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‘Physicists are modellers too, but lousy modellers’

No flies on Stephen Schneider

By James Dacey

This great quote came on the final morning here at the AAAS conference in San Diego. Stephen Schneider, an environmental scientist at Stanford University, was lashing out at all forms of climate change denial including those physicists who make a sport of pointing out uncertainties in climate models.

Schneider’s point is that when physicists make laws and theories by studying the relationships between pairs of data, they are still modelling – just with much less data.

The main thrust of Schneider’s talk – delivered with a relish that could have garnished the Mexican burger I had last night – was that climate scientists should not shy away from entering the public debate on climate change. “Because I have a Ph.D. is not a reason to “hang up my citizenship at the door” of a public meeting—we too are entitled to personal opinions,” he said.

Schneider believes that the media’s representation of climate science is being increasingly shaped by the scientifically unqualified and “old men” who overstretch their dwindling expertise.

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  1. Scott Bergeson

    In other words, Schneider and the climate scientists are telling the rest of the world, “We’re the experts, all of you are nitwits, so just believe everything we say.”

  2. Eric Swanson

    Dr Schneider,
    you are paying way too much attention to Freeman Dyson. The rest of us physicists are acutely aware of the benefits and limitations of modelling and are fully supportive of the climate science community.

  3. PhD, New York University, 1974, retired. Present address: 29 Sickles St., Apt. 1B, New York, NY 10040
    Dr. Swanson:
    I must politely ask you to speak for yourself. I do not support the conclusions that have been reached by the climate science community, a community that in my view is rife with scienfitic incompetence and even chicanery. I speak as one of many thousands of competent scientists who agree with this evaluation. The fact that you can state that “The rest of us physicists . . . ,” as if Freeman Dyson is the only dissenter, merely confirms the further charge against the climate science community that they have systematically excluded those who don’t support their conclusions. This is not the way science, properly so-called, is done.
    Lewis E. Little

  4. Bruce W. Fowler, Ph.D.

    Rather reminds me of Churchill’s comment about democracy: physicists’ modeling is terrible, but all others are worse.


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