Richard Lindzen, Skeptic

by Russ Roberts on March 23, 2007

in Environment, Podcast

Here’s a ten minute podcast from Tom Keene at Bloomberg with Richard Lindzen of MIT, one of the more prominent scientific skeptics of global warming. (HT: Bayesian Heresy)

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golddog March 23, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Here's an interview with Michael J. Behe, who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, one of the more prominent scientific skeptics of evolution.

If you're skeptical of global warming, you may want to take a look at intelligent design.

Mike March 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm
Mike March 23, 2007 at 5:24 pm

The idea that the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming has as much evidence behind it as evolution is as laughable as it is presumptuous.

John Henry March 23, 2007 at 6:29 pm

If you look at the UN/IPCC report you find that global average temperature has been going down, not up for 7-8 years now.

Good Heavens!!!



John Henry

Nacim Bouchtia March 23, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Perhaps global warming is outside the scope of economics?

Kevin Nowell March 23, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Nothing is outside the scope of economics.

Rex Pjesky March 23, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Nacim, some aspects of the scientific knowledge needed in climatology may be beyond economists, but evaluating statistical claims and the scientific methods used by climatologist are not beyond someone with a Ph.D. in economics.

Furthermore, all the "mainstream" solutions to global warming should include cost benefit anaysis and and a discussion of the potential secondary effects of regulations.

These two things are squarely in the middle of what economists do.

Python March 23, 2007 at 10:19 pm

If global warming is outside the scope of economics then it must be very far outside the scope of politicians.

Sanjiv March 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm

"some aspects of the scientific knowledge needed in climatology may be beyond economists"

You have got it backwards. Most aspects of the scientific knowledge needed in climatology are indeed beyond economists. The ones that aren't, such as cost benefit analysis and effects of regulations, have nothing to do with the sciences (by sciences, I am referring to the physical sciences). As you have pointed out, these are very much "squarely in the middle of what economists do." But not `radiative transfer', `atmospheric thermodynamics' and 'atmospheric chemistry', to name a few topics. You have to be taught this stuff (unless you learn it yourself) in order to read the various papers published in scientific journals and to be able to offer sensible criticisms.

So statements such as -
"evaluating statistical claims and the scientific methods used by climatologist are not beyond someone with a Ph.D. in economics."

are without any merit and border on arrogance.

raj March 23, 2007 at 11:20 pm

>If you're skeptical of global warming, >you may want to take a look at >intelligent design.

is a story from 1975 where the infallible scientists are worried about global cooling.

Remember, questioning "well known facts" is what science is all about.

Nacim Bouchtia March 24, 2007 at 12:52 am

I don't dispute the fact that policy proposals are squarely within the realm of economics, that's obvious enough. However, I don't see how economics has anything to say about climatology as Sanjiv has correctly pointed out.

Python March 24, 2007 at 3:01 am

Sanjiv and Nacim,

I don't see anywhere on this site where an economist is pretending to be a climatological experts. For the most part our two dear Profs are pointing out that government solutions are often less than optimal, and that many scientists disagree with the party line.

Imagine your family member is a patient at a hospital with an unknown problem. The first doctor says that it is a deadly disease, and can be lethal in 20 years. Another doctor tells you that the proposed remedy will be worse than the disease. A third doctor tells you he thinks your family member doesn't even have the disease. But a few more doctors who get paid by commission to perform surgeries want to operate immediately. From your experience with your family member, you can't tell if the problem is getting much worse.

Your family member asks for your advice. Do you say, "I'm not a doctor. I'm not qualified to speak on this"? Or do you rationally consider options that can be taken, such as getting non-biased opinions and learning more about the proposed remedies?

Why can't Economists have a webpage that links to a highly regarded scientist who gives a different perspective to the causes of global warming? Who should be the ones saying "Hey, there is a lot of money going to Global Warming studies. I wonder if everyone trying to get those funds is being honest with their research?"

Sanjiv writes:

"So statements such as -
'evaluating statistical claims and the scientific methods used by climatologist are not beyond someone with a Ph.D. in economics.'

are without any merit and border on arrogance."

I think you couldn't be more wrong. If I see two studies with opposing conclusions, and I can see that the researchers used temperature measurements where one researcher clearly took more samples from more areas in more ways and has published many papers before, can I decide which one I think is more reliable, or do I have to be a climatologist?

The quote by Rex did not say that the average economists can scruitinze the validity of deep climatological matters such as trophospheric chemistry. But reasonable people can figure out the validity of some methodologies, and many of the claims published by the IPCC are clearly outside of sound scientific method (e.g. Malaria)

Economists and all thinking people can evaluate claims that either don't pass the sniff test, are not following typical scientific methodology, or are using stats too loosely to be the foundation for forced lifestyle changes.

procrustes March 24, 2007 at 5:28 am

Very well put, Python.

However, economists also have a contribution to make to the science of greenhouse, as the models of future greenhouse gas emissions need to be based on how much the world economy is growing and how its energy mix is changing as it grows.

Surely this is an area where economics has something valid to say (and where a lot of the science has slipped up – hence the whole purchasing power parity versus market exchange rates fiasco).

SteffenH March 24, 2007 at 6:11 am


In any case Global Warming should be outside the scope of polemics.


Remember, the "hockeystick" was destroyed by an mining engineer and an economist, because they knew their statistics. See

Tim March 24, 2007 at 6:25 am

Is global warming "outside" the scope of economics? I'm not sure but whether public policies or personal action are 'worth it' certainly is within scope.

I am interested in this idea of "Carbon Offsets" i.e. pay for some project that 'absorbs' CO2 equivalent to the 'input' your carbon generating activities put in to the atmosphere. I think it is a good "micro" analogy for the whole policy debate.

I investigated this prior to a recent return trip between Sydney Australia and from Vancouver Canada. Thats about 2.5 tons per passenger seat on a modern aircraft for the whole round trip.

I came across voluntary offset programs on-line that would allow you to buy a clean conscience (or a good fake facsimile of one) for anything from about $3.50 USD to $35 USD per ton. Then I discovered that the EU carbon offset program uses a working figure of $50 USD per ton and I understand the recent Stern report on GW argued for $85 USD per ton.

I've got no idea how these guys figure out the numbers and I suspect they don't either. There is such a huge 'orders of magnitude' spread. Imagine if you got quotes from various plumbers with that kind of spread.

I am sure there are plenty of people who'd be happy to vote, shop or invest 'green' at $3.50/ton who'd be die hard skeptics at $85 bucks. I'm happy to vote green, at least for air travel, for under $40 a ton, above that I want more evidence. This kind of "decision making approach" might not be horribly scientific but we normally make other trade off decisions in "scientific" fields like medicine, and even real estate (ie do I buy property in San Francisco despite the rock solid scientific evidence in favour of earthquakes).

Sanjiv March 24, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Regarding your doctor analogy, as the family member, I agree that you have to take a decision because time is running out. But that is just telling us how you will deal with the situation, nothing about the disease itself. Yes?
If a doctor says that I have a malignant tumour and need to undergo surgery and another says that the tumour is benign, I will have to take sides. My taking sides resolves the issue of what I am going to do about it even though I don't know for a fact whether the tumour is malignant or not.

"Why can't Economists have a webpage that links to a highly regarded scientist who gives a different perspective to the causes of global warming?"

Of course they can. Who ever said they can't? I am all for such links. In the above sentence, replace "highly regarded scientist" with "highly regarded economist". Now, tell me which weblink (economist vs. scientist) has a higher probability of being more relevant and insightful.

"Who should be the ones saying "Hey, there is a lot of money going to Global Warming studies. I wonder if everyone trying to get those funds is being honest with their research?" " "

You couldn't be more right. There is every reason for an outsider to be skeptic if the scientist is getting his funds dependent on what stance he takes. That is a reason to double check that scientist's claims but again, it doesn't preclude such a scientist from stating valid points.

"But reasonable people can figure out the validity of some methodologies, and many of the claims published by the IPCC are clearly outside of sound scientific method (e.g. Malaria)"

Yes, a smart economist can contribute to the "validity of some methodologies" but there are limits. The methodologies they can comment on and criticize are ones which include collecting samples and drawing statistical inferences from correlations and such. This is something economists do rather well. But statistical inferences are not enough to come up with a physical mechanism that explains why something is happening (why heating/why cooling). That will have to come from the sciences.

Brad Hutchings March 24, 2007 at 4:38 pm


Your argument for territorial specialization has particularly bad downstream consequences. Suppose we apply it to dog food manufacturing. A company that specializes in efficient production of wet foods (let's call them "Menu Foods") should not be subject to detailed oversight by non-expert brand managers (lets' call them "Iams, a division of P&G") because Iams doesn't know all the ins and out of keeping rats out of the ingredients.

If scientists want to sit in isolation and write papers that don't have any effects on the rest of us, then they are welcome to have their own exclusive club that claim understanding of their research. However, if they are going to impact other professions (e.g. economists) or are going to affect change in the wider political context, then it's on them to make all of the data and conclusions and theories accessible to non-experts without deceiving them. To this date, Cicerone and Rowland (the CFC guys) brag about how they scared Margaret Thatcher into action on the Montreal Protocol. Having seen Cicerone in action in the classroom whipping sorority girls into a frenzy over skin cancers whether we acted or not they should all have by now (this was 16 years ago), I am instantly skeptical of any scientist trying to shove any agenda down our throats.

Scientists making dire predictions reminds me a whole bunch of Internet bubble entrepreneurs with hockey stick graphs. Nobody's data is so good that those graphs ever mean a damned thing except to get an emotional reaction. The way you make business successful is to put your head down and work every day to build that business. There has to be some analogue to how to make good science… Someone complete the thought, please.

Francois Tremblay March 24, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Meteorologists have zero to do with the debate on global warming. It is a purely economic debate.

Tim March 24, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Although most of the free market oriented think tanks and lobby groups are generally skeptical of global warming, it'smainly for non-climatological reasons. In other words they are concerned that GW regulation will lead to a new advance in the power of big government. They regard the clear and present danger of advancing big government as both more likely and more damaging to human welfare and freedom than GW itself. Amongst Austrian school free marketeers GW skepticism is even more common than say amongst Chicago School economists etc. There is a notable exception to Austrian GW skepticism, the economist Edwin Dolan. In this 24 page PDF file (located online here, Dolan writes on "Science, Public Policy and Global Warming : Rethinking the Market Liberal Position."

Dolan derives much of his argument from F.A. Hayek which should interest Cafe Hayek readers. Back in the 1970s, about the time that the Club Of Rome issued it's then influential Limits To Growth report, Edwin Dolan wrotes a short popular economics book called TANSTAAFL – The economic strategy for environmental crisis. This book is still available from Amazon for a mere $2 or so and in many ways anticipates much of the green debate that has gone 'mainstream' in recent decades.

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm


Evolutionary theory requires that the second law of thermodynamics be wrong. But of course law trumps theory in the world of science every time until some intrepid soul can disprove the law, in which case, it would no longer be a law. Thus, the law always trumps the theory.

So it seems the original inconvenient truth is that evolution, at least how it's been taught so far, has absolutely no legs to stand on.

But yet, it is taught as fact, and those that might want to treat the theory as a theory are labeled as kooks and heretics.

Likewise, global warming is not so much a scientfic controversy as it is a political tool in the hands of the far Left. Where socialism has lost steam, the environmentalists have simply provided another avenue for attacking individual freedom and the free market that serves the individual.

And for those who would say that Person A cannot question Person B because of a lack of credentials; that is a dishonest, and cowardly approach.

It's common knowledge that miliary personnel are overwhelmingly in support of the war in Iraq, and on terror in general. Using the above mentioned criteria for being able to question a topic or issue, only military personnel are capable of having a valid opinion on the war in Iraq.

Duke March 24, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Ray G-
Wonderful! You have proved golddog's point.

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm

That larger point being of course, that scientists are people too who are plauged with the very same biases, mistakes, and downright ideologically fueled dishonesty as the rest of humanity.

I'm just curious if this whole thing will fade as quickly and completely as the whole global cooling craze from the 1970s faded.

Someone on the radio was talking about how kids today are being taught man-made global warming as if the matter was settled, and I of course immediately thought of my own elementary days in the 70s, and the teachers teaching us factually, that there will be another ice age within our lifetimes, most likely sooner than later.

And now we're supposed to not be skeptical?

golddog March 24, 2007 at 8:41 pm

"And for those who would say that Person A cannot question Person B because of a lack of credentials; that is a dishonest, and cowardly approach."

I agree with you completely.

What I was trying to do in my first post was to show that almost any theory can be propped up with as least one credentialed expert.

To imply that there is not a broad scientific consensus is misleading. If you want to disagree with it, you are free to, but you should have good arguments explaining why so many specialists, from so many countries, are wrong about something that is occurring in their field.

Instead, what I see happening is people rejecting evidence that conflicts with their ideological preconceptions. We should use evidence to come to our conclusions, not selectively choose evidence to bolster our preconceived conclusions.

We can have legitimate discussions about what — if anything — the government should do about global warming, but to keep up the fiction that there is not wide spread consensus, that global warming is occurring, among the (relevant) scientific community is irresponsible.

The following organizations issued this statement, saying that "warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities":

Academia Brasiliera de Ciências, Brazil
Royal Society of Canada, Canada
Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Academié des Sciences, France
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher, Germany
Indian National Science Academy, India
Accademia dei Lincei, Italy
Science Council of Japan, Japan
Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
Royal Society, United Kingdom
National Academy of Sciences, United States of America.

Sanjiv March 24, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Bit of a digression, but the very first line of Ray G's response is typical of what happens when a person who doesn't know science tries to talk about it.

"Evolutionary theory requires that the second law of thermodynamics be wrong."

"And for those who would say that Person A cannot question Person B because of a lack of credentials; that is a dishonest, and cowardly approach."

Obviously credentials are not everything. Einstein was a clerk in a patent office.
If an economist can offer valid scientific criticisms on the physics of a particular climate model, I can assure you scientists will sit up and listen.

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 9:30 pm

The word consensus implies an overwhelming majority of a group in agreement. The mainstream media, and the Left in general are in consensus, but there are plenty of leading scientific minds who are not in such agreement.

If you can explain how evolution in any of its more commonly taught forms can be correct without having to rely on order coming from disorder, be my guest to show how ignorant I am.

And for what it's worth, I taught high school physics for two years. Thus, I'm a heretic perhaps, but not ignorant of science. And you do what for a living Sanjiv?

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 9:43 pm

So much for the unbiased scientist:

This is quoted from Sanny's Cornell link:
"There are many examples from everyday life that prove it is possible to create order! For example, you'd certainly agree that a person is capable of taking a pile of wood and nails and constructing a building out of it. The wood and nails have become more ordered, but in doing the work required to make the building, the person has generated heat which goes into increasing the overall entropy of the universe."

Ah, but in the larger sense, and not just in the case of the man's body heat going off into the ether, more disorder has occured than not. The man's body is constantly degenerating, as is the wood, the nails, everything. In moving the pile around, more entropy is created in that more activity is taking place.

Sanjiv Googled a couple of key words, and because someone from Cornell said so, then it must be so.

If order could truly be gotten from disorder, in any fashion, time travle would be possible, among other impossibilities.

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 10:00 pm

Go back to Google and figure out what a closed system is. Your Cornell link mentions this, and it is important. But if the universe is the closed system, what is the wood pile?

Essentially, the link says that the 2nd law does not always hold true in a localized example with the right amount of outside intervention.

That is simply wrong.

Sanjiv March 24, 2007 at 10:18 pm

I came across this transcript of a recent GW debate with Richard Lindzen as one of the participants. Made interesting reading.

Sanjiv March 24, 2007 at 10:21 pm

oops, the URL got chopped off. Let's see if this works..

Sanjiv March 24, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Ray_G, kindly refer pages 145-146 in "Atmospheric
Thermodynamics" by Bohren & Albrecht.

Ray G March 24, 2007 at 11:03 pm

I kindly read a number of links and paragraphs stemming from our little discussion.

If you personally understood science, as you so vaguely put the whole matter, then you should be able to coherently explain evolution to me wherein order is not derived from disorder.

Despite what you've googled, the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not make room for order to ever come from disorder.

The best way I know how to get this across to you is to refer back to Cornells' example of the wood and nails. That is not "order" per se, but simply a rearranging.

Their example is akin to saying if one takes 20 single celled organisms and arranges them in a specific pattern under their microscope, they are creating order out of disorder. That is absurd of course. The wood and nails are rearranged, not brought to "order." And in this rearranging, more energy is used, and thus entropy is increased, just as their following examples make clear in the context of weather i.e. cooler air vs. warmer air.

If their examples are true, then one should be able to unlight a match, or perhaps unmelt a candle.

A good book for you to start with is James McGovern's "The Essence of Engineering Thermodynamics." He makes several good examples – none of which have anything to do with evolution – on how impossible it is for the 2nd law to be violated.

I continued on with this to make the point of how entrenched a theory can be despite the overwhelming evidence of proven and unquestionable facts. Now, evolution might be the real deal, and there's something to it we just haven't figured out yet, but as it stands, the theory does not have enough legs to it, to stand up to existing fact.

Likewise, we are being told to accept man-made global warming without debate. And that's really the rub.

Glubglub March 24, 2007 at 11:45 pm

"the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not make room for order to ever come from disorder."

Ray, you're totally wrong here. I'd go into detail, but you seem to be rather too invested in your fantasy–as indicated by comments you have made here thus far–for me to expect that further discussion to have much of an impact on you.

Sanjiv March 25, 2007 at 12:07 am

Brad raised the issue of how to make good science.

Here are Richard Feynman's views (a person who knew what good science was) taken from his superb book "The Feynman Lectures"-

"The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific "truth." But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations-to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess. This imagining process is so difficult that there is a division of labor in physics: there are theoretical physicists who imagine, deduce, and guess at new laws, but do not experiment; and then there are experimental physicists who experiment, imagine, deduce, and guess."

More Feynman (from the same book):

"You might ask why we cannot teach physics by just giving the basic laws on page one and then showing how they work in all possible circumstances, as we do in Euclidean geometry, where we state the axioms and then make all sorts of deductions. (So, not satisfied to learn physics in four years, you want to learn it in four minutes?) We cannot do it in this way for two reasons. First, we do not yet know all the basic laws: there is an expanding frontier of ignorance. Second, the correct statement of the laws of physics involves some very unfamiliar ideas which require advanced mathematics for their description. Therefore, one needs a considerable amount of preparatory training even to learn what the words mean. No, it is not possible to do it that way. We can only do it piece by piece."

Ray G March 25, 2007 at 12:19 am

The only thing I can think of that says the 2nd law isn’t always true is in the case of fluctuation theorem. Essentially, it is assumed that there has to be some non-zero possibility of entropy increasing at a micro level, but this also brings with it the baggage of reversible time possibilities.

Which is why I mentioned unlighting a match, or unmelting a candle. These were two of the more common arguments against reversible time in most literature.

More to the point, at a larger level, and still in a closed system, random mutations have never jumped the gap to actual order from disorder, and thus the 2nd law is still a good argument. It’s a very unproven, and vague theory resting on untried premise upon untried premise.

Along the lines of what you are saying, there was a time when Newtonian phsyics were the "law" and to question them were heretical. Thank God someone did.

But that's just the point. The anthropogenic GW crowd make so many false claims at consensus precisely to avoid any questions, any debate. Why? There are links already on this thread pointing to great, and respectable scientists on both sides of the issue.

But I hear very little of anyone actually talking about the faulty data from the antartic, the activity of the sun in all of this, the historical data that shows temperature fluctuation throughout the ages, etc.

Alll we hear is that it is a consensus, and so we should stop our attempts at debate, and just start walking.

Mike March 25, 2007 at 12:38 am

"the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not make room for order to ever come from disorder."

… in a closed system, which the Earth is not.

Sanjiv, you have a point. Some people are just blockheads, and people who have spent most of their adult lives familiarizing themselves with the relevant evidence and argument are less likely to be so. Lindzen is, however, neither a non-expert nor a blockhead. He's NAS, something that Gore is not.

Mike March 25, 2007 at 1:00 am

Here are links to the MP3 of the IQ2 debate on global warming:

Long form:

Short form:

EconTalk, eat your heart out. :^)

Lowcountryjoe March 25, 2007 at 4:13 pm

The Hadean Eon through to the present clearly shows that we're in a very long term WARMING trend, doesn't it? Well?

golddog March 25, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Jonathan Chait in the LA Times about global warming:

Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), both research scientists, also were denied seats on the committee. Normally, relevant expertise would be considered an advantage. In this case, it was a disqualification; if the GOP allowed Republican researchers who accept the scientific consensus to sit on a global warming panel, it would kill the party's strategy of making global warming seem to be the pet obsession of Democrats and Hollywood lefties.

The phenomenon here is that a tiny number of influential conservative figures set the party line; dissenters are marginalized, and the rank and file go along with it. No doubt something like this happens on the Democratic side pretty often too. It's just rare to find the phenomenon occurring in such a blatant way.

Python March 25, 2007 at 9:53 pm


Chait says "But we nonconservatives tend to defer to mainstream scientific wisdom."

Do nonconservatives tend to defer to mainstream economic wisdom, or just scientific?

How can someone so cavalierly make such statements about polticial groups?

Perhaps there are other reasons why the 2 congresspeople were not put on the panel. But Chait doesn't go into specifics, just hinting at the reason he wants to believe.

I'm sure the Democrats would welcome global warming skeptics on their side of the panel. Oh wait. Do we know the number of Democratic congresspeople who are skeptics?

Doesn't this show for the millionth time that politicians of any side can't be trusted to be impartial?

Sam Grove March 25, 2007 at 10:14 pm

This image is my redrawing of a temperature graph from the paleomap project.

We are still way on the cool side of the median temperature for the last half a billion years.

Python March 25, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Here is a quote from Richard Somerville, a scientist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (a pre-eminent Institute associated with University of California), during a debate regarding global warming:

"You know, a lot of things could be done, once you free up the creativity of, uh, of technical people, of business people by making this a priority nationally and internationally"

This type of talk bothers me to no end. Chairman Mao would be happy to hear his words echoed so closely. Business people will be "free" to be creative once they are told what project to work on – perfect.

golddog March 26, 2007 at 12:14 am


You write, "[d]o nonconservatives tend to defer to mainstream economic wisdom, or just scientific?"

The point that I'm drawing from that statement is that liberals are hypocrites because we follow the scientific consensus on climate change, but not on economics.

Economics is about trade-offs and necessarily entails value judgments. For example, a liberal may favor laws that encourage unions, while a conservative may oppose them. Say there is an economic consensus that economies with high levels of unionization are less efficient. Does this mean that if liberals still want high levels of unionization that they are ignoring the economic consensus? No. Liberals are not denying that their choice will make the economy less efficient; however, they are willing to sacrifice efficiency to gain job security. They are simply expressing a preference for one over the other.

Climatology is different. No matter what your values are, human induced global warming is occurring. We can have a discussion about whether global warming is good or bad. We can also discuss whether further government regulation is the solution. The problem is that many conservatives have realized that most people will decide that global warming is bad and that most people will want the government to step in, so instead of trying to debate liberals on the values (i.e., is government regulation the solution to it?), they deny that global warming is occurring. That's not acknowledging the scientific consensus.

I agree that Chait uses the term “nonconservative” too broadly, but I think that is a function of his space constraint in the op-ed more than anything else.

Sam Grove:

I am not a climatology expert, so take what I am about to say with many grains of salt.

I do not think that anyone disputes your chart. The problem with global warming is not that the earth is heating up, but that the rate of change of its heating is increasing because of humans. So a process that might take millions of years, or hundred of thousands of years, or even thousands of years will now take a few centuries or even decades.

If global warming were happening within the normal cycles of the earth's temperature fluctuations, then people would have a long time to adapt to the changes and it would not be a problem. If it were to happen quickly (a few centuries is quickly) then an uncoordinated response to the change could be harmful to humanity. Think of a shoreline that slowly disappears at the rate of a foot a year over the course of many years versus a flood which happens in a day. You can see why the sudden change would be far more catastrophic than the gradual one. (This is only a metaphor. I am not saying that on one day all our major cities will be flooded at once; do not take it literally)

Once again, this is simply how I understand the threat. If anything I've said is plain wrong, please correct me.

Python March 26, 2007 at 5:18 am

Golddog says "Climatology is different. No matter what your values are, human induced global warming is occurring."

It's strange how you make a statement so matter of factly when the original post is from an expert who doesn't believe what you just said. The fact that we speak of "the consensus view" regarding global warming makes it obvious that "values" are being used. We value a majority over a minority, or we trust this guy over that guy. Values are everywhere in this discussion. Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that is not up for debate. But to what extent it is contributing to the current warming is certainly a value judgment based on how the climate models are constructed.

Few people are concerned with the temperature as it is right now. The concern is for the future, and what should be done about future warming. One year, a top British scientist said that England would be something like 8 degrees Celcius warmer in 2080 because of global warming. The very next year, another leading British scholar said it would be 10 degrees Celcius colder in 100 years because of the breakdown in the Gulf Stream also because of global warming. They both had OPINIONS based on scientific understanding that they used in their computer models. And at least one of them was very very wrong, but they are both considered to be global warming advocates.

Climatology may be different than economics in some ways, but the science behind climatology is far from settled – with many shades of gray regarding: a) how much warming is occurring, b) how much warming was caused by humans, c) how warm will the planet get in X years, d) what is the "optimal" temperature of the planet, etc.

The so-called "consensus" of scientists involved in global warming is not known, because the only numbers we see have first been passed through political filters. Members of the IPCC have admitted that some models that were used in the lastest report exaggerated future CO2 emissions when forecasting out to 2100. Any time that you begin to predict human actions in the future you are moving out of pure "science" and into other realms that involve economics and other "value"-driven fields.

To re-iterate my point, let me ask a simple question. Suppose that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere goes to 400ppm and stays there until the year 2100. What will be the increase in global temperature beween now and 2100? You will find that you will get a wide variance of answers, and then you'll realize that that is when you known the level of CO2. But of course, we don't know what the level will be, and the variance gets bigger. Who should we trust? The average? The median? The max? The most published? Maybe climatology is not a value-based science, but predictions using climatology is.

The original post is a link to a scientist who believes differently than the majority. We have seen follow-up posts about a) ID, b) economists don't belong in the argument, c) evolution breaks the 2nd law of thermodynamics, d) Republicans squelched some voices. Why so much defensiveness to a post? Did Lindzen say something factually wrong, or illogical?

In any other discussion, if one guy is saying "Millions will drown and starve in 50 years if we don't do something immediately." and the other guy is saying "Look, the Earth is a complex place that we still know little about, let's continue to seek out learning." Which guy would you naturally tend to trust? Why is it different with global warming?

By the way, what is the optimal temperature of the planet?

Sam Grove March 26, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Such certainty based on so much conjecture.

What's known for certain:

The planet has been warming for several hundred years.

Humans release CO2 into the atmosphere.
BTW, the portion generated by humans is a small fraction of the CO2 exchanged among the three reservoirs: ocean, atmosphere, and biomass.

Water vapor is the single most significant greenhouse gas…except when it forms clouds.

What is not known:

Cloud cover impact.
Solar impact. The influence of the solar magnetosphere is just beginning to be explored.
Cloud cover averages and cause of same.
And much else.

colson March 26, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I just got some new stationary to start printing out some carbon credit certificates to put on eBay but it looks like others are already selling them:

golddog March 26, 2007 at 6:09 pm

I suppose that we'll have to agree to disagree on global warming.

colson March 26, 2007 at 6:11 pm

ok, this gets even better – I didn't even think of this scam – er – market:

search ebay for item:


I almost crapped my pants – time to go grab the obits and corner the market early.

tjr March 29, 2007 at 7:30 am

Alas it is far too common in America to deny the theory of evolution but not unique to America. These type of people exist everywhere in the world. In discussing topics with anyone if they deny this theory I use it as a shorthand signal that I am talking to an intellectual inferior or more bluntly a bleeding idiot. Why waste time on such a person? On a more relevant issue climate change, I can except that there are greater uncertainties in the science but the overall consensus around the world is that it is likely that it is happening. the consequence is that there will be a carbon constraint in the future. This is now factored in to the commercial world and anyone building new baseload power stations has to factor in a future carbon price. This is the reality. I can appeal to the authority of the best climate economists, Nordhaus, McKibbin and such as endorsing this view and they have their models for minimising the cost to society. All true policy economists should be looking at the most appropriate ways of dealing with this genuine or perceived market risk. Arguing blame and attacking the science will not solve the genuine commercial problems in the market.

Sam Grove March 29, 2007 at 11:37 am

The human condition can either be explained by evolution or an idiot god.

OAN, this is the second time in two days I've seen the use of "except" where "accept" is the appropriate term. Is this a trend?

Douglas January 17, 2008 at 11:16 am

In order to seperate order from disorder you need a definition. I did not see one. The second law of thermodynamics is clearly defined, but I did not see that definition here. Perhaps this is because NONE of the participants would understand it or could follow the math though it is quite simple. Try Wikipedia

The second law ONLY pertains to closed systems. The earth is not a closed system. If you could follow the math, it would be clear that nothing happening on this planet violates the second law of thermodynamics. That fact that some of you on this list do not understand or accept that very basic and demonstrable fact, does not make it less of a fact.

The world is clearly a set of self organizing systems. Regardless of a specific definition, it is clear, for example, that a hurricane is a fairly organized self contained system.

RE global warming: For the last few hundred thousand years CO2 came AFTER global warming. So whatever humans have done in terms of CO2, and it is NOT a small percentage (doesn't anyone here know how to do the most basic research) the evidence that humans are causing GW is not convincing. Since about 90% of the changes in weather patterns (as indicated by melt times, ice thickness, freeze times, migration times etc.) are out of the envelope for the past 2000 years it is unlikely that this is a 50 or 100 or 400 year 'cyclic' pattern.

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