Who Is Qualified To Be A Climate Spokesperson?
It all started with Al Gore. Coming off a gig as Vice President, an ignoble job to begin with, to the most embarrassing President in US history, Bill Clinton, he then proceeded to lose the Presidential election to a political lightweight, George W. Bush.
After that Gore was desperate to be taken seriously but wondered how. Science was his solution. And “global warming” (see terminology note at bottom) was a hot topic at the time (no pun intended). It didn’t matter that he did badly in the two “science for poets” courses he took in college or that he didn’t even take any math courses there.
How could this happen? Because by nature most scientists hate talking to the public and anyone who wants to speak for them is welcome to do so. No qualifications necessary and no restrictions on what you say. If you’re famous, that’s even better since it makes getting funded and published so much less time-consuming. This is truly the only scientific consensus there is. Among themselves scientists agree about nothing else.
By the way, “most scientists” includes me. I went into climate science just because I was very interested in chaos theory, modeling on supercomputers, and the role of climate in history and pre-history, which are all important parts of climate science. I just wanted to be paid for studying what I was interested in and be left alone. Nothing noble about it. More about me later.
Once Gore had revitalized his failing entertainment career with the global warming saga “An Inconvenient Truth” (inspired by actual events!) and a Nobel Peace Prize (not a Nobel Science Prize!) every other failing entertainer wanted to use global warming to revitalize their careers.
Ivanka Trump has promoted as a spokesman for global warming Leonardo DiCaprio, who has pretended to know a lot about the subject. Ivanka Trump is well-educated, but not in any STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). DiCaprio is a high school dropout.
More recently, and getting to failing entertainer climate spokespeople with at least some sort of science background, there is Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Nye actually has a BS in mechanical engineering and worked for a time as a Boeing engineer. However, after winning a Steve Martin look-alike contest (no joke) he found that he was more interested in, and better at, standup comedy than engineering.
You could argue that at least Nye has done some good for children’s science education, although my wife, also a climate scientist, and I would argue that he has done more harm than good. Learning science and math — they have to go together — is not usually the fun Nye misleads children to expect them to be. It’s hard work over many years and children have to have some inner drive to do it and become good scientists. Otherwise, as has occurred, you have to lower the standards to become a scientist, often replacing them with political ideology requirements, and drive out some of the good ones. (Plus I always thought Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker on The Muppet Show had cooler experiments and were much funnier than Nye.)
But you can’t convincingly argue that Bill Nye knows enough about climate science to be a credible spokesperson for it. And you would have to agree that it would be better to have an actual climate scientist as a climate spokesperson. Unfortunately, that leads back to the reality that by nature most scientists hate talking to the public … with some exceptions.
Dr. James Hansen is the father of global warming. Given his tactics he is sometimes called the godfather of global warming. On June 23, 1988 he made history by convincingly testifying before Congress about the dangers of global warming. Why convincingly? Because, as luck would have it, on June 23, 1988 in Washington DC they were in the middle of a heat wave. Similar heat waves had been seen there once in a while in the 200 years before and in the years since but people have bad weather memories so this one seemed significant. It was more than just luck though: the global warming alarmists in Congress who had called Hansen scheduled him to testify during the heat wave and turned the air conditioning off that day.
Hansen got a BA in Physics and Math, an MS in Astronomy, and a PhD in Physics — no climate or even earth science degrees — from the relatively obscure University of Iowa. Earth scientists tend to be weak in math and physics and can be cowed by those with degrees in them from any college.
For most of his career Hansen was the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, near Columbia University and over Tom’s Restaurant from the comedy Seinfeld. In 1988 he was 47 years old and his work before then in his own field was not going to win him any Nobel Science Prizes. He became famous after he testified about global warming.
Dr. Gavin Schmidt is the global warming entertainer, being a media interview favorite, and is the current head of NASA GISS, having been anointed by Hansen. He has a BA in Math from Jesus College Oxford and a PhD in Math from University College London. He has no climate or even earth science degrees.
As of 2004 Schmidt was still a British citizen and he may still be one. After 9/11 he was barred from using the NASA supercomputers until, as a foreigner, he had a security clearance background check done. Interestingly for the head of NASA GISS, as a foreigner he would not be eligible for some government grants, which require US citizenship. Not to mention that global warming has been touted as a national security issue.
Schmidt is a media interview favorite because he is quite personable — as long as you admit he is smarter than you — and enjoys being an entertainer. For example, he’s a juggler. I’ve been with him juggling in public and he’s quite good.
One of Schmidt’s favorite sayings is “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. This doesn’t seem to be applied to global warming though.
So who am I? I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and NASA, an MS in Atmospheric Science from the University of Arizona and NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and a PhD in Earth & Environmental Sciences from Columbia University and NASA GISS.
I was at NASA GISS while Dr. James Hansen was its head and I worked closely with Dr. Gavin Schmidt (I’d say we were friends). I am a coauthor with both on several publications.
My graduate and postdoc work was in climate modeling (on supercomputers) AND climate proxies (records of past climate). This is unusual breadth for a climate scientist. I was teased by my climate modeller colleagues about so much hands-on work with climate proxies (e.g., tree rings and ocean sediment cores) and was considered askance by my climate proxy colleagues.
I am not particularly well-published. I resisted publishing a lot of little papers (“islands of minutiae in a sea of trivia”) and my few big papers were in opposition to climate dogma so were unpublishable.
A few years ago I became so disgusted with what climate science had become I quit. It wasn’t until Trump was elected that I decided to speak out. It would have been pointless before then. If I had stayed in climate science and spoke out people would have said that if I thought climate science was so terrible why did I stay and take the money? When I quit I was no longer a “working climate scientist” and my credibility is attacked that way.
I created a website, www.RealClimatologists.org, to state simply why global warming is not irrefutable. Religious dogma is irrefutable, not science. Science is by design refutable. (For nitpickers, interchange “refutable” with “falsifiable”.) Labeling global warming skeptics as climate change deniers by analogy to Holocaust deniers is evil itself. Recently I sent an open letter to President Trump about his daughter and climate change, which got quite a bit of press. This letter is available at www.RealClimatologists.org.
I am now an IT consultant, specializing in IT security, partly because my daughter’s medical records were lost to hackers not once but twice by two IT-incompetent health insurance organizations. Despite appeals the US Government did nothing about this (I thus have my own reasons for not liking FBI’s Comey). I don’t get paid by the oil companies to question global warming, although I really don’t see anything wrong with that. Global warming alarmists have been funded by the taxpayers for years. In fact I even wonder if James Hansen was forced out of NASA GISS for violations of the Hatch Act, which forbids government officials from spending government time and money on political activities.
I’ll be writing more about climate and IT incompetence.
Note: The term “global warming” got a bad reputation so it was changed to “climate change”. I refuse to be part of this reputation repair so I refer to it by its original meaningful name.
Dr. Duane Thresher is a climate expert who has done postdoctoral research on climate proxy modeling at University of Alaska and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany. He holds a PhD in Earth & Environmental Sciences from Columbia University, an MS in Atmospheric Science from the University of Arizona, and a BS, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.