In waffling remarks, Peterson said that “there’s no such thing as climate, right?” He then went on to mock “climate types,” who he said typically suggest that “climate is about everything.”
“But your models aren’t based on everything. Your models are based on a set number of variables. So that means you’ve reduced the variables — which are everything — to that set. But how did you decide which set of variables to include in the equation if it’s about everything?”
Rogan did little to challenge the unsubstantiated comments.
Peterson’s remarks show a general misunderstanding of how scientific modeling works. Scientists use models, or simulations, to project particular aspects of climate change, such as the rise in global temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and the likelihood of drought.
Climate scientists are now ridiculing Peterson’s claims.
“Such seemingly-comic nihilism would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous,” Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told CNN.
“Similar anti-science spread by these two individuals about COVID-19 likely has and will continue to lead to fatalities. Even more will perish from extremely dangerous and deadly weather extremes if we fail to act on the climate crisis. So the promotion of misinformation about climate change is in some ways even more dangerous.”
Mann said that Peterson’s claims were “nonsensical and false,” and seems to boil down to the idea that climate science is so complicated that scientists could never model it or understand it.”
“Such an absurd argument leads to a dismissal of physics, chemistry, biology, and every other field of science where one formulates (and tests—that’s the critical part Peterson seems to fail to understand) conceptual models that attempt to simplify the system and distill the key components and their interactions,” Mann said.
“Every great discovery in science has arisen this way. Including the physics of electromagnetism that allowed Peterson and Rogan to record and broadcast this silly and absurd conversation.”
NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt shared similar views on Twitter, pointing out that Peterson didn’t appear to understand how climate models work.
“For what it’s worth, we have been projecting future warming since the first climate models in the late 1960s/early 1970s. We can look back to see how well they have performed. It turns out our models generally did a good job,” he wrote.
This story has been updated with comments from climate scientist Michael E. Mann.