Monday, July 11, 2011

Portrait of a Climate Skeptic

The "global warming" crowd wants to convince you that any skeptic about "global warming" is some kind of fire-breathing monster, funded by the dirtiest of fossil fuels, and hell-bent to destroy civilization as we know it.

So it is useful when a newspaper prints an article that gives an honest presentation of a climate skeptic. Here is a NY Times article about MIT's Richard Lindzen:
In the 1970s, he developed a mathematical analysis that disproved much of the accepted scientific theories about how "tides" in the Earth's atmosphere move heat around the planet. For that, he won a number of prestigious awards and was invited to become a member of the National Academy of Sciences at the tender age of 37.

In the 1990s, when a group of climate scientists using computer-driven climate models and environmental groups asserted that climate change caused by man-made greenhouse gases would dangerously warm the Earth, Lindzen set out to disprove them. He lost that battle. The message of the computer modelers is now the prevailing wisdom of the National Academy and other distinguished scientific bodies around the world.

But Lindzen hasn't given up. He became a major force in the political war that raged within the incoming George W. Bush Administration over what to do about global warming. After holding seminars with leading climate scientists, Bush rejected U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Lindzen's message in these tutorials -- that man-caused global warming was real, but would hardly cause any change at all -- was the one that Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared to favor the most. U.S. climate policy hasn't been the same since.


Rahmstorf, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) most recent report in 2007, had plenty to say about Lindzen in dueling academic papers they exchanged in 2005.

Rahmstorf predicted an average global mean surface temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, "plus or minus a degree," by 2100. He noted that this means impacts in terms of sea level rise and soaring temperatures that are unprecedented in the last 100,000 years. "Virtually every climatologist around the world, many who were initially skeptical, agree that it's a reality. We have to deal with it."

Lindzen rejected it, arguing that the answer that emerges from most climate models is wrong because they assume the Earth's clouds and water will amplify the rising heat. According to Lindzen's calculations, the clouds should have the opposite effect, minimizing the warming effect.

In his paper, Rahmstorf added a "Personal Postscript": "Can Lindzen seriously believe that a vast conspiracy of thousands of climatologists worldwide is misleading the public for personal gain? All this seems completely out of touch with the world of climate science as I know it and, to be frank, simply ludicrous."

In a reply, Lindzen skewered Rahmstorf in a footnote, arguing that the German scientist was "addicted to the use of words like 'entirely,' 'fact,' 'irrefutable,' etc. Such words are inappropriate to a primitive and immature science -- which is what climate science is at present."

Richard Goody, 90, who taught meteorology to Lindzen at Harvard, says the critics of his former pupil are "focusing on his propensity to debate. He [Lindzen] loves debating. He absorbs an enormous amount of information, and he loves arguing with you about it. Since he's so well-informed and so smart, he usually wins. This doesn't endear you to a lot of people."

Goody is quick to add: "But science is not about gentility. It's about discussing the facts. He's just doing what he should do."

Goody doesn't always agree with Lindzen, but he does share Lindzen's suspicions about computer-driven climate models.

"This machine turns out a number for something that will happen 100 years in the future. Science doesn't usually work that way. There's not much evidence about the behavior of these climate models," he said.

Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado, specializes in studying the scientific process. He sees the rough-and-tumble of the climate debate as an unstable brew of science and politics. "If we were to view science as a field where a lot of conflicts happen, then Lindzen is an expected part of the scenery. But if science is a community where there is only one acceptable view, then Lindzen stands out."

Pielke blames environmental groups for making climate a two-sided debate. Scientists like Lindzen who opposed their position "were immediately perceived as threats." The end result of this, he asserts, is public confusion. "It is a rare scientific topic where the public has it sorted out the way the experts think it ought to be viewed," he said.
Here's what Lindzen believes:
In a paper he wrote earlier this year, he managed to lash out at his scientific critics, bureaucrats, politicians -- including former Vice President Al Gore -- and environmental groups before training his rhetoric on the public. "And finally, there are the numerous well-meaning individuals who have allowed propagandists to convince them that in accepting the alarmist view of anthropogenic climate change, they are displaying intelligence and virtue. For them, their psychic welfare is at stake," he wrote.

The paper gives the essence of his argument, which is that, while man-caused warming certainly exists, by itself it is small. It was roughly 0.7 degree Celsius in the 20th century. If the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles, which many scientists predict that it will by the end of this century, that will increase global mean temperatures by a little more than 1 degree, he thinks.

"A hundred years from now, I don't really know, but I don't think it [the climate] will be radically different. The climate is always changing. It's natural variability," he said in an interview.
And I like this bit about his background:
Lindzen is no stranger to fights. He grew up in a rough Irish-Catholic neighborhood in the Bronx. The son of a shoemaker, he rose in the academic world by winning scholarships. Since 1988, when he first challenged climate change orthodoxy, he has shifted from a being a moderate Democrat to a conservative.
I'm on the political left, but I have a great deal of respect for Lindzen. He has a high dedication to truth. I find that a lot of people who mouth "global warming" as a shibboleth don't know what they are talking about and are knee-jerk leftists.

I don't have the time of day for unthinking "belief" on either left or right. You have to find the truth for yourself and that is hard work. If you simply "subscribe" to a laundry list of "beliefs" because they supposedly represent the "right" viewpoint for a particular political persuasion, then you are fundamentally non-serious and dangerous. It is far better to say "I do not know" or "I am unsure" than to take a position because somebody told you it was the "right" position to take. You have become a follower and the 20th century's mass movements showed just how dangerous "followers" can be. They support madmen in power.

When you are a "true believer" about "global warming" you end up like self-contradictory idiocy like the following:

Click to Enlarge

Obviously this "believer" is so deep into blind ideology that he doesn't notice that the headline contradicts the body of the press release. This is the kind of "science" behind the "global warming" view that "the science is settled". Sure it is settled if you have no respect for truth or even consistency!

If you would like to see Lindzen talk about global warming, here is an interview on an Australian TV program asking about whether a "carbon tax" will save the climate. The Lindzen interview starts at 4:00 minutes into the video:

The "global warming" crowd would tell you that Lindzen is a hair-on-fire crazy who has sold his soul to the devil, aka "big coal", and that only lies come out of his mouth. Judge for yourself.

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