi says

          Thanks for answering all my questions. I’ll understand if you grow weary and don’t want to answer one more.

          “Warming before the 1950’s is associated with documented increases in solar energy”. Is the association based on sunspot data or some other data? The graph linked to below does not seem to suggest a correlation between sunspots and temperature increases in the first half of the 20th century.

          Note this is a question, not a statement. I find discussions of solar activity harder to penetrate than discussions about other climate topics.

          • Geofiz says

            This is a good question. Some but not all variations in solar energy can be related to sunspots. There is an ~11-year cycle that is very well documented and there is an a larger ~85 years cycle. However, there are variations in solar energy that occur over a longer time scale that do not show well defined periodicity and are not necessarily associated with sunspot activity. For example, the Little Ice age lasted from around 1450 to 1820. Within this period were the Sporer, Maunder and Dalton minima. The Maunder and Dalton minima showed low amounts of sunspots. Discovery of the Sporer minimum was not based on sunspot observation but rather study of C14 in tree rings.These were the coldest periods within the Little Ice Age. But the larger-scale period of lower temperatures had sunspot minima and maxima.

            Today and for a large portion of the 20th century we directly measured absolute variations in solar energy. Variations in solar energy the past are measured by looking at tree rings, oceanic micro-fauna, and isotopic variations in bubbles of the ancient atmosphere trapped in ice cores. This is how we have documented these longer-term fluctuations. To determine that climate change prior to the 1950’s is natural I am looking at increases in TSI (total solar irradiance) and correlating them with temperature increases.

            Natural climate changes have had great effects on human population long before AGW. Many believe that the formation of the Mesopotamian occurred around 6400 BC, when climate change resulted in severe droughts and forced a mass migration from rain-fed areas to an area in which crops could be irrigated by the Tigris and Mesopotamian rivers.


  63. Richard says

    The planet is warming? I don’t care. I live in Canada – we could use a warmer climate.

    • Jackson Howard says

      You’ll get it. Canada has double the sensitivity.

      Best of luck.

  64. Villi John Petersen says

    All these IPCC and media speculations, that 97% of climate scientist believe in AGW can easily be dismisst: If it´s true or false is of no significans, what matters is, if it´s important, and it´s not! 0,8 grades C rise of temperature has no but good implications for life on earth. (more CO2 means greener planet!) Let´s go back to scientifical facts: 1. There are no statistical evidents of more extreem weather.2. There is no significant sea level rise (3mm(year), and 3. the ice melting on Greenland and Arctic is similar to the melting from 1920-40 – its cyklic. In Antarctic the ice have increased. Is that a disaster? No, it´s not even a
    climate change! Look at your old atlas and the plant regions (the emergens of climate) are the same as 50 years ago!. (I am danish, so please excuse my lingual failures).

  65. Eric Chevlen says

    I have one small quibble concerning this essay, a quibble which does not undermine its fundamental theses. (It is indirect praise that I find nothing more to disagree with than the following.)

    You wrote, “Mastery of a subject, I explain to my charges, will allow them to let their minds wander over a wide terrain of data and construct tests of falsification that will either confirm or debunk the reigning orthodoxy.”

    A falsification test may debunk a theory. Such a test may corroborate a theory. But a falsification test cannot confirm a theory.

    This is such a fundamental point of scientific logic that it is inconceivable to me that you do not know it. I wonder if, in a fit of esotericism, you inserted this error to demonstrate that even professors who teach critical thinking may err, and are not exempt from challenge. If not that, then I must look benignly on the peccadillo, and remind myself that good Homer, too, nodded.

  66. Anand says

    Apologies for the wall of text but for crying out loud, the author is not some brave academic for having crackpot colleagues who don’t know a thing.

    It’s like in the town of blind, the one eyed man is the king. And this college he teaches at sounds like a town full of blind people if what the author claims about the teachers is true.

    Regarding the greenhouse effect, the author is right that carbon dioxide doesn’t have much to do inside an actual greenhouse. However he doesn’t seem to have a clue about how greenhouses actually work. The glass of the greenhouse allows higher frequency (shorter waves) sunlight to enter in which when strikes on the objects inside is reflected as low frequency infrared light (longer waves). The greenhouse glass blocks most of the reflected infrared light inside the enclosure thus heating it. The same is the case with earth’s atmosphere which allows smaller light waves to enter and blocks the larger reflected infrared waves keeping the earth warm. Hence the term greenhouse effect is correct.

    If there were no atmosphere on earth, night time temperatures would dip very low and earth wouldn’t be habitable. Infact planets that lack atmosphere have extreme cold temps at night. Think of the glass on a greenhouse or earth’s atmosphere as a sort of non-return valve which allows trapping of heat.

    Next with regards to water vapour being the top contributor in trapping heat, sure that is technically right. But that gives an incomplete picture of the problem. Rising temps cause increase in water vapour which further increase the greenhouse effect. So it’s like a positive feedback loop. However the reason this happened in first place is because of rising CO2 levels in atmosphere (second biggest contributor). Air is pretty much 77% nitrogen and almost 23% oxygen by mass. CO2 and other gases are not even 1%. Thus fluctuations in CO2 levels have a much profound effect on earth’s temperature. And manmade (anthropogenic if you want to sound fancy) CO2 is a big contributor in this equation. Thus the need for reducing CO2 emissions and that’s why we talk of carbon footprint and not water vapour footprint.

    To top all this nonsense off he uses his stupid Obama vs Trump analogy to somehow claim that global warming and climate change are unchallenged scientific consensus. Neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on stupidity and ignorance. There are people who believe in all kinds of nonsense and can be found in any political camp.

    Maybe professor braveheart should stick to teaching English like he’s supposed to instead of confusing young impressionable students with his pseudo scientific nonsense.

  67. Jay Salhi says

    As far as the general public and the policy makers are concerned, the manner in which the mainstream media reports science has more influence than the scientific literature which neither the public nor members of Congress read.

    On June 24, 1988, in the wake of James Hansen’s famous Congressional testimony, the New York Times published an editorial including the following:

    “Mathematical models have predicted for some years now that a buildup of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil and other gases emitted by human activities into the atmosphere would cause the earth’s surface to warm by trapping infrared radiation from the sun, turning the entire earth into a kind of greenhouse.

    If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes, reaching as much as 20 degrees, and lower at the Equator.

    The rise in global temperature is predicted to cause a thermal expansion of the oceans and to melt glaciers and polar ice, thus causing sea levels to rise by one to four feet by the middle of the next century. Scientists have already detected a slight rise in sea levels. At the same time, heat would cause inland waters to evaporate more rapidly, thus lowering the level of bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.”

    The piece is full of quotes from prestigious scientists giving the impression that this was all mainstream science at the time. If it was not in fact mainstream science, some mainstream scientists ought to have pointed that out. This pattern repeats itself over and over again with every round of doomsday predictions. Hansen told Congress in June 1988 that we had ten years to do something about it before we would reach a “tipping point”.

    When the public is bombarded with doomsday predictions like these that fail to materialize, the results are predictable.

  68. Alain aka Trickster says

    Whoa! with the best intent I could not read the entire corpus of comments. How come it’s so difficult to differentiate between facts and opinions? Nope I won’t tell you what I think about AWG. All I think is that our planet will be still turning around the sun when Anthropoids won’t.

    • Foyle says

      Well we are told the the world is going to end in 12 years so you’re probably right.

      I wish everyone would start treating the startlingly near and likely inevitable arrival of General AI, and soon after that super intelligence (recent AI research conference had 43% estimating General AI within 10 years) with even 10% of the concern they do for climate change. It’s a real immediate threat that is quite likely to lead to total extinction of humans within a few decades of now.

      Maybe the world really is going to end in 12 years.

      • Jackson Howard says

        No. We are being told that the +1.5°C target will be dead impossible in 12 years barring the initiation of serious efforts (i.e ~-50% emissions by 2030).

        It’s all about carbon budgeting. 12 years doing nothing = carbon budget for +1.5°C is gone.

        IMO this is a bit silly, as budgeting means that we know the climate sensitivity with good accuracy. Which we don’t. Also, +2°C will not be the end of the world. It would just be a slightly different one. On the other hand +4°C would likely be a very different world. As different as an Ice age.

        I’m quite disappointed at Quillette with respect to bad science. I’d rather have them explore conservative response to the issue of climate change, rather than the conservative denial of climate change which looks very silly.

        If one is interested in non-silly critics of climate science, science of doom is the best place in town.

        • Jay Salhi says

          Your summation of the science re: carbon budgeting is accurate. But that’s not the popular narrative. A member of Congress did literally say the earth would end in 12 years if we didn’t act to stop it. Bernie Sanders has said that he will ban all fracking if he is elected President. Kamela Harris thinks every flood, wild fire and hurricane is caused by global warming (never mind that the IPCC takes a different view). The six leading Democrat Presidential candidates have all endorsed the ridiculous GND.

          The popular narrative is one of cataclysmic doom and gloom and idiotic solutions that will make things worse not better. And that narrative needs to be challenged because it is the one policy makers are paying attention to (the current President being a notable exception).

          • Jackson Howard says

            Unfortunately this is a classical case of Science => Journalists => Politician game of Chinese whispers.

            From what I see we will have to walk a fine line between doing an energy transition to non fossil sources because 1) avoid a catastrophic +4°C outcome and 2) anticipate the shale boom decline (those wells decline fast and are low ERoEI and are nearly all operating at loss).

            The problem is that if you go too agressive in the energy transition (like the GND) you crash the econ / bankrupt yourself, but if you wait too long to start it you face the case of investing energy in a transition against a fossil depletion backdrop coupled with real global warming nasties (not a pleasant case).

            As it seems the left is pig headed for agressive GND as a carrier for their pet peeve policies, while the right is dead set to run as long as possible on fossils, consequences be damned.

            The lack of level headed thinking is appalling, especially when considering the implied national security issues. In the meantime, China is getting busy at owning the solar/wind industry. I guess they realized that a mature economy running on solar/wind will face maintenance/replacement annual costs similar in scale to fossil fuels imports.

  69. Harald Waldrauch says

    So an English professor tries to lecture us on science? Really?
    And to what ultimate purpose does he assemble all of these self-serving, smugly presented anecdotes? The only one I make out is that he tries to give the impression that people have accepted climate science for too long, that they work with false assumptions, and that there are serious doubts to be raised about human made climate change is real.
    Quillette, please: any chance you could not become another voice for climate change deniers? If there are any questions to be resolved in that context, leave it to the experts to work through them and then report of the result. But don’t become another outlet that lets self-proclaimed experts (English professor!?!) with very transparent political goals “raise justified concerns”. Promoting heterodox thinking is a good thing, but that dos not absolve you from making sure that the pieces submitted are actually any good!

  70. Barney Doran says

    Now this guy I would have liked to have had as a professor. An sob with a sense of humor and command of the facts. Very entertaining, very instructive. Can you imagine anything better for your 8:00 am? And he would probably have been as hungover as I was.

  71. Jon Limbird says

    petitio principii “God exists therefore…..” “CO2 causes temperatures to rise….”
    you cannot debate a religious dogma…

    OH, by the way.. what is the recommended CO2 concentration for production greenhouses?

    • dirk says

      Good question Jon, and a practical one. Here in our greenhouse region Westland, doubling the concentration results in (depending on season and light) some 5% extra growth. Not very much, and the farmer has to calculate whether the costs to supply it are worth the investment by that extra yield, not always the case. However, what’s good for a tomato, is not so for the planet, the climate and general plantgrowth, of course, nohow, especially not for the glaciers and the microclimate and water supply at the foot of high mountains. Here, not the CO2, but the water and nutrients limit the growth and yields most.

  72. Laverne Dietzel says

    It’s interesting to me that the discussion devolved so completely onto both a subject which was not really the focus of the original essay and from that into a constant stream of personal attacks in place of counter arguments. I left academia and moved to the business world many years ago when I realized most academics aren’t scholars but technocrats. Sadly, technocrats who, because they have spent so much time achieving an in depth knowledge of a particular (usually very narrow) subject believe their abilities automatically qualify them to make conclusions about areas of which they have spent little to no time investigating. When you get a bunch of them together they echo the mantras of the view — whatever it happens to be — and think because there is a sea of knowing looks and nodding heads, they are automatically right and, worse, need to go no farther in their investigation than the mantras.

    I once worked at the Space Science and Engineering building under Dr. Verner Suomi, the “father of satellite meteorology.” It was the mid-1980’s and both Time and US News and World Report (or perhaps Newsweek?), had articles on the “coming mini-ice-age” expected in or around 2015 — about 30 years out. I read the articles and asked him what he thought. He chuckled and noted that “we can’t predict the weather in 5 days, what makes anybody think we can predict the climate in 30 years?” I then asked him a followup question: “What would it take?” He thought about it for a moment and replied: “A lot more data. Probably at least 30 times more than we have now.”

    In the end the whole thing rests on data. Good science uses data to build theory, Theory is used to set up experiment and experiments are only as good as you can control or account for variables. This, in the end, means that the answers of any particular experiment are subject to mistakes in their structure (usually being unaware or unable to control for one or more variables). Most climate science though, begins with a model and, using that model, tries to reinforce the theory. In other words, because of a high degree on consensus climate change is theory driven, not data driven. Thus, the falsification of data (or the “manipulation” of it) is a very real problem. If the data doesn’t fit the model you tweak the model so that the theory the model supports is still true or you assume your data is “inconclusive” — which means it never sees the light of day –, an “aberration” — which means it’s assumed to be “bad” data and usually ignored or even “tossed,” — or “faulty” — a vague term that denotes “we don’t know why it says what it says but it must be some problem in the collection process and thus we can throw it out.” All three are problems in data collection and use and when you get a theory presented as a “fact” you end up with the need to make sure the “fact” is preserved, usually at the cost of open discussion, debate, and, most importantly, the data.

    Notice here though, I am NOT claiming climate change, the “fact” claimed by the vast majority of scientists is actually a fact or not. I’m a climate change agnostic I have not the expertise in enough fields to declare any overarching organizing principle to be the case. I can adjudicate things having to do with my expertise, but that’s a very narrow field and I, unlike too many of my colleagues do not attempt to stray into areas where I have not done my homework.

    And that is what I am saying. Too many people go through life making judgments about things about which they know too little. When that happens and they and their mantras are prodded, they decide the one using the prod must be an idiot and usually find a way to attack the holder of the prod rather to address the place where the prod is hurting their cherished beliefs.

    That is the point of the article, in my opinion. Is it possible to teach critical thinking when the basis of decision making is how I feel about it? (And since feelings don’t need work and come quite easily I don’t have to understand all that “complexity” do I?) And is it possible, once a culture has come to a consensus, to actually challenge that consensus? It has been my experience that it is not — and sadly, especially on our university and college campuses, which, traditionally speaking, are supposed to be the bastions of “free” thinking.

    So lets answer these two questions and get this thread on to what I believe is the subject of the original post.


  73. Isaias says

    Fairly illustrative of how public debate works (so to speak) at present, not only concerning climate change but, in general, any issue that generates controversy, be it gender politics, immigration, veganism… you name it. You do not need to take a look at some serious science, you just need to be ‘on the right side of history,’ which means you just need to be leftist, in practical terms. Because, as we all know (and sorry for the unintended pun), the left is always right. Until not so long ago, the right used to rely on tradition, religion, or the status quo per se, and had little or no regard for science, for fear that science could debunk their groundless assumptions. But, lo and behold, now things have changed completely.
    Maybe it is merely for convenience’s sake (I wouldn’t rule it out completely) or maybe because they have learned their lesson, those we can loosely define as conservatives/classical liberals tend more and more to base their claims on science and reliable knowledge: after all, that’s what knowdledge should be for. On the contrary, those on the left tend to rely more and more on feelings and emotion, and if reality and verifiable data contradict them… well, so much the worse for data and reality.
    It is fairly significant that one of the people mentioned in this article, when questioned about her position on climate change, simply refers to her group (her tribe, one might say) and to how they are ‘good people.’ Which means good people just CAN’T be wrong. To which we might argue reminding the old adage, ‘The road to hell…’
    All the causes embraced by the left at present, be it climate change, racism, environmentalism, or gender issues, are dealt with in the same manner: dogma rather than facts and data, or in case data are offered, it is just under the cherry-picking technique; consequently, indoctrination rather than persuasion and frank debate; consequently, in turn, public bullying and ostracism of disenters, seen as heretics: in other words, Thinquisition.
    The terrible thing is that this is happening not merely in the media, the social networks, or the political arena, which would be bad enough in and of itself. As we see from this article and from many pieces like this appearing on a dialy basis everywhere, this has already become common currency in academic institutions, which will have catastrophic consequences for all of us.
    I am not going to delve into the egg or the chicken debate as to whether it was the academe that fed the public arena with much of the bullshit we see today, or if it was the media-turned-activists that used the academe for their ideological purposes. Right now, both are feeding off each other.
    What can students or the public at large do to defend themselves? Fair doses of skepticism wouldn’t go amiss, for starters, directed at everyone, even if, or precisely because, the source is a ‘friendly’ one. Honest enquiry, in a nutshell, and leave religion and belief for your temple.

  74. Jay Salhi says

    One of the topics that has been discussed in the comments to this article and other climate articles at Quillette is the question of whether science has been corrupted by politics. One response to the claim that the IPCC is too political, is that this implies thousands of scientists have been engaging in a conspiracy, which seems highly implausible. This argument sometimes becomes an assertion that there are only two possibilities: either (i) AGW is going to lead to catastrophe unless drastic action is taken or (ii) the world’s climate scientists are engaged in a massive conspiracy.

    This is a false dichotomy that conflates AGW with catastrophic AGW and further (falsely) asserts a scientific consensus in favor of the latter. But it is not unique to the comments at Quillette. The catastrophic narrative is the one that carries the day in popular discourse.

    MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen wrote an article in 2009 explaining how climate science became too political. It is an interesting read with both a theoretical framework and lots of specific examples. I won’t attempt to summarize other than to say there is no conspiracy. Read it and judge for yourself.

  75. Don Lawrence says

    I’m not an academic. I barely eked out a BA in philosophy under Dr. John Silber at UT Austin about two generations ago, so the air of this thread seems a bit rarefied to me. I hope I shan’t set the good doctor spinning in his grave overmuch.

    The author decries the lack of rigor and basic scientific knowledge in academia and mentions the three rhetorical appeals (which I had to look up and are: ethos or ethical — to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character; pathos or emotional appeal — to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions; and logos or logic — to convince an audience by use of logic or reason, including facts or statistics).

    So, this thread spins about whether the supposed experts are in fact credible, then whose facts are facts, or logically interpreted facts, leaving the average person, who may vote, asking WTF? All it takes then are a few Limbaughs, Hannitys, Kochs, and Trumps to emotionally spin the most powerful civilization on earth out into far right field. Ethos, logos, pathos. Tweedle dee, Tweedle dum, apocolypse now.

    I repeat WTF?

    But, back to the beginning. No, the real beginning, of the universe, such as it may have been. In the beginning was God, or so some people believe, and the young John Hagee preached to me sitting on a hard wood pew in my youth. But paraphrasing Dr. Silber in a 101 class, “by definition, there is no supernatural in a natural world”. And, for me it all changed.

    So, how many Americans believe in a personal God, and what responsibility do the academicians or our education system in general have for that? If our institutions of higher education and their faculties do not have the balls to say unequivocally that there is nothing supernatural in this world ‘”then we are of all men most miserable”. Paul, not of the Beatles, said that.

    Either prayer is a possible remedy for climate change or it is not. Or, will someone argue that it may have some effect and we just can’t measure it yet? If it is not acceptable to say that the investigators prayed over the data or as the old cartoon has it, “Then a miracle occurred”, then someone (the experts?, a consensus of experts? academics who have spent their careers becoming expert on who is expert and how to become an expert? tenured professors?) needs to grow a pair and state some first principles. You know, settled science, some things about which there is no reasonable dissent. The earth goes around the sun kind of thing. Vaccinations are effective. Negative reinforcement creates long term dysfunction.

    High on that list I would suggest: “There is not now nor has there ever been credible evidence for supernatural occurrences or a life after death’.

    You laugh. Don’t. The barbarians are at the gate notwithstanding the first image of a black hole and success of Falcon Heavy. This thread is largely about court intrigue and arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    I refer you to this partial video by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in which he breaks down religious belief in America. Don’t roll your eyes at me! Take a moment to watch it.

    Religious belief is broadly defined as belief in a personal god to whom you pray and you believe can intervene in the events of your life.

    Americans with “religious belief” – 90%
    Having any MA – 60
    Scientists (Natural, eng, math) – 40
    National Acad of Science – 7

    As Tyson points out, the 90% is remarkable in this day and age, but understandable. It is the 40% that’s amazing and the 7% that’s downright scary.

    How can it be that persons with that supposed degree of knowledge and exposure to science can still harbor religious belief?

    Why is it that those who should know better cannot or will not take more concrete action to stem the tide of scientific illiteracy and its negative effects?

    Who can and should do something about it? What should be done?

    Who gives a shit and why?

    These questions are left as an exercise to the student.
    Good luck and may God Bless America.

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