It's always interesting to watch the reaction of the climate change consensus mafia when a qualified physicist dares to question doctrine. The latest example involves John F. Clauser who shared the Nobel Prize in physics last year with two other physicists for ground-breaking work in the weird world of quantum mechanics.
The knowledge and skill sets required to be a physicist are very closely related to those required to be a climatologist. Understanding basic Newtonian mechanics, having a firm grasp on thermodynamics, and being able to sort out complex interactions are just a few of the skills inherent to both disciplines. No scientist worth a grain of salt would dismiss a qualified physicist’s opinion about climate change simply because that physicist isn't a climatologist. But when you read stories like this one in the Washington Post it appears there is a huge gulf separating the two disciplines.
We're all going to die, say journalists.
The staff writer who authored this story and framed the narrative has a degree in English, for what it's worth. One can be confident then that she has little or no personal understanding of the science she's writing about. Like most journalists who write about controversial scientific subjects these days, she's simply picking a side.
When one picks a side, one must defend the choice. This of course is not factual presentation of the news, it is advocacy. The choice of words like “overwhelming scientific consensus” and “vast majority” when talking about "climate change" is meaningless hyperbole, but in the context of a story meant to discredit an idea and the person expressing it meaningless hyperbole becomes a favorite weapon.
There is no single factor that determines how the climate behaves. In this story the writer says that Clauser claims that “earth's temperature is primarily determined by cloud cover not carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.” That is gross misrepresentation of what dissenting scientists, including this one, believe. In the scores of variables that influence the climate none of them, except for perhaps that big yellow ball in the sky, should be described with the adjective “primarily.”
Carbon dioxide certainly plays a role in influencing the climate. Very, very few dissenting scientists disagree with that statement. It is simply a question of how important that role is. Or, put another way, as one dissenting scientist said to me: “If the climate is really as sensitive to carbon dioxide concentrations as the alarmists believe there's nothing we can do about it.”
Similarly, no one I know of, including Clauser, believes cloud cover is of primary importance to the climate. There is certainly disagreement about how significantly clouds influence earth's temperatures and how consistent that function is across various latitudes. From what I have read I think there's a strong case to be made that the models the alarmists rely upon underestimate the influence of cloud cover on cooling in many parts of the planet. That's a long way from saying that clouds solely drive global temperatures. Putting that claim into Clauser's mouth is dishonest or just plain stupid.
Blame that big yellow ball in the sky.
Following the usual pattern, the writer dismisses Clauser’s claims by citing prominent alarmists utilizing the snarkiest and most dismissive language available at the time. It's remarkable how those critics of people like Clauser never get asked penetrating questions. Let's consider a few possible examples:
Is the warming effect of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide linear, logarithmic or exponential? It must be one of the three in each case. If it's a linear effect then increasing the concentration all of the gas will result in a directly proportional increase in temperature. If it's logarithmic then the greenhouse effect will diminish proportionally with increasing concentrations. If it's exponential then the greenhouse effect will increase proportionally with increasing concentrations. I don't believe anyone would argue that the effect is demonstrably exponential. Further, I believe there's a strong case to be made that it is in fact logarithmic. But whatever a journalist might personally believe or know it's a question that should be asked and somehow never is.
There are dozens of climate models. To what degree do these models agree or disagree? If there is a strong correlation among all of them why do we need so many, and is there any real difference among them? If there is not a strong correlation why is that not significant? There's nothing about either of those questions that makes one a skeptic or an alarmist. Yet no one in the mainstream media ever thinks to ask them.
Or how about this one: what is the strongest argument you can make for the other side? This is a question that speaks to the root of the scientific method. Yes, one is obligated to defend one's hypothesis, but part of that process is considering the strongest arguments against it. It's not somehow improper to ask such a question to a scientist who is secure in his own skin. But while I've heard skeptical scientists answer questions very much like that I can't remember any journalist ever addressing such a question like that to an alarmist.
On the one hand you can look at a story like this and think “well it's just another hatchet job.” On the other hand I can't help but wonder how many prominent physicists questioning climate orthodoxy will it take before someone in the legacy media decides to ask a relevant question or two.