Table of Contents
About the Authors
Table of Contents
Reader Responses
Academic Reviews
Media Reviews
Our Critics
Colour Illustrations

Copyright (c) 2002 by Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick

0. Preface

1. A Voice from the Whirlwind
Thunderstorms are intriguing in that scientists have a complete theory for all parts of it, yet the physics cannot be used for computational predictions. This means that climate models do not treat storms, and many other things, from first principles. Instead they use approximations which stand in for physical theory. Uncertainty is therefore intrinsic to any discussion of climate issues. Yet the debate over global warming is conducted under the shadow of a Doctrine of Certainty: namely that we understand the problem and how to fix it. This book explores how this Doctrine arose, why it is at odds with the science, and how it has impaired our ability to think through the policy challenge.

2. The Convection of Certainty
In this chapter we look at the main players on the climate stage, namely politicians and Official Science. The latter is not the same as science, instead it is an administrative layer that represents science to the public and to politicians. But politicians and Official Science respond to the incentives each one gives the other, which lead to a reinforcement of the Doctrine of Certainty. The media and outside interest groups amplify these incentives. We trace this process, show where regular scientists fit in the picture, and how it gave rise to the impossible notion that we have the climate problem all figured out.
2.1 The Scientist's Burden
2.2 The Key Players
2.3 The Motions of the System
2.4 From Polar Bears to Kyoto: a Microclimate Case Study

3. Theory Versus Models and Metaphors
Our challenge to the reader is that undoing the damage of the Doctrine requires that people be willing to learn the science. This is true even of scientists for whom atmospheric physics is not their specialty. This chapter looks at the differences between theory, models and metaphors. There is no theory of climate, but we discuss what might be involved in developing one. We also introduce the theme of "averaging" as a way of moving up scales of detail, and why this must be done carefully or it can lead to false conclusions. We look at how models function in lieu of a theory, and what their limitations are. Finally we show that metaphors like "the greenhouse effect" and the "global temperature" have served as replacements for both theory and models and further confused the discussion.
3.1 Climate Theory and Climate Models
3.2 Marooned Halfway Up Mount Climate Theory
3.3 Fairy Tales of Computation and the Devil's Ball of Yarn
3.4 Models in Lieu of Theory
3.5 Professor Thermos Teaches a Lesson About Global Temperature
3.5 Runaway Language and Metaphors That Feed the Doctrine

4. T-Rex Devours the Planet
This chapter takes up the theme of averaging in the context of averaging temperatures. There is no physical rationale for constructing average temperatures, nor is there such a thing as a "global temperature." Average temperatures correspond to nothing in the actual climate system. So what do those famous graphs really show? In this chapter we argue that it tells us nothing useful about the physical world, that it is at best an ill-defined index, and that different but equally-valid methods for producing the index could generate completely different graphs.
4.1 Panic in the Streets
4.2 The Bones of T-Rex
4.3 The Bones of Contention
4.4 Global What?
4.5 What Does T-Rex Have to do with Climate?
4.6 One Strange Beast

Chapter 5: T-Rex Plays Hockey
The recent climate panel report made much of a graph of temperatures over the past 1,000 years. But there weren't thermometers back then. So people ought to ask: how did they make this graph? Once we understand how they did it we free it up to serve its scientific purpose, rather than the political purpose it was put to.
5.1 The Mutant Ninja Temperature
5.2 The Rings of Power
5.3 Maps and Mappings
5.4 Wishing for Stationarity
5.5 The Hockey Game

Chapter 6. The Unusual Suspects
The climate panel tries to distinguish between "detection" of climate change and "attribution" of cause. Except in a very trivial case these cannot be viewed separately. Methods of detection, on close inspection, seem like a police set-up. The lineup of suspects is arranged to highlight infrared gases, other potential suspects are not examined, the statistical interrogation methods force confessions even when the data do not provide them and a conviction is being sought even though there is little evidence a "crime" has even been committed.
6.1 Climate and Punishment
6.2 The Lineup
6.3 Rounding Up More Suspects
6.4 A Second Opinion on the Autopsy
6.5 Signal Detectives and the Degenerates who Would Not Confess
6.6 Conclusion

Chapter 7: Uncertainty and Nescience
It is routine to speak of uncertainty in climate change, then to carry on as if one had complete certainty anyway. The problem is that the word "uncertainty" suggests a kind of knowledge, while on many fundamental issues we have no knowledge at all. The word for this is "nescience." We give an example of mere uncertainty: the reconstruction of past carbon dioxide levels. Then we give two examples of nescience: whether adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes local surface warming, and whether statistical methods can detect a human influence on climate.
7.1: In the Land Beyond Uncertainty
7.2 Mere Uncertainty: Past Carbon Dioxide Levels
7.3 Nescience I: Carbon Dioxide and Surface Warming
7.4 Nescience II: Statistical Causality Between Carbon Dioxide and Climate, or Truth is Granger than Fiction
7.5 A Concluding Comment

Chapter 8. Ceiling Fan Gases and the Global Blowing Crisis
Discussion of the "impacts" of global warming follows from the Doctrine of Certainty, but a better understanding of the climate problem makes this discussion problematic. Why don't we talk about global average wind speed and the global blowing problem? Or global humidity and the global moistening problem? The discussion of impacts reflects an inordinate focus on temperature, whereas climate is more complicated and peoples' relationship to climate more complex yet.
8.1 Waterworld and other Impacts Studies
8.2 Measuring the Future
8.3 How Does Climate Matter?
8.4 The Role of Adaptation
8.5 Bugs and Bad Weather
8.6 Those Little Superscripts
8.7 Apres Global Warming, Le Deluge
8.8 Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels and Plant Growth
8.9 Conclusions

9. Kyoto, Son of Doctrine
The Kyoto Protocol reflects Doctrinal thinking taken to its conclusion: we know what the problem is and how to fix it. Yet viewed from outside that framework, the treaty fails to make sense on scientific or economic grounds.
9.1 Flat Beer
9.2 The Kyoto Protocol and its Gaseous Targets
9.3 Lemon Permits
9.4 The Benefits of Implementation
9.5 Thinking About Costs, and Other Jobs for Grownups
9.6 Options for Meeting the Kyoto Protocol Target
9.7 The Optimal Carbon Dioxide Price
9.8 Meanwhile, Back at Kyoto
9.9 Fatally Flawed

Chapter 10. After Doctrine: Making Good Policy When the Science is Uncertain
Underneath the global warming issue is the general question of how to make good policy when the science is uncertain. In this chapter we re-cap why the Doctrine is false, by going over it item by item. Then we propose a new way of relating science to politics that will avoid the convection of certainty between politics and Official Science, thereby preserving the independence of science even when hot political and policy questions are at stake.
10.1 After Doctrine
10.2 What Should We Do About Global Warming?
10.3 The Law of Group Polarization
10.4 In Praise of Polarization: The People v. Carbon Dioxide
10.5 The Flying Dutchman





More about Taken By Storm: The Cooler Heads Briefing Washington DC, February 2003.

Erratum: Tim Lambert has pointed out to us that Figure 3 in the above essay contains an error, as missing data were handled differently compared to Figure 2. While the underlying point remains the same (that the sign of the trend can be affected by the way the averaging is done) the numerical example shown in the paper is wrong. A corrected example is available from the authors if you would like.