Five days before the recent snowstorm rocked the Mid-Atlantic region, the ECMWF weather model had forecast more than 30 inches for portions of Delaware, coastal Maryland, and southern New Jersey. The model had overestimated snowfall by up to a factor of three.
My criticism of the model will likely not anger many in the political arena. Why not? Because, as we are often told, weather is not climate. Weather is very difficult to forecast because it is highly variable, and weather models can and often do make bad forecasts – particularly for long-range predictions – because model errors grow over time. By contrast, apparently, climate is very easy to forecast, and thus the dire prognostications made by climate models cannot be questioned. (Never mind those dates activists often set for climate “tipping points” pass without event.)
Jordan Peterson has just been schooled on this difference. As the Guardian noted, Peterson told Joe Rogan that “the climate was too complex to be modelled accurately.” So, leading climate scientists lined up to ridicule and criticize Peterson, who, it was dutifully noted, is not a climate scientist but a “controversial Canadian psychologist.”
Peterson, the critics claimed, showed that he was “stunningly ignorant” when he argued that climate was a complex problem and that models cannot possibly include every variable that affects it. One of these leading climate scientists, Dr. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick of the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, was quoted as stating that while weather forecasts become less accurate over time, “this was a different process to climate modelling.”
So, climate models become more accurate as their time horizons increase? Does that make any sense?
If you don’t understand this, it is because you don’t understand the purpose of climate modeling. Climate models have virtually nothing to do with the science; but they have everything to do with perception. Climate activists, using the models for divination, assert that our future will be plagued by increasing droughts, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and every other meteorological disaster. These models and their output cannot be questioned, and if you dare suggest that the climate is extremely complex or that our understanding of it is incomplete, you are a climate denier – or worse.
The fact is that Peterson was relaying truthful information raised by numerous leading climate scientists who disagree with the supposed scientific consensus. Peterson cited the esteemed and late S. Fred Singer (I was a coauthor of the book that Peterson cited), who argued that climate has always changed and that while humans can and do affect our climate, man-made climate change is not the existential threat that radical environmentalists envision. Singer also was a principal author of all five volumes of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, the most authoritative and comprehensive series of reports available offering a counterpoint to the claims of the United Nations’ IPCC. Because Singer’s view (and that of many other prominent climatologists who agree with him) does not espouse the gloom-and-doom climate scenario, he was vilified by environmental radicals. And now, so too is Jordan Peterson.
Most of the attacks on Peterson follow the same modus operandi that has been used for years to squelch anyone critical of the radical environmental agenda. The Guardian called Peterson’s podcast appearance a “word salad of nonsense,” and other outlets were less generous, asserting that the science Peterson espoused was funded by ExxonMobil, Charles Koch, and other nefarious oil and gas interests. These are lies that are repeatedly told; the fact is that enormous funding goes to environmental activists to spread their propaganda that directly benefits interest groups. Pushing environmental disaster is very lucrative.
Many of those who attacked Peterson mockingly criticized him for not staying in his lane. But Peterson was clearly speaking to his expertise. As an internationally recognized psychologist, he is very well-versed in groupthink, as well as the psychological characteristics of propaganda, the appeal to feelings rather than reason, and ad hominem attacks. I have long argued that climate science is no longer about the science, as it is practiced by many so-called climate scientists who know little about the Earth’s climate but who have an agenda to advance. Peterson understands this far better than most.