When a Scientist Believes Data Does Not Support Theory in Climate Models, What Then?

In past discussions here, I have often been accused of having too high a view of scientific “theorists” and of showing contempt for scientists who focused on “data.” I have been told that it’s unscientific snobbery to undervalue the empirical side of science, and the hard work and diligence of those who gather the data by which theory ought to be tested. Without conceding that I have denigrated the hard work of scientists who produce reliable data, I can certainly agree that theory alone is insufficient for good science, and that theory must be constantly tested against data.

In that spirit, I provide a link to an interview with an accomplished scientist (experience and qualifications stated in the interview), working in the field of climate science and in particular on the empirical testing of global warming models, in which the scientist explains, in calm and measured tones, without anger or hysterics, why he thinks that the data do not support many of the claims made by scientists (and others, including politicians) regarding the global warming (and more generally, climate change).

And just to clear the air ahead of time, the interviewer asks him point-blank, near the end of the interview, whether his research receives funding from the fossil fuel industry. His answer is an unequivocal “No”.

I wish all the participants in climate change debates would speak and write with the calm politeness of this scientist. There might be less animosity and polarization all around if only everyone could exhibit this kind of even-tempered, rational, and expository approach.

The emphasis of the interview could be said to be on: “Data, data, data”. That is, the scientist is practising the sort of humble empiricism in science that my critics here have said I don’t sufficiently respect.

I fully expect that many people here will take issue with the scientist’s conclusions, but I would say that his conversational behavior is exemplary. He tries to (pun unintended) keep the temperature of the debate down, by focusing on data and basic reasoning. I would also say that he is right to stress data, and that he avoids the error made by so many who write about this topic, by not confusing “models” with “data”.

Here is the link to the interview:

I post this not attempt to revive old battles about AGW, but simply to show that there are bona fide data scientists, and ones who don’t work for the fossil fuel industry, who really take data seriously, and whose notion of science makes data, and the correct procedures for gathering data, central to the scientific enterprise. I prefer this approach to science to that of scientist who is so wedded to his models (deeming them so clever and sophisticated) that he cannot imagine that his models may not be accurate descriptions of nature.

Is this scientist right or wrong? That’s not the issue I raise here. The point I am making is that there exist data-based objections to claims made about climate change, and those claims can come from gentlemanly, calm scientists (not wild-eyed and fanatical Fox News watchers and Trump supporters) who are not corrupted by corporate funding. He gives the lie to the stereotype, promoted by mainstream media and highly placed political figures, of the AGW skeptic.

I didn’t watch the clip but it seems this guy is one of the Duesbergs of climatology.


The main criticism of Christy his use of the MSU dataset, which some scientists have argued is biased against detecting global warming.

From ChapGPT:

One criticism of Christy’s use of the MSU dataset is that it is not well-suited for studying long-term climate trends. The dataset measures temperature trends in the lower troposphere, which is only a small part of the atmosphere, and may not be representative of global temperature trends as a whole. Additionally, the dataset has known biases and uncertainties that make it difficult to draw accurate conclusions about long-term temperature trends.

Another criticism of Christy’s work is that he has been accused of cherry-picking data and using statistical methods that are not appropriate for the MSU dataset. For example, he has been criticized for using linear regression to fit trends to the data, even though the relationship between temperature and time is known to be non-linear.

Finally, some experts have criticized Christy’s conclusions about global temperature trends, which differ significantly from those of other climate scientists. While he argues that global warming is occurring at a slower rate than many other researchers believe, his methods and conclusions have not been widely accepted in the scientific community.

In summary, while the MSU dataset has been used by many researchers to study global temperature trends, John Raymond Christy’s use of the dataset has been criticized for its methods, conclusions, and lack of acceptance within the scientific community.

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Hey there was actually an informative youtube comment on that video:

This is the paper he mentions:

Plain Language Summary

Climate models provide an important way to understand future changes in the Earth’s climate. In this paper we undertake a thorough evaluation of the performance of various climate models published between the early 1970s and the late 2000s. Specifically, we look at how well models project global warming in the years after they were published by comparing them to observed temperature changes. Model projections rely on two things to accurately match observations: accurate modeling of climate physics and accurate assumptions around future emissions of CO2 and other factors affecting the climate. The best physics-based model will still be inaccurate if it is driven by future changes in emissions that differ from reality. To account for this, we look at how the relationship between temperature and atmospheric CO2 (and other climate drivers) differs between models and observations. We find that climate models published over the past five decades were generally quite accurate in predicting global warming in the years after publication, particularly when accounting for differences between modeled and actual changes in atmospheric CO2 and other climate drivers. This research should help resolve public confusion around the performance of past climate modeling efforts and increases our confidence that models are accurately projecting global warming.

But hey, what is this worth anyway? I mean nobody here has the expertise to analyze any of this crap, and Dr. PhD climatologist J Christy is calm, data driven, fossil-fuel-unpaid, and polite, and that is so refreshing and rational.


That’s fair enough. I think generalizations are bad, so it’s wrong to say that all skeptics of AGW are wild-eyed fanatics or corrupt. However, seeing as the overwhelming majority of climatologists are in agreement that AGW is real, and I’m not qualified to decide for myself, I’m very much inclined to think that AGW is real.


This is a pretty good write up about Christy, his work, and how it’s received: When Trump’s EPA Needed a Climate Scientist, They Called on John Christy - Inside Climate News


More importantly, you keep pretending that these are separate groups/castes of people. In the real world, there are very few pure theorists in biology or climatology.

How did you forget that? The selectivity of your memory is astonishing.


Again, they aren’t, except in rare cases, different people.

Except that real scientists tend to test the PREDICTIONS of hypotheses and theories to produce the data. It’s done PROspectively, not RETROspectively. You really don’t seem to have the most basic understanding of the scientific method; I guess that’s necessary to maintain the desperate pretense that IDcreationism is science and not just a scam.

But what he or anyone else SAYS about the data aren’t the data, so your title is predictably grossly misleading. Have YOU examined any of the data?

Good thing there’s absolutely no way that the fossil-fuel industry might be able to launder money through right-wing “think” tanks, or that the tanks might be funding him. No siree….

There’s be even less if people didn’t portray science as high-school debate, as you do here.

How do you know that he is not humble and is cherry-picking the data, Eddie?

Sorry; I should have included Frank Robert’s reply as among the non-sarcastic ones. However, I’d prefer to read a response to Christy by one of his colleagues, not a summary compiled by a computer. If any colleague has produced a direct response (e.g., another polite and non-heated video response), I’d look at it.

I’ll reply only to the non-sarcastic, dialogically-spirited comment:

So does Christy. Where he disagrees is (a) over the amount, and over claims that it’s easy to measure that amount; and (b) over the “crisis” characterization of the situation. One can believe that AGW is real without agreeing with all the numbers being tossed around, and one can believe that it’s real without concluding that only a revolutionary alteration of global economics and politics can save the world from it.

I, too, claim incompetence to “settle” the questions involved here, but remain suspicious that whenever there is bullying and demonization of people who appear to be honest scientists speaking with academic integrity, the motives of those doing the bullying and demonizing are not entirely scientific or theoretically pure. Respectful peer dialogue is always the best way to handle scientific or intellectual disagreement.

And if we look at the situation with the sociologist’s eye, we can see that the perception of disrespect, bullying and demonization has further fueled anti-science sentiments: increasingly, the public distrusts the motives of scientists and therefore their conclusions – even those conclusions that are sound and worthy of belief. This is a situation that a certain group of loud, activist scientists have brought on themselves, not so much by what they way as by the way they say it. When I grew up in the early 60s, scientists were highly respected and were thought of as people who were “above politics” and would never let their personal political inclinations color the way they presented what was known and not known about nature. Now, many of them seem to relish wrestling in the political muck. This can only further reduce respect for science and the people who represent it.


John Christy is not an honest person.

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There’s the problem. You admit you aren’t capable of determining whether or not John Christy is actually an honest scientist with academic integrity, vs a dishonest scientist without integrity who only appears honest.

Perhaps you should rely on those who are capable to tell you which of those who go against the flow are honest, and which are not.

Only if it is scientific or intellectual disagreement. First you should make sure the ‘disagreement’ is not dishonest charlatanism. But you always skip that step.

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Pointing out that all your points are textbook spin invented by conservative lobbying organizations, such as the constant tone-policing, is in fact dialogically spirited.

Sarcasm is just another dialectical tool that can be used to expose bad ideas.

But you don’t even know that he’s speaking with academic integrity. So all you have to go on is the tone fallacy. That’s literally your entire argument: a rhetorical point about how people speak.

You make a big deal about Christy being “data driven”, but then completely back off any discussion of his data and the science behind it. Then you just appeal to tone for lack of any substance. A transparent bait-and-switch.

Look at how data driven he is. And he’s calm too.
Look at how people respond to me, wah! People who demonize are suspicious!

All your points are actually bad points of no substance. Rhetorical devices is all you have.

Using real data and the scientific method. Which you do not and admit you can’t. So you’re just here to inform and we can make up our own minds based on tone. Cue all the usual stuff about tone and respectful dialogue.


I like how we have all the classics there: From the argument that “CO2 in californias/australias/X emissions is only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere” (also known as the argument from a tiny thing can only have a tiny effect-fallacy), through “CO2 is plant food” and “I feel like a global mean temperature increase of 1 degree isnt’ something to be alarmed about”, to him initially saying there was no warming at all and possibly cooling, then later saying there’s only little warming and it’s not man-made or has another source than CO2. He’s literally, at various points, stated every single climate myth rhetorical device.

But he insists he’s not paid by any fossil fuel companies. Okay, one can be a useful idiot I suppose. Oh no, my tone! :scream:


However, I’d prefer to read a response to Christy by one of his colleagues, not a summary compiled by a computer.

I agree, however the AI summary just a the starting point of where to look. What I often find odd about Climate doubters is that they all too often take the climate skeptic’s word w/o reading and taking into consideration what the majority of climate scientists claim.

I asked AI who are the scientists that disagree with Christy. Here is the result if you’d like to delve deeper into the details.

A number of scientists have criticized John Raymond Christy’s MSU dataset, including:

James Hansen, a climate scientist at the Columbia University Earth Institute
Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University
Gavin Schmidt, the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA
Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley
Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University

These scientists have raised a number of concerns about the MSU dataset, including its accuracy, its reliability, and its potential biases. They have also criticized Christy’s methods for analyzing the data and his conclusions about global warming.

There’s a simple answer to the question in the revised title: make more measurements, not do interviews. Pretty simple, Eddie.


It’s also interesting that someone would disparage an article because it was produced with the assistance of AI, while at the same time promoting a YouTube video which he no doubt only found because some computer algorithm directed him to it.


Why would you not read a good introductory article or book chapter on the subject, instead of relying on a non-human source such as AI?

Did you actually listen to the video interview with Christy? I’m interested in responding here only to people who have done so. And even then, only if they refrain from ad hominem arguments against Christy. (And from tasteless parallels with racism.)

I have no idea what a “climate doubter” is. Someone who doubts there is such a thing as climate? Or did you mean “climate change doubter”? But what does that mean? Someone who thinks there is no such thing as climate change? (Who thinks that?) Or did you perhaps mean “anthropogenic climate change doubter”, i.e., someone who doubts that human activity plays any role in climate change? Probably you meant the latter. But that’s not me, and it’s not Christy. Neither I nor Christy contends that human activity has zero effect on the climate. The debate is not over whether there is some effect, but how big the effect is, and how easy it is to tease that effect apart from complex (and nowhere near fully understood) natural causes. And such questions can’t be settled by having a majority of scientists shout angrily at a minority and try to browbeat them into submission. (Which is basically the approach of Michael Mann and his ilk, and of their political disciples in various governments.) They can only be settled by collegial activity, in which there are no settled dogmas and in which apparently contrary data is taken seriously, even when it embarrasses some who have a lot of ego (and research grant money) resting on their pet models.

That’s not to say the majority is necessarily wrong; it might be right. But the way to settle that is by respectful collegial dialogue in a fear-free, politics-free, ad-hominem-free atmosphere. Not citing an unread Mann etc. against an unheard Christy, but actually listening to Christy and responding with constructive criticism to his points, and not negating every single one of them in a knee-jerk fashion just because he’s on “the wrong side”. But of course, that sort of dialogical give-and-take, where both sides move a bit, has never been the style around here, whether the topic is evolution or design or COVID vaccines or anything else. Which is why I rarely post here any more, and why, having seen the snarky reactions of most here (not yours) to this latest post, it will be a long time before I post again.

AI provided a decent summary of where the vast majority of climate scientists disagreed with Christy. I don’t believe an introductory book would do a better job.

I think @Rumraket put it best:

But hey, what is this worth anyway? I mean nobody here has the expertise to analyze any of this crap

I used “doubter” because I felt it was non pejorative or less so than denier.
I wouldn’t argue that there are no reasons why people might deny climate change but climate denial is a serious problem that is delaying taking action to address it. Delay doesn’t make sense when the majority of climate scientists are warning that time is running out and emphasize that the longer we wait to take action, the harder and more expensive it will be to address the problem.

Yes, I did. But I’m not a climate scientist, so I don’t know how to evaluate his points.

Yes, I noticed that Christy agrees that there is some effect.

From my perspective, there is a very significant increase in atmospheric CO2, and we should be troubled by this regardless of whether it affects climate. Why isn’t Christy concerned about this? That’s my big issue with Christy.

No. The way to settle this is with more data. As best I can tell, the climate scientists are continually refining their models and testing them with real data. And most of them are doing this quietly without engaging in politics.

Scientists are human. So some of them do engage in politics. But it is their data, not their politics that matters.

What is it that makes it horribly wrong for Mann to make political statements, while it apparently is okay for @Eddie to be very political on this issue?


Nothing wrong with getting more data. But that won’t help settle the issue, because the issue is already settled. Right wing shills and conspiracists like @Eddie won’t accept it, but what can you do? Feeding them more data won’t help because, as @Eddie has admitted, he has no interest in data. He’s just concerned that his fellow ideologues get called bad names when they blatantly lie about stuff.

Whereas Christy, being a shill with no concern about ethics, will only take those minute data points he can manipulate to seemingly support his case, and ignore the rest.

What an excellent, excellent question!