New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is calling for the heads of “deniers” again. In his “Betraying the Planet“, he says that anybody who doesn’t agree with his understanding on climate models should be labeled a traitor.
He made use of his common tropes: unforgivable, treasonous, betrayal, etc. I wonder if knows the definitions of these strong words. I think he does, but then it means that he has worked himself into an irrational tizzy over the House vote.
Here’s my letter to their editor. Naturally, I think there is low probability it will be published.
Your columnist Paul Krugman is rather excitable on the subject of global warming. Treason? Denial? Unforgivable? Ill-considered, extreme words used in haste. Mr. Krugman has failed to appreciate the limitations of predictions and is unforgiving of those of us who do.
Mr. Krugman is correct to say that some climate models are predicting warmer temperatures. Those same models have been so predicting for quite some time. But they have been over-predicting, meaning that they have guessed the temperatures would have been warmer than they have turned out to be. Climate models have been poor in practice. They have done well in simulating, or reproducing, past climates, but when checked against their actual (future) predictions, they have been too hot.
It is rational, therefore, to believe that they will continue to over-predict, until what is broken in the models is fixed. So to say that the output of predictive models should be acted on without question or else one is treasonous is not rational.
My expertise is in verification of forecasts (among other things, I serve on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee). When making a decision based on a forecast—whether to “cap and trade” or regulate—one must take into account the skill of that forecast. More skillful models should be trusted more than less skillful ones. So far, climate models have not demonstrated consistent skill, thus we should be cautious when acting on their predictions.
This in no way says that the models should be ignored and that no decisions can be made safely based on their output. It does mean that there is room for honest scientific disagreement. Shouting, in effect, that those who disagree with Mr. Krugman’s views should be painted as traitors is just plain silly.
William M. Briggs, PhD