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What Does A Weatherman Know About Settled Climate Science?

Anthony Sadar Certified consulting meteorologist
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What does a weatherman know about the climate?  This question is posed all the time as an argument by leftist climate activists against any meteorologist who would dare to oppose the “consensus” narrative that humans are causing long-term, disastrous global climate change.

But the argument demonstrates the lack of understanding many have with respect to the discipline of atmospheric science.

Those trained in the math- and physics- based atmospheric sciences (this frequently excludes broadcast weather personalities) are typically qualified to provide insight in the modern field of meteorology and climatology.  After all, climate and weather are two aspects of the same continuum.  As Mark Twain supposedly quipped, “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”

The activist’s claim is apparently that a practitioner with decades of experience in the pertinent quantitative and qualitative aspects of the atmospheric science profession, such as observation, modeling, analysis, and forecasting, is somehow unqualified to intelligently challenge, or even simply question, the venerated claims by those who assert catastrophic climatic conditions decades into the future.

Some of the same claimants have also pushed the idea that the supposed expertise in knowing the far-off climate is somehow a qualification to interpret changes in up-close conditions, such as teasing out the human contribution to “extreme” weather that occurs regularly.

But does expertise in prognosticating the yonder climate qualify the prognosticator as a reliable interpreter of the current weather?  The activist’s argument can be thrown right back at them: What does a climate scientist know about the weather?

Both of the questions–what does a weatherman know about the climate; and, what does a climate scientist know about the weather?– are absurd, since climate and weather are obviously interrelated.

A more important question to resolve is: why such angst over atmospheric science?  The angst should be more expansive, as science itself is under siege. Activists have organized marches like the one earlier this month, to preserve their narrative that humans are doing long-term damage to the global climate by living comfortably off fossil fuels.  But are alternative viewpoints valid, like the reasonable and compassionate recommendation to deliver millions of people from poverty with readily accessible resources while advancing the continued promising development of alternative sources?  Is science about perspective and challenges to the consensus view, or is it about “going along to get along” professionally, and supporting what President Eisenhower warned as “the scientific-technological elite”?

Late last year, around the time nations met in Bonn to hammer out implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, Judith Curry, former Professor and Chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, commented on the concept of “settled science.”  In a foreword to an article inOnPoint, a newsletter of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Dr. Curry observed that the “mantra of ‘settled science’ is belied by the inherent complexity of climate change as a scientific problem, the plethora of agents and processes that influence the global climate, and disagreements among scientists.  Manufacture and enforcement of a ‘consensus’ on the topic of human-caused climate change acts to the detriment of the scientific process, our understanding of climate change, and the policy responses.  Indeed, it becomes a fundamentally anti-scientific process when debate, disagreement, and uncertainty are suppressed.”

Political agreements, such as the Paris accord, should not trump scientific discord.  When prudent skepticism of the supposedly established knowledge of far-future climate conditions are squelched by bullying in the form of childish ridicule (name-calling like “climate denier”) and serious threats (recommending criminal charges against dissenters), not just the atmospheric sciences, but science as a whole is in dire straits. The practice of name-calling and threats demonstrate arrogance, immaturity, and desperation, none of which have a place in science and may reveal serious bias in practitioners.

Hopefully the situation will brighten for challengers of the entrenched view, as challengers weather the current atmosphere while looking to a climate that is more tolerant in the future.

Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail (Stairway Press, 2016).


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.