The Thought Experiment That First Made Me A Climate Skeptic

Please check out my Forbes post today.  Here is how it begins:

Last night, the accumulated years of being called an evil-Koch-funded-anti-science-tobacco-lawyer-Holocaust-Denier finally caught up with me.  I wrote something like 3000 words of indignation about climate alarmists corrupting the very definition of science by declaring their work “settled”, answering difficult scientific questions with the equivalent of voting, and telling everyone the way to be pro-science is to listen to self-designated authorities and shut up.  I looked at the draft this morning and while I agreed with everything written, I decided not to publish a whiny ode of victimization.  There are plenty of those floating around already.

And then, out of the blue, I received an email from a stranger.  Last year I had helped to sponsor a proposal to legalize gay marriage in Arizona.  I was doing some outreach to folks in the libertarian community who had no problem with gay marriage (after all, they are libertarians) but were concerned that marriage licensing should not be a government activity at all and were therefore lukewarm about our proposition.  I suppose I could have called them bigots, or homophobic, or in the pay of Big Hetero — but instead I gathered and presented data on the number of different laws, such as inheritance, where rights and privileges were tied to marriage.  I argued that the government was already deeply involved with marriage, and fairness therefore demanded that more people have access to these rights and privileges.  Just yesterday I had a reader send me an email that said, simply, “you changed my mind on gay marriage.”  It made my day.  If only climate discussion could work this way.

So I decided the right way to drive change in the climate debate is not to rant about it but instead to continue to model what I consider good behavior — fact-based discussion and a recognition that reasonable people can disagree without that disagreement implying one or the other has evil intentions or is mean-spirited.

This analysis was originally published about 8 years ago, and there is no longer an online version.  So for fun, I thought I would reproduce my original thought experiment on climate models that led me to the climate dark side.

I have been flattered over time that folks like Matt Ridley have picked up on bits and pieces of this analysis.  See it all here.

5 thoughts on “The Thought Experiment That First Made Me A Climate Skeptic”

  1. A site I like that (a) holds to a strictly respectful fact-based discussion of the subject (see the “about” page etc.) and (b) goes into the real math and science and meticulously reviews each piece of reasoning is scienceofdoom dot com. Now, it doesn’t go in the direction it sounds like you prefer, the long series of discussions on the science end up endorsing much of the core of the modern scientific consensus around the physics of greenhouse and global warming (though pointing out places where public media frequently argues well beyond the science).

  2. Let me add that while Mann is labeled here an advocate of high warming, I have heard him respond to a question along the lines of ‘Is warming from climate models vastly overstated’, and he responded, “I agree with that. I have a reputation out there of being some sort of climate alarmist, but I think there is a missing negative feedback.’
    The question was in response to Mann’s talk that the Medieval Warm Period was not global because of a natural phenomenon that produced LaNina like effects in the tropics.
    Mann posited the work of Mark Cane as a possible explanation.

    Thus the questioner asked if similar long-term effects could be expected in response to global warming.

  3. Read the blog. Read the comments. This is not a place for rational discussion, much less scientific discussion.

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