Richard Lindzen hates Al Gore, really.
Die Weltwoche is Swiss news magazine that published an interview with Richard Lindzen by Peer Teuwsen. It provides some interesting insights. This is for those who tell us to be nice to the denialists, others who think you can debate them on intellectual grounds and for the mice in the woodwork. (UPDATE: a few things cleaned up, spelling etc. One major point, I had to check but Lindzen really did say " what do you think that scientists rush to goosestep behind Al Gore" instead of the milder formulation I had before : "rush to march behind...")
What follows is a translation. Suggestions for changes are welcome.
Herr Lindzen, you are called a “climate denier” Does that make you feel like an outsider?
I am no outsider. If you want to sit still for propaganda, that’s your problem. I work at the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I am well regarded by my colleagues, pay attention for a moment to what you said. I am a Holocaust survivor. My parents fled Germany in 1938. Whoever calls me a “climate denier” insults me - and he insults his own intelligence
[Note: Eli calls Lindzen a climate denialist, and given the crap Lindzen deals below to those who disagree with him, he has little grounds to object to strong words.]
Because this topic is so complex, has so many facets. Or do you really believe that all scientists rush to goosestep behind Al Gore? That all agree with him? Anyone that has even one or two neurons between his two ears should know that anyone who used the expression “climate denier” has lost the argument.
Have you gotten death threats like some of your colleagues that express their skepticism publicly
Oh, yeah, there were a few E-mails that told me to go to hell, but that is not a death threat.
In spite of that, what gives?
You have to figure on hate when you ask questions in such a climate. People want to believe that they are better when they believe with their whole hearts that the world will end when they don’t save it immediately. In that case people develop a religious enthusiasm, they become like Islamists. Anyone who stirs people up so much should be ashamed.
You figured on attacks?
Naturally. I wrote in the Wall Street Journal that scientists were suppressed, have lost their work because they expressed skepticism about some “Facts” in the climate controversy. Laurie David, the producer of Al Gore’s film has a blog, in which she wrote, she was happy that those scientists were finally suppressed. She also wrote that without question such scientists that seek to scientifically investigate their doubts should not be funded.
That contradicts the way that science is understood to work, that its hypotheses always have to be tested again and again and can only be falsified.
Naturally, but it is easy to to corrupt science, it has happened many times. I was at the international meeting of geophysicists (AGU meeting) last winter in San Francisco. Al Gore spoke. And his message was “ You should have the courage to join the consensus, speak publicly about it and freely to suppress the disloyal. The audience was inspired
What did you do?
I shrugged my shoulders and went out and read George Orwell.
What would you do. You are stirred up about an Oscar winner, Al Gore, who says things like “The continued existence of our civilization is in play”
More is in play, namely companies like Generation Investment Management, Lehman Brothers, Apple, Google, Gore has major financial interests in all of these. Al Gore combines insanity and corruption
Wait a minute, those are serious accusations.
First, he fosters hysteria. And second he has major financial interest. He is simply not independent
OK, you say that climate change is not so alarming because the models overestimate the influence of CO2 on climate. In saying that you contradict 95% of scientists.
But it is so. The influence of CO2 is much smaller that the models have predicted. You then have to choices. The model is false or the model is right and something unknown makes up the difference. The modelers have unfortunately taken the second way and claim that aerosols make up the difference. But, as the IPCC says, we don’t know anything about aerosols. The current models are tuned. If there is a problem, then call it aerosol. That is a dishonorable way out. The Chief of the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) in Great Britain said something remarkable. Climate change must be man made because he can’t imagine anything else. That is a statement touching on intellectual incompetence, which a scientist should never utter.
Mr. Lindzen, what then are the facts?
Physics does not lie about the greenhouse effect. The CO2 concentration has increased. The 20th century was over all warmer by 0.5 C.
How do you explain the most recent warming.
I don’t believe it. The warming occurred from 1976 to 1986, then it plateaued.
You accept that it in general has become warmer?
Yes, but we are speaking of tenths. If you take into account the uncertainty in the data, there was warming from 1920 to 1940, cooling until 1970, and warming again until the beginning of the 90s. But you can’t say that so exactly, whatever you think. There is no actual difference between the temperatures of today and those in the 20s and 30s. The system is never constant. And to declare the end of the world because of a couple of tenths of degrees is a joke.
It is just this tenth of a degree that can have monstrous consequences.
Yes, it could - always this lack of reality. The problem is that the media make a big show out of these temperature differences, that lie in the error range of the measurement. The ways that we measure are, for example simply too inaccurate. To repeat. It has gotten warmer in the last century, but climate is a system that always varies. And it is a turbulent system. You cannot think about it dogmatically. The main question remains, are these 0.5 degrees a large or a small variation, is it serious or not. We don’t know. No one should be ashamed to say that it remains much too unknown. And a couple of degrees still don’t make an eternal summer.
You took part in the third IPCC report. What is your opinion of the fourth?
First I would have to see the report. Up to now we know only about the Summary for Policy Makers. The report itself was finished last October. Now they need months in order to bring it into agreement with the Summary. If a company did that with its annual report it would be front page news in all the papers. And not to their advantage.
Why did you not participate in the fourth (IPCC) report?
No time. I had participated - by writing a couple of pages. There were hundreds of scientists, in teams, where two or three were responsible for a couple of pages. They flew all over the world for years. You can’t work that way.
Assume you are right, everything will not be so bad, the data is not good enough -even when most strongly dispute that. What is it about?
Many interest groups have discovered climate change. Everyone of the will profit from it except the normal consumer. The latter must be maneuvered by propaganda. The scientists profit, they have increased funding by more that a factor of ten since the early 90s. Then there is the ecological movement, a multi-billion operation, thousands of organization. And the difficulty is we solved the problems of normal air and water pollution, we eliminated those. One needs problems that cannot be eliminated. That makes climate change attractive. And industry, which you assume is against CO2 controls, they also profit. They are perhaps opposed, because it is again something that makes problems for them, that they have to accommodate to. But they can make money from it. The large companies live off of climate change. Last year I spoke with someone from the big coal producer Arch Coal. He said he is for CO2 preventative measures. I asked him, is that for real, a coal company, want CO2 restrictions? He said - Sure, we will manage it, but our smaller competition will not.
The energy giant Exxon Mobil was against it.
Yes, the has a CEO that fought CO2 restrictions on principle. But what industry wants is 1. They want to determine the restrictions themselves. 2. All companies should have the same restriction, 3. They want to know in advance how to prepare themselves. Then they can lay off the huge costs on consumers.
And what are your interests?
I have been working for decades in this area, we are beginning to understand how things work, how it functions. Then we were rolled over by the simplified claim that climate depends only on CO2. And thus every hope of finding out, for example how ice ages work, was destroyed. Suddenly everyone said, all scientists are united, as if we still lived in the Soviet Union
Today Russian scientists are moving away from the consensus
Some yes, others not. It is a question of which generation they belong to. The older ones cut away, the younger get in line. Russia has a long tradition in climate research. The current older scientists were world leaders. And they know that this simplified way of looking at things makes no sense. The younger ones are not distinguished but they want invitations to visit Europe - so they collaborate and do what Europe wants.
Is the world so simple
Sometimes yes. The was a meeting in Moscow, organized by the Russian Academe and David King, who is today the scientific advisor to the British government. When he heard that they had also invited people like me, he wanted to cancel. But he was already at the airport. So he came and spoke first and said that he would invite Russian scientists who shared his point of view to come to England.
You laugh. Do you find it funny?
No, but that’s the way the world is.
When did you get mad for the first time?
In 1987 I received a letter from a man by the name of Lester Lave, a well known economics professor at Carnegie-Mellon-University in Pittsburgh. He wrote, he had testified in a Senate hearing, Al Gore was also there by the way. Lave said then that the science was still very uncertain about what the causes of climate change were. Al Gore threw him out of the hearing with the words that anyone who said that didn’t know what he was talking about
But Al Gore is really not a scientist.
Well, he was on TV after his Film opened in the movie theatres. The moderator asked him, why he believes that sea level could go up by about six meters, when science talks about 40 cm. He answered that science knows no such thing. He knows it. I think Al Gore is crazy.
You are enraged, when a politician says something about science?
Yes, I ensured Lester Lave, that science really can never be sure. But it became serious shortly after Newsweeek 1988 came out with its front page article about global warming. I began to publicly say that I thought the data too weak to reach a final conclusion. Many colleagues said that they were happy that someone finally said it. But as the older Bush raised the funding for climate research from 170 million dollars to 2 billion the institutions figured out that their future was connected with climate change. Even at MIT there exists a difference of opinion about this, not about the basic idea that temperature increases, CO2 is a greenhouse gas. But we differ on whether climate change is an important topic. And there I differ from most of my colleagues. I believe that it is not a serious topic. I think it is important to think about the causes of the Ice Ages.
What do you know about Ice Ages?
Very little. Ice Ages correlate somehow with orbital parameters, but we don’t know how this has influenced climate change. Those are serious topics in atmospheric dynamics. I can tell you - We know very little
How to we approach the solution
No one wants to solve the problem, because then the money will stop flowing.
Listen, Mr. Lindzen, what really is your opinion about the nature of people
I see it this way, the way it is, not as I would like it. After the signing of the Montreal Protocols in 1987 for protecting the ozone layer research support disappeared. Ozone was not a problem anymore - even though it still is. The stratospheric chemist work today in the area of stratosphere and climate. Politics pays science, we are very dependent on it.
Who pays for that?
NASA. Sometimes no one. I tell you, they don’t want to solve the problem. Uncertainty is essential for alarmism. The argument is always the same. It may perhaps be uncertain, but that makes it also possible.
Are you saying that we cannot do anything about climate change? Are we doomed?
I say: We should not do anything. We really have other problems. If I, as an American look at Europe, then I see a continent that does not care about terrorism, that Iran could become a nuclear power, expanding Islam, but worries about climate change. That is a form of societal stupidity. Europe wants to feel that it is good and important. That is dumb. And, at the same time no European country will meet the Kyoto goals. No, I don’t understand any of this. We need to buy new electric lights? What does that help? Is everyone going to screw them in? I hope that this stops soon.
Why should it? That is people’s nature
That someone declares the end of the world every couple of years and then forgets that it has not happened? That can’t be. Sooner or later people get tired of the story and turn to something else. Surveys in the US already show such a trend. Reality is that Honda has built a small, very good hybrid car. It does not sell. People want a fat Toyota Prius so the neighbors will know that they have bought a hybrid.
What kind of car do you drive?
An old Honda Accord 1998
What do you really believe?
I am somewhat religious, more of a believer in any case than an observer. Something besides mankind exists.
And in spite of that you also cannot be sure that mankind has no influence on climate?
No one says that. But anyone who says that people are the cause of this or that is wrong. No one doubts that CO2 absorbs infrared, and thus has an influence. But if you double the CO2 concentration, the temperature would rise an entire degree (oC). We could not observe that. I cannot believe that the world was so poorly constructed that it could not withstand such a change - it has already mastered many (such) changes.
Do humans believe that the world must die because we are mortal?
We live in a time of pessimism. It was the same in the 19th century. Then the Royal Society wrote in a report to the government that the electrification of England was too dangerous for normal people, one would do better by choosing gas. People profit today more than ever from scientific progress but don’t have the slightest clue how their equipment operates. That is a loss of control. This is why Al Gore puts forth a highly simplified picture of global warming, that ever five year old can understand. It gives people the feeling that they understand what is going on. And that they can do something about it. Unfortunately it is not the case