Puffing Lindzen

January 13, 2014

Dana Nuccitelli’s recent piece in The Guardian has generated some comment.
Dana notes that Climate denial warhorse Dick Lindzen has finally retired from MIT, and lets the door hit him on the way out.

Scurrillous and unkind rumors have it that Lindzen’s health is poor, related to his long time smoking habit – which, some say, he always insisted was not nearly so dangerous as all those crazy doctors said.
I’ll have reaction to this piece tomorrow from contributor D. R. Tucker.

Dana Nucictelli in the Guardian:

The conservative media may currently be the single biggest roadblock to addressing the threat posed by human-caused climate change. There is virtually no support for any sort of climate policy among Republicans in US Congress, because even acknowledging the reality of global warming guarantees a wave of attacks by the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party and a probable primary election challenge. This politicization of science has been caused in large part by the conservative media like Fox News, who treat climate change like a punch line.

Another conservative media outlet, The Weekly Standard has occasionally run articles encouraging the Republican Party to stop denying science and start engaging in constructive debate about the best climate solutions. Unfortunately, those types of constructive articles are the exception rather than the norm. Last week, The Weekly Standard instead ran a puff piece about contrarian climate scientist Richard Lindzen that embodied the fundamental problems in most conservative media coverage of climate change.

Richard Lindzen is one of the approximately 3 percent of climate scientists who believe the human influence on global warming is relatively small (though Lindzen is now retired, no longer doing scientific research). More importantly, he’s been wrong about nearly every major climate argument he’s made over the past two decades. Lindzen is arguably the climate scientist who’s been the wrongest, longest.

The Weekly Standard devotes the first page of its piece to establishing how smart Lindzen is – and he certainly is a smart man, but as climate scientist Ray Pierrehumbert put it,

“It’s okay to be wrong, and [Lindzen] is a smart person, but most people don’t really understand that one way of using your intelligence is to spin ever more clever ways of deceiving yourself, ever more clever ways of being wrong. And that’s okay because if you are wrong in an interesting way that advances the science, I think it’s great to be wrong, and he has made a career of being wrong in interesting ways about climate science.”

Make no mistake about it; Lindzen has made a career of being wrong about climate science. Unfortunately, while the Weekly Standard piece goes through Lindzen’s many contrarian climate arguments, it misses the key point that they haven’t withstood scientific scrutiny or the test of time:

• Changes in water vapor will dampen global warming (also known as Lindzen’s “Iris hypothesis”)? Refuted by four peer-reviewed studies within a year of the publication of Lindzen’s hypothesis. Measurements show that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is increasing as mainstream climate scientists expect, and as a greenhouse gas, is amplifying global warming.

• Climate change over the past century has been “minimal”? In reality, the current rate of global warming is unprecedented over the past 11,000 years.

The 15-year ‘pause’ myth? Completely debunked – global surface warming over the past decade turns out to be more than double previous estimates, and the climate continues to accumulate heat at a rate equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second.

The accuracy of climate models during that timeframe? Much better than Lindzen claims.

In my extensive research into Richard Lindzen’s climate papers and talks, I’ve never been able to find an instance where he predicted how global temperatures would change in the future, other than to say in 1989,

“I personally feel that the likelihood over the next century of greenhouse warming reaching magnitudes comparable to natural variability seems small,”

The natural variability of the Earth’s climate rarely causes more than 0.2°C global surface warming over the span of a few decades to a century, yet we’ve already seen 0.8°C warming over the past century and 0.5°C over the past 3 decades, with much more to come over the next century. Based on his comments in that 1989 talk, I pieced together what Lindzen’s global temperature prediction might have looked like, had he made one, and compared it to the prediction made by prominent NASA climate scientist James Hansen in a 1988 paper (like Lindzen, Hansen is now retired).

Comparison of the observed NASA temperature record (black) with temperature predictions from Dr. James Hansen’s 1988 modeling study (red), and with my reconstructed temperature prediction by Dr. Richard Lindzen based on statements from his talk at MIT in 1989 (blue). Hansen’s Scenario B projection has been adjusted to reflect the actual observed greenhouse gas concentrations since 1988.

Between mainstream climate scientists like Hansen and contrarian climate scientists like Lindzen, it’s clear who has the better track record in making accurate climate predictions. Lindzen has made a career of being wrong about climate science, and he’s who The Weekly Standard is relying on to evaluate the risks posed by climate change.

How do Lindzen and The Weekly Standard justify dismissing the 97 percent expert climate consensus? With conspiracy theories, of course.

“[Lindzen] 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 would have us believe that tens of thousands of climate scientists around the world are all tossing their ethics aside and falsifying data in order to keep the research money flowing, even though contrarian climate scientists like Lindzen have had no trouble obtaining government research grants. Is this more plausible than the alternative explanation that 97 percent of climate research is correct, and Lindzen, whose claims have consistently been disproved by observational data, is wrong?

In the end, the Weekly Standard piece revisits comparisons between Lindzen and Galileo. There’s one major difference between the two: Galileo was right. His positions were based on and supported by scientific evidence, and they withstood scientific scrutiny and the test of time. Other scientists at the time also recognized that Galileo was right. On the contrary, Lindzen is an outlier whose arguments have been disproved time and time again, including about the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Today’s conservative media outlets are rarely willing to consider the scenario in which 97 percent of climate scientists and peer-reviewed research are correct. Instead they ridicule mainstream climate scientists and give disproportionate coverage to the few contrarian scientists like Lindzen. Betting our future on the slim chance that Lindzen is right and nearly every other climate expert is wrong, despite Lindzen’s terrible climate track record, would be foolhardy – perhaps humanity’s greatest risk management failure. Yet by politicizing science through their biased coverage of the subject, conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard have created a poisonous environment in which it’s almost impossible for Republican policymakers to approach the issue from any direction other than denial of the problem.

As The Weekly Standard has previously written, what we need now are conservative policymakers with the courage to do the right thing, take the conservative approach, and engage in constructive debate to develop the best possible climate policies. With most of its climate pieces instead denying the risks posed by climate change, The Weekly Standard is helping to create a toxic partisan atmosphere where conservative policymakers feel they can only obstruct climate policies.

This Weekly Standard article exemplifies the problem with today’s conservative media, as they ironically help stick us with government greenhouse gas regulations rather than encouraging a potentially more effective free market approach favored by economists, including conservative ones.


29 Responses to “Puffing Lindzen”

  1. Lol, looks like this post has brought in a herd of new deniers on the blog, haha.

    Lindzen is a fraud and always has been. Perhaps when he draws his last breath and dies of lung cancer, he will finally draw the connection between science-smoking and science-global warming. If not, good riddance anyway. People like Lindzen really should be charged for crimes against humanity.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Perhaps there will be a “smoke in” (outdoors of course) in his honor at the first Heartland conference after his demise? A fitting tribute.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        PS Forgot to ask. What’s the weather like in Norway? Anything “untoward” as is occurring in the UK?

        • Well Norway has finally got some serious winter again after an exceptionally mild start (due to the way the messed up jetstream had parked conditions this year). So far we have not had the flooding and problems the UK got on the beginning of the year – but rather nice cold climate like we are used to.

          But this weekend there will be some serious snowfall in the south of Norway so we will see how that turns out. It seems there is more moisture in the air coming in when the weather does give us some rainfall/snow so it tends to be loads of it when it first comes (December was twice as wet as usual this year).

          Previous years of jetstream meandering has given us exceptionally cold winters though so this mild start was kind of a relief from the past 3 years.

  2. Dick should have switched to a higher nicotine lower tar brand back when Naomi orsekes was making copacetic noises to Nick Minchin about smoker’s rights and not wanting government telling us what to do while simultaneously working towards a campus wide ban on all forms of tobacco including snuf !

  3. nickreality65 Says:

    K-T and assorted clone diagrams of atmospheric power flux balances include a GHG up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop of about 330 W/m^2 which violates three basic laws of thermodynamics: 1) energy created out of thin air, 2) energy moving (i.e. heat) from cold to hot without added work, and 3) 100% efficiency, zero loss, perpetual looping.

    One possible defense of this critique is that USCRN and SURFRAD data actually measure and thereby prove the existence of this up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop. Although in many instances the net 333 W/m^2 of up/down/”back” LWIR power flux loop exceeds by over twice the downwelling solar power flux, a rather obvious violation of conservation of energy.

    And just why is that?

    Per Apogee SI-100 series radiometer Owner’s Manual page 15. “Although the ε (emissivity) of a fully closed plant canopy can be 0.98-0.99, the lower ε of soils and other surfaces can result in substantial errors if ε effects are not accounted for.”

    Emissivity, ε, is the ratio of the actual radiation from a surface and the maximum S-B BB radiation at the surface’s temperature. Consider an example from the K-T diagram: 63 W/m^2 / 396 W/m^2 = 0.16 = ε. In fact, 63 W/m^2 & 289 K & 0.16 together fit just fine in a GB version of the S-B equation. What no longer fits is the 330 W/m^2 GHG loop which vanishes back into the mathematical thin air from whence it came.

    “Their staff is too long. They are digging in the wrong place.”

    “There is no spoon.”


    Up/down/”back” GHG radiation of RGHE theory simply:

    Which also explains why the scientific justification of RGHE is so contentious.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: