Lack of Environment

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

Archive for the ‘Lindzengate’ Category

Lindzengate – one year on

with 2 comments

Today is the first anniversary of my trip to London to hear a certain Professor Richard S. Lindzen give a talk to an invited audience of climate change “sceptics” in a Committee Room inside the Palace of Westminster.

Having sat through a highly misleading presentation I was one of those who put up my hand to ask a question.  However, having been invited to speak by the chair of the meeting, I attempted to address some of the misrepresentation of fact that I had just witnessed.  I was then interrupted by Professor Lindzen and, having self-identified myself as a non-believer, was not allowed to ask a question.

This sequence of events has been the subject of much pedantic debate, on this blog and elsewhere, so the video (of the Q & A session following Lindzen’s talk) is embedded to provide proof of my version of events.  To just see me not ask a question view from about 5:26 onwards.

Once the Question and Answer session was completed, I approached Professor Lindzen who, obviously confident he could rebut anything I said, kindly invited me to email my questions to him.  This I did and, the rest, as they say, is history.

Although I would advise against following links without first reading to the end of this post, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this particular history, it may be summarised as follows:

1. I sent Professor Lindzen 3 emails and never received any substantive answers to my questions.  All I ever got was a perfunctory response in which Lindzen (1) feigned indignation at my suggestion that he had once helped the tobacco industry defend itself against the claim that smoking causes lung cancer; and (2) warned me not to publish my email.  I ignored him.

2. In failing to answer any of my original questions, Lindzen has, in particular, failed to explain why he uses the same tactics he claims others use to mislead people (i.e. graphs whose axes have been stretched or compressed in order to make two correlating data sets appear not to correlate – as appended below).

3. Having failed to get Lindzen to answer my original questions, I submitted a formal complaint to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because his behaviour was likely to bring climate scientists and/or MIT into disrepute.  Without addressing the above very specific piece of hypocrisy from Lindzen, MIT refused to take any action.

4. I therefore complained to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), who astonishingly, admitted they had no code of conduct against which they could judge and/or censure Lindzen for what he had done.

5. Consequently, Professor Lindzen has continued to travel around the World giving talks and writing letters to Newspapers – repeating the same message:  A message that reveals that he is either being wilfully deceptive of is so blinded by ideology that he cannot see how wrong he almost certainly is about climate sensitivity.

If any or all of this comes as a surprise to any readers, I would recommend that, before you dive into the links above, you start by reading this brief summary of exactly what it was I was unhappy about.   You can then follow links from there (or here) depending on your level of curiosity.

Other than that, from the above-referenced brief summary, I have here extracted the image of the graph from Lindzen’s presentation (whose absence from the PDF version on the Internet has never been satisfactorily explained), with my caption explaining why it destroys any veil of objectivity that Lindzen might otherwise be able to hide behind.

Misrepresentation of data?

Steeply inclined Keeling curve versus apparently non-correlating temperature – if you stretched the temperature axis enough it would appear to correlate quite well. Therefore slide neither proves not disproves anything.

There is, however, one final thing to note about this graph; something that has only become clear to me in the last few months: It has clearly been generated using the Wood for Trees website, which was set up by a non-climate scientist who admits that his website has repeatedly been used by climate sceptics to manipulate data to support invalid conclusions. So much so, in fact, that the home page now includes a warning against people doing this. Therefore:

What does it say about Lindzen that he would use a graph like this – obtained from such a website – in his presentation?

———–

Further reading:

http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/are-you-negligent-incompetent-or-complicit/

http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/and-then-there-were-three/

Fostering Denial – Epilogue

with 17 comments

Last Thursday the Stop Climate Chaos coalition organised a Green Is Working demonstration outside the Treasury Building in the centre of London.  The weird thing is that I did not hear about this before it happened.  On the contrary, because I attended Richard Lindzen’s misrepresentation of the truth in London on 22 February this year, I was sent an invite to the Green Isn’t Working counter-demonstration, organised by a certain Rev Philip Foster (retired).  I sent Philip an email wishing him all the best in his attempt to argue that renewable energy is not sustainable… and have been having an exchange of emails with him ever since.  However, I think we are both now tiring of this, so I decided to try and end it:

——–

OK Philip.  I know that I started this exchange – so you don’t need to remind me – but I think it is nearing a natural conclusion.  However, before it does, overlooking the many questions you have ignored (and some of the more bizarre things you have chosen not to ignore), I would like to focus on your two final remarks:

1. Well, just to be contrary, [rejecting scientific evidence for ideological reasons] is how I think alarmists are behaving (again I make this point in my book). I think Mark Twain expressed it well: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact”

The long-term effects of the energy-trapping properties of more CO2 in our atmosphere are not conjectured; they were predicted and they are now being observed.  Furthermore, the people who are short on facts are those who dispute this. “It is hard to convey just how selective you have to be to dismiss the evidence for climate change. You must climb over a mountain of evidence to pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates in the palm of your hand. You must ignore an entire canon of science, the statements of the world’s most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals.”  – George Monbiot (2005)

2. For good or ill, I am pretty certain that the scientific argument is now established; and we are winning the economic one.

This is a truly astonishing statement, for two reasons:
(a) Despite the fact that almost every reputable professional, academic, and/or scientific body on the planet has endorsed the scientific basis for concern regarding anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), you seem to want to claim – not just that the science is uncertain – that the scientific basis for scepticism has been established.  This is ridiculous.  I think bookmakers would give you better odds on the Earth being only 6000 years old.
(b) Despite the conclusion reached by the Stern Review in the UK (2006); the Quadrennial Defense Review in the USA (2010), and the International Energy Agency (2012) – that ACD is a problem we simply cannot afford to ignore any longer – you are trying to claim you have won the argument; and that nothing should be done (because the problem does not exist).  This too is ridiculous.  Our government may be unwilling to accept the full reality of what needs to be done, but it most certainly does not deny that we have a problem.

Therefore, with regret, if I have correctly interpreted your remarks, I think further debate with you is pointless.  There are many organisations – such as the Adam Smith Institute, Policy Exchange, and Taxpayers Alliance  – who accept the reality of the ACD problem; and with whom fruitful discussion about policy may therefore be had.  However, for the minority – like the GWPF and Repeal The Act – who appear to want to continue to dispute even that basic science of ACD; I can see no way in which discussion can be progressed.

Are you negligent, incompetent or complicit?

with 23 comments

This was a question posed to former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond this week, when he appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee of MPs on Wednesday. It is a question that I would like to ask Dr Richard Lindzen… In fact, I have asked the question and – just as Bob Diamond did – he has refused to answer it… Here is the evidence on which you should decide for yourself:

Many readers will recall that, following my visit to London to hear Lindzen speak to a room full of fake sceptics in the Palace of 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 Lindzen’s entire presentation – a combination of graphs of recent atmospheric CO2 and temperature data that was mysteriously omitted from the PDF of the presentation that was initially posted on the Internet.  Although Lindzen never answered any of my questions, he did insert this slide into the PDF of his presentation despite my pointing out to him – MIT and the AGU – that it was essentially meaningless (as the y-axes could be stretched to show either correlation or no correlation as preferred by the speaker).

Here is a screenshot of the misleading graph from the video of the presentation:

Misrepresentation of data?

Steeply inclined Keeling curve versus apparently non-correlating temperature – if you stretched the temperature axis enough it would appear to correlate quite well. Therefore slide neither proves not disproves anything.

This bears more than a passing resemblance to the World Climate Widget – a very similar-looking combination of graphs (i.e. manipulated to suggest that there is no correlation between recent atmospheric CO2 and temperature data) – that can be downloaded as a widget from Anthony Watts’ Watts Up With That? (WUWT) misinformation blog.

If you go to the WUWT widget page, you will find the two graphs in both of these images (above and right) are there presented separately. However, to prove my point – that anyone using these graphs to try and prove there is no correlation between long-term CO2 and temperature changes – just look at what happens when you take the graph of University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) global lower atmosphere data as used by WUWT (i.e. cooler than surface temperature data) and stretch it:

Clearing the fog of data misrepresentation created by Lindzen et al. - Note the clear upward trend in the temperature graph on the left (it was there all the time).

Clearing the fog of data misrepresentation created by Lindzen et al. – Note the clear upward trend in the temperature graph on the left (it was there all the time).

Therefore, for anyone – including Lindzen – to try and use the original combination of graphs to suggest there is no correlation between CO2 and temperature, this suggests that they are either negligent, incompetent, or deliberately trying to mislead people. For many people who are not scientists to be fooled by this is understandable but, for a prominent scientist like Lindzen to make this mistake – and not apologise for doing so – is unforgivable. Furthermore, it would seem that, no matter how many times he is criticised, he just keeps repeating the same old mistakes: Skeptical Science: Lindzen and Choi 2011 – Party Like It’s 2009

It would appear that, despite the best efforts of the majority of prominent climate scientists, Lindzen’s London Illusions are still fooling a lot of people. If you follow that last link, it will take you to the website of what I prefer to call The Global Wonky Policy Foundation, where it is reported that only 43% of the British adult population felt able to agree with the following statement: “Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities”.

It has been suggested to me that this question is carefully phrased to deter people from saying “yes” (i.e. they might agree that warming is occurring and/or that humans are the primary cause; but they might not agree that vehicles and factories are the primary source of emissions). However, this is ‘clutching at straws’ in my opinion; and leaves me wondering what percentage of the population would feel able to agree with this statement:

“The sunrise is a fact and is mostly caused by the Earth not being flat and spinning once a day whilst orbiting the Sun”…?

Written by Martin Lack

6 July 2012 at 11:19

Why I am not a Socialist

with 31 comments


…and other things “sceptics” should bear in mind!

In responding to the amazingly erudite blogger who is Patrice Ayme, on the subject of how we should treat all other life-forms with which we currently share this planet, I recently found myself explaining some very basic stuff regarding what makes me tick:

I also think you are right to point out the job creation potential of finally beginning to live in harmony with nature (i.e. being good stewards of it) rather considering ourselves to be superior to it (i.e. going forth, multiplying, and ‘subduing’ it). We have indeed lost our way, but were we led astray; or are we all equally guilty? Personally, I believe the blame lies within each and every one of us. In essence, this is why I cannot be a socialist. Socialists (and liberals) believe that humans are essentially good and capable of creating Utopia if the right conditions are provided for it to emerge. Conservatives accept that humans are essentially imperfect; and therefore rely upon received wisdom and tradition to optimise reality. By embracing moral relativism, socialists and liberals have made the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas – and the cynical rejection of all authority figures – a very powerful and corrosive aspect to modernity itself. It is the reason climate change scepticism is proving so hard to dismantle.

Given that I am not a socialist, and do not seek worldwide authoritarian government via the UN, I cannot be a Watermelon. On the contrary, I believe in David Cameron’s Big Society; and I believe in small government and generally low taxes. However, I believe that the cost of everything should reflect the damage done to the environment if we buy it or use it. I therefore believe, for example, that flying should be expensive.

————-

Are you really tying to tell me you think everyone who says that climate change is a serious problem is foolish? If so, I should really like to know what logical, historical, and/or scientific evidence you have to defend that argument. To me, such a position is only sustainable by dismissing what I presume you consider to be climate change “alarmism” as political and scientific conspiracy: One that would make those invoked by people who doubt the reality of 9/11 and the Moon Landings seem small by comparison.

————-

I will conclude by repeating the 3 questions I never got to ask Professor Richard Lindzen (because I first tried to address his failure to present relevant information to an already-prejudiced audience) when he came to London earlier this year peddling his conspiracy theory nonsense (i.e. he accused just about every climate scientist on the planet of being deceitful [or stupid and/or incompetent – but just how likely is that?]):

1. Concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is based on the study of palaeoclimatology, not on computer modelling. However, models have helped to predict the atmospheric response to greenhouse gas emissions; and any uncertainties in model predictions have been due to uncertainties in emissions projections. Therefore, when reviewed retrospectively (choosing the most appropriate emissions scenario that reflects what actually happened to emissions), the models are demonstrably very accurate (if they include all climate forcings). Given all of this, why is it that you maintain that we have no reason to be concerned?

2. What is your answer to Utah-based Professor of Geological Sciences, Barry Bickmore, who recently suggested that today’s so-called climate “sceptics” are not like Galileo because, rather than fighting against one, they are fighting for an obscurantist and anti-intellectual Establishment, in an attempt to perpetuate the burning of fossil fuels for as long as possible?

3. Given the findings documented in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s book, Merchants of Doubt, can you please tell me why, having fought for so long on behalf of the tobacco industry to prevent legislation to minimise the harmful effects of smoking, you have apparently focused instead on helping the fossil fuel lobby deny that anthropogenic climate disruption is happening?

For the record, even after emailing these questions (and many others) to Lindzen, he still did not answer. No doubt, he would claim I was rude to him but, even after I apologised for any offence caused by my bluntness, he still did not answer any of my questions. This is because he could not answer them without making it very clear that he has been prejudiced against taking any and all environmental problems seriously – if addressing those problems would limit the freedom of business to put profit before sustainable development. Unfair criticism? I don’t think so. With my thanks to Lionel A Smith (for some of these links), here is the evidence:

If Richard Lindzen shows up at your door, slam it!

Is Richard S. Lindzen deliberately lying, or just deluded?

Why does tobacco keep cropping up in discussion of Lindzen’s history of prejudice?

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Lindzen_Illusions.htm

http://www.skepticalscience.com/lindzen-london-illusions.html

http://www.skepticalscience.com/lindzens-junk-science.html

On the subject of Professional Ethics

with 12 comments

What appears below is a somewhat surprising exchange of emails I had on Thursday (22 March) with Ms Christine McEntee, the Executive Director of the AGU: Whilst I wish her well in all her endeavours, it would seem that they will be too late to do anything about Richard Lindzen who is due to retire very soon I believe…
————————

Ms. Christine W. McEntee
Executive Director
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC
USA

Dear Ms McEntee,

Further to my recent email to Agu_execdirector@agu.org (the main content of which was published on my blog today), I hereby wish to formalise my request (as was thereby forwarded to you) for your comment on the decision of MIT to dismiss my complaint of academic misconduct and/or dishonesty against Professor Lindzen.

Please note that, whilst I am both a Chartered Geologist and a Fellow of the Geological Society of London [GSL] and a Member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management [CIWEM] (and am copying this email to both organisations), this is an entirely personal initiative being pursued solely as a consequence of my interest in the integrity and public perception of climate science.

With this appeal to you, I feel I have now taken this matter as far as I can and, apart from publishing my final thoughts on the matter on my blog just after midnight tonight GMT/UTC…, this may be the last thing I post on the subject of Lindzengate, unless or until you respond to this email. However, please note that I say this merely to advise you that – unless you insist on confidentiality(?) – I should intend to publish on my blog any response that you may be so kind as to give me.

Yours very sincerely,
Martin C. Lack. BSc (Hons)(Geology), MSc (Hydrogeology), MA (Environmental Politics), FGS CGeol MCIWEM.

————————
Dear Mr. Lack,

We understand your concern about propagation of misinformation about scientific research. AGU is currently exploring the process of developing a code of conduct for its members that could speak to issues such as professional and ethics standards in performing and communicating about scientific research. I encourage you to watch our web site for information regarding the code of conduct following the completion of work by the task force addressing this issue.

Best regards,

Chris McEntee
————————

Given my asscociation with the GSL and CIWEM, may be I can offer a couple of pointers:
The GSL’s Code of Publishing Ethics (circa 2007); and
The CIWEM’s Code of Professional Ethics (circa 2001).

Written by Martin Lack

24 March 2012 at 00:02

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]

MIT response and appeal to the AGU

with 8 comments

19 March 2012.

Dear Mr. Lack,

As acknowledged on 13 March 2012, I received you messages of 9 and 13 March 2012 regarding the “Complaint of Academic Misconduct and/or Dishonesty against Professor Richard S Lindzen” and your request for an internal investigation.

Your messages have been brought to the attention of the Vice-President for Research who has oversight for the misconduct process at MIT.  I have also discussed them with several distinguished colleagues in the Program of Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate (PAOC), which is one of the academic groups of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

After reviewing the material that you sent and in view of the formal apology by Dr. Lindzen for the incorrect use of a graph in his presentations (see http://www.repealtheact.org.uk/blog/apology-from-prof-lindzen-for-howard-haydens-nasa-giss-data-interpretation) we have come to the conclusion that a formal investigation into academic misconduct by Dr. Lindzen is not warranted.

MIT is a diverse place, which values academic freedom, and which offers a terrific intellectual environment for scholars that are free to have and express their own opinions. The latter applies to Dr. Lindzen just as it does to his colleagues at PAOC/EAPS who have different views on the subject of climate change.  But like any other learned institution, MIT does not endorse or condone fraud, including manipulation of data.  This is, however, not the case here: Dr. Lindzen has publicly acknowledged that the interpretation of the graph he used was incorrect (on 9 March 2012, on http://www.repealtheact.org.uk).

Sincerely, Rob van der Hilst
Head, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
——————————-

20 March 2012.

Dear Professor van der Hilst,

With all due respect, I am extremely disappointed to receive this response from you; and am therefore copying this email to the Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union; and to the editors of all the ‘broadsheet’ newspapers in the UK.

Whilst I appreciate that I gave you a great deal of information to consider (all of which has now been published on my blog), I cannot see how you can justify using Professor Lindzen’s somewhat perfunctory apology for the misuse of NASA-GISS data on one particular slide in his presentation as an excuse to ignore all the other ways in which he appears to have repeatedly taken the opportunity of communicating with non-scientific audiences…
— to ridicule just about everyone else within the scientific community;
— to indulge in what seems to be a great deal of hypocritical obfuscation of relevant information; and
— to misdirect those that are either unwilling or unable to objectively consider the reality, reliability and reasonableness of the consensus view that anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that will get more expensive to resolve the longer we delay doing so.

Furthermore, your dismissal of my complaint leaves me with a great number of unanswered questions regarding the content of Professor Lindzen’s presentation; not least that relating to…
— why he has re-inserted a graph (screenshot attached) purporting to demonstrate that CO2 rise does not correlate with temperature rise over the short-term – rather than apologising for using such a meaningless and misleading image (because “if you stretched the temperature axis enough it would appear to correlate quite well”) in his presentation.

If you are unable or unwilling to uphold the need for scientists to be objective (rather than apparently indulge long-standing ideologically-motivated prejudice against accepting the seriousness of environmental problems such as the health risks of smoking and the dangers of burning fossil fuels), I must say that I hope the American Geophysical Union will not be so ambivalent.

In fact, given all of the above – and the fact that I did not originally complain about Professor Lindzen’s misuse of NASA-GISS data – can you please explain to me how his apology for so-doing is in any way relevant to the issues raised in any of my previous emails to either of you?

Yours very sincerely,
[etc.]

Written by Martin Lack

22 March 2012 at 00:02

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