Prominent climate scientists have ridiculed and criticized controversial Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson’s comments during an interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
During a new four-hour interview on Spotify’s most popular podcast, Peterson – who is not a climate change expert – claimed that the models used to predict the future state of the climate could not be invoked.
Peterson told Rogan that because the climate was so complex, it couldn’t be modeled accurately.
He said: “Another problem that also confuses climate modeling is that as you stretch the models over time, the errors increase drastically. And so maybe you can predict a week or three weeks or a month or a year, but the farther you predict, the more off your model is.
“And that’s a huge problem when you’re trying to model over 100 years, because errors add up as does interest.”
Peterson said that if climate is “everything” then “your models are not correct” because they cannot include everything.
But climate scientists described Peterson’s comments as “astonishingly ignorant” and said he had fundamentally misunderstood the concept of climate modelling.
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climatologist at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, said Peterson’s description of how climate models work was fundamentally flawed. Although weather forecasts become less accurate the further they get, this was a different process from climate modeling.
“He seems to think we model future climate the same way we model weather. He looks smart, but he’s completely wrong.
“He has no idea,” she said.
The backlash from scientists comes as Spotify removes veteran songwriter Neil Young’s music after the singer issued an ultimatum to the company.
Young was furious at what he described as “misinformation” being aired on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast about the Covid-19 pandemic. Rogan’s show has previously aired claims from another guest that hospitals are financially incentivized to misdiagnose deaths as having been caused by Covid-19 and that world leaders had hypnotized the public into supporting vaccines.
“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young wrote in a letter to his management.
According to Spotify, which paid $100 million for exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast in 2020, the platform has 381 million users and 172 million subscribers. Rogan topped the platform’s podcast charts in the UK, US and Australia.
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler and senior adviser at Nasa, said on Twitter: “Guys, for the love of all things sacred, please, please have someone who knows what a climate model is!!!”
Schmidt told the Guardian he remembered a quote from famous British statistician George Box.
“Peterson managed to assimilate the first part of George Box’s famous saying that ‘all models are wrong’, but it seems that he didn’t understand the second part ‘but some are useful,'” Schmidt said. .
Professor Steve Sherwood, from the University of New South Wales Center for Climate Change Research, said Peterson “is making the old climate-skeptical mistake of mixing up weather and climate”.
“Anyone who has taken an introductory course in climate or atmospheric science would notice this problem,” he said. “Errors in a weather forecast do indeed accumulate in such a way that after a few weeks the forecast is useless.”
But with climate, Sherwood said, models work differently to project how the climate will respond to different factors, such as higher levels of CO2.
“[Peterson’s] argument is like saying that we can’t predict whether a pot of water over a flame will boil, because we decide in advance what variables to put in our model, and we can’t predict every bubble.
Sherwood said the “laws of thermodynamics and some basic calculations” are enough to give scientists confidence in the projections.
Professor Christian Jakob, a climate modeling expert at Monash University, said Peterson’s comments were “misinformed” and that he had “mixed weather forecasts with climate projections”.
“People are entitled to their opinions, but science and climate modeling is not about opinions. If you’re not knowledgeable about how something is done, it’s not fair to comment on it on a big platform.
Professor Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Penn State University, said Peterson’s comments – and their facilitation by Rogan – were an “almost comedic type of nihilism” that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.
Peterson’s assertion that climate was too complicated showed “a complete lack of understanding of how science works” and could be used to dismiss physics, chemistry, biology, “and all other fields of science where the you formulate conceptual models,” according to Mann.
“Every great scientific discovery – including the physics that allowed Peterson and Rogan to record and broadcast their ridiculous conversation – was born out of this process,” he said.
Professor John Abraham, a climatologist at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota, said the episode was “a word salad of nonsense uttered by people who have no sense when it comes to climate”.
“To say that climate model errors increase like compound interest is laughable. Jordan Peterson displays an almost complete misunderstanding of climate change and the tools climatologists use to understand what is happening to our planet.
“It’s like someone, with no expertise or knowledge, commenting on something they know little about.”
Earlier this month, 270 experts wrote to Spotify asking it to establish “a clear and public policy for moderating misinformation on its platform” after raising concerns about pandemic misinformation on another episode of the podcast. The Joe Rogan Experience.
“Mass disinformation events of this magnitude have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications,” said the experts have writtenclaiming that the podcast has around 11 million listeners.