Curb your enthusiasm

It's all going to be okay, says MIT prof
By MIKE MILIARD  |  May 31, 2006

Richard Lindzen

Richard Lindzen believes the sky is not falling. He believes that the “experts” who claim the current rate of global warming will be disastrous do so only out of fear of losing their funding. In his mind, the question is, who is going to give million-dollar grants to scientists who say everything is going to be okay?

Having studied atmospheric physics, dynamics, and climate at MIT for 24 years (and at Harvard for 11 years before that), Lindzen simply doesn’t buy that a 0.6°C increase (plus or minus 0.2°) in global mean temperature over the past century is anything to be that concerned about.

Two months ago, Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, maintained in the Wall Street Journal that the present hype over global warming stems from “misunderstanding the science of climate” and is fed by a media maelstrom wherein “ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm.” He’s referring to researchers who, he believes, fear the loss of lucrative funding should the threat of climate change be dispelled. Even worse, he charges, “scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks, or worse.” On the latter point, it’s probably a good bet that he speaks from experience. We reached Professor Lindzen at MIT and let him do just that.

On whether global warming is happening. Of course it’s happening. That isn’t even a point of contention. Over the last century, you have six-tenths of a degree, plus or minus about point two. And that ain’t much! Climate is always changing. Temperature is always going up and down. And six-tenths of a degree is still in the [range] of what it always does. So to get the world really excited about a few tenths of a degree is just like getting people really excited about a one-point change in the stock market.

On the polar ice caps. They make good video shots. Good visuals. And that’s how you want the public to respond: to ignore the fact that we’re talking about almost no warmth at all.

On how — and why — global warming “alarmists” intimidate dissenters. Al Gore would run star-chamber hearings and invite the heads of funding agencies while he would try to get scientists [who doubted climate change’s severity] to recant. . . . Everyone in the field knows [that] when the funding went up to $2 billion a year under Bush the elder, that money didn’t come because people thought climate was a wonderful thing. It came because of alarm.

On Ross Gelbspan’s claim, in a 1995 Harper’s article, that Lindzen charged “oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services.” Actually, he misspoke on that. I charged them that for lecture fees the two times I’ve given lectures. And it wasn’t oil. But who lectures for free? And what [else] would they ask me to consult on?. . . To make it sound as if somebody is consulting and a tool of the oil industry when they’ve given a couple lectures? And charged a fee? And a small fee at that, compared to most of the environmentalists who speak for them? What’s that about?

On whether he really feels that cooling is just as likely as warming during the next two decades. Yeah! I think the odds are that Boston will be very little different from today. The odds are that it will be slightly warmer or cooler.
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  Topics: News Features , Science and Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  More more >
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