“This warming [of 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit this century] is as certain as death and taxes.” (Professor Andrew Dessler, below)
Andrew Dessler is one of the leading climate scientists/alarmists of his generation. And he is a master at presenting his case, not unlike a highly skilled lawyer. He knows the answers–and counter-arguments are just noise.
His textbook, Introduction to Modern Climate Change (2nd edition: 2016), does not seriously engage a range of opinions in its 250 pages. A review of the text/index confirms that many key controversies and open questions are either downplayed or absent, thereby creating–in his world–settled alarmist science.
I will later write an in-depth review of this textbook, which not only covers physical science but also related issues in political economy, energy economics, and history. Suffice it to say that Dessler dodges numerous germane issues in his primer. Here is a list of the wholly missing areas, presented alphabetically, that the author needs to address in a 3rd revised edition:
Dessler’s latest op-ed (he is a favorite in the Houston Chronicle), “Why the Green New Deal Makes Me Hopeful About Climate Change,” demonstrates these character traits/opinions.
He is the smartest guy in the room and argues from authority.
“As a climate scientist, I have studied the impacts of human emissions of carbon dioxide on the climate system for nearly 20 years. Over this time, my research, as well as research by my colleagues, has made me increasingly worried abut the impacts of climate change on human society.”
He is certain that the current climate-model predictions are correct.
“If we don’t take action, unchecked greenhouse-gas emissions would lead to global-average warming over this century of 5 degrees Fahrenheit to 9 degrees Fahrenheit…. This warming is as certain as death and taxes.”
He is a deep ecologist, fearing that the optimal, fragile climate will be torn asunder to remake human civilization in a very bad way.
“With continued fossil fuel use, we might see warming over the current century sufficient to literally remake the Earth’s environment and our place within it.”
He sees wind and solar as the savior (quite unlike his mentor/hero James Hansen, who understands the fundamental concept of energy density).
” … there is hope. The cost of wind and solar energy, which do not emit dangerous greenhouse gases, has dropped rapidly in the past decade and is now competitive with coal energy in many places.”
I am not a climate scientist. But I can follow the bottom lines of the argument pretty well–as have hundreds of other “skeptics” of climate alarmism, thanks to the Internet and open publishing. (Regular reading of Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. can go a long way in this regard.)
Gerald North: A Second Opinion
But my distrust of climate Malthusianism also relies on the views of Professor Dessler’s senior colleague in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, Gerald North.
Back in the corporate world working for a company (Enron Corp.) that was very active on the climate issue (alarmist, with six profit centers at stake), I hired Professor North as a consultant to give me the inside scoop on climate science. What he told me was very interesting, including that climate models were unreliable. (It is models that generate scary warming scenarios.)
North via email said these things about climate models in 1998/99:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.)”
“[Model results] could also be sociological: getting the socially acceptable answer.”
Professor North’s opinion of speculative, not settled science (contra-Dessler) was reconfirmed with a 2010 email from North to Sheldon Graham Jr (dated January 6, 2010):
“In another decade of research we will have squared away a lot of our uncertainties about forced climate change. As this approaches we can be thinking about what to do if the warming does indeed appear to be caused by humans and to what extent things are changing as result.”
North told me the same thing twenty years ago. The year 2020 is just ahead for another ten-year increment, but I imagine the mirage will remain. (Professor Dessler, please call your office ….)
Andrew Dessler is a very serious, able climate scientist. His books and tweets need to be read and understood by his critics. It is a rare window in the mentality of a true believer, a Malthusian deep ecologist who is sure he is right about both the alarm and the need and ability of government intervention to save us from certain peril.
Let the debate continue. Contrary to Dessler’s view, there are two sides to the climate debate, and one of them offers the hope and expectation that the other does not.