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Rebuttal to a Rebuttal: Climate Exaggeration on the Firing Line

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 8, 2018

“There is very little substance to evaluate [in Robert Bradley’s piece]. Yes, one can find examples of when individual scientists or politicians have exaggerated the impacts of climate change. But to present those examples as if they are mainstream views, when they are not, is very misleading.”

 – Kyle Armour, Assistant Professor, University of Washington

“I also must ask my critics who profess to dislike scientific exaggeration. Where are you when the big names exaggerate to spew climate alarmism? Where is the real-time rebuttal to Al Gore, John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich, Joe Romm, Rajendra Pachauri, and many others?” (below)

I recently ran across a detailed rebuttal of an essay I wrote back in 2016 at Forbes.com, “Climate Exaggeration is Backfiring,” which received approximately 35,000 views. “Analysis of ‘Climate Exaggeration is Backfiring‘” at the website Climate Feedback was published right after my Forbes piece. (I did not discover it until very recently.)

The rebuttal gave my piece a “scientific credibility” score of a negative (-) 1.7 on a scale of “very low” (-2) to “very high” (+2). I failed miserably, according to Climate Feedback.

General Comments

Five climate scientists were asked to evaluate my piece (see below)–none being in the global lukewarmer camp. In this sense, the “fix was in,” as one might say. A Judith Curry or John Christy or Roy Spencer could have given a different opinion, for example.

Of the few economists asked to rebut, one (Richard Tol, Professor of Economics, University of Sussex) actually supported my point about lower climate sensitivity leaving CO2 as a positive externality. He stated:

The social cost of carbon would indeed be negative for a low climate sensitivity. This is because the net impacts of climate change only turn negative at more pronounced warming, and this would occur in a more distant future for a low climate sensitivity. At the same time, the positive impacts of carbon dioxide fertilization would be unaffected.

In all, I stand by my general take on bottom-line climate science from two years before:

  • There is a robust scientific literature behind global lukewarming, sensitivity estimates near or even below the IPCC lower-bound (from the 5th assessment: 2013)
  • Model-predicted warming is well above real-world recorded warming. (See last week’s MasterResource post, On Global Lukewarming.)
  • There is scientific momentum, and certainly a peer-reviewed literature, toward lower-sensitivity estimates.

The quotations in my piece were, indeed, stated by their authors, bringing to mind what climate scientist/activist icon Stephen Schneider (Stanford University) stated at the outset of the whole debate.

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

“I hope that means being both” is a weak reed for the late Professor Schneider to try to take back his previous sentences.

I also must ask my critics who profess to dislike scientific exaggeration–and my coverage of the same. Where are you when the big names exaggerate to spew climate alarmism? Where is the real-time rebuttal to Al Gore, John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich, Joe Romm, Rajendra Pachauri, etc.?

One accepted criticism. My statement “In 2009, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted that the world had only 50 days to save the planet from global warming” implied that Brown was giving the world a 50-day life. He was referring to negotiations fifty days out that, if not successful, would ruin the planet. Still, I predict the planet will not be ruined … but perhaps even spared by increased CO2 when the time come for what otherwise would be a Little Ice Age or an Ice Age.

The full criticism is reprinted below without comment.

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Published in , by on

Nine scientists analyzed the article and estimated its overall scientific credibility to be ‘very low’.
A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: , , , .

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Published on: 29 Sep 2016 | Editor:

Climate Feedback is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to science education. Our reviews are crowdsourced directly from a community of scientists with relevant expertise. We strive to explain whether and why information is or is not consistent with the science and to help readers know which news to trust. Please get in touch if you have any comment or think there is an important claim or article that would need to be reviewed.

One Comment for “Rebuttal to a Rebuttal: Climate Exaggeration on the Firing Line”


  1. Ed Reid  

    Several “pillars” of the consensed climate science community have recently acknowledged the shortcomings of the near-surface temperature anomaly products (https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/joc.5458) and of the current ensemble of climate models (https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0333.1).

    The producers of the “scary scenario” political science continue to use RCP8.5, though it has been widely discredited. These numerous “studies” contribute nothing to our understanding of climate science, nor are they intended to do so.

    The self-appointed mouthpiece of the consensed climate science community continues to spot the “fingerprints” of anthropogenic climate change in extreme weather events, in the total absence of supporting evidence; and, in the face of evidence of declining frequency and intensity.

    Meanwhile, issues regarding actual climate sensitivity, forcings and feedbacks receive relatively little attention, as does the challenge of verifying a climate model and demonstrating its predictive ability.

    Reply

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