When Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert,” endorsed Donald Trump for president, the “Clinton bullies,” as he calls them, came after him with full force: “They started calling newspapers, demanding they drop ‘Dilbert,’” Adams told me from his Berkeley-area home last week. “My speaking engagements dried up to zero. My income dropped by about one-third.”
He initially endorsed Clinton to protect “his own personal safety, because I live in California. It isn’t safe to be a Trump supporter where I live,” he wrote in his blog last September when he officially switched his endorsement to Trump over concerns about Clinton’s health and estate tax plan.
Now Adams is emerging as a key provocateur in an area even more brutally divisive than presidential politics: climate change. The man who has satirized corporate culture and groupthink for nearly 30 years is agitating the groupthink on both sides of the climate change debate. “I’m looking at this through a persuasive filter. The argument is absurd on both sides,” he said. “People have convinced themselves they understand it, but they don’t. There could be a third option on this.”
Climate Models Are the Result of ‘Magical Thinking’
He regularly posts columns on his blog and hosts Periscope videos called “Coffee with Scott Adams” viewed by thousands of people where he discusses a range of issues, including climate change. Armed with an MBA from the University of California-Berkeley, the cartoonist is taking aim at the dubiousness of climate models used to justify costly public policy and sway individual decision-making.
He calls climate models the result of “magical thinking” and the least-credible thing scientists do. “Science can’t know the future. Of the hundreds, if not thousands, of climate models, how many were wrong? How many models did we have in the past that didn’t work out?” he asks. Adams thinks the climate models aren’t persuasive on accuracy, but may be directionally right.
He also questions the dearth of economic models tied to climate change. “We know that, in economics, nobody has created a long-term economic model that has been right. Economic models are nonsense.” Therefore, Adams says, there is no way to know what to do or when to start to address climate change. “The information has to be weaponized. Meanwhile, no citizens have any useful information.”
That leads to what Adams calls the climate activists’ retreat to a version of Pascal’s Wager: how to weigh the probability of catastrophic climate change. This is an approach I often hear from folks who demand solutions to manmade climate change. The catch is, even if we are wrong that humans are causing climate change, so what? The worst we have done is clean up our air, our water, our land, they conclude.
But this rationale exposes the selective ignorance of climate activists. Policies to mitigate manmade climate change have inflicted economic damage to industries, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in regulations and subsides, and prevented developing countries from pursuing energy independence via fossil fuels.
“Their thinking is, we can’t be certain of climate change, but since we don’t know, we should prepare for the worst,” Adams said. “But there are too many potential catastrophic events to pick just one to spend trillions of dollars on. What about shielding us from a nuclear attack, or a meteor hit, or a pandemic?”
Taking Fire From the Usual Suspects
Of course, by not unequivocally agreeing with the scientific establishment’s groupthink about human-caused climate change, Adams has landed in the “denier” camp, even though he believes humans contribute to global warming. He’s become a target of some of the climate cabal’s most high-profile leaders. (Adams has also coined the Dilbert Principle: “Leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow.”)
In a May 14 “Dilbert” strip mocking both climate and economic models, Adams unwittingly made the climate scientist look like Michael Mann, the Penn State climatologist and creator of the infamous “hockeystick” model to prove global warming. Adams told me he had never heard of or seen Mann before he drew the comic, a comment sure to offend Mann’s delicate ego. Mann is suing National Review for libel and recently compared himself to a Holocaust victim.
After the strip was published, Mann took a break from pushing Trump impeachment conspiracies on Twitter to blast Adams and his followers, whom he said are “text-book cases of Dunning Kruggerism.” Mann said he was honored to be “featured” in the cartoon (he wasn’t) that “expressed climate ignorance” (it didn’t). He then spent the next few days retweeting sycophantic messages from other climate lemmings, giving their support to Mann and predictably calling Adams a science denier. Some even threatened not to buy next year’s “Dilbert” calendar, a harsh move by any measure (yes, I’m joking.)
Mann doesn’t know he is proving another of Adams’ points: the failure of science communicators. “They don’t understand the science of persuasion and communication. There is no communication from scientists to the public. I don’t know if climate change is a big problem or not because the scientists haven’t effectively persuaded me even though they have plenty of evidence on their side. As a non-scientist, I need some kind of context.” Adams has a book coming out this fall about the use of persuasion in elections.
As for Trump, Adams called the president’s recent overseas trip “a home run” and said he’s doing well on the “big stuff, like the economy, jobs, treaties, relations with other leaders.” He says Russia could be anything from “a hallucination to something real that doesn’t matter.” At a time when our country seems more like a cartoon show than real life, perhaps it’s only fitting that a comic strip writer may shift the public debate on an intractable issue like climate change.