Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dr. Richard Lindzen in the WSJ: The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics

The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics

Members of Congress send inquisitorial letters to universities, energy companies, even think tanks

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.) at a Capitol Hill news conference, Nov. 12, 2014. 


Research in recent years has encouraged those of us who question the popular alarm over allegedly man-made global warming. Actually, the move from “global warming” to “climate change” indicated the silliness of this issue. The climate has been changing since the Earth was formed. This normal course is now taken to be evidence of doom.

Individuals and organizations highly vested in disaster scenarios have relentlessly attacked scientists and others who do not share their beliefs. The attacks have taken a threatening turn.

As to the science itself, it’s worth noting that all predictions of warming since the onset of the last warming episode of 1978-98—which is the only period that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to attribute to carbon-dioxide emissions—have greatly exceeded what has been observed. These observations support a much reduced and essentially harmless climate response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In addition, there is experimental support for the increased importance of variations in solar radiation on climate and a renewed awareness of the importance of natural unforced climate variability that is largely absent in current climate models. There also is observational evidence from several independent studies that the so-called “water vapor feedback,” essential to amplifying the relatively weak impact of carbon dioxide alone on Earth temperatures, is canceled by cloud processes.

There are also claims that extreme weather—hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, you name it—may be due to global warming. The data show no increase in the number or intensity of such events. The IPCC itself acknowledges the lack of any evident relation between extreme weather and climate, though allowing that with sufficient effort some relation might be uncovered.

World leaders proclaim that climate change is our greatest problem, demonizing carbon dioxide. Yet atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have been vastly higher through most of Earth’s history. Climates both warmer and colder than the present have coexisted with these higher levels.

Currently elevated levels of carbon dioxide have contributed to increases in agricultural productivity. Indeed, climatologists before the recent global warming hysteria referred to warm periods as “climate optima.” Yet world leaders are embarking on costly policies that have no capacity to replace fossil fuels but enrich crony capitalists at public expense, increasing costs for all, and restricting access to energy to the world’s poorest populations that still lack access to electricity’s immense benefits.

Billions of dollars have been poured into studies supporting climate alarm, and trillions of dollars have been involved in overthrowing the energy economy. So it is unsurprising that great efforts have been made to ramp up hysteria, even as the case for climate alarm is disintegrating.

The latest example began with an article published in the New York Times on Feb. 22 about Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Mr. Soon has, for over 25 years, argued for a primary role of solar variability on climate. But as Greenpeacenoted in 2011, Mr. Soon was, in small measure, supported by fossil-fuel companies over a period of 10 years.

The Times reintroduced this old material as news, arguing that Mr. Soon had failed to list this support in a recent paper in Science Bulletin of which he was one of four authors. Two days later Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, used the Times article as the basis for a hunting expedition into anything said, written and communicated by seven individuals— David Legates, John Christy, Judith Curry, Robert Balling, Roger Pielke Jr. , Steven Hayward and me—about testimony we gave to Congress or other governmental bodies. We were selected solely on the basis of our objections to alarmist claims about the climate.

In letters he sent to the presidents of the universities employing us (although I have been retired from MIT since 2013), Mr. Grijalva wanted all details of all of our outside funding, and communications about this funding, including “consulting fees, promotional considerations, speaking fees, honoraria, travel expenses, salary, compensation and any other monies.” Mr. Grijalva acknowledged the absence of any evidence but purportedly wanted to know if accusations made against Mr. Soon about alleged conflicts of interest or failure to disclose his funding sources in science journals might not also apply to us.

Perhaps the most bizarre letter concerned the University of Colorado’s Mr. Pielke. His specialty is science policy, not science per se, and he supports reductions in carbon emissions but finds no basis for associating extreme weather with climate. Mr. Grijalva’s complaint is that Mr. Pielke, in agreeing with the IPCC on extreme weather and climate, contradicts the assertions of John Holdren, President Obama ’s science czar.

Mr. Grijalva’s letters convey an unstated but perfectly clear threat: Research disputing alarm over the climate should cease lest universities that employ such individuals incur massive inconvenience and expense—and scientists holding such views should not offer testimony to Congress. After the Times article, Sens. Edward Markey (D., Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) also sent letters to numerous energy companies, industrial organizations and, strangely, many right-of-center think tanks (including the Cato Institute, with which I have an association) to unearth their alleged influence peddling.

The American Meteorological Society responded with appropriate indignation at the singling out of scientists for their scientific positions, as did many individual scientists. On Monday, apparently reacting to criticism, Mr. Grijalva conceded to the National Journal that his requests for communications between the seven of us and our outside funders was “overreach.”

Where all this will lead is still hard to tell. At least Mr. Grijalva’s letters should help clarify for many the essentially political nature of the alarms over the climate, and the damage it is doing to science, the environment and the well-being of the world’s poorest.

Mr. Lindzen is professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at MIT and a distinguished senior fellow of the Cato Institute.

1 comment:

  1. "Positive water vapor feedback." There may well be a tendency of positive water vapor feedback in the surface boundary layer. It is limited to this volume at the surface by, the availability of a source of water and the extremely short mean free path of IR at this surface humidity and pressure. Perhaps the 2xCO2 may add less than a watt to this LOCAL effect. (not additional energy just redistribution of warming effect in this turbulent boundary). No matter if it is true what ever quantity one wishes to accept.
    For purposes of discussion take total surface warming from solar insulation @ 160 watts. Further take the (negative feedback) IR radiation window radiation to space as 40 watts. Leaving 120 watts required to be radiated to space by other means. Looking around for other means we have convection of heated surface atmosphere and most notably latent heat of water vaporization as the only physical phenomenal available. Regardless of the complexity of all the physical phenomena which have entertained (and payed) physicists for the last three decades, The transport of energy to the effective radiation altitudes and radiation by water and water vapor molecules of IR to space must of necessity do the job since nature has no other available tools. Thus (if) any addition (or redistribution) to the atmosphere of heating and water vaporization with attendant addition to convection must enhance this cooling physics to the overall planet energy balance.
    This is by definition: Cooling response to warming, ie.a negative feedback. "Mother nature" has solved all of the complex equations throughout the random chaotic atmosphere to arrive at the net effect of 120 watts cooling. Thus we do not need to verify in nitty gritty detail how She does it, the fact remains that She must and does it using water vapor as her only tool. Thus all water vapor physics at any altitude are the only mechanism which will lead to cooling to create a planet energy balance.
    The contention by warmists that this particular (CO2 driven) increase in water vaporization will suddenly subtract from the 120 watts of cooling by water vapor is logically ludicrous

    It goes without saying tho the alarmists say it best; without positive feedback (as you have pointed out in all of your discussions of negative feedback), there can be no significant global warming.
    The laws of conservation of energy have triumphed again.
    Dr Lindzen; thank you for your steadfast determination, despite the slings and arrows, to bring encouragement and sanity to this logically ludicrous and contentious discussion.