Nobody Out Here But Us Rubes

The New York Times does it again, criticizing the good citizens of the U.S. about “flunking climate 101” when it is the editors who don’t seem to know the science.

According to the NY Times, the following statements are unequivocally true:

As the report’s authors found, 42 percent of those surveyed “incorrectly believe that since scientists can’t predict the weather more than a few days in advance, they can’t possibly predict the climate of the future.”

climate models can accurately predict the future

How absurd.  The climate models (see a few posts down or click here), as even climate scientists themselves say are, at best, primitive. We have no way of knowing how good the predictions of climate models will be in 50 years. But, since we do know they cannot accurately predict the climate of the next year (even in the aggregate), it is absurd to state as fact that they have skill decades into the future. 

The article further goes on, regarding the results of the poll,

And one-third [of U.S. citizens] believe, incorrectly, that most scientists in the 1970s were predicting an ice age.

Since I’m not sure what “scientists” means here (all scientists, climate scientists only?), the fact is that many were. The following is quoted verbatum from Time of June 24, 1974:

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Read more:,9171,944914,00.html#ixzz12TziabLr

[side question: if it was OK for Baffin Island to be snow-free then, why is it not OK now?]

To expect the average citizen to know the exact percentage of “scientists” who were predicting global cooling in 70′s (more than three decades ago) is — again — absurd.

Go ahead and read the Times’ article. I think you’ll agree with me that it reveals a citizenry that is remarkably well informed and balanced in a complicated area of science.  

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