Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Lies, damned lies and Lindzengate

with 14 comments

Ever since Professor Richard Lindzen gave up on the idea of following the evidence wherever it may take him (I am not sure when this happened but it seems safe to assume that it has at some point in the last 50 years or so), it was almost inevitable that he would, sooner or later, be caught out peddling unscientific nonsense to credulous people (i.e. telling so-called “sceptics” what they want to hear).

As if this had not happened before, it certainly happened when I attended his talk at the Palace of Westminster on 22 February 2012: Having discovered that he had given a similar talk as a Keynote Address to the Heartland Institute’s International Climate Change Conference in May 2010, I went prepared with 3 questions. However, I was so amazed by the level of selective data omission and/or misrepresentation that I blew my chance to ask a question by trying to redress even his most basic failure to acknowledge the relevance of palaeoclimatic data that underlies current concern regarding anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

Having been invited to submit my questions via email, I somewhat cheekily decided to submit a very long list of questions arising from both what Professor Lindzen said and what he chose not to say. However, whether it be because I made some moderately-contentious assertions or merely because I had the temerity to question his motives, Professor Lindzen has decided to refuse to answer my questions. Furthermore, his superiors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have now decided to hide behind the veil of academic tenure – and/or academic freedom – in order to avoid asking Lindzen to explain himself.

This is therefore a very sad day for those interested in upholding the importance of intellectual integrity and honesty in the pursuance of scientific knowledge; and for anyone who believes in the importance of achieving the widest-possible dissemination of that knowledge to – and its proper understanding in – the minds of the general population.

Even if they are not important to MIT, I should have thought such things were important to the American Geophysical Union (AGU). But apparently not. Apparently, it is perfectly OK for a prominent atmospheric physicist to accuse just about every other climate scientist on the planet of being involved in a conspiracy to foist environmental “alarmism” on a credulous world; to be guilty of scientific malpractice, deceit or stupidity; and to do so in a manner that appears deeply hypocritical, obfuscates a great deal of relevant information, and dupes numerous audiences into thinking they are right and the majority are wrong. Truly, this could only happen in a post-modern world where moral relativism and the marketplace of ideas have come to dominate all aspects of society.

Therefore, as a consequence of an ideologically-driven need to deny the reality of all environmental problems (that require modification of human activity in general and business practice in particular), I believe Professor Richard Lindzen is the archetypal example of what happens when political dogma gets in the way of scientific inquiry; and truth appears to be the main casualty.

Unfortunately, the Earth may yet be the ultimate casualty because no matter how many times you repeat a lie – even one as big as “there is no cause for alarm over global warming” – it does not become any more likely to be true.

Since he won’t tell me, I really don’t know or understand why Lindzen says the things he does; or why he chooses not to say the things he omits; or why he uses graphs that are clearly very misleading (even when it has been pointed out to him that doing so either shows him to be incompetent or deceitful), but I am sure of this: It is extremely likely that he is peddling a message that is dangerously misleading and that, allowing for non-linearity in climate science in general and ongoing positive feedback mechanisms in particular, climate sensitivity is somewhere between 2 and 6 times greater than he continues to claim he believes it to be.

Therefore we are left with the stark fact (now attested to by organisations like the International Energy Agency and economists such as William Nordhaus) that:
If we had started to get off fossil fuels in 2005, it would have required 3% reduction per year in order to restore energy imbalance by 2100AD. If we start next year, it will require 6% p.a. If we wait 10 years it will require 15% p.a. [i.e. Point #7 in my summary of James Hansen’s recent TED talk]

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14 Responses

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  1. I really don’t know or understand why Lindzen says the things he does.

    It would be reasonable to assume he does not make so many errors of fact and/or omission by accident, given his credentials. That leaves a reasonable observer only one other explanation, doesn’t it?

    owlbrudder

    23 March 2012 at 06:19

  2. Well done Martin for raising the Lindzen Effect in Westminster to the notice of a wider audience. At least we have another data point in the trajectory of Lindzen’s bias and deceptions to lay audiences. Lindzen should no longer be given a free pass.

    The title that you chose for this latest post is almost an echo of a phrase I had in mind recently, ‘There are lies, damned lies and Lindzens.’

    Richard Feynman frequently pointed to the fact that nature cannot be fooled. Feynman also reiterated the tenet that all fields of scientific enquiry must be considered together at some point. That is that compartmentalisation of science into, say, biology, chemistry and physics can lead to erroneous conclusions if each is kept separate from the others. Feynman, rightly, though, posits that physics underpins chemistry which in turn underpins biology.

    Feynman’s own three volume ‘Lectures on Physics’ (recently republished as a new New Millennium Edition ) are a testement to his thinking. Volume One for instance contains a splendid exposition of the mechanisms of vision and colour vision, sorry, but I could not resist, if you read this then you will not see vision in the same light again.

    Another my favourite Feynman books sums up my life’s quest in its title, ‘The Pleasure of Finding Things Out’.

    I don’t think Richard Feynman would go much on the antics of this other Richard.

    Lionel A

    23 March 2012 at 12:30

  3. Now I am not sure if the Rabett’s latest is pointed or not but the first frame on the second row down seems apt .

    Lionel A

    23 March 2012 at 13:10

    • Very funny – looks more like Einstein than Lindzen though…

      Martin Lack

      23 March 2012 at 13:31

  4. Martin
    I see that an article has been posted on Lindzen & Choi (2011) at Skeptical Science , worth a look perhaps. Note the PNAS rejection of that paper.

    Lionel A

    5 July 2012 at 11:27

  5. More specifically Lindzen & Choi (2011). I picked up the wrong tab in the browser when harvesting the URL first time. Slap!

    Lionel A

    5 July 2012 at 11:31

    • Thanks Lionel. I have just realised that all email notifications from SkS have been going in to my Spam folder and – I have been so preoccupied with freaking-out over not having a job – I hadn’t even noticed their absence.

      One problem or conundrum you might be able to help me with though… Why is it that the majority of Canadians believe climate ACD is happening whilst their government chooses to pretend otherwise; and the the majority of Brits think it isn’t happening whilst our government claims to act otherwise?

      http://thegwpf.org/the-climate-record/6066-global-warming-skepticism-higher-in-us-and-britain-than-canada.html

      Martin Lack

      5 July 2012 at 14:12

  6. I would treat anything from Lawson’s mob with large shiploads of salt. Besides as realities catch up with otherwise dozing populations world wide from Australia to the US and Europe to Asia and Russia perceptions are shifting overcoming the traction gained by the likes of Delingpole, Booker, Bolt, M Phillips (have you seen this Question Time clip).

    But the media, particularly largely corporate owned or bullied sector, are doing a poor job of connecting the dots.. But again this is starting to change as realities strike home.

    Besides polls are notoriously open to manipulation by phrasing of the questions.

    Lionel A

    5 July 2012 at 16:44

    • Lionel, I am well aware of who is behind GWPF – see elsewhere on this blog – but the facts are facts and GWPF did not commission the survey.

      All of the journalists you mention have been covered by me on this blog but such people are not confined to the UK, so their existence alone does not explain it.

      http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/peddlers-of-doubt/

      Martin Lack

      5 July 2012 at 17:20

      • I never intended to convey the impression that it did explain all denial. There is not enough focus on global warming and its evil twin resource depletion including poisoning precious ground by fracking and water courses by mountain top removal and tar sands development and pumping. All the politicians seem to focus on growing the economy to get us out of the hole that runaway blinkered banker culture has put us in. I would like to start shouting, ‘Hey Cameron, Clegg and Milliband – FFS wake up. The Earth is finite and we are now mining its resources do you understand what that means!.’

        But then for many on the treadmill they have to ever run faster to stay as they are, whilst despairing at the millions snakes like Diamond extract, and have little time or energy to try to examine the evidence for and against what we know is the truth. Those that aren’t in such a position are too busy trying to outdo each other in property, cars, boats, private aircraft or whatever.

        Look at the money sink hole that is Dubai. Heck, at Yeovilton Air Day we were treated to a formation display by Saudi Air Force Hawks and there was a Saudi Hercules parked in display – probably flew in their ground team. Our lot (FAA) put up a few helicopters. Made me sad because when I was working there in the mid 1960s there were at times five Sea Vixen squadrons there (with one of them having 30-40 aircraft on strength), a large Station (Heron) Flight, included the Swordfish at that time and Airworks with there gaggles of Sea Venoms (in one of which I had a flight – after ejection seat releasing practice). We have poured our (oil) money down their throats over the years and know they will make us eat sand – you watch.

        Think of all the CO2 produced in the skies in those days.

        I have a tale I tell about about Egyptian and Israeli pilots appearing with us on the Hunter section of Heron Flight at the same time (this later in 1968) for Hunter familiarisation checks. We had the task of keeping then apart by showing one over the technicalities of a Hunter whilst t’other was airborne. This so that we didn’t get Middle East style Hunter dogfights over Southern England. Goodness know who organised that course, some colonel blimp, naval equivalent of course, no doubt I suppose.

        Lionel A

        5 July 2012 at 20:39

  7. […] Westminster on 22 February this year, I attempted to get some answers to questions. Unfortunately, I failed. I have been particularly frustrated by one thing; possibly the most misleading aspect of […]

  8. […] Westminster on 22 February this year, I attempted to get some answers to questions. Unfortunately, I failed. I have been particularly frustrated by one thing; possibly the most misleading aspect of […]


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