Over at an ID blog (I promise I don’t read it regularly folks, blame RPM for pointing it out… looking closer I see the text there is somewhat wrong, this is probably the official version but its much the same) there is the text of “The Need for Heretics: Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey Commencement Address, given at the University of Michigan, December 18, 2005”. And one of FD’s heresies is GW.
In the speech, FD is talking to new PhD’s about how he hates the whole PhD system, so he needs some good heresies, but predictably enough he pushes his point too far: The first of my heresies says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. Well obviously he isn’t qualified to speak. But he doesn’t even give any indication that he knows what he is talking about, which is at least desirable before speaking.
First off, lets suppose that the climate models have absolutely zero value for predicting the future (I don’t believe it, but lets suppose). How does that allow you to conclude that the fuss is exaggerated? How does he know the models are erring on the high side? They may just as well be erring on the cautious side (and there is some reason to believe that, since there may be unexpected surprises that, err, aren’t in the models because we don’t know about them).
Secondly, the climate modellers (unlike, apparently, FD) are aware that the models are uncertain: its hard not to be, when the IPCC report gives a range of 1.5-4.5 for the climate sensitivity (although there is increasing evidence that about 3.0 is probably close to the right answer).
If FD means the fuss over the impacts… then he should say so.
FD continues: climate models… do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust… do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand… the climate model experts end up believing in their own models. All this is well over the top. But it can be re-written, substituting “climate” for “economics”. Then FD would have something real to complain about: economic models are used far more extensively for policy than climate models are, yet they lack the physical basis that climate models do have. They miss out all sorts of things in the messy muddy world. Why does FD (and indeed so many other septics) have such a blind spot for them?
ps: back to Overpeck et al soon, folks…