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Political Scientists: Gerald North and Andrew Dessler Double Down on Climate Alarmism

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 11, 2013

“I did worry that my comment on my not being willing to sign on to Kyoto right now got into the [Houston] Chronicle and in our local paper. I do not like being too public on policy matters. It ain’t my thing.”

– Gerald North (email communication, October 2, 1998)

“In his article Sunday, Rob Bradley reminds us of the errors made about dire climate predictions proffered by some climate science outliers…. Virtually all of these dire predictions were never made or endorsed by the mainstream climate community of researchers in the field.”

– Gerald North, “Fringe Predictions,” Letter to the Editor, Houston Chronicle, April 1, 2008.

“So what is the argument about? The answer is policy…. [W]e both support balanced action to address the clear and present danger of climate change.”

– Andrew Dessler and Gerald North,Climate Change is Real and Denial is Not About the Science,” San Antonio Express News, October 6, 2013.

If Texas A&M scientists calculated that an asteroid was heading our way, we would likely head for the hills with a lot of pills. But when this university’s climatology department warns of dangerous man-induced global warming and call for government action (think new taxes and regulation), roll your eyes and watch the wallet.

We live in a postmodern world where emotion and desire substitute for reason and humility. With climate alarmism in deep trouble on a variety of data fronts, from temperature increase to sea-level rise to hurricane frequency and intensity, elder Texas A&M climate scientist Gerald North joined climate scientist/campaigner Andrew Dessler to write (sign on to?) a disingenuous opinion-page editorial for the San Antonio Express, “Climate change is real and denial is not about the science.”

The Dessler/North wolf cries of recent years have been made in the face of growing contradictory evidence. While alarmism may have once gotten attention, the two are are now like the Enron carnival barkers of 2000/2001, proclaiming surety and shouting ‘you just don’t get it’ at the skeptics. Andy Dessler and Jerry North are, indeed, the smartest guys in the climate room.

Emotional Scientists, Bad Science

The tight-knit climate scientist-activist community was exposed by the Climategate emails to be to be working from a Malthusian, alarmist script. Instead of going from science to real-world implications, the cabal was caught going from an agenda to ‘science.’ Remember “hide the decline”? Remember the chatter about keeping their critics out of the peer-reviewed journals? Even physically attacking a critic at a forthcoming climate conference?

Climategate’s mendacity and trash talk have made many thousands of non-climate scientists skeptical and disappointed in academic and government climatologists who are, indeed, giving physical science a bad name. Critics might say that a few dozen scientist/activists are turning a hard science into a soft one.

Take Gerald North, who I hired as Enron’s climate consultant in 1997. I pressed him on the what and why of climate alarmism. He explained that the climate community was a very close group with personal relationships valued greatly. Some top scientists were husband/wife teams. Others were close friends. The buddy system went far and deep.

North did not need to tell me that most of the same considered modern society as ‘unsustainably’ intruding on ‘optimal’ nature. And that this community was dependent on government grants for research dealing with problems–so climate change needed to be a problem.

But it was Dr. North who privately said a lot of things to me that he did not want repeated in public. And in a number of emails, indeed, he questioned the great climate alarm. I made these emails public when North inexplicably went political several years ago at the urging of his activist colleague Andrew Dressler. I value truth over political power, and the Internet gives truth a powerful voice against professional misconduct.

North Goes Strange

Funny thing: Global temperatures have not increased since North was back at Enron, frankly telling me about the excesses of his profession. He was cautious, even skeptical, about high climate sensitivity estimates—and climate models in general (see the Appendix below for some of his quotes).

Now, he and Dessler write an editorial that assumes (rather than debates) a coming climate crisis–and jumps to political ad hominem to explain why the public does not agree on either the ‘problem’ or the ‘solution’.

So a question to Dr. North: what has changed in the last 15 years to make you more, rather than less, concerned about a catastrophic warming?

And just where do you get your expertise to tell us in this op-ed that there is a cost-effective solution for the United States and the world from governmental caps or taxes on CO2? Why aren’t you sticking to the physical science rather than jumping to other disciplines (economics, political science, public policy) far removed from your area of expertise?

In fact, climate economists such as Robert Mendelsohn of Yale might just tell you that the social cost of carbon dioxide, the green greenhouse gas, is positive, not negative, given the lower climate sensitivity that even the politicized, alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now accepts in its forecast range.

Spencer Weighs In

Fellow climate scientist Roy Spencer called the two out on their false analogies and postmodern view of: Assume a problem, imagine a governmental solution … Assume market failure, but not government failure in solving it….

Spencer complains:

… Dessler and North [hide] the fact that global temperatures stopped rising 15 years ago, in contradiction to most, if not all, IPCC climate model forecasts.

They could have said, “The lack of warming is good news for humanity! Maybe global warming isn’t a serious problem after all!” Or even, “We have more time to solve the problem!” But, no.

Instead, they do exactly what they accuse Republicans of doing…letting their views of the proper role of government (and their desire for more climate research funding) determine what they believe (or profess to believe) about the science.

Spencer concludes:

So, stick to the ivory tower, guys. Better to let the people who work to support you wonder about your cluelessness, rather than open your mouths and remove all doubt.

This is a hard rebuke, but Dessler/North picked the fight … again. (And Dr. North, how many times do I need to resurrect the level-headed, less emotional North of old to counter the new, politicized you? Don’t we both have better things to do?)

Let’s hope that good science can continue to drive out bad despite the effort of some climate-turned-political scientists to keep the great false climate alarm going for more research grants and more and bigger Government.


Appendix: North on Climate Models

“We do not know much about modeling climate. It is as though we are modeling a human being. Models are in position at last to tell us the creature has two arms and two legs, but we are being asked to cure cancer.”

– Gerald North (November 12, 1999)

“[Model results] could also be sociological: getting the socially acceptable answer.”

– Gerald North (June 20, 1998)

“There is a good reason for a lack of consensus on the science. It is simply too early. The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.”

– Gerald North (July 13, 1998)

“One has to fill in what goes on between 5 km and the surface. The standard way is through atmospheric models. I cannot make a better excuse.”

– Gerald North October 2, 1998)

“The ocean lag effect can always be used to explain the ‘underwarming’…. The different models couple to the oceans differently. There is quite a bit of slack here (undetermined fudge factors). If a model is too sensitive, one can just couple in a little more ocean to make it agree with the record. This is why models with different sensitivities all seem to mock the record about equally well. (Modelers would be insulted by my explanation, but I think it is correct.)”

    – Gerald North (August 17, 1998)

and on Climate Politics

“I did worry that my comment on my not being willing to sign on to Kyoto right now got into the [Houston] Chronicle and in our local paper. I do not like being too public on policy matters. It ain’t my thing.”

– Gerald North (October 2, 1998)


  1. John W. Garrett  


    There are far too many political scientists in climatology. Dr. Tamsin Edwards has stated that it is inappropriate for climate scientists to engage in politics. It destroys their credibility. It’s advice that Dessler and North should take to heart.


  2. Russell Seitz  

    Far from doubling down on climate alarmism, they’re just echoing Fred Singer before he shot his bolt and turned lobbyist.


  3. rbradley  

    See the repost at WUWT for more than 100 comments.


  4. rbradley  

    Gerald North stopped communicating with me back in 2010. Andrew Dessler there at A&M became fussy at North’s last communication with me and stated (in a private email to North reprinted here: https://eelegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Horner-response-Redacted-2-2010-copy-2.pdf

    on behalf of Andrew Dessler
    To: Gerald North
    Subject: Re: my latest to Bradley
    Date: Sunday, April 25, 2010 12:10:13 PM

    @#$%^%^%$!!!!! stop e-mailing this guy. don’t read his e-mails. forget about him. you will not win. you will not tie. you will lose.

    On Sun, Apr 25, 2010 at 9:50 AM, Gerald North wrote:
    > Is this habit forming?
    > Jerry


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