Michael J.I. Brown, “Adversaries, zombies and NIPCC climate pseudoscience,” September 26, 2013, 2017-08-07T12:47:58+00:00

Michael J.I. Brown is an astronomer at Monash University (Australia), and this review originally appeared on a blog called “The Conversation.” He calls Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science “partisan pseudoscience,” yet immediately follows this claim by parroting the silliest of claims made by the truly partisan advocates of pseudoscience: “We know 97% of climate scientists have concluded, based on the evidence, that anthropogenic climate change is real.” This claim has been debunked too many times for a real scientist to repeat it without shame.

Brown follows this blunder with another: “Contrary to recent claims in the media, there is remarkably good agreement between models of climate change and the temperature data.” Climate Change Reconsidered explains why climate models fail to accurately describe climate conditions, forcings, and feedbacks (Chapter 1) and how their forecast have failed to predict the lack of warming during the past 16 years (Chapter 4).

Brown claims the IPCC “produces a comprehensive and critical overview of climate change science for governments. It is written by hundreds of scientists, anyone can volunteer to review drafts, and those comments appear online.” This is contradicted by many accounts of the IPCC’s procedures, including by the prestigious InterAgency Council (IAC). The IPCC is first and foremost a political organization, not a scientific organization. No scientific organization would allow politicians to determine who can participate, allows politicians to rewrite its reports line-by-line in closed door sessions, or allow lead authors to disregard extensive criticism provided by reviewers. The  IPCC is guilty of all these things, and worse.

Brown correctly observes that NIPCC offers its views as a “Team B” to the IPCC’s “Team A,” but claims “this approach only works if the intended audience can effectively assess the arguments presented. Can a general audience or policy makers distinguish truth from fiction when it comes to technical aspects of climate science?”

We answer “yes,” and ask in return, “Can an astronomer distinguish truth from fiction when it comes to technical aspects of biology, climatology, economics, geology, oceanography, and physics?” If he can, how? And why can’t other nonspecialists do the same?

As I wrote recently for Heartland’s blog at somewhatreasonable.com,

A physicist is no more likely than a sociologist to know what human emissions will be 50 years from now — if a slight warming would be beneficial or harmful to humans or the natural world; if forcings and feedbacks will partly or completely offset the theoretical warming; if natural variability will exceed any discernible human effect; if secondary effects on weather will lead to more extreme or more mild weather events; if efforts to reduce emissions will be successful; who should reduce emissions, by what amounts, or when; and whether the costs of attempting to reduce emissions will exceed the benefits by an amount so large as to render the effort counterproductive.

Uncertainty about these matters is pervasive in the science community. If the alarmists are wrong about even one or two of them, human greenhouse gas emissions move out of the realm of a nuisance requiring a response — whether by governments or via a (presently nonexistent) global property rights regime — and into the realm of speculation. For example, if modest warming and the fertilization effect of CO2 have boosted agricultural output around the world — something biologists have no doubts about — then the Third World owes the First World an enormous debt of gratitude for that positive externality of the Industrial Revolution, though that is not a debt the First World is entitled to collect.

Brown says “the IPCC’s comprehensive approach to evaluating climate science makes sense, with experts providing an overview of the science for policy markers. It also explains why the minority wishing to delay action are promoting an adversarial approach.” But the IPCC’s approach isn’t “comprehensive.” It deliberately minimizes and hides uncertainty and consideration of forcings and feedbacks that are well known in the scientific community, in order to serve its political masters. Those working to expose these shenanigans are not a “minority wishing to delay action.” They are arguable a majority of the scientific community just trying to see the truth get revealed.

Finally, Brown claims the NIPCC report relies on “’debunked’ papers,” so-called “dead science” because subsequent publications have found errors or contradicted the earlier paper’s findings. Brown says “it is this deliberately partisan, selective, and uncritical approach to evidence that marks the NIPCC report as a work of pseudoscience.” Brown is either dishonest or incredibly naive in accepting articles rushed through broken peer review processes to refute any research that might threaten the politically correct current paradigm. Why is it that only findings that challenge global warming alarmism are “debunked” and “dead”?

Only a scientist blinded by pseudoscience would refuse to look at more than a few of the nearly 4,000 peer-reviewed academic articles reviewed in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical that point to greater uncertainty and a small role for man-made greenhouse gases than announced by the Solons at the United Nations. Like other alarmists in the climate debate, Brown is satisfied with repeating the sound bites and self-serving pseudoscience of those at the extreme end of the scientific debate, and dismisses the extensive research that contradicts that view.

Brown may be a fine astronomer, but he misunderstands the climate debate entirely. He should read Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science  and get up to speed on the real scientific debate before criticizing those who have already studied the issue deeply.

Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute