The best argument I have ever seen against the idea that humans are dangerously warming the earth — that is, against the view of Al Gore, Elizabeth Kolbert, and thousands of other people who claim to understand what they are talking about — comes, strangely enough, from a supporter of this view.
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent, a highbrow London newspaper. He interviewed Freeman Dyson — who, like me, thinks the conventional certainty on this issue is far too strong — on the subject. The headline of the interview labels Dyson a “heretic”. Connor wants to know how Dyson reacts to what seems to Connor to be overwhelming evidence.
The interview is by email. Dyson says he has no faith in the models. Connor writes:
I was only trying to find out where your problem lies with respect to the scientific consensus on global warming. As you know these models [that Dyson doesn’t believe] are used by large, prestigious science organizations such as NASA, NOAA and the Met Office, which use them to make pretty accurate predictions about the weather every day. The scientists who handle these models point out that they can accurately match up the computer predictions to real climatic trends in the past, and that it is only when they add CO2 influences to the models that they can explain recent global warming.
There it is. The scientists who use the weather models every day, who know them better than anyone else say that we should believe them because 1. They can fit “real climatic trends in the past”. This is meaningless. The models have lots of adjustable parameters. Perhaps they could have fit any plausible past trends. 2. They “make pretty accurate predictions about the weather every day” — that is, predictions of the weather of the next week or so.
This is admission of defeat. It’s as if you say you can throw a ball a mile and, when someone asks how you know this, you say, “I’ve thrown a ball 10 yards quite often.” If you had thrown a ball more than 10 yards you would have said so. If the models had predicted accurately more than a week in advance their boosters would have said so.
It isn’t just Steve Connor who unintentionally makes a really good case for the opposite of what he believes. Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize winner in Biology and President of the Royal Society, hosted a recent BBC show called Science Under Attack in which we were supposed to believe predictions of global catastrophe because weather models can predict the weather for the next few days. A NASA weather expert said that! Nurse took him seriously.
My goodness. If the President of the Royal Society is this credulous, what are the ordinary members like?