Sunday, January 05, 2014
"We don't know"
Loud laughter worldwide about a Warmist expedition stuck in ice has of course been heard by Warmists. Below is a Warmist response. It is a windy way of saying that Warmists don't know why the Antarctic ice got bigger while the Arctic ice shrank. It doesn't fit Warmist theory so they are reduced to little more than gibbering and hand-waving. The fact that both processes are entirely natural is the one thing they will not allow. But that is the default assumption and the nul hypothesis so they have to produce evidence that CO2 is somehow involved. That they do not do because they cannot do it. They cannot explain why 400 ppm CO2 melts ice in the Arctic but not the Antarctic. Their models do not even touch the stark North/South discrepancy
The predicament and subsequent rescue of 52 passengers – both tourists and scientists – on the Russian ship Academik Shokalskiy has gripped media around the world. The smooth rescue was impressive and a great relief, although the vessel itself and its crew are still stuck – and now one of the icebreakers sent to help in the rescue, the Chinese ship Xue Long, is itself stuck in the ice.
Some commentators have remarked on what they describe as the 'irony' of researchers studying the impact of a warming planet themselves being impeded by heavy ice. With some even suggesting that the situation is itself evidence that global warming is exaggerated.
In fact, the local weather patterns that brought about the rapid build up of ice that trapped the Academik Shokalskiy tell us very little about global warming. This is weather, not climate.
Regionally, climate change can vary markedly across the Earth so to detect human influences on the climate system climate scientists must consider the Earth as a whole.
What is clear is that the impact of climate change on ice at both poles is complex.
In the area where the Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped there has been an increase in sea ice extent for the year as a whole since the late 1970s, although not for the month of December (see attached graph). The amount of ice in the area can vary considerably from year to year making ship operations difficult. The December ice extent in 2011 and 2012 was much larger than the long-term mean, and the ice in 2013 has obviously been of comparable magnitude.
We have relatively short records of the extent of sea ice across the polar regions and can only accurately examine trends since sophisticated microwave instruments became available on the polar orbiting satellites in the late 1970s. However, the records do show that since that time the two polar regions have experienced very different trends in ice extent. Arctic sea ice has been declining in extent in every month of the year, but with the maximum loss of almost 14% per decade being found in September. In contrast, sea ice extent around the Antarctic has increased in every month of the year with the largest increase being almost 4% per decade in March. The contrasting nature of the changes was highlighted in September 2012 when both polar regions experienced new record extents of sea ice for the satellite era. On 16 September the Arctic sea ice extent reached a new minimum level of 3.41m sq km, beating the previous record minimum that occurred in 2007. However, in the Antarctic there was a new record maximum extent of 19.72m sq km on 24 September, exceeding the previous record of 19.59m sq km, which occurred on 24 September 2006. In September 2013 there was even more sea ice across the Southern Ocean, beating the 2012 record.
Annual mean sea ice in Antarctica
The trend in annual mean sea ice concentration in Antarctica for 1979 – 2012. The bold line highlights areas where the trend is significant at <5 antarctic="" british="" level.="" p="" photograph:="" survey="">The reasons for the trends in sea ice are still being debated. However, for the Arctic it is estimated that anthropogenic forcing through the emission of greenhouse gases has contributed 50–60% of the long-term decline of Arctic sea ice. The remaining contribution is believed to come from natural variability. But in the Antarctic the reason for the increase in ice is less clear. The pattern of sea ice change around the Antarctic is dominated by a decrease to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula and an increase across the Ross Sea, which can be attributed to more storm activity between these two areas. The extent of sea ice is strongly influenced by the strength and direction of the winds and the increase in storms has given more warm, northerly flow over the Bellingshausen Sea and greater cold, southerlies over the Ross Sea. This pattern of change is consistent with the increasing temperatures observed over the Antarctic Peninsula and west Antarctica, where temperatures have risen as much as anywhere in the southern hemisphere.
It's currently not clear why there has been an increase in the number and intensity of storms over the southern South Pacific since the late 1970s. However, this area is where the ozone hole has a large impact on the atmospheric circulation and where signals of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, one of the largest climatic cycles on Earth, are felt most in the Antarctic. It's also where the greatest natural variability in atmospheric circulation is observed in the southern hemisphere, which has been attributed to the fact that the large Antarctic ice sheet is displaced slightly from the pole.
Sea ice extent has a large natural variability in both polar regions because of the amplifying effect of interactions between the atmosphere, ocean and sea ice. In the Arctic there is now increasing evidence that rising greenhouse gas emissions are playing a significant part in the loss of sea ice. However, in the Antarctic the increase in annual mean sea ice extent is only just over 1% per decade, making it impossible at present to separate natural variability from any human influence.
Good news for 2014 -- a domestic energy revolution is underway in the USA
While it may not qualify as a silver lining, there was one bright spot to emerge from Washington D.C.’s latest adventure in bad budgeting: A provision further enhancing our country's expanding energy independence.
Championed by U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) the provision gives formal Congressional approval to oil and gas drilling across 1.5 million acres of the western Gulf of Mexico.
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, this region is home to an estimated 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas – resources that will further reduce our nation’s declining dependence on foreign oil.
In another rebuke to the Obama eco-radicals, the latest Energy Department data shows a continued decline in CO2 emissions
Across America (and on its coastal borders), a domestic energy revolution is underway -- one that is providing our nation with a genuine economic “stimulus” built on the free market pillars of innovation and hard work.
Even more encouraging, this victory is being achieved despite efforts by eco-radicals in Washington, D.C. to shut down energy production on federal lands.
In Pennsylvania the Marcellus Shale formation has produced 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas during the first two quarters of 2013 alone -- enabling the Keystone State to become the third-biggest gas-producing state in America. West Virginia -- another state accessing the Marcellus Shale -- has rocketed into the top ten in gas production (even though the Mountaineers have drilled only five percent of all available Marcellus wells).
These gains – powered by innovative hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) techniques – are driving down energy prices nationwide and creating desperately needed jobs at a time when America’s work force participation has shrunk to a 35-year low.
According to a report released this month by the U.S. Energy Department, domestic oil production is climbing to levels not seen since 1970. And it's projected to increase by an average of 800,000 barrels per day through 2016.
Natural gas production is also expected to expand dramatically – climbing by 56 percent between 2012 and 2040 to an estimated 37.6 trillion cubic feet.
All told, America will rely on imports for just 25 percent of its oil supplies in 2016 – down from last year’s 37 percent level. Meanwhile the world oil benchmark is projected to drop to $92 per barrel in 2017 – $20 less than last year’s average.
Making these gains even more impressive? The fact that natural gas production on federal lands has fallen by 33 percent since 2007, according to a Congressional Research Service report. On state and private lands, however, it has increased by 40 percent. Meanwhile crude oil production on federal lands has shrunk slightly since 2007 – but has increased by 35 percent on non-federal lands.
Imagine how much lower prices could be driven -- and how many more jobs could be created -- if the federal government were to decrease its land ownership or grant more control over energy exploration in these areas to states?
In another rebuke to the Obama eco-radicals, the latest Energy Department data shows a continued decline in CO2 emissions -- the result of a natural gas expansion that's projected to pick up momentum over the next three decades. In fact by 2030, natural gas will replace coal as the largest source of domestic electrical power -- further reducing CO2 levels (as well as the cost of energy production).
And for anyone still misguidedly clinging to the federal government’s “green jobs” scam, this cleaner, less expensive energy future we are experiencing has virtually nothing to do with expanded reliance on renewables -- which are projected to increase from only 11 to 12 percent of domestic production over the coming thirty years.
Just as government policies failed to “stimulate” the economy, they also failed to lower CO2 levels: The free market did that -- and the results are truly something to behold.
“U.S. manufacturers are benefitting form the availability of a secure supply of low-cost natural gas, especially for manufacturers in energy-intensive industries,” a September 2013 report from IHS notes.
The report predicted these energy efficiencies would boost industrial production by 2.8 percent by 2015 – and by 3.9 percent by 2025.
Cheaper, cleaner and more abundant energy -- long a favorite talking point of the Washington enviro-liberals -- is becoming a reality in America. But we could further expand our advantage if lawmakers resist efforts by eco-radicals to stamp out production on federal lands.
Time to Call Climate Change for What It Is: The Weather
Let solar energy continue to be the energy of the future. I’m talking about the energy of the present. So for 2014, I’m also talking about global warming, er, climate change. Or what us common folks still call it… the weather.
That’s because the weather is the excuse that liberals use for preventing us from enjoying energy security.
The great thing about the weather is that it happens every day and, as Mark Twain said, everyone talks about it, but nobody ever does anything about it.
That’s because, as Twain’s deadpan implies, you can’t actually do much about the weather.
Weather’s a pretty big topic, a pretty complex system and works pretty well without improvement from liberals. But of course that won’t stop liberals from trying to improve it.
In fact, it guarantees that they’ll try their hand at a solution, probabilities or not.
They’re kind of like Caligula that way.
Caligula reputedly once proposed to make his horse a Roman senator. And while many would agree that a horse would be an improvement on many U.S. senators, calling a horse a senator, doesn’t make a horse a senator anymore than calling its tail a leg would give it five legs, in Lincoln’s horsey phrase..
So it goes with liberals: They think that all they have to do promulgate a clever law to solve any given problem, whether it solves the problem or not.
Pass a law called the “Affordable Care Act”? Doesn’t matter what’s in it, problem solved, because why it’s the “law of the land.” Can’t you see it has the word “affordable” in the title?
In fact, the vastness of the earth’s weather, the complexity of it, makes it a great place to for liberal mischief.
There’s always going to be a tornado, or hurricane or a drought that will hurt folks-- which for a liberal means that there are votes for sale. They can stump about it and talk about how poor people are more exposed to the weather, and how rich people use more energy, and all the other eye wash liberals sell to pit one group against the other as they drive their SUVs and retire to their big houses that use more carbon than anyone else.
And it’s curious that one of the things that I have noticed most about liberals. They don’t care much about solving problems. In fact, it’s the thing that can’t be cured that they care about most.
They’ll either take easy problems, like illegal immigration, fiscal balance or pension reform, and make them unsolvable. Or they’ll take unsolvable problems, like world hunger, poverty or arms races and present easy solutions that will only costs us money, freedom, choices or lives, but still not work.
So here too, on the weather, liberals aren’t just wrong, but once-in-a-lifetime, historically and stupendously wrong; wrong in a way that only liberals could be while still remaining smug.
And there is more than just evidence piling up to note it. There are lies piling up too.
Global warming has entered the unaccountable “great pause” not contemplated by the models that scientists, politicians and mountebanks—thanks Mark Baisley—have pushed on us. The models that say that if we allow people in Africa to have air conditioning and automobiles that "the planet will boil over," in Barack Obama horse’s arse phrase.
And because the models aren’t predicting accurately what the world will actually do, we’ve got some politicians stuck as liberals without a cause.
When that happens liberals go into group survival mode like many primitives would do, bullying people, making false claims ala Obama’s “boil over” comments, comments not covered much by the mainstream news.
The Guardian Slams Funding of Anti-Global Warming Groups
By Alan Caruba
The Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper, has been a leading advocate of the global warming theory—now called climate change—and its December 20 edition published an article by Susanne Goldenberg, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.”
The article focused on a study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle that had been published in the journal Climate Change asserting that “The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”
What action these organizations or even entire governments could take to have any affect whatever on “climate change” defies common sense. Nothing they could do, for example, would have any effect on the action of the Sun, the primary determinant of climate. For the past seventeen years the Sun has been in a natural cycle of reduced radiation, less warmth for the Earth. The result has been a cooling cycle on Earth that has crushed decades of lies about “global warming.”
It’s not that the Earth hasn’t had previous cycles of warmer climate, but they had nothing to do with anything humans do. There was warming before the Industrial Revolution introduced the use of coal, oil and natural gas to provide the energy that has marked the development and use of technologies that have improved human life in countless ways. “Global warming” is blamed on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. The most prominent of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is nothing more than water vapor.
Apparently, if Brulle and The Guardian are to be believed, anyone or any organization that donates to any group that doubts the claims of Big Green are the enemies of “global warming”, but this conveniently ignored estimates that the U.S. government, according to an October article in The New American “will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security.” The spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.”
There are, according to the White House, “currently 18 federal agencies engaged in activities related to global warming. These agencies fund programs that include scientific research, international climate assistance, renewable energy technology, and subsidies for renewable energy producers.”
The Guardian article caught my eye because, among the organizations that have been active in debunking the “global warming” theory has been The Heartland Institute. I have been an advisor to the Institute which, since 2008, has organized eight international conferences on global warming that have featured some of the world’s leading skeptics.
If you want to know how the Institute is funded, you can go to their website where you will find, for example, that it does not solicit or accept grants from any of those government agencies using billions of taxpayer dollars to convince Americans that “global warming” is real or that anything the government does about “climate change” can have any effect on it. In 2012, Heartland received 50% of its income from foundations, 28% from individuals, and 18% from corporations. No corporate donor contributes more than 5% of its annual budget.
In contrast, a recent article by Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist and executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted that over the past decade environmental organizations received 345,052 foundation grants totaling $20,826,664,000—over twenty billion dollars—largely from a 200-plus member Environmental Grantmakers Association and the smaller, farther-left National Network of Grantmakers. Arnold said that “Today, foundations are the backbone of Big Green.”
On a recent CNN television program, Marc Morano, the communications director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) took on the Sierra Club director, noting that this major environmental organization has received $26 million from natural gas corporations to support its attacks on the coal industry. So “fossil fuels” industries are okay if they are giving the Sierra Club money.
“So record cold,” said Morano, “is now evidence of man-made global warming.”
While the Koch-affiliated foundations that provide grants to conservative groups were singled out, along with Exxon Mobil, in The Guardian article, no mention was made of multi-billionaire George Soros who is famed for funding all manner of liberal groups and who reportedly has invested heavily in “clean energy” companies—solar and wind—whose products do not produce the so-called greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the more recent articles in The Guardian was titled “Global warming will intensify drought, says new study.” The problem, of course, is that there is NO global warming.
By contrast, a July Fox News article, “Billions spent in Obama climate plan may be virtually useless, study says” was not also reported in the mainstream media. Suffice to say that those billions came from taxpayer’s pockets.
I am happy to know that the Heartland Institute, a 29 year old non-profit research organization, CFACT, and other free market research and activist groups receive foundation and other support. Without them, the lies about “climate change” from the Obama administration and the many environmental organizations would not be debunked.
Say It With Shrubs? EPA Wants You to Love the Earth on Valentine's Day
Why say it with flowers, when you could send your love a shrub?
The Environmental Protection Agency is offering Americans "Tips for February Fun," encouraging them to think outside the flower box on Valentine's Day.
On one of the busiest days of the year for florists, the EPA says Americans should consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring.
And instead of visiting the card shop, consider sending electronic valentines -- or recycled cards, the EPA suggests.
“This Valentine's Day, show your love for the earth by sending recycled-content greeting cards. Consider making new cards from scrap paper or by attaching new backs to the fronts of old cards -- this can be a craft project for family and friends that helps everyone reduce paper waste while saving money!"
You can skip the candy store, too: "Bake cookies or other goodies for your valentine and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts." The EPA says home-made treats "show how how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste."
The EPA's suggestions for "February fun" include thinking "green" on President's Day by taking reusable bags on shopping trips and buying clothes that are made from recycled soda bottles, sneakers made with recycled rubber soles, or clothes made from recycled cotton scraps.
Athletes who enjoy winter sports should buy used equipment or equipment made from recycled materials: "Examples include hiking shoes with recycled rubber soles, basketballs made with recycled rubber, and ski jackets and sleeping bags made from recycled soda bottles."
The EPA even includes party tips on its website:
“If you are hosting a basketball party, buy drinks and snacks in bulk to prevent packaging waste, and encourage guests to recycle their empty aluminum cans and glass or plastic bottles,” the website says. “Also reuse decorations, or rent some from a party store.”
MIT’s Richard Lindzen, the unalarmed climate scientist
When you first meet Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, leading climate “skeptic,” and all-around scourge of James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and sundry other climate “alarmists,” as Lindzen calls them, you may find yourself a bit surprised. If you know Lindzen only from the way his opponents characterize him—variously, a liar, a lunatic, a charlatan, a denier, a shyster, a crazy person, corrupt—you might expect a spittle-flecked, wild-eyed loon. But in person, Lindzen cuts a rather different figure. With his gray beard, thick glasses, gentle laugh, and disarmingly soft voice, he comes across as nothing short of grandfatherly.
Granted, Lindzen is no shrinking violet. A pioneering climate scientist with decades at Harvard and MIT, Lindzen sees his discipline as being deeply compromised by political pressure, data fudging, out-and-out guesswork, and wholly unwarranted alarmism. In a shot across the bow of what many insist is indisputable scientific truth, Lindzen characterizes global warming as “small and . . . nothing to be alarmed about.” In the climate debate—on which hinge far-reaching questions of public policy—them’s fightin’ words.
In his mid-seventies, married with two sons, and now emeritus at MIT, Lindzen spends between four and six months a year at his second home in Paris. But that doesn’t mean he’s no longer in the thick of the climate controversy; he writes, gives myriad talks, participates in debates, and occasionally testifies before Congress. In an eventful life, Lindzen has made the strange journey from being a pioneer in his field and eventual IPCC coauthor to an outlier in the discipline—if not an outcast.
Richard Lindzen was born in 1940 in Webster, Massachusetts, to Jewish immigrants from Germany. His bootmaker father moved the family to the Bronx shortly after Richard was born. Lindzen attended the Bronx High School of Science before winning a scholarship to the only place he applied that was out of town, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York. After a couple of years at Rensselaer, he transferred to Harvard, where he completed his bachelor’s degree and, in 1964, a doctorate.
Lindzen wasn’t a climatologist from the start—“climate science” as such didn’t exist when he was beginning his career in academia. Rather, Lindzen studied math. “I liked applied math,” he says, “[and] I was a bit turned off by modern physics, but I really enjoyed classical physics, fluid mechanics, things like that.” A few years after arriving at Harvard, he began his transition to meteorology. “Harvard actually got a grant from the Ford Foundation to offer generous fellowships to people in the atmospheric sciences,” he explains. “Harvard had no department in atmospheric sciences, so these fellowships allowed you to take a degree in applied math or applied physics, and that worked out very well because in applied math the atmosphere and oceans were considered a good area for problems. . . . I discovered I really liked atmospheric sciences—meteorology. So I stuck with it and picked out a thesis.”
And with that, Lindzen began his meteoric rise through the nascent field. In the 1970s, while a professor at Harvard, Lindzen disproved the then-accepted theory of how heat moves around the Earth’s atmosphere, winning numerous awards in the process. Before his 40th birthday, he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In the mid-1980s, he made the short move from Harvard to MIT, and he’s remained there ever since. Over the decades, he’s authored or coauthored some 200 peer-reviewed papers on climate.
Where Lindzen hasn’t remained is in the mainstream of his discipline. By the 1980s, global warming was becoming a major political issue. Already, Lindzen was having doubts about the more catastrophic predictions being made. The public rollout of the “alarmist” case, he notes, “was immediately accompanied by an issue of Newsweek declaring all scientists agreed. And that was the beginning of a ‘consensus’ argument. Already by ’88 the New York Times had literally a global warming beat.” Lindzen wasn’t buying it. Nonetheless, he remained in the good graces of mainstream climate science, and in the early 1990s, he was invited to join the IPCC, a U.N.-backed multinational consortium of scientists charged with synthesizing and analyzing the current state of the world’s climate science. Lindzen accepted, and he ended up as a contributor to the 1995 report and the lead author of Chapter 7 (“Physical Climate Processes and Feedbacks”) of the 2001 report. Since then, however, he’s grown increasingly distant from prevalent (he would say “hysterical”) climate science, and he is voluminously on record disputing the predictions of catastrophe.
The Earth’s climate is immensely complex, but the basic principle behind the “greenhouse effect” is easy to understand. The burning of oil, gas, and especially coal pumps carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, where they allow the sun’s heat to penetrate to the Earth’s surface but impede its escape, thus causing the lower atmosphere and the Earth’s surface to warm. Essentially everybody, Lindzen included, agrees. The question at issue is how sensitive the planet is to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (this is called climate sensitivity), and how much the planet will heat up as a result of our pumping into the sky ever more CO2, which remains in the atmosphere for upwards of 1,000 years. (Carbon dioxide, it may be needless to point out, is not a poison. On the contrary, it is necessary for plant life.)
Lindzen doesn’t deny that the climate has changed or that the planet has warmed. “We all agree that temperature has increased since 1800,” he tells me. There’s a caveat, though: It’s increased by “a very small amount. We’re talking about tenths of a degree [Celsius]. We all agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. All other things kept equal, [there has been] some warming. As a result, there’s hardly anyone serious who says that man has no role. And in many ways, those have never been the questions. The questions have always been, as they ought to be in science, how much?”
Lindzen says not much at all—and he contends that the “alarmists” vastly overstate the Earth’s climate sensitivity. Judging by where we are now, he appears to have a point; so far, 150 years of burning fossil fuels in large quantities has had a relatively minimal effect on the climate. By some measurements, there is now more CO2 in the atmosphere than there has been at any time in the past 15 million years. Yet since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the average global temperature has risen by, at most, 1 degree Celsius, or 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And while it’s true that sea levels have risen over the same period, it’s believed they’ve been doing so for roughly 20,000 years. What’s more, despite common misconceptions stoked by the media in the wake of Katrina, Sandy, and the recent typhoon in the Philippines, even the IPCC concedes that it has “low confidence” that there has been any measurable uptick in storm intensity thanks to human activity. Moreover, over the past 15 years, as man has emitted record levels of carbon dioxide year after year, the warming trend of previous decades has stopped. Lindzen says this is all consistent with what he holds responsible for climate change: a small bit of man-made impact and a whole lot of natural variability.
The real fight, though, is over what’s coming in the future if humans continue to burn fossil fuels unabated. According to the IPCC, the answer is nothing good. Its most recent Summary for Policymakers, which was released early this fall—and which some scientists reject as too sanguine—predicts that if emissions continue to rise, by the year 2100, global temperatures could increase as much as 5.5 degrees Celsius from current averages, while sea levels could rise by nearly a meter. If we hit those projections, it’s generally thought that the Earth would be rife with crop failures, drought, extreme weather, and epochal flooding. Adios, Miami.
It is to avoid those disasters that the “alarmists” call on governments to adopt policies reducing the amounts of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. As a result of such policies—and a fortuitous increase in natural gas production—U.S. greenhouse emissions are at a 20-year low and falling. But global emissions are rising, thanks to massive increases in energy use in the developing world, particularly in China and India. If the “alarmists” are right, then, a way must be found to compel the major developing countries to reduce carbon emissions.
But Lindzen rejects the dire projections. For one thing, he says that the Summary for Policymakers is an inherently problematic document. The IPCC report itself, weighing in at thousands of pages, is “not terrible. It’s not unbiased, but the bias [is] more or less to limit your criticism of models,” he says. The Summary for Policymakers, on the other hand—the only part of the report that the media and the politicians pay any attention to—“rips out doubts to a large extent. . . . [Furthermore], government representatives have the final say on the summary.” Thus, while the full IPPC report demonstrates a significant amount of doubt among scientists, the essentially political Summary for Policymakers filters it out.
Lindzen also disputes the accuracy of the computer models that climate scientists rely on to project future temperatures. He contends that they oversimplify the vast complexity of the Earth’s climate and, moreover, that it’s impossible to untangle man’s effect on the climate from natural variability. The models also rely on what Lindzen calls “fudge factors.” Take aerosols. These are tiny specks of matter, both liquid and solid (think dust), that are present throughout the atmosphere. Their effect on the climate—even whether they have an overall cooling or warming effect—is still a matter of debate. Lindzen charges that when actual temperatures fail to conform to the models’ predictions, climate scientists purposely overstate the cooling effect of aerosols to give the models the appearance of having been accurate. But no amount of fudging can obscure the most glaring failure of the models: their inability to predict the 15-year-long (and counting) pause in warming—a pause that would seem to place the burden of proof squarely on the defenders of the models.
Lindzen also questions the “alarmist” line on water vapor. Water vapor (and its close cousin, clouds) is one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to most climate scientists, the hotter the planet gets, the more water vapor there will be, magnifying the effects of other greenhouse gases, like CO2, in a sort of hellish positive feedback loop. Lindzen disputes this, contending that water vapor could very well end up having a cooling effect on the planet. As the science writer Justin Gillis explained in a 2012 New York Times piece, Lindzen “says the earth is not especially sensitive to greenhouse gases because clouds will react to counter them, and he believes he has identified a specific mechanism. On a warming planet, he says, less coverage by high clouds in the tropics will allow more heat to escape to space, countering the temperature increase.”
If Lindzen is right about this and global warming is nothing to worry about, why do so many climate scientists, many with résumés just as impressive as his, preach imminent doom? He says it mostly comes down to the money—to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants. Almost all funding for climate research comes from the government, which, he says, makes scientists essentially vassals of the state. And generating fear, Lindzen contends, is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open.
Lindzen contrasts this with the immediate aftermath of World War II, when American science was at something of a peak. “Science had established its relevance with the A-bomb, with radar, for that matter the proximity fuse,” he notes. Americans and their political leadership were profoundly grateful to the science community; scientists, unlike today, didn’t have to abase themselves by approaching the government hat in hand. Science funding was all but assured.
But with the cuts to basic science funding that occurred around the time of the Vietnam war, taxpayer support for research was no longer a political no-brainer. “It was recognized that gratitude only went so far,” Lindzen says, “and fear was going to be a much greater motivator. And so that’s when people began thinking about . . . how to perpetuate fear that would motivate the support of science.”
A need to generate fear, in Lindzen’s telling, is what’s driving the apocalyptic rhetoric heard from many climate scientists and their media allies. “The idea was, to engage the public you needed an event . . . not just a Sputnik—a drought, a storm, a sand demon. You know, something you could latch onto. [Climate scientists] carefully arranged a congressional hearing. And they arranged for [James] Hansen [author of Storms of My Grandchildren, and one of the leading global warming “alarmists”] to come and say something vague that would somehow relate a heat wave or a drought to global warming.” (This theme, by the way, is developed to characteristic extremes in the late Michael Crichton’s entertaining 2004 novel State of Fear, in which environmental activists engineer a series of fake “natural” disasters to sow fear over global warming.)
Lindzen also says that the “consensus”—the oft-heard contention that “virtually all” climate scientists believe in catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming—is overblown, primarily for structural reasons. “When you have an issue that is somewhat bogus, the opposition is always scattered and without resources,” he explains. “But the environmental movement is highly organized. There are hundreds of NGOs. To coordinate these hundreds, they quickly organized the Climate Action Network, the central body on climate. There would be, I think, actual meetings to tell them what the party line is for the year, and so on.” Skeptics, on the other hand, are more scattered across disciplines and continents. As such, they have a much harder time getting their message across.
Because CO2 is invisible and the climate is so complex (your local weatherman doesn’t know for sure whether it will rain tomorrow, let alone conditions in 2100), expertise is particularly important. Lindzen sees a danger here. “I think the example, the paradigm of this, was medical practice.” He says that in the past, “one went to a physician because something hurt or bothered you, and you tended to judge him or her according to whether you felt better. That may not always have been accurate, but at least it had some operational content. . . . [Now, you] go to an annual checkup, get a blood test. And the physician tells you if you’re better or not and it’s out of your hands.” Because climate change is invisible, only the experts can tell us whether the planet is sick or not. And because of the way funds are granted, they have an incentive to say that the Earth belongs in intensive care.
Richard Lindzen presents a problem for those who say that the science behind climate change is “settled.” So many “alarmists” prefer to ignore him and instead highlight straw men: less credible skeptics, such as climatologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama (signatory to a declaration that “Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting”), the Heartland Institute (which likened climate “alarmists” to the Unabomber), and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma (a major energy-producing state). The idea is to make it seem as though the choice is between accepting the view of, say, journalist James Delingpole (B.A., English literature), who says global warming is a hoax, and that of, say, James Hansen (Ph.D., physics, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), who says that we are moving toward “an ice-free Antarctica and a desolate planet without human inhabitants.”
But Lindzen, plainly, is different. He can’t be dismissed. Nor, of course, is he the only skeptic with serious scientific credentials. Judith Curry, the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, William Happer, professor of physics at Princeton, John Christy, a climate scientist honored by NASA, now at the University of Alabama, and the famed physicist Freeman Dyson are among dozens of scientists who have gone on record questioning various aspects of the IPCC’s line on climate change. Lindzen, for his part, has said that scientists have called him privately to thank him for the work he’s doing.
But Lindzen, perhaps because of his safely tenured status at MIT, or just because of the contours of his personality, is a particularly outspoken and public critic of the consensus. It’s clear that he relishes taking on the “alarmists.” It’s little wonder, then, that he’s come under exceptionally vituperative attack from many of those who are concerned about the impact of climate change. It also stands to reason that they might take umbrage at his essentially accusing them of mass corruption with his charge that they are “stoking fear.”
Take Joe Romm, himself an MIT Ph.D., who runs the climate desk at the left-wing Center for American Progress. On the center’s blog, Romm regularly lights into Lindzen. “Lindzen could not be more discredited,” he says in one post. In another post, he calls Lindzen an “uber-hypocritical anti-scientific scientist.” (Romm, it should be noted, is a bit more measured, if no less condescending, when the klieg lights are off. “I tend to think Lindzen is just one of those scientists whom time and science has passed by, like the ones who held out against plate tectonics for so long,” he tells me.) Seldom, however, does Romm stoop to explain what grounds justify dismissing Lindzen’s views with such disdain.
Andrew Dessler, a climatologist at Texas A&M University, is another harsh critic of Lindzen. As he told me in an emailed statement, “Over the past 25 years, Dr. Lindzen has published several theories about climate, all of which suggest that the climate will not warm much in response to increases in atmospheric CO2. These theories have been tested by the scientific community and found to be completely without merit. Lindzen knows this, of course, and no longer makes any effort to engage with the scientific community about his theories (e.g., he does not present his work at scientific conferences). It seems his main audience today is Fox News and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.”
The Internet, meanwhile, is filled with hostile missives directed at Lindzen. They’re of varying quality. Some, written by climate scientists, are point-by-point rebuttals of Lindzen’s scholarly work; others, angry ad hominem screeds full of heat, signifying nothing. (When Lindzen transitioned to emeritus status last year, one blog headlined the news “Denier Down: Lindzen Retires.”)
For decades, Lindzen has also been dogged by unsubstantiated accusations of corruption—specifically, that he’s being paid off by the energy industry. He denies this with a laugh. “I wish it were so!” What appears to be the primary source for this calumny—a Harper’s magazine article from 1995—provides no documentation for its assertions. But that hasn’t stopped the charge from being widely disseminated on the Internet.
One frustrating feature of the climate debate is that people’s outlook on global warming usually correlates with their political views. So if a person wants low taxes and restrictions on abortion, he probably isn’t worried about climate change. And if a person supports gay marriage and raising the minimum wage, he most likely thinks the threat from global warming warrants costly public-policy remedies. And of course, even though Lindzen is an accomplished climate scientist, he has his own political outlook—a conservative one.
He wasn’t reared that way. “Growing up in the Bronx, politics, I would say, was an automatic issue. I grew up with a picture of Franklin Roosevelt over my bed.” But his views started to shift in the late ’60s and ’70s. “I think [my politics] began changing in the Vietnam war. I was deeply disturbed by the way vets were being treated,” he says. He also says that his experience in the climate debate—and the rise in political correctness in the universities throughout the ’70s and ’80s—further pushed him to the right. So, yes, Lindzen, a climate skeptic, is also a political conservative whom one would expect to oppose many environmental regulations for ideological, as opposed to scientific, reasons. By the same token, it is well known that the vast majority of “alarmist” climate scientists, dependent as they are on federal largesse, are liberal Democrats.
But whatever buried ideological component there may be to any given scientist’s work, it doesn’t tell us who has the science right. In a 2012 public letter, Lindzen noted, “Critics accuse me of doing a disservice to the scientific method. I would suggest that in questioning the views of the critics and subjecting them to specific tests, I am holding to the scientific method.” Whoever is right about computer models, climate sensitivity, aerosols, and water vapor, Lindzen is certainly right about that. Skepticism is essential to science.
In a 2007 debate with Lindzen in New York City, climate scientist Richard C. J. Somerville, who is firmly in the “alarmist” camp, likened climate skeptics to “some eminent earth scientists [who] couldn’t be persuaded that plate tectonics were real . . . when the revolution of continental drift was sweeping through geology and geophysics.”
“Most people who think they’re a Galileo are just wrong,” he said, much to the delight of a friendly audience of Manhattanites.
But Somerville botched the analogy. The story of plate tectonics is the story of how one man, Alfred Wegener, came up with the theory of continental drift, only to be widely opposed and mocked. Wegener challenged the earth science “consensus” of his day. And in the end, his view prevailed.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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Posted by JR at 9:41 PM