Climate derangement has claimed another celebrity astrophysicist. Last month, Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, declared that Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement meant that earth could become like Venus, where it rains sulphuric acid and temperatures reach 250 C.
Now Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “science communicator” and host of the 2014 TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, has claimed that climate science is as certain and predictable as next week’s solar eclipse. DeGrasse Tyson tweeted: “Odd. No one is in denial of America’s Aug 21 total solar eclipse. Like Climate Change, methods & tools of science predict it.”
With regards to Hawking’s claim, Roy Spencer, a climate specialist at the University of Alabama, pointed out that Venus had 93 times as much atmosphere and 22,000 times as much carbon dioxide as earth, so we shouldn’t be too worried about it raining acid any time soon. Whatever Donald Trump’s flaws, he’s not threatening to repeal the laws of physics and chemistry.
DeGrasse Tyson’s tweet was immediately leaped upon by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan, a classic work on probability, uncertainty and randomness. Taleb tweeted back “Thus (sic) guy is an intellectual fraud. Nonlinear domains like climate & markets!= mechanics like solar eclipses. If it were true he wd be rich.” But we’re talking something more serious here than calling the market.
I asked Christopher Essex, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Western Ontario, and an expert on climate chaos, to comment. He said that circumstances for climate prediction are even worse than suggested by Taleb’s legitimate concern over nonlinearity.