From Science Matters
By Ron Clutz
BizNews interviewed veteran climate expert Dr Richard Lindzen, the pioneering atmospheric physicist and former emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT. He recounted events that occurred in the 1980s, which gave birth to the all-consuming climate change narrative that prevails today. Having begun his research on climate change in the mid-70s, motivated by a sincere interest in understanding the Earth’s climate regimes, Lindzen offers a remarkably sensible assessment of the various elements parading as scientific evidence of an impending climate catastrophe. Particularly revealing from his recollection of events is how complicit the media and politicians have been in forcing the disastrous climate change narrative upon an unsuspecting and trusting public from the very beginning.
This recent interview by Richard Lindzen provides a brief and compelling overview sorting out facts and fictions regarding global warming/climate change. For those who prefer reading, below is a lightly edited transcript from the closed captions in italics with my bolds and added images. BN is Biz News and RL is Richard Lindzen.
BN: Joining me is one of the world’s leading voices on climate change, atmospheric physicist Dr Richard Lindzen. Dr lindsden I really appreciate your time; you’ve been an expert on climate change for over four decades now having started your research in the mid 70s. Briefly walk me through your career and what it was about climate change that captured your attention.
RL: It’s a peculiar question. I mean, do you think things only become interesting once they’re political? With the general circulation of the atmosphere, you want to know why you have the current climate. You have dozens of regimes throughout the Earth, so when you speak about the climate of the earth what the hell are you talking about?
South Africa is a very different climate from New England. The Pacific has many climate regimes, and you have the monsoon regimes in India. So there are a lot of things to understand. And it had nothing to do with the environmentalism; it was to understand how nature is on carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.
BN: You’ve claimed that believing that increased carbon dioxide is the largest driver of climate change is akin to believing in magic. What evidence supports this argument and what are the actual effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
RL: Well, you’re asking a complex question. Carbon dioxide is a relatively minor greenhouse gas. But the question arises when you speak about what controls climate, and you’re speaking about dozens of different climate regimes.
Saying there is one knob that controls the whole works makes no sense,
and that is belief in magic.
But you know greenhouse effect is useful for one climatic index namely: Why is the Earth different from Venus or Mars or Mercury? Those are huge differences. They depend on basically the mean radiative picture; which includes the greenhouse, the distance from the Sun, the amount of radiation you get and so on. So within a given planet, in particular the Earth our primary concern, we refer to the differences in climate that like the Ice Ages and the very warm period 50 million years ago. These are really pretty tiny compared to the differences between the planets. And those “tiny” differences that we obsess on for good reason are not due to the greenhouse effect.
They’re due to the transport of heat between the tropics and the high latitudes.
And they are part of the Dynamics of the system
which depends on a number of factors
So primarily, what what does carry the heat? Well the ocean carries some heat but in many respects the most important thing is the so-called highs and lows. If you look at a weather map, it’s a little bit different in the southern hemisphere, but here you have the highs and lows going from west to east carrying weather. When you have the wind blowing from the north it’s cold, from South it’s warm. And this oscillates and gives work to your weathermen. In any event those same things carry heat to the pole. And many things determine them, but mainly it’s the differential heating between the tropics and the pole.
ERBE measurements of radiative imbalance.
So you have a system which has these features, and all of a sudden you obsess on the greenhouse effect. You end up having people saying really stupid things. So we’ve increased the temperature one degree or 1.1 in the last 100 years 120 years 150 years. And it’s been accompanied by the greatest improvement in human welfare in the history of the Earth, while some claim one-half degree more will be curtains. Only a politician could come up with something quite that absurd. But on the other hand when you get to the U.N and other things. it’s politicians that run it. And they’ve enabled this hysteria, frightening children their lives are going to be finished in short order. The UN IPCC has a working group that deals with science (Working Group 1). Even there in a thousand pages they don’t speak about an existential threat.
So you have other reports from the U.N that are not scientific that say: Oh yes it’s coming to the end of the world. And politicians say, well this is what we have to go by. I don’t know what you do, but it’s an evil movement, and it’s causing immense damage. It is trying to condemn people in Africa in the developing world to perpetual poverty. And yet I have to ask: Why would this be a goal? I don’t know.
BN: One of the cornerstones of this, let’s call it an agenda, is the constant bombardment to the public of reports on the rise of extreme weather events is this are these reports patently false or are they due to climate change?
RL: Well, you’re pointing to something very important. Even if it were occurring how do you relate it to this one number? But it’s not even true. Again going back to the IPCC, in the UN report they say there is virtually no evidence of a relationship between extreme events and climate change. Now they say that, but that doesn’t fit the politics, so they say something else. If you know of the American comic of years ago, Groucho Marx; he said, “I have my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.”
BN: That’s actually a good description on the politicization of climate change and the significant human progress enabled by the fossil fuel industry. Under this politicization, what do you think the end goal could possibly be for the manipulation of data given by the IPCC and the dismissal of data that contradicts it?
RL: Well, the energy sector is vital, it is the harnessing of fossil fuels that has led to the massive development of the western world. You know the progress since the invention of the steam engine has been the major feature in world history. On the other hand, because it’s such a large sector there are opportunities to make fortunes, even if your only activity is destroying the system. So for example in the U.S our current budget is showing trillions of dollars for climate change. Whether or not you think it makes sense doesn’t matter; somebody’s going to get those trillions of dollars and they have a real interest.
BN: I presume that the predominant funding would go to Renewables; pretty much anything that’s not nuclear or fossil fuel.
RL: What about the tools that extract energy from this, they’re not renewable. |They involve slave labor and that sounds pretty good doesn’t it. Now you have material usage, you have destruction of Landscapes. It’s almost as though the environmental movement has decided to commit suicide and go all in for things that destroy the environment. What you’re doing with the solar pedals and windmills and so on, you’re killing birds you’re destroying the environment. These have lifetimes of 10, 20 years, and you don’t know how to dispose of them. So this has nothing to do with the environment, it’s a power play.
BN: I had an interview with Professor William Harper and he said that the climate change activism movement is a joke and comparable to a coalition or organized crime unit of religious fanatics. And you’ve expressed the same sentiment. To what extent do you think that this is a result of people having pure intentions, but not being properly informed, not just trying to spin the situation far away from what the actual reality is.
RL: It’s hard to assess motivations. You’re certainly taking the public and making them feel that getting rid of carbon dioxide, they’re doing something virtuous. As I’ve occasionally pointed out let’s imagine somebody came up with a good device that could get rid of about 60, 70 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What would be the result? The result would be: we’d all be dead. That’s a very peculiar pollutant. One that we can’t live without.
Though I think it’s based a lot on ignorance. You have economists talking about tipping points, and the geologists know that through most of the Earth’s history we’ve had far greater amounts of CO2. There’s never been any evidence of a Tipping Point. This is a very implausible thing but it sounds scary. It’s pretty clear going back on the history of the issue, when it got started in the early 80s, that it was already a governmental aim. You had these meetings at Villach, Austria and Bellagio, and there would be people interested in climate attending these, usually about a hundred. Those from the government were all in favor of this, while the others were scratching their heads and asking what’s this about. Somewhere along the way, somebody must have decided this is the way to go and they started pushing for it. Global cooling wasn’t panning out.
I think from the beginning of Earth Day, it was obvious you wanted to control the energy sector. At first it was sort of amateurish, you know acid rain, global cooling. Then someone realized, no matter how clean you made energy it would still produce CO2. So let’s go after that–you’ll never get rid of CO2 without getting rid of fossil fuels. There’s no evidence whatever that this is well-intentioned.
BN: But we still have a measured consensus of between 90 and 100 per cent of climate scientists that agree that it’s anthropogenic climate change. How is this the standing reality?
RL: Look, in 1988 when Jim Hansen first testified before the U.S Senate, Newsweek ran a cover issue showing the Earth on fire with the claim underneath, all scientists agree. No scientists were asked. This is the way you convince the public, which is pretty illiterate when it comes to science. I don’t think the public feels comfortable about that, which is often ignored. So you immediately assure them: the scientists all agree, you don’t have to worry about it. And they knew that whether the scientists agree or not.
BN: Dr John Christie said that it’s actually a completely falsified number.
RL: Oh yeah as the record shows, there was a reduction from 1988 saying all scientists
Agree. Now it was only 97%. It’s a fake number, it’s just designed to tell people they don’t have to understand the science, just go along
BN: But then my question is if it is in fact such a small percentage of scientists that don’t agree . . .
RL: But we have to ask what they agreed to. You can frame the issue so that it was a hundred percent, for instance if you asked whether increasing CO2 increases or decreases temperature. Well I should say it probably increases it slightly. And then that’s listed as agreeing that the end of the world is coming if we increase CO2. They’re two different questions.
BN: So why do you think more climate scientists haven’t actually been vocal about the complete inaccuracy of these consensus figures?
RL: it’s a good question. One of the things that has changed is perfectly obvious. This was a small area in the 1980s. When you had a meeting, if you got a hundred people that was pretty substantial. And very few of them thought there was anything significant going on that would be called existential. So what happened? If you look at funding in the U.S for climate science between 1989 and 1996 when Clinton/Gore Administration came in, funding increased by about a factor of 15. You literally created a whole new field, and you knew that the people who were brought in, knew that the reason for the funding was this issue. Indeed if you didn’t go along with it you lost your funding, So you know my funding ended as soon as I went public with my position.
BN: One of the common criticisms against you, your credibility and your views on climate science, is that you have ties to the fossil fuel industry. Is this true?
RL: No. Remember that everyone in this following that 15-fold increase came in it for the money. They assume anyone opposed must have gotten money from someone else. At MIT ExxonMobil does support some work, only on the part of people who support the alarm. The funniest was when they attacked me for writing an article in 1991 for Cato’s regulation magazine. And their argument was 10 years prior to that, Cato had received 10% of its funding from ExxonMobil. Now for this article I was paid 200 dollars, so presumably two dollars of that was from ExxonMobil 10 years prior to convince me to change my view.
BN: I just try to balance the scales, to get two sides of the story. I had an interview with Professor Guy McPherson, and he says with a very deep conviction that we are in the midst of abrupt climate change and that the methane released predominantly by the Arctic ocean will be the end of humanity by 2026. What’s your take on this?
RL: Well, he’s entitled to any science fiction he wishes to produce, but there’s no scientific evidence of that.
I think once people realize that the public is amenable
to scare stories, they get carried away
BN: What in your view is the political, economic and environmental implications of this move towards net zero and an abandonment of the fossil fuel industry?
RL: Pure malice. . . Plus profits for a few. Quite obviously you have people like Gore and Kerry and so on making hundreds of millions of dollars flying around the world ignoring all the things that they would prohibit Ordinary People. I suppose for these people it’s a return to feudalism where where us peasants should know our place and they should have their privilege.
BN: In 2001 you proposed the iris hypothesis on climate change. What was the premise of this?
RL: Well that was a question in some respects I think less important now. But since they were making a big fuss over changes of one degree, two degrees, so the question is why CO2 doesn’t do much. And it turns out that they had assumed assumed feedbacks that instead of trying to preserve a situation would act to make whatever we do worse. And there were plenty of problems with these feedbacks they they were improperly implemented.
So with the cooperation of NASA at the time, we looked if there were any obvious things occurring that were negative feedbacks. And it did look as though essentially upper level clouds in the tropics were acting in such a manner as to oppose the greenhouse effect. That seemed like an important feedback and it’s one which I think still likely plays a very important role in an important phenomenon that was called the early faint Sun paradox.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about this, but the sun’s output is increasing with time. If you go back two and a half billion years, the solar output was appreciably less than it is today. Yet the evidence is the earth did not freeze over; the Earth maintained a temperature that was very similar to today. The question is: How could it do that with a 20, 30 percent reduction in radiation. And it turns out that this Iris feedback is entirely capable of balancing that change. And so I think that remains a fairly substantial argument for the system being stable.
BN: What are the epistemological issues around climate change research
RL: OK. You have to remember a couple of things: One this was a small field. Two it was concerned with the problem: Why do you have different climate regimes; things that dealt with the Here and Now. So when you increase the funding by a factor of 15 the talent wasn’t available. So new topics were introduced, and one of them was climate impacts. Now this had nothing to do with understanding the physics of climate. If you were working on cockroaches, and you said my grant is to study the role of climate on cockroaches you got funded.
So you have all these impacts: climate and obesity, climate and diabetes, and so on. They wanted a piece of the action and they all became “climate scientists.” It’s worth remembering for instance, in 1990 my department at MIT no one called themselves a climate scientist. There were good reasons for that: climate was a very comprehensive thing. I was working on Dynamic meteorology, colleagues were working on oceanography, there were Marine geochemists. None of us pretended to comprehensive knowledge of everything about climate.
But all of a sudden you have people who know nothing about the physics
who are climate scientists because they got a grant
to find out whether diabetes was related to climate.
BN: You say that climate variability is actually the thing that we should be looking at to understand what is changing our climate and not human activity. Can you summarize the difference between anthropogenic climate change and climate variability, and why it is that you believe it’s climate variability that we should be looking at and not human activity
RL: Oh I’m not saying you shouldn’t look at things. People should be free to look at what they want. But we do know that long before there were even people, climate was changing markedly. Even before the Industrial Revolution there was a little ice age. It had all sorts of documents, for instance villages in the Alps saying the ice is overtaking our village. You had the ice ages every hundred thousand years in which you had massive glaciation.
And you know this had nothing to do with people,
so you would need to understand those differences.
There was progress with the ice ages. A man called Milankovitch noticed that ice ages bore a relationship to orbital variations. It took a while but there were there was a climate program trying to find out how this worked. And we have a pretty good idea at this point of why that worked and Milankovitch was pretty much right. He said it would depend very much on the solar radiation in summer at high latitudes. And that was a well-known feature of glaciology: whether a glacier grows or not doesn’t depend so much on winter which are always cold in the northern hemisphere. But in summer if the snow that accumulated in Winter melts, you don’t build a glacier.
If the summer is cool and the glacier snow doesn’t fully melt,
then you build up each year.
You have thousands of years to build up your glacier.
Well you know it turns out for instance that CO2 follows temperature in the ice ages and it changes enough to change the flux about a watt per square meter. On the other hand when you look at the Milankovitch parameter, the incoming solar radiation over the course of this Ice Age cycle varies on the order of a hundred watts per square meter. That’s much more significant.
But then you have people say: “Well yeah I know that since CO2 is following that you can’t say CO2 caused it. But it must be CO2 amplification that was important.” But I mean it makes no sense: one watt versus a hundred.
BN: When I spoke to Dr Judith Curry, her story was just a very unfortunate reflection of what happened to dissenting voices. And she said that she’s essentially unhirable and so she had to leave for the private sector. What have you had to face as a result of going against the grain and the consensus for so many decades?
RL: Well you know Judith at first was a strong supporter of global warming and attacking anyone who questioned it. It’s interesting that she changed. I don’t know what to say. There are a couple of things that happened. First of all I’m older, so I had a senior position. I was doing research in a lot of areas and the National Science Foundation was funding my research in fluid mechanics. That continued a while so I sort of did climb on the side. The department of energy at first tried to fund people on all sides subjectively, but by the 90s they were told to quit that. And so the research manager there did me a favor. I had not fully expended my funding and she let me keep it past the due date without adding anything to it so that allowed things to continue a bit longer.
With publication again I was well known in the field and so I published some papers in the American Meteorological society’s monthly Bulletin and they got through. They were reviewed but the editors were all fired immediately after publication. And the paper was never rejected but I immediately invited people to criticize it. When the criticisms were published, we were not permitted to answer for six months, which was very unusual.
BN: That’s the manipulation of the justice system. How the situation is rigged to support the narrative and the complicity of politicians and scientists.
RL: Yes the situation was rigged, it was very much a March through the institutions. And that’s a problem for professional societies. Whether you are a member of the American physical Society or American Meteorological Society, or for that matter the American musicological society, you’re a member of a group of people who have a professional interest. And they elect a president and an executive manager to take care of the public relations so on
I think the people pushing this issue realized all you had to do is turn an official, the executive manager or something, and he ends up speaking for the whole group, never having actually sampled the people. And so you take over the American Meteorological Society, the National Academy, the American Academy, all of them are top-down organizations with managers. And they’ve done a terrific job of that
So you have some naive hypothesis that something as complex as climate is controlled by a single control knob of a minor gas that controls a couple of watts per meter squared out of hundreds. You can only promote this if you have a public, including political officials, who are totally illiterate or enumerate versus science.
You mentioned to all these people who are getting support. You find that scientists only have to say something like they think CO2 increasing will give some warming and they leave it to the politicians to say this means the end of the world is coming. And their backup position is: I never said that.
BN: Are there any anthropogenic elements that humans could increase or continue with, like fossil fuel consumption, that will possibly have catastrophic consequences?
RL: You know a nuclear war could do that but driving your SUV? I guess it appeals to certain people’s vanity that we are all powerful.
BN: Just to close off: What would you recommend as a way out of this situation that feels a little bit like a trap?
RL: It’s a very serious question. When you co-opt the institutional structure, then you have people like the world economic Forum, the EU full of bureaucrats who are just infatuated with the power they might have. It’s got to be very difficult to break out, either there are political parties that are opposed to this. One hopes maybe they’ll gain power and just trash this. Time will of course play a role but I hope we don’t have to wait to see the destruction of modern society and realize it had nothing to do with climate. I’d like to think we can get out of this before then.
BN: As it stands are we at risk or in any way getting close to a climate catastrophe?
RL: I suppose it depends on how you define it. If you define a catastrophe as having three inches of extra rain one year, then we’re all in their catastrophe. If you really mean an existential threat, the answer is: No, we’re nowhere near that. It just makes no sense. These are scare stories you especially want to give to kindergarten kids because they have no defense mechanism.
You know there may be some hope that the developing world, I mean clearly China, India, Russia are ignoring this. They know it’s nonsense so they’re sitting by and watching the West self-destruct while wondering about what divine good luck they have. You know they’re not going to do anything about it. If you’re really worried about CO2 you know we’ve spent trillions of dollars trying to reduce it and get to Net Zero. And you look at CO2 versus time and it continues to increase.without any change So we’ve had no impact upon that. So you’d ask yourself:
If we have no impact, and we’re worried about it,
why aren’t we building resilience?
Do we want to make ourselves more vulnerable
so we’ll be properly punished? That’s nuts.
BN: It does sound like you’re reading the message between the lines of the environmentalists.
RL: Yeah, it seems as though they hate Humanity, they want Power and they don’t give a damn about the environment. And they certainly give no attention to feeding starving people, when that is in fact a real problem.
In a previous publication Lindzen sets the record straight about the “March through Institutions” with names and maneuvers which have crippled efforts to answer questions about the functioning of earth’s climate system.
When an issue becomes a vital part of a political agenda, as is the case with climate, then the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research. This paper deals with the origin of the cultural changes and with specific examples of the operation and interaction of these factors. In particular, we will show how political bodies act to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.
By taking a few minutes to read his text (link in red above), you can learn from Lindzen some important truths:
♦ How science was perverted from a successful mode of enquiry into a source of authority;
♦ What are the consequences when fear is perceived to be the basis for scientific support rather than from gratitude and the trust associated with it;
♦ How incentives are skewed in favor of perpetuating problems rather than solving them;
♦ Why simulation and large programs replaced theory and observation as the basis of scientific investigation;
♦ How specific institutions and scientific societies were infiltrated and overtaken by political activists;
♦ Specific examples where data and analyses have been manipulated to achieve desired conclusions;
♦ Specific cases of concealing such truths as may call into question global warming alarmism;
♦ Examples of the remarkable process of “discreditation” by which attack papers are quickly solicited and published against an undesirable finding;
♦ Cases of Global Warming Revisionism, by which skeptical positions of prominent people are altered after they are dead;
♦ Dangers to societies and populations from governments, NGOs and corporations exploiting climate change.
Summary: Thanks to Richard Lindzen and others for putting on the record how broken is the field of climate science. It is dangerous in itself, and it also extends into other domains, threatening the scientific basis of modern civilization. Fixing such scientific perversions will be difficult and lengthy, but it can only start with acknowledging how bad it is. It truly is worse than we thought.