Skip to main content

Dilbert creator Scott Adams issues bad-faith ‘climate challenge’

Dilbert creator Scott Adams issues bad-faith ‘climate challenge’


Too bad climate science won’t actually change his mind

Share this story

NASA's Operation IceBridge Maps Changes To Antartica's Ice Mass
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Yesterday, Dilbert creator Scott Adams issued a challenge to scientists with all the arrogance of someone who believes the main trait Hillary supporters have in common is being bullies:

Adams was once known mostly for creating a comic strip about working in a cubicle, but for the last few years has mostly been known for having aged into the hated boss character from his own strip. (A quick overview: he endorsed Donald Trump, then changed his endorsement to Clinton out of fear her supporters might murder him, then personally vowed to murder Trump if he became too Hitler-ish and... the list goes on.)

Regarding climate change, you’d think that global cooperation to pass the Paris accords, “catastrophic” warnings about Arctic sea ice levels and UN reports that even our best efforts are not enough might be enough to convince Adams. But you’d be wrong.

In a longer version of the challenge posted to his blog, Adams writes that he wants to find a scientist who believes that climate models do a good job of predicting the future, and not just CO2 measurements or greenhouse gas emissions. This matters because, as he states:

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

In other words, he’s concerned with complex models with a lot of variables. He says the models cannot correctly predict the future and how much the temperature will rise, even if the input measurements and basic CO2 science is correct.

First, it should go without saying that there are many scientists who believe climate models are credible and that global warming is a threat. (For a good explanation on the reliability of these models, check out Dana Nucittelli’s post at Skeptical Science.)

But the other important thing to keep in mind is that this is simply not a good-faith challenge from Adams. As climate scientist Tamsin Edwards notes, models are never perfect. But if you pick the least wrong one, they are important tools that can’t be ignored.

If you’re a climate change denier, your best strategy is to pick on the models and get technical with details because after all, of course no model can get everything right all of the time. At that point, it’d be clairvoyance, not predictive modeling. It’s like if you predicted eight out of 10 things correctly, and then someone says that since you got one wrong, your entire method was trash.

Picking on the models suggests that Adams isn’t looking to be convinced, he’s just trying to bait the scientific establishment. People aren’t going to take the time to seriously answer your question if they suspect doing so will be a waste of time. Some people are tweeting explanations of climate change at Adams, but none of that is working, of course. Adams just keeps saying some variation of this:

It’s important for scientists and people with questions about climate change to have good-faith discussions — it’s probably the only way to lay rest to doubts about science. Plenty of scientists seem to be up for it. But of course, the qualifier here is “good faith.” If you won’t trust anything presented to you, why issue a challenge in the first place?

Miami may be underwater by 2100