Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Climate Scientist Speaks Out

The Weekly Standard has an article about Richard Lindzen, an MIT professor that is one of the pioneers of climate science, and Lindzen does not have much good to say about "climate alarmists." The key part from the article:

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.
Read the whole thing.

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