Control Knobs, Rick Perry and AMS

A great post by Ross McKitrick at the Hill (H/T GWPF)  In the fight between Rick Perry and climate scientists — He’s winning  Excerpts below (my bolds)

Policy makers and the public need to understand the extent to which major scientific institutions like the American Meteorological Society have become biased and politicized on the climate issue. Convincing them of this becomes much easier when the organizations themselves supply the evidence.

This happened recently in response to a CNBC interview with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. He was asked “Do you believe CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?”

It was an ambiguous question that defies a simple yes or no answer. Perry thought for moment then said, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in.” He then went on to acknowledge the climate is changing and CO2 is having a role, but the issue is how much, and being skeptical about some of these things is “quite all right.”

Perry’s response prompted a letter of protest from Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society. The letter admonished him for supposedly contradicting “indisputable findings” that emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause of recent global warming, a topic for which Seitter insists there is no room for debate.

It is noteworthy that the meteorological society remained completely silent over the years when senior Democratic administration officials made multiple exaggerated and untrue statements in service of global warming alarmism.  (McKitrick provides several examples in his article)

But the meteorological society leapt to condemn Perry for a cautious response to an awkward question. Perry could not reasonably have agreed with the interviewer since the concept of a “control knob” for the Earth’s temperature wasn’t defined. Doubling CO2 might, according to models, cause a few degrees of warming. Doubling the size of the sun would burn up the planet. Doubling cloud cover might trigger an ice age. So which is the “primary control knob”? The meteorological society letter ignored the odd wording of the question, misrepresented Perry’s response and then summarily declared their position on climate “indisputable.” Perry’s cautious answer, by contrast, was perfectly reasonable in the context of a confusing question in a fast-moving TV interview.

Furthermore, Seitter’s letter invites skepticism. It pronounces confidently on causes of global warming “in recent decades” even though this is where the literature is most disputed and uncertain. Climate models have overestimated warming in recent decades for reasons that are not yet known. Key mechanisms of natural variability are not well understood, and measured climate sensitivity to CO2 appears to be lower than modelers assumed. Climate models tweaked to get recent Arctic sea ice changes right get overall warming even more wrong, adding to the list of puzzles. But to the meteorological society, the fact that these and many other questions are unresolved does not prevent them from insisting on uniformity of opinion.


The meteorological society letter is all about enforcing orthodoxy, which speaks ill of the leadership’s overall views on open scientific debate.

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute.

See also:  Nature’s Sunscreen and Climate Biorhythms

Footnote:  Arnd’s comment below reminds of this image.  It works even better with Republican Rick Perry testifying to the ocean’s climate dominance.



  1. Bob Greene · July 29, 2017

    Control knob, either primary or secondary, is certainly assuming something not in evidence. With a control knob, one can turn that controlled up or down. I’ve yet to see the regression of temperature/storms/drought/etc versus CO2, much less how one turns the CO2 up and down. Now the oceans are the “control knob”? I think we need to adjust the squelch on climate control knobs.


    • Ron Clutz · July 29, 2017

      Agreed Bob, the presumption is wrong: we do not have a lever on the climate. As I said in a post Climate Biorhythms, it seems that temperature and precipitation fluctuations come from multiple coincidental natural oscillations operating on a range of time scales. Try to put a control knob on that!


  2. ArndB · July 29, 2017

    Actually, I like the notion “the primary control knob is the ocean”. The letter R.Perry received from AMS (June 21, 2017)
    does not even mention a reference concerning the ocean. Expecting a fair and competent advice from leading scientific institutions seems hopeless for an indefinite time.

    Rick Perry’s reply “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in.” give hope that the climate issue is better researched and understood – one day – ultimately.
    All the best ab


    • Ron Clutz · July 29, 2017

      Hi Arnd, you’re right. It sounds a lot like “Oceans Govern the Climate.” Now where have I heard that before?😊


    • Ron Clutz · July 29, 2017

      Arnd, you reminded me of something, so I added the image to the post at the end.


      • ArndB · July 29, 2017

        Great! Thanks!!


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