In February 2020, models were forecasting more than three million COVID-19 deaths in America and 45 million deaths worldwide without mitigation. Two months later, we know that these predictions were wrong by at least a factor of three, possibly much more. One group of people warned early on that the models were wrong: climate skeptics. Does the epidemic tell us that we need to have another debate about the accuracy of climate predictions?
Before the Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic, there was great trust in computer models among the global elites, institutions, the media, and a large portion of the public. The initial models showed that the world was facing a level of carnage not seen since the Spanish flu of 1918. This led governments all over the world to shut down their economies.
However, scientists who are skeptical of the catastrophic predictions of climate models warned early on that one should be careful about drawing hasty conclusions. In late February, the Japanese health authorities had released the test results from the passengers of the cruise ship Diamond Princess. Climate skeptics quickly recognized that this was a near-perfect controlled lab experiment, where most of the people were tested for the virus rather than just those showing symptoms.
The result was that 58% of the infected were asymptomatic. The death rate among those below the age of 65 was near-zero, while 2% of those older than 65 died.
Many climate skeptics used this high-quality data set to reach a conclusion which holds even today: Far more people are infected than the official figures show. Therefore, the initial models dramatically overestimated the crisis.
Garbage in, Garbage out
Now that we are getting better data from antibody tests, the models are becoming more in alignment with what the skeptics said two to three months earlier. They knew that if you feed highly uncertain data into the models, you will not get a meaningful result. In other words, garbage in equals garbage out.
A Pew Research Center study from 2019 showed that while trust in politicians and the media was low, 86% of respondents trusted scientists. When the dust settles from the Coronavirus, we may find that confidence eroded. Therefore, the time could soon be coming for a public debate on the accuracy of the climate models.
Just like Diamond Princess became an early warning about the troubles with the Coronavirus models, climate skeptics have focused on similar bellwethers that indicate that the climate’s sensitivity to CO2 is low.
#1: No Tropical Troposphere Hot Spot:
The climate models have a signature effect: The air high above the tropics should be warming much faster than the surface. This is often referred to as the tropical troposphere hot spot. The trouble is that no such hot spot is observed. Dr. Roy Spencer, one of the scientists that constructed the UAH satellite temperature data set used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has noted that the satellites show little to no warming in this region of the atmosphere.
#2: Low Long-Term Correlation Between CO2 and Temperature:
If CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, we should see its effect in the geological record. Reconstructions of temperature and CO2 going back 600 million years show a weak correlation. Some 470 million years ago, the world was in a deep ice age epoch far colder than today, but the CO2 level was around 500% higher than it is now. Astrophysicist Dr. Nir Shaviv has calculated the climate sensitivity from this geological data to be moderate to low.
Good scientists take these and other important tests as a strong indication that the climate models are wrong. There’s no smoking gun linking carbon dioxide to global temperatures, which tells us that CO2 may not be as important as hitherto believed.
Although there are valid counterarguments to this line of reasoning that could be raised, the highly politicized climate community has chosen to respond by labeling the critics as “climate deniers.” It matters because those who push catastrophic warming want to lock down the economy, not just for a few months, but forever.
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