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Climate Hustle

Review of Climatology versus Pseudoscience

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Guest Author

Dana Nuccitelli is a key communicator in the climate change conversation. He is co-writer with John Abraham at the Climate Consensus – the 97% blog at the Guardian, and has contributed hundreds of entries to John Cook’s famous site SkepticalScience.com. He has measurably helped people to understand climate change science and the nuances of the false debate based over climate manufactured by science deniers.

And, he’s written a book!

consensus rising

Graphic from Cook, Nuccitelli, Et Al 2013 paper quantifying the consensus on climate change. This figure also appears in “Climatology and Pseudoscience”

Climatology Versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics fills a wide open niche in the climate science discussion. Dana powers through the literature on climate science, identifying and describing instances of the predictions, projections, or assertions made by climate science and compares these with assertions made by climate science contrarians, also known as deniers. (Though the distinction between denier and non-denier emerged later in the full time frame addressed in the book.) Simply put, Dana compares the two at several points to see which is correct: the projection that human generated greenhouse gas pollution warms the Earth and changes the climate, or the projection that it does not.

It turns out it does! But you knew that. But what you might not have realized is the overall time frame of how this situation has developed. Dana skillfully documents the deeply disturbing fact that the issue of global warming (and related things) has been settled for a very long time. Were it not for mainly fossil fuel industry funded anti-science activists, we would not be having this discussion today, and Dana would not have had to write his book. Rather, science would be focused on figuring out the remaining and important details of how the Earth’s climate system responds to human pollution as well as natural changes, and policy makers would be busy working out how to keep the Carbon in the ground. We probably would have had a price on Carbon years ago, and we’d probably be running our civilizations off of a very high and ever increasing percentage of clean (non fossil carbon) energy. But no, those denialists had to ruin it for everyone with their fake skepticism.

I asked Dana Nuccitelli, “What surprised you most while researching and writing this book?” and he told me,

I was surprised at how accurate mainstream climate scientists’ predictions about global warming have been, even using the earliest global climate models as early as 43 years ago. The earliest model predictions were based mainly on the warming expected from the increasing greenhouse effect, so it goes to show what a dominant factor carbon pollution has played on global temperature changes over the past half century.

Climatology Versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skepticsis engagingly written, clear, accurate, non-technical but not watered down. If you know the stuff in this book you can be more confident than ever having those conversations with with your friends Denialist Dan and Warmest Willie. In fact, I would recommend Climatology Versus Pseudosciencealong side Michael Mann’s book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines for a comprehensive treatment of the history of both denialism and the science itself.

I asked Dana who he had in mind as the most likely audience for this book. I’m sure it is for general readership, but I also felt it could be used in classes.

I wrote the book with the general public as my intended audience. I wanted to make explanations about some basic climate science concepts accessible to everyone. My publisher told me that they anticipate that universities and libraries will be the main purchasers of the book though, so they may have had class use in mind more than I did!

Dana covers the early days of climate science, discusses the “Astounding Accuracy of Early Climate Models (Chapter 3), discusses the development of the scientific consensus on climate change, and provides an excellent overview of the current situation with greenhouse gas pollution caused climate change.

Over the last year or so, it seems that the climate conversation is starting to shift. Major media outlets are changing their approach, not following the dictum of false balance. Climate change is starting to become a bigger factor in elections, in a good way. The President of the United States has openly called on Americans to reject science denialism. I asked Dana where he thought the climate change conversation might be going over the next couple of years, and if we might see addressing climate change as more routine rather than highly controversial in the future.

I think much of the media is starting to shift towards more accurate, responsible, and truly balanced coverage on climate change. The Washington Post has been doing a great job since they hired Chris Mooney. The Guardian’s climate coverage is excellent. TV media coverage has been improving, and some great shows like Years of Living Dangerously and Cosmos have tackled climate change.

I think journalists and producers are starting to understand the difference between false balance and actual balance in climate reporting, and that media shift will be critically important in accurately informing the public on this critical issue. Most people vastly underestimate the level of scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, and I think that can mostly be blamed on media false balance. If you regularly see one-on-one debates, it’s natural to assume the experts are divided and debating the issue at hand.

With human-caused global warming, that’s obviously no longer true, but that perceived debate explains why people still don’t view climate change as a top priority. That needs to change, but that won’t happen until we have truly balanced media coverage accurately informing the public. That was one of my key motivations in writing this book – to hold the climate contrarians accountable for their bad science and failed predictions, because so far the media has failed to do that.

Dana’s final chapter talks about the future, about what can and should happen. He notes that we have the technology in hand to solve the climate crisis, and that we are starting to apply it.

I strongly recommend this book for the general reader, but I would also suggest it for use in certain classes, either in high school or college. If you are a teacher and want to thoroughly cover the “Debate” over climate science, get this book.

Published by Praeger; 214 pages; copious notes; index; cool graphics.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 2:

  1. "The administration will not accept and use appropriately the findings and conclusions of the national and international climate assessments, and it hinders and even prevents the climate science program from doing so."  Rick Piltz (2005) in a whistleblowing memo about how the GW Bush administration edited scientific policy reports to minimize mention of 'climate change'.  And, a decade later, it is now out that Gov Rick Scott of Florida basically threatened to fire anyone in his administration, especially scientists and environmental officials, who used the terms 'climate change', 'global warming', or 'sea level rise' in official correspondence.

    As success in exposing the Pseudoscience behind Climate denial has grown, we see increasingly that the denial industry has turned instead to outright 'behind-closed-doors' muzzling of policymakers and science experts.  Even in the so-called 'Land of the Free'.

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  2. The anti-cyclones coming off of Antarctica do not reach into the Australian continent like they once used to and it is a long term observation delivering decreased rainfall to the south of Western Australia. The wind patterns are changing in the Southern Hemisphere aswell --> PURE FACT!

    Question: has the economic rise of China been reflected in the Keeling curve yet? DON'T PANIC YET WILL YA!!

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The use of "all-caps" is akin to shouting and is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy

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