Close this search box.

Analysis: ‘Climate science has died. The effects will be big.’

Summary:  Let’s hit “pause” in the climate wars and see how we got here, where we are going, and what we can learn from this mess.

I can’t use this result. It doesn’t support the narrative.

At the time I thought this statement was daft. Now I see that she was spot on, but not in the way she meant it. And with results that she did not intend.

“The time for debate has ended.”
— Marcia McNutt (former director of the US Geological Survey, then editor-in-Chief of Science magazine, now President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, an editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

Science is a structured process of debate. No debate means no science, as we use the term. Since 2015, the debate about a public policy response to climate change has stopped in any meaningful form, because the activists who control it have abandoned science. Now the headlines describe reports by activists describing every form of extreme weather as resulting from rising CO2 – and making increasingly dire predictions of future weather. The former are largely bogus, for reasons described below. The latter are either based on the unlikely-or-impossible RCP8.5 scenario (see here and here) – or fantasies of ever more extreme scenarios. There is little or no effort to base these in hard science. They are presented to the public as certainties. The models making these predictions are presented as a modern form of haruspicy (oracles from the gods elicited by animal sacrifice). Contrary opinions are seldom given, except in a pre-debunked form.

The goal is to around fear, even panic – not to inform.

“Do remember you are there to fuddle him.  From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!”
— Editor’s advice to a junior reporter in Hell. From The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (1942).

The effect of this on climate science

Almost everybody works for a living. We have aspirations for a good life. Most of us have families to provide for. Almost none of us have any substantial way to influence the conduct of the institutions in which we serve as cogs. We are vulnerable to formal and (more important) informal feedback mechanisms of our rulers.

In climate science, the elites running its institutions – such as Marcia McNutt – want research that supports the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming narrative. After saying “the debate is ended,” she is not likely to support papers that call it into question. As Editor of the Science family of journals, that means they will not get published (damaging careers of junior scientists who did not get the memo). As president of the National Academies, that means no funding (wrecking the careers of upstart junior scientists). Even eminent and senior scientists are discarded if they challenge the narrative (e.g., Roger Pielke Sr.Judith Curry).

That is just good sense for McNutt and her peers. Journalists want doomster stories. Activists controlling the flocks of non-governmental agencies demand doomster research. Powerful political interests want doomster research (“conservative” politicians, organizations, and corporations do not care – knowing that they will have their share of gain from the expansion of government power). The incentives are tilted to one side.

So we get a flood every month of increasingly dubious research about the effects of global warming. Dubious statistical methods, exaggerated claims, endless predictions doom based on bogus claims that RCP8.5 is “business as usual” scenario. Models are used to make increasingly detailed predictions about regional effects and far future events – with little effort to validate them (there is a large body of knowledge of model validation, largely ignored by climate science). But climate science has a deeper and more severe problem.

“Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory – an event which would have refuted the theory.”
— Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963).

“Viewed as a body of substantive hypotheses, theory is to be judged by its predictive power for the class of phenomena which it is intended to ‘explain.’ Only factual evidence can show whether it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or, better, tentatively ‘accepted’ as valid or ‘rejected.’ As I shall argue at greater length below, the only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of its predictions with experience.”
— Milton Friedman in “The Methodology of Positive Economics“, from Essays in Positive Economics (1966).

Instead of making specific predictions about near-term (testable) weather, climate scientists now explain how current weather results from increased greenhouse gases. A big hurricane (e.g., Katrina in 2005, Irma in 2017) produces papers showing that more and bigger hurricanes are our future (herehere, and here). Large regional droughts are proclaimed the “new normal” (e.g., TexasCalifornia) – until they end. The end of snow, more & bigger tornadoes, more & bigger wildfires (see them all here) – climate scientists seldom accurately predict them, but afterwards confidently forecast more of the same. Even outright falsification of predictions are evidence of global warming, such as the rising and falling of the Great Lakes. False predictions are ignored, preventing progress. My favorite: Terrifying predictions about the melting North Pole!

Climate scientist Richard Betts warned his fellows in a BBC op-ed (which they would not publish today): “Science must end climate confusion” (11 January 2010).

“Of course, we know that these things {extreme weather} happen anyway, even without climate change – they may happen more often under a warmer climate, but it is wrong to blame climate change for every single event. Climate scientists know this, but still there are people outside of climate science who will claim or imply such things if it helps make the news or generate support for their political or business agenda. …

“{D}o climate scientists do enough to counter this? Or are we guilty of turning a blind eye to these things because we think they are on ‘our side’ against the climate sceptics? …Climate scientists need to take more responsibility for the communication of their work to avoid this kind of thing. Even if scientists themselves are not blaming everything on climate change, it still reflects badly on us if others do this.”

But what about the ethics of scienceScientists’ sacred obligation to pursue truth. It is a chimera – a thing that is desired but in fact is imaginary. Biomedical research – with its massive direct effect on people – is severely corrupted. There is no Hippocratic Oath for scientists (and increasingly, nothing like it that is meaningful for doctors). We should expect any field of science whose fruits are valuable to the powerful to be corrupted.

  1. About the corruption of climate science.
  2. The noble corruption of climate science.
  3. A crisis of overconfidence in climate science.

Danger, journalists at work

Fame is money in our society. Journalists boost the careers of scientists whose work supports the narrative. Climate scientists would have to be saints to ignore this. Few are, and the rest cheer journalists who misrepresent or exaggerate their findings.

  1. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda.
  2. Daily stories of climate death build a Green New Deal!
  3. A look at the workings of climate propaganda.
  4. Wildfires and climate change: fake news in action.
  5. See how climate science becomes alarmist propaganda.
  6. How journalists helped wreck the climate debate – by climate scientist Roy Spencer.
  7. A look at the workings of climate propaganda.
  8. Enlisting peer-reviewed science in the climate crusade.

The policy debate decouples from science

After the IPCC published its Fifth Assessment Report in 2014, activists took a fateful but brilliant step. AR5 did not support the doomster narrative, so they condemned the IPCC as “too conservative” (examples here and here). With the support of journalists and NGOs, they broke free from the tethers of science, birthing the Climate Emergency and Extinction Rebellion – based on false claims of mass extinctions occurring now (herehere, and here). Scientists have joined the parade with increasing bogus claims of dooms present and future. Those that are insufficiently enthusiastic are attacked (e.g., here).

Naked Capitalism, whose daily links are imo the premier source of news from a left perspective, gives a dozen such stories every week. Most are to some extent fake news. But their volume makes refutation, even verification of their claims, impossible for any individual or small group. And there is no money for skepticism (easily seen by comparing the amateurish skeptics’ websites with the lavishly funded, professionally run activists’ websites). A very few climate scientists have spoken out against the growing hysteria (e.g., herehere, and here), but one might as well have tried to save the Titanic with a bucket.

I and others have proposed rational responses to climate change that can get broad support (e.g., here and here). It is hopeless. The tide of alarmism continues to rise, often becoming self-parody. There are rumors that AR6 will go full doomster. The Bandwagon Effect generates positive feedbacks that in America today often converts concerns about real problems into moral panics (e.g., white slaverysatanic ritual abuse). There is nothing visible that can stop this escalation.


The response of our science and political institutions to climate change have been self-defeating – the opposite of what people expect from scientists warning about a severe threat (see here and here). So far they have little to show in America for their vast expenditure of time and money. And China has ignored them. But they have laid the foundation for victory. They need only some help from Nature. With their control of so many key institutions, a big bout of severe weather (e.g., a hurricane hitting downtown Miami or Washington) – blamed on Climate Change – might panic Americans into supporting the Green New Deal.

Mother Nature has been their foe so far. But she is fickle. Like any insurrection, climate alarmists need win only once.

But the damage to climate science is effectively forever. Generations of scientists have learned that success is political, and I believe the resulting long slide of research quality has just begun. Only great effort over long periods of time will reverse that. I doubt we will start in the foreseeable future. We might pay much for our folly when past extreme weather comes again.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earthbio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see Chapter One of a story about our future: “Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change, and especially these …

  1. Let’s prepare for past climate instead of bickering about predictions of climate change – Doing something is better than nothing.
  2. Scientists show us why the climate change campaign failed – so far.
  3. Experts now run the world using their theories. What if they fail, and we lose confidence in them?
  4. Paul Krugman shows why the climate campaign failed.
  5. A demo of why we do nothing about climate change.
  6. Why climate skeptics will lose. How they can win.

Activists don’t want you to read these books

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.