Nordhaus Misses the Point on Skepticism

Nordhaus Misses the Point on Skepticism
March 16, 2012

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is vice president for external relations and senior fellow for environment and... (read full bio)

Climate Change Weekly #42

Warmists often fail to understand what defines a global warming “skeptic.” The myth so frequently asserted by global warming alarmists and their media allies is that skeptics dispute that the planet is warming and that human activity has been a contributing factor to the warming. In reality, most skeptics believe the planet has warmed in the 100-plus years since the Little Ice Age ended and that human activity, including carbon dioxide emissions, has been a factor. The most important points of contention are what amount of warming is likely in the future and what will be the impacts.

Physicist Eric Dennis has responded to a New York Review of Books article by economist William Nordhaus titled, “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong.” Nordhaus, like many in the global warming discussion, buys into the myth that skeptics dispute humans are contributing to recent warming. Dennis writes, “The most frustrating thing about being a scientist skeptical about catastrophic global warming is that the other side is continually distorting what I am skeptical of.” Dennis proceeds to demonstrate important flaws in Nordhaus’s six premises regarding global warming skeptics.

According to Nordhaus, there are six important points of contention between warmists and skeptics. They are:

1. Is the planet in fact warming?
2. Are human influences an important contributor to warming?
3. Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?
4. Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?
5. Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?
6. Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

Writes Dennis, “Since the answers to these questions are allegedly yes, yes, yes and no, no, no, it’s case closed, says Nordhaus. Except that he is attacking a straw man. Scientists (or non-scientists) who are ‘skeptics’ are skeptical of catastrophic global warming – not warming or human-caused warming as such. So much for 1 and 2. We refuse to label CO2 a ‘pollutant’ because it is essential to life and because we do not believe it has the claimed catastrophic impact. So much for 3. And since 4–6 don’t pertain to the scientific issue of catastrophic warming, so much for them, as well.” (emphasis in the original)

Dennis proceeds to give a more detailed explanation of how and why warmists frequently misunderstand the skeptical point of view. It is an outstanding essay that should be read by anybody who believes skeptics are contesting basic science.

SOURCE: Master Resource


Forensic analysis shows Gleick likely author of forged memo … NASA explains causes of mild U.S. winter … CO2 may indeed be causing people to get fatter … Problems with regional precipitation predictions


A computer analysis of the “climate strategy memo” at the heart of the Fakegate scandal concludes disgraced climate scientist Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, is the most likely author. The computer analysis was conducted by Juola & Associates. According to the business’s Web site, it is “the premier provider of expert analysis and testimony in the field of text and authorship. Our scientists are leading, world-recognized experts in the fields of stylometry, authorship attribution, authorship verification, and author analysis.”

Dr. Juola concludes his analysis saying: “Having examined these documents and their results, I therefore consider it more likely than not that Gleick is in fact the author/compiler of the document entitled ‘Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,’ and further that the document does not represent a genuine strategy memo from the Heartland Institute.”



NASA scientists have published a news brief explaining the warmer temperatures and below-average snowfall in the United States this winter. NASA attributes the mild winter to La Niña and the Arctic Oscillation. There is no mention of any link to global warming.

SOURCE: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Global warming alarmists have proposed a new theory that received plenty of media attention this week: Carbon dioxide makes people fat. Meteorologist Anthony Watts points out that any increase in human body mass tied to carbon dioxide is likely due to carbon dioxide enhancing crop production. Increasing crop production is viewed by most of the world as a benefit rather than a harm.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That?


World Climate Report has published an informative summary of why climate models have a difficult time predicting future precipitation trends on a regional scale. The topic has been in the news this week as a result of a study claiming the Western United States will experience more winter precipitation extremes as a result of global warming. The new study and others like it “provide no useful guidance for the future,” World Climate Report concludes.

SOURCE: World Climate Report

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is vice president for external relations and senior fellow for environment and... (read full bio)