Charles Moore is an English journalist who writes for the Daily Telegraph. At one time, he used to be the editor of the publication, moving into that position at a very young age. Recently, he wrote a biography of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. On Sunday, Moore published an article attacking climate change believers while questioning scientists on their methods.
Early on in the column, Moore pretty much shows why he shouldn’t be taken seriously on this issue, as he makes the all too common error of making a direct comparison between weather and climate.
Most of us pay some attention to the weather forecast. If it says it will rain in your area tomorrow, it probably will. But if it says the same for a month, let alone a year, later, it is much less likely to be right. There are too many imponderables.
The theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more. However interesting the scientific inquiries involved, therefore, it can have almost no value as a prediction. Yet it is as a prediction that global warming (or, as we are now ordered to call it in the face of a stubbornly parky 21st century, “global weirding”) has captured the political and bureaucratic elites. All the action plans, taxes, green levies, protocols and carbon-emitting flights to massive summit meetings, after all, are not because of what its supporters call “The Science”. Proper science studies what is – which is, in principle, knowable – and is consequently very cautious about the future – which isn’t. No, they are the result of a belief that something big and bad is going to hit us one of these days.
Moore sets the table right away by using one of the most common arguments by climate change deniers. Basically, we can’t predict the weather months or years from now. Therefore, how can we properly know what the climate will do? Because, obviously, climate and weather are the exact same thing. This is the problem with allowing non-scientists to be part of the ‘debate’ on climate change.
The Telegraph’s Tom Chivers felt the same way about Moore’s article and offered a rebuttal on Monday. Mainly, he takes aim at Moore statement that “the theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more.” Chivers states how that is just completely and utterly wrong.
And what climate modelling, climate forecasting, does is try to work out how those odds are going to change. As more energy is trapped in the atmosphere, how will it affect the local climates of England and Egypt? (And by extension, of course, the economies and societies of those places, which are adapted to their particular climates.) It’s a complicated job, of course; the climate is an incredibly complex system. I recommend the climate scientist Tamsin Edwards’s blog All Models Are Wrong for a discussion of the limitations and strengths of climate modelling.
But to call “the theory of global warming” a “gigantic weather forecast” is just wrong. Staggeringly wrong. The idea is not to say “in Leamington Spa on Saturday 7th of April 2114, it will be overcast with a chance of rain”, but that “in 100 years’ time, the likelihood is that rain will be more frequent in western Europe than it currently is”.
Moore’s whole premise through his article is that weather forecasts become less accurate the further out you go and that scientists keep changing their mind, so we should just stop listening to them. In his mind, everything centers around today’s economic needs. We should no look to make changes for the future if it causes individuals, companies and countries to get hurt in the pocketbook right now. Science isn’t to be trusted. This is how he finished his article:
Since then, the international war against carbon totters on, because Western governments see their green policies, like zombie banks, as too big to fail. The EU, including Britain, continues to inflict expensive pain upon itself. Last week, the latest IPCC report made the usual warnings about climate change, but behind its rhetoric was a huge concession. The answer to the problems of climate change lay in adaptation, not in mitigation, it admitted. So the game is up.
Scientists, Rupert Darwall complains, have been too ready to embrace the “subjectivity” of the future, and too often have a “cultural aversion to learning from the past”. If they read this tremendous book they will see those lessons set out with painful clarity.
Moore is pretty much calling for a complete disregard for science. He feels that those with absolutely no knowledge of a particular subject should step right in and have a ‘debate’ with those who have done extensive research and have spent their entire lives learning and teaching on that particular subject. The debate, in his mind, is really just on throwing doubt because of how it will effect certain people financially. Since he, and others, don’t know or even really understand the subject, it is all about cherry-picking and obfuscating the entire scientific method, by pointing out earlier statements by scientists that have since evolved.
Thankfully, Chivers pointed out on Monday how terribly wrong Moore is by taking this approach. He ended his article with this:
It’s reasonable to be concerned about economically damaging or socially authoritarian responses to the threat of climate change. But Charles has utterly misunderstood the issue, and told an entire scientific discipline that he knows best, and it’s important that someone points out that he’s got it wrong.
Exactly. Charles Moore should not be telling scientists that they are wrong when he doesn’t even understand the very topic he is discussing.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).