Chicken Little Was a Calamitologist – by Ed Caryl

Last week I asked readers to submit their own essays: Wanted! Readers As Guest Writers. Well, I’m happy to present the first one! Ed Caryl observes that skeptics tend to have more training and real life experience in the art of forecasting than warmists do. So who should we believe? Yeah, it’s a tough question. 

Chicken Little Was A Calamitologist
By Ed Caryl 

Many writers have been unsatisfied with the terms used to classify the two sides of the climate debate. Warmist and skeptic seem unsatisfying for the first, and demeaning for the second. The warmist label is also a bit narrow, in that those on that side also preach ocean rise and acidification, severe storms, floods and droughts (on alternate days), and other disasters. Many of these predictions take on a “the sky is falling” tone. The warmists call themselves climatologists, but that term is a job description, not a degree. A better description would be calamitologist – one who envisions climate calamities. Let’s look at a few resumes of some famous calamitologists. 

Dr. Michael Mann: received his Doctorate from Yale, the Department of Geology and Geophysics in 1998. His undergraduate degrees are in Physics and Math.
Dr. Phil Jones: holds a BA degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Lancaster, and a Masters and PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Dr. James Hansen: holds a BA degree in Physics and Mathematics, an MS in Astronomy, and a PhD in Physics, all from the University of Iowa. Early in his career he spent almost 20 years studying Venus. His calamitologist creds are based on that work.
Dr. R. K. Pachauri: studied at North Carolina State University, where he obtained an MS in Industrial Engineering in 1972, a PhD in Industrial Engineering and a PhD in Economics, a native of India.
Dr. Gavin Schmidt: BA (Hons) in Mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford University, PhD in Applied Mathematics at University College London. 

The calamitologists, we notice, tend not to be trained and experienced in the actual science of forecasting. Just the seasonal forecast track record of the Met Office says it all. 

What about the other side, the skeptics?
Many among the “skeptics” are meteorologists who, unlike most calamitologists, are formally trained in forecasting and have gathered years of experience doing so. Some examples: 

Dr. Roy Spencer: B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Michigan; M.S. and Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Joe Bastardi: BS in Meteorology from Penn State University, a practicing meteorologist with AccuWeather.
Anthony Watts: practicing meteorologist, AMS Seal holder.
Joe D’Aleo: Weather Channel founder, practicing meteorologist.
Dr. Richard S. Lindzen: Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A.B in Physics, S.M. in Applied Mathematics, Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at Harvard 

These are just a few of the names known in this controversy, but can you see the trend? Although the calamitologists have advanced degrees, usually in natural sciences, they lack training and experience in forecasting. That’s probably the reason why they often forecast long-shot calamity scenarios. 

On the other hand, the meteorologists are real forecasters, and their success depends on the accuracy of their forecasts. Every time they make a forecast, they put their reputations on the line. Sure, some will argue, weather forecasting is not the same. But if you can’t forecast a week or two ahead, can you reliably forecast 50 or 100 years ahead? Be honest. 

Indeed the more a person is trained in the science of forecasting, the more skeptical they appear to become of the AGW hypothesis and the ability for models to predict longterm climate. Real forecasters seriously doubt CAGW

Perhaps in the future we ought to refer to the two sides as calamitologists and real forecasters.

Explore posts in the same categories: Scepticism

13 Comments on “Chicken Little Was a Calamitologist – by Ed Caryl”

  1. pgosselin Says:

    I’d like to add that while meteorologists put their reputations on the line with every forecast, as Ed mentions, calamitologists making 50 and 100 year forecasts are never held accountable.

  2. DirkH Says:

    Good observation.

  3. Brian H Says:

    I’ll betcha $1,000,000 in current dollars that the global climate in 200 years will not differ by more than 1°K from the present one.

    And if the SENS people succeed quickly enough in abolishing senescence I may even be around to collect!

    :-D

  4. Bruce of Newcastle Says:

    I think also that theoreticians lean towards AGW whereas people who work with real world data incline towards ‘scepticism’. There’s been a few comments that engineers tend not to be AGW-ers, for example (confession: I’m a scientist who has worked in engineering for many years).

    I had an experience about 20 years ago of this principle. I knew two eminent professors in a certain field that I was working in at the time. They were having an argument in the literature, one from a theory and calculation basis, and the other from experimentally derived data. The theoretician was generally regarded as the more eminent, so his views tended to get used (there were real environmental costs and consequences of this argument). Unfortunately for him a third well regarded team (who did work for industry as well as academic work) worked out the reason for the experimental data not agreeing with the theory – the theory used necessarily simplified thermodynamics to make the computations feasible, but the real world used all the degrees of freedom that reality has, in a way which could not ever have been predicted by theoretical calculation. The experimentalist was right and the theory was unfortunately proved incomplete.

    I see quite close parallels in the climate sphere, again with the necessary simplification of calculations leading to blinkered thinking. Those of us who look at the data and say ‘hey, I don’t see a big contribution by CO2’ get the same ‘what do you know, you’re just an experimentalist’ put down from the theoreticians. I think in this case the theories are missing significant variables that a good simple multiple regression statistical analysis would show quite clearly if any of the noisier climatologists actually would look at and analyse the real data.

    • Ed Caryl Says:

      Great point. I agree. And your experience roughly parallels mine.

    • DirkH Says:

      Absolutely positively.

    • Brian H Says:

      I hate to cite the man, but “touted (though not necessarily followed) by John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” is right up there with Churchill’s “In the morning I’ll be sober.” ;-)

  5. Brian H Says:

    PG, don’t know if you’ve tracked the Journolist news, but it has eerie resemblance to the MSM CAGW strategery! And the IowaHawk is on it:
    http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451eb3469e201348518bda3970c if you want to reference it.
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2010/06/ill-take-a-cashiers-check-mr-breitbart.html direct link.
    Reply: I’ve had an eye on it. Looks to me like it’s coming home to roost. -PG

  6. Brian H Says:

    Here’s a very telling quote from Tim Ball’s latest article:

    “How sweeping are the oversimplifications? Well Dr. Vincent Gray explains. “All of the computer models of the climate have adopted the flat earth theory of the earth’s energy, as portrayed in Kiehl J. T. and K. E. Trenberth 1997. Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget. Bull. Am. Met. Soc. 78 197-208. The attached graph is in all of the Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, and it is fundamental to all their activities. It assumes that the earth can be considered to be flat, that the sun shines all day and all night with equal intensity, and that the temperature of the earth’s surface is constant.”


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