Patrick Brown tells UnHerd why he designed his research to sound catastrophic
Climate scientist Patrick Brown recently published a paper in the prestigious Nature magazine which highlighted the critical role global temperature increases have played in the prevalence and severity of forest fires.
The article won plaudits from all the right circles, but then something surprising happened. Shortly after Nature published Patrick’s paper, he chose to write an explosive article in The Free Press, revealing how he deliberately designed his research to fit a narrative he knew Nature ascribed to — but that he in fact did not.
Brown joined Freddie Sayers on UnHerd TV talk through his decision:
If it is, as Brown argues, a “scientifically valid thing” to do, why did he feel the need to criticise his study?
The climate scientist explains that the cherry-picking of data isn’t uncommon in the field of climate science. He puts it down to fashion or a moralised groupthink:
Brown’s paper is a perfect example of the “good climate science” he describes, with its focus on the impacts of climate change being deliberately outsized. The paper overlooks other mitigating factors, such as fuel loads, which might be more easily and immediately addressed as a means to reduce the devastation caused by wildfires. Instead, the paper, by omission, presents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as the only solution to wildfires. While Brown acknowledges that the global temperature increase is an important factor in the prevalence and severity of wildfires, he argues it is not the factor that deserves most attention right now:
Although Brown does not doubt the reality of climate change, he worries that the single-minded approach dominating scientific research is unhelpful in mitigating the immediate challenges climate change presents. A reduction in CO2 emissions is according to journals like Nature the only solution to our problems. Brown accepts this as a long term goal but thinks that rushing to reduce CO2 emissions or rushing to reach Net Zero targets will only negatively impact living standards and will ultimately fail to deliver desired results until the end of the century.