Study finds 99.9999% chance humans are causing climate change. That’s not good enough for climate deniers.

  • Published on March 4th, 2019

A new comment paper published in Nature this week celebrates the 40th anniversary of three key pieces of climate science by crunching the numbers to determine that there is a 99.9999% chance that climate change is human caused. In other words, there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the warming we’ve observed is natural.

climate change deniers tom toles

By Climate Denier Roundup

The study looked at three satellite datasets, all of which showed human fingerprints on temperatures. Researchers included a dataset from by the University of Alabama-Huntsville that’s run by deniers John Christy and Roy Spencer, which has long been something of an outlier for its lower temperatures.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Spencer pushed back on the paper on his blog, writing that he’s “dismayed that this published result could feed a new ‘one in a million’ meme that rivals the ‘97% of scientists agree’ meme, which has been a very successful talking point for politicians, journalists, and liberal arts majors.”

Weird, you might say, that a scientist would be so concerned with the political implications of a paper. But Spencer doesn’t see himself as an impartial scientist merely following the evidence. In fact, he wrote in his 2011 book that he sees his “job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

Recognizing, then, that this study could be used to justify government action on climate change, Spencer attempts to debunk it on his blog. But since the study is a pretty straightforward statistical calculation, there’s nothing he can do except claim that maybe there’s some natural process that has led to the observed warming that so closely matches the model output.

Since this statistical test wouldn’t be able to distinguish between natural warming and warming resulting from human activity, apparently it can’t be trusted.

But Spencer doesn’t offer any real explanation for what this mysterious natural force might be. In Spencer’s world, it’s easier to believe that thousands of scientists over the last century have missed some obvious major force than it is to accept that pollutants we know trap heat have, in fact, trapped heat.

We’ve always been pretty clear that it’s a confluence of money and ideology that drives denial, not stupidity. But at this point, it’s becoming harder and harder to see deniers as anything but Dumb and Dumber, given that Spencer looked at one-in-a-million odds and said: So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

(Crossposted from DailyKos.)

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