Another climate skeptic

by Russ Roberts on March 25, 2009

in Environment

Freeman Dyson.

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JP March 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

From the article:

Dyson’s own e-mail queue resonate[s] with a thermal current of invective in which Dyson has discovered himself variously described as “a pompous twit,” “a blowhard,” “a cesspool of misinformation,” “an old coot riding into the sunset” and, perhaps inevitably, “a mad scientist.”

Reactions like these (which I hear even from normally reasonable people) when global-warming orthodoxy is questioned lead me to conclude that the global-warming package of ideas is a religion.

PaulD March 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

This a very interesting article. One of my favorite quotes:

"The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models,” Dyson was saying. “They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.”

I could not agree more.

Crusader March 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Yet 1000s of climate scientists say that AGW is 100% proven. It is conventional wisdom that AGW is true. AGW denial is frequently equated to holocaust denial.

shawn March 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Yet 1000s of climate scientists say that AGW is 100% funding their research. It is conventional wisdom that AGW is fashionable and will get you money and social respect. AGW denial is very socially, and perhape professionally, costly.

muirgeo March 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Interesting to me that the skeptics of climate change are often the same people who were telling us how the economy was just fine all these recent years. Now we know how that turned out.

Fortunatly the climate system is simpler then the economy. If you believe the spectrophotometric properties of the oxygen molecule explain the blue sky then there should be no reason to believe increasing levels of CO2 won't warm the planet. Likewise for the belief that blankets make you warmer.

If nothing else all these cynics (they don't deserve the respectful term skeptic) are on record just like the economic denialist of the past few years.

TrUmPiT March 25, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I don't believe in global warming either. Therefore, it must be true.

Chris O'Leary March 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

"If nothing else all these cynics (they don't deserve the respectful term skeptic) are on record just like the economic denialist of the past few years."

As I have pointed out multiple times before, and you have never addressed, my problem with the global warming hysteria is that it's being fed by deliberate distortions and misrepresentations of the data.

See my analysis of the information design used in Algore's "An Inconvenient Truth" book and movie.

In sum, he chops up and presents the data in a way that makes his case look as good as possible.

Of course, this isn't bad since his intentions are good.

Right?

K Foster March 25, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Broadly speaking, the same insight informs my confidence in economic liberty and my skeptical regard for the apocalyptic predictions of global warming advocates — a respect for the unknown and unknowable.

No one can plan or predict all economic activity. Similarly, I'm not sure anyone has yet demonstrated the ability to precisely model the earths climate or weather systems. Not for a period of seven days – let alone 100 years.

ThomasL March 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm

"Fortunatly the climate system is simpler then the economy."

Really, no greater refutation of that statement is possible than simply repeating it…

Chris O'Leary March 25, 2009 at 5:12 pm

"Not for a period of seven days – let alone 100 years."

Not for one day, or even several hours, in most cases.

Doug Stevens March 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Interesting to me that the skeptics of climate change are often the same people who were telling us how the economy was just fine all these recent years. Now we know how that turned out.

Really? I thought Barney Frank believed in global warming?

TrUmPiT March 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Much of Dyson's global warming thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still globaloney. Is he part of the Dyson vacuum empire? The question is how much does vacuuming my house contribute to global warming. Maybe, I should leave it dirty, or replace the carpet with wood floors. That would require clearing a forest for the wood. Life is all about trade-offs, except for those who are so rich and don't give a hoot how extravagantly they live. Those people should be sucked up the nozzle of a vacuum, regardless of the vacuum's carbon footprint.

muirgeo March 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

"…my problem with the global warming hysteria is that it's being fed by deliberate distortions and misrepresentations of the data."

Chris O'Leary

No in the scientific journals. Sure Al Gore is the political end of the argument but the scientific one that I read in Science, Nature or the professional Journals of The American Geological Society or the American Meteorological Society are fairly clear.

There is little doubt that were are changing the climate to a state not seen by civilized human society for at least 3,000 years and likely for all of civilization. The unknowns after that are immense but should not be left to chance as there are many potential serious downsides.

vidyohs March 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

It is always telling just how virulent the hatred generated towards anyone who publicly deviates, even the slightest, from the leftist path.

Dyson didn't even deny the global warming bullshit, he just suggested that increased co2 in the air could be beneficial to plants, which is the exact trtuh.

But, look at what he gets in return for not toeing the line.

The Other Eric March 25, 2009 at 6:16 pm

TrUmPiT, Freeman Dyson the son of George Dyson (composer), and father of Esther Dyson, Dorthy Dyson, Mia Dyson, Rebecca Dyson, Emily Dyson, and George Dyson (science historian).

No vacuum connections…

yet another Dave March 25, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Fortunatly the climate system is simpler then the economy.

Muirgeo – Mar 25, 2009 4:19:39 PM

The global climate system is a lot more complex than you seem to think. The number of variables is astounding and the interactions are not well understood. Even the simple and well understood absorptive properties of atmospheric CO2 are non-linear. The greenhouse effect of CO2 results from absorbing energy at certain wavelengths. At the concentration where 100% of that frequency is absorbed, further increases in CO2 will have no additional effect. Do you know where we are on that scale?

In addition, CO2 is a relatively minor factor; water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas. Clouds, which are formed from water vapor, reflect heat away from Earth. As I understand it, the computer models used to predict climate change do not model cloud formulation. Also, they are full of simplifying assumptions and fudge factors. To me, that makes them not very useful. Hopefully, the models will be improved to the point where they can overcome this problem.

Meanwhile, it looks to me like we have political opportunists hijacking the precautionary principal to manipulate public opinion with fear. Perhaps a few of them even sincerely believe we’re in danger from climate change. I suggest that until the science is stronger we would be better off to focus resources problems that are well understood (we have plenty to choose from).

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm

2008 was a year of Global Cooling contrary to the propaganda promoted by Al Gore and the mainstream media about a "warming earth". Hundreds to thousands of people froze to death in India, China and Afghanistan. There was record breaking cold temperatures and snow falls yet the hysteria continued – a climate tour icebreaker got stuck in Arctic ice, AGW activists learned the hard way that the Arctic still had ice and snow fell as the UK's House of Commons debated Global Warming legislation. Ironic? Yes but the empirical evidence clearly shows that the climate is cooling:

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 6:36 pm

"CO2 for different people has different attractions. After all, what is it? – it’s not a pollutant, it’s a product of every living creature’s breathing, it’s the product of all plant respiration, it is essential for plant life and photosynthesis, it’s a product of all industrial burning, it’s a product of driving – I mean, if you ever wanted a leverage point to control everything from exhalation to driving, this would be a dream. So it has a kind of fundamental attractiveness to bureaucratic mentality." – Richard S. Lindzen, Ph.D. Professor of Atmospheric Science, MIT

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 6:38 pm

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." – Nikola Tesla, 1934

It is entirely applicable to today's economists.

vidyohs March 25, 2009 at 6:39 pm

After making the time to read the entire article, I am even more impressed with Freeman Dyson.

Weighed against a man of such intellectual stature, we have what? Gore? Hansen? And a host of assorted crazies like muirduck?

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 6:40 pm

"Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus…" - Michael Crichton, A.B. Anthropology, M.D. Harvard

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 6:41 pm
RickC March 25, 2009 at 6:48 pm
Gil March 25, 2009 at 7:21 pm

A big point is – does F. Dyson have the revelant qualifications to have a scientific evaluation of climatology? Or do his qualifications give him some insights but not professionally so? Somehow it'd be nice to believe that climatologists view on global warming is more important than the joker on the street just as you'd treat your dentist's view of the state of your teeth above and over the views of what your (unqualified) neighbour thinks.

On the other hand, what of those who do have reasonable qualifications? U.S. Professor of Geology Steve Dutch writes articles where he believes AGW real and a problem needing to be dealt with. Then again you have Australian Professor of Geology Ian Plimer who doesn't beleive in AGW!

On the upside there is an overall greater global warming caused by the life cycle of the Sun – in around 1.1 billion years time the Sun will have increased in size and heat output as to render Earth uninhabitable.

Gil March 25, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Oil Shock – were your last two posts a sort of humouring?

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Gil,

Not as much as the following sentence:

On the upside there is an overall greater global warming caused by the life cycle of the Sun – in around 1.1 billion years time the Sun will have increased in size and heat output as to render Earth uninhabitable.

Gil March 25, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Aw shucks, you got me! ;)

Mr. Econotarian March 25, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I have a bit of belief that AGW is true.

On the other hand, I have no belief in the ability of governments being able to globally reduce GHG emissions.

I have a bit more faith in humanity to grow the global economy, and give people more cars so they can drive away from the shore when the cyclones come, eradicate mosquitos by draining wetlands, using more air conditioning, or building desalination plants and pump water hundreds of miles.

muirgeo March 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

There is a petition project going on. Over 31000 scientists have signed on the skeptics side

Posted by: Oil Shock

That's funny… I signed it 5 or more years ago just to prove anyone could. My name is still on the list.

The scariest things about climate change are the unknowns. Evidence suggest the climate system can reach tipping points were sudden rapid and irreversible changes can occur.

The fact that CO2 levels are higher then they have been since we evolved as a species should be a major concern.

Some are worried about the debt Bush and the Republicans have handed to our children and the economic consequences of Obama piling on more. To not have a similar but far greater degree of concern for the possibility of drastically irreversibly changing the climate for our children is logically inconsistent.

But again if man made climate change is true its the skull bashing of the idea that we needn't plan for our future.. as if the recent economic collapse wasn't evidence enough.

Jesse Rouse March 25, 2009 at 10:32 pm

When deciding what to do about global warming you have to go through a few steps.

1. Is there global warming?

2. Is global warming man made?

3. What causes global warming and to what effect?

4. Is it better to stall global warming even though it decreases growth? Or would it be better to just allow GW to happen and keep a normal growth rate while preparing for the future? Use are new wealth to build seawalls, buy air conditioning, migrate, etc.

5. If it's best to stall global warming what is the best way to do it?

6. Tonight's South Park was amazing!!

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm

The scariest things about climate change are the unknowns. Evidence suggest the climate system can reach tipping points were sudden rapid and irreversible changes can occur.

I would like to look at that evidence. I hope evidence is based on verifiable results and not based on complicated mathematical/statistical models, of the kind used by people who predict your future based on alignment of stars and planets.

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Republicans have handed to our children and the economic consequences of Obama piling on more.

There is your problem. If Bush was a democrat ( he might as well be, all his policies matched the rhetoric of democrats ) and Obama was a republican ( he might as well be, he is doing the same things that Bush did ), you will approve Bush's policy and not Obama's. Your problem is not that you have a silly ideology, instead your problem is seeing Democrat's policies as manna from heaven and if the same policies executed by a republican in the white house as the equivalent of nuclear war. I don't think you have any loyalty to your purported ideology. The way you contorted your sentence quoted above says it all. Nobody is forcing Obama to pile on.

Oil Shock March 25, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Muirgeo, the fact that you once again puposefully tried to divert the topic at discussion by bringing Republicrat one party system, says a lot about your devious attempts to disrupt the discussions on this blog.

vikingvista March 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm

The most disturbing aspect of the global warming issue is not what people believe about it, it's what people are willing to do about it even if the worst claims are true.

I believe there was a time in this country when the popular response would've been, "Even if what you say is true, it does not justify what you intend to do to people."

The Albatross March 26, 2009 at 12:44 am

Fortunatly [sic] the climate system is simpler then the economy.
Muirgeo,
As an economist, I must say that the economy is beyond all comprehension. Sure we can grasp bits of it, but to say the planet and the solar system are somehow less complicated is a masterful piece of delusion. Any fool pretending to understand the climate is either a fool or a delusionary. I studied geology for many semesters and found Gaia quite incomprehensible (my professor was the guy who came up with plate tectonics), but then again I finds the idea that a sphere 24,000 some miles in diameter with a core and atmosphere beyond our understanding are somehow easier than economics totally laughable. Too claim to understand the latter is fully is farce, as all us students found out in our labs.

muirgeo March 26, 2009 at 12:56 am

Nope Albatross it's pretty much heat in – heat out plus some non-linearities. Outside of solar radiation CO2 is the major driver of climate. CO2 levels are higher then anything in the last 600,000 years maybe 3 million plus. Climate is known to suddenly go through state changes. It is reasonable to assume we might force a tipping point and a state change. Lesser climate changes in human civilizations past have had dramatic effects on humanity even likely destroying some cultures.

The idea that we could melt all the ice off Greenland, turn the Amazon into a desert and melt the arctic ice without dramatic consequences is beyond bone-headed for lack of a better word…ok maybe shortsighted.

Sam Grove March 26, 2009 at 1:35 am

I say that climate and the economy are both so complex that we cannot know if on is more complicated than the other.

Sam Grove March 26, 2009 at 1:36 am

Outside of solar radiation CO2 is the major driver of climate.

Water vapor?

Oil Shock March 26, 2009 at 1:48 am

CO2 levels are higher then anything in the last 600,000 years maybe 3 million plus.

How do you know? How can you measure the CO2 levels 600,000 years ago with any degree of accuracy? WHat is the margin of error?

You still have not provided the "evidence" you spoke about earlier, the one that are based on verifiable results.

Oil Shock March 26, 2009 at 1:48 am

Closing block quote

Oil Shock March 26, 2009 at 1:49 am

one more

muirgeo March 26, 2009 at 1:50 am

Nope Sam. Water vapor is passive and not a driver of climate. It is a greenhouse gas but because it is not a long-lived greenhouse gas its effect follow those of other long-lived greenhouse gases.

We pump tons and tons of water vapor into the atmosphere but that doesn't change the climate.

Don't mess with me on this stuff I likely know the science far better then anyone posting here. I studied it for years before turning recently to economics.

brotio March 26, 2009 at 1:59 am

I was going to comment on the staggering muirpidity of "…heat in – heat out plus some non-linearities." and "Fortunatly the climate system is simpler then the economy." but ThomasL nailed it.

The muirpidity can best be mocked by simply repeating it.

brotio March 26, 2009 at 2:01 am

"Don't mess with me on this stuff I likely know the science far better then anyone posting here. I studied it for years before turning recently to economics."

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oil Shock March 26, 2009 at 2:13 am

I studied it for years before turning recently to economics.

I am waiting for you to enlighten me with evidence.

Since you studied it for years, what is the argument that comes closest to disproving the "climate change" propaganda? Why this argument ultimately fails to convince you? I used the word closest because you are convinced that it is obviously not fool proof.

Carl Pham March 26, 2009 at 4:06 am

If you believe the spectrophotometric properties of the oxygen molecule explain the blue sky…

Well I guess you lose then, because they don't. The sky would be just as blue if the atmosphere were pure N2, or CO2, or an ideal gas. Go look up Rayleigh scattering, fool.

pauld March 26, 2009 at 5:47 am

"Nope Albatross it's pretty much heat in – heat out plus some non-linearities. Outside of solar radiation CO2 is the major driver of climate."

Nonsense. The amount of heating caused by CO2 by itself is not a great concern. The models that predict catastrophic warming rely upon positive water vapor feedbacks (i.e. more CO2 heats the atmosphere a little, which causes more water vapor that warms the atmosphere a great deal). This positive feedback is predicted (assumed?) by the climate models, but has not been empirically verified.

John March 26, 2009 at 7:26 am

As a software designer I am convinced that the AGW computer models were not written to find out what may happen, but rather were written to provide a predetermined result.
To put it another way, I'd say that these models were commissioned not with a statement like "Let's come up with a model to see what happens if…", but rather with a statement like "Let's come up with a model to show we are correct about…"

muirgeo March 26, 2009 at 8:44 am

I am waiting for you to enlighten me with evidence.

Since you studied it for years, what is the argument that comes closest to disproving the "climate change" propaganda? Why this argument ultimately fails to convince you? I used the word closest because you are convinced that it is obviously not fool proof.

Posted by: Oil Shock

I wouldn't bother to provide you with evidence until you are able to clearly state what WOULD be evidence to you. I've had this discussion too many times and I now know to ask the "wanna be skeptic" to define what the positive evidence would look like. They can never do so and it's a testament to willingness NOT to believe… to there desire NOT to really want to know the truth.

If there was a consistent cooling trend or even non-warming trend that would make one wonder. The warming trend though less then predicted is clear and I'd say the effects on the ground are however, even more impressive then would be expected when looking at the degree of warming. Likewise if solar radiation were enough to explain the warming we'd have to be ambivalent… but it doesn't explain it.

Pretty much you question is like me asking you what evidence would it take to convince you that putting on that wool blanket didn't make you warmer. It's silly. Adding greenhouse gases should trap extra heat and warm the climate. Why wouldn't it.

The two biggest feedbacks to amplifiy the effect make sense. A slightly warmer Earth should cause greater water evaporation and its a grrenhouse gas so it willl add to the warming. And melting reflective snow and ice will decrease reflection of incoming solar radiation and warm the Earth more. Pretty simple basic stuff. You would have to NOT want to believe in the laws of physics not to believe that the Earth should warm in effect to mans actions.

Indeed I was wrong about the reason for the sky's color the point of spectrophotometric properties of molecules is what matters. You'd have to deny them to believe hte Earth wouldn't warm in response to increasing greenhouse gases…. AND SUCH DENIAL CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED BY A RIGID UNYIELDING IDEOLOGY THAT DOESN'T LIKE THE IMPLICATION OFT THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER! Not yelling just emphasis… DAMMIT! (That part was a yell.)

John March 26, 2009 at 9:02 am

muirgeo,
I admire your faith in these computer models and their ability to tell the future.
Like the Jehovahs knocking on the door you defend your faith very admirably.
Your angry and scorn for non-believers s similar to the reaction of a Baptist when confronted with an atheist.
You also do a wonderful job of preaching your faith to others, complete with a set of apocalyptic consequences for failure to convert and repent.

Face it dude, you've got religion.

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