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Richard Lindzen–Final Part

May 7, 2017
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By Paul Homewood

 

The final segment from Richard Lindzen’s thoughts on the state of climate science:

 

 

 

MIT atmospheric science professor Richard Lindzen suggests that many claims regarding climate change are exaggerated and unnecessarily alarmist.

Arctic sea ice:

Satellites have been observing arctic (and Antarctic) sea ice since 1979. Every year there is a pronounced annual cycle where the almost complete winter coverage is much reduced each summer. During this period there has been a noticeable downtrend is summer ice in the arctic (with the opposite behavior in the Antarctic), though in recent years, the coverage appears to have stabilized. In terms of climate change, 40 years is, of course, a rather short interval. Still, there have been the inevitable attempts to extrapolate short period trends leading to claims that the arctic should have already reached ice free conditions. Extrapolating short term trends is obviously inappropriate. Extrapolating surface temperature changes from dawn to dusk would lead to a boiling climate in days. This would be silly. The extrapolation of arctic summer ice coverage looks like it might be comparably silly. Moreover, although the satellite coverage is immensely better than what was previously available, the data is far from perfect. The satellites can confuse ice topped with melt water with ice free regions. In addition, temperature might not be the main cause of reduced sea ice coverage. Summer ice tends to be fragile, and changing winds play an important role in blowing ice out of the arctic sea. Associating changing summer sea ice coverage with climate change is, itself, dubious. Existing climate models hardly unambiguously predict the observed behavior. Predictions for 2100 range from no change to complete disappearance. Thus, it cannot be said that the sea ice behavior confirms any plausible prediction.

It is sometimes noted that concerns for disappearing arctic sea ice were issued in 1922, suggesting that such behavior is not unique to the present. The data used, at that time, came from the neighborhood of Spitzbergen. A marine biologist and climate campaigner has argued that what was described was a local phenomenon, but, despite the claim, the evidence presented by the author is far from conclusive. Among other things, the author was selective in his choice of ‘evidence.’

All one can say, at this point, is that the behavior of arctic sea ice represents one of the numerous interesting phenomena that the earth presents us with, and for which neither the understanding nor the needed records exist. It probably pays to note that melting sea ice does not contribute to sea level rise. Moreover, man has long dreamt of the opening of this Northwest Passage. It is curious that it is now viewed with alarm. Of course, as Mencken noted, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” The environmental movement has elevated this aim well beyond what Mencken noted.

Polar bear meme:

I suspect that Al Gore undertook considerable focus-group research to determine the remarkable effectiveness of the notion that climate change would endanger polar bears. His use of an obviously photo shopped picture of a pathetic polar bear on an ice float suggests this. As Susan Crockford, a specialist in polar bear evolution, points out, there had indeed been a significant decrease in polar bear population in the past due to hunting and earlier due to commercial exploitation of polar bear fur. This has led to successful protective measures and sufficient recovery of polar bear population, that hunting has again been permitted. There is no evidence that changes in summer sea ice have had any adverse impact on polar bear population, and, given that polar bears can swim for over a hundred miles, there seems to be little reason to suppose that it would. Nonetheless, for the small community of polar bear experts, the climate related concerns have presented an obvious attraction.

Ocean acidification:

This is again one of those obscure claims that sounds scary but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Ever since the acid rain scare, it has been realized that the public responds with alarm to anything with the word ‘acid’ in it. In point of fact, the ocean is basic rather than acidic (ie, its ph is always appreciably higher than 7, and there is no possibility of increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 bringing it down to 7; note that ph is a measure of acidity or basicness: values greater than 7 are basic and less than 7 acid.), and the purported changes simply refer to making the ocean a bit less basic. However, such a more correct description would lack the scare component. As usual, there is so much wrong with this claim that it takes a fairly long article to go over it all. I recommend the following source.

Death of coral reefs:

The alleged death of coral reefs is partly linked to the acidification issue above, and as we see, the linkage is almost opposite to what is claimed. There is also the matter of warming per se leading to coral bleaching. A typical alarmist presentation can be found here.

The article is behind a pay wall, but most universities provide access to Nature. The reasoned response to this paper is provided here.

As Steele, the author of the above, points out, bleaching has common causes other than warming and is far from a death sentence for corals whose capacity to recover is substantial. This article is a bit polemical, but essentially correct.

Global warming as the cause of everything:

As we see from the above, there is a tendency to blame everything unpleasant on global warming. The absurd extent of this tendency is illustrated on the following here. That hasn’t stopped the EPA from using such stuff to claim large health benefits for its climate change policies. Moreover, I fear that with so many claims, there is always the question ‘what about ….?’ Hardly anyone has the time and energy to deal with the huge number of claims. Fortunately, most are self-evidently absurd. Nation magazine recently came up with what is a bit of a champion is this regard. CO2, it should be noted, is hardly poisonous. On the contrary, it is essential for life on our planet and levels as high as 5000 ppm are considered safe on our submarines and on the space station (current atmospheric levels are around 400 ppm, while, due to our breathing, indoor levels can be much higher). The Nation article is typical in that it makes many bizarre claims in a brief space. It argues that a runaway greenhouse effect on Venus led to temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Of course, no one can claim that the earth is subject to such a runaway, but even on Venus, the hot surface depends primarily on the closeness of Venus to the sun and the existence of a dense sulfuric acid cloud covering the planet. Relatedly, Mars, which also has much more CO2 than the earth, is much further from the sun and very cold. As we have seen many times already, such matters are mere details when one is in the business of scaring the public.

Concluding remarks:

The accumulation of false and/or misleading claims is often referred to as the ‘overwhelming evidence’ for forthcoming catastrophe. Without these claims, one might legitimately ask whether there is any evidence at all.

Despite this, climate change has been the alleged motivation for numerous policies, which, for the most part, seem to have done more harm  than the purported climate change, and have the obvious capacity to do much more. Perhaps the best that can be said for these efforts is that they are acknowledged to have little impact on either CO2 levels or temperatures despite their immense cost. This is relatively good news since there is ample evidence that both changes are likely to be beneficial although the immense waste of money is not.

I haven’t spent much time on the details of the science, but there is one thing that should spark skepticism in any intelligent reader. The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure.

http://merionwest.com/2017/04/25/richard-lindzen-thoughts-on-the-public-discourse-over-climate-change/

 

The full  series is here.

 

I would thoroughly recommend that anybody interested in the subject read the full article from Richard Lindzen.

It shows up so many of the climate scare stories for the fairy tales that they really are.

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8 Comments
  1. HotScot permalink
    May 7, 2017 10:26 pm

    Brilliant. What a man.

    I would add one thing I believe is unique to the climate change rhetoric.

    The only observable effect, as far as I’m aware, of increased atmospheric CO2 on humanity is provided by studies of NASA satellite data over the last 30 years, by NASA itself. That the planet has greened by 14%. 70% of it attributed to CO2 alone, without any influence from man in terms of fertilisation, agriculture etc.

    Nothing in the disaster portfolio of the climate alarmists comes close, if indeed there are any observable negatives associated with increased atmospheric CO2 whatsoever.

    To my mind, it is the most compelling argument available that counters every single whacko claim of global disaster caused by CO2.

    The greens demanded greening, they got it, and now they ignore it. An admission the didn’t care about a healthier planet after all?

  2. Jess permalink
    May 8, 2017 2:30 am

    Paul, a quick question: given an increase in Arctic volcanic activity (e.g., Aleutian earthquakes), has anyone looked at the increase in ground temperature due to geothermal activity required to have caused the small decrease in average ice coverage? Seems like even a small increase in temperature could have a significant impact.

  3. Athelstan permalink
    May 8, 2017 8:18 am

    Professor. Richard Lindzen is an estimable bloke. He comes across quietly, as an affable. learned and scholarly man, a man indeed who has no need to resort to arcane rhetoric and dissimulation. Therefore, why is it then that the MSM in their infinite wisdom on all matters pertaining to the green agenda – do not seek out his sage counsel?

    I wonder, does the truth frighten them so much?.

    • May 8, 2017 10:50 am

      Athelstan, old son! You know the answer to that question. It lies in the old pressman’s adage, “if it bleeds, it leads”.

      “Small earthquake in Peru: not many dead” does not sell a single extra copy. A continually self-renewing train of every varying potential disasters for mankind, none of which ever quite actually come to pass is just the ticket! Add in “saving the planet” and you’ve really got it made.

      Only when the whole thing patently and irrefutably turns out to be total crap will Lindzen be persona grata again — and possibly not even then if he is just as sceptical about the next big scare story.

      • Athelstan permalink
        May 8, 2017 8:12 pm

        Well said, as per Mike.

  4. May 8, 2017 8:28 am

    Of course there’s a strong element of confirmation bias, or seeing what they want to see, in alarmist claims about Arctic sea ice. Where’s the understanding of natural variations?

    As Lindzen implies, it’s an interesting subject to study but any conclusions are inevitably subjective given the limited historical data and other difficulties.

  5. May 8, 2017 12:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    “Concluding remarks:

    The accumulation of false and/or misleading claims is often referred to as the ‘overwhelming evidence’ for forthcoming catastrophe. Without these claims, one might legitimately ask whether there is any evidence at all.

    Despite this, climate change has been the alleged motivation for numerous policies, which, for the most part, seem to have done more harm than the purported climate change, and have the obvious capacity to do much more. Perhaps the best that can be said for these efforts is that they are acknowledged to have little impact on either CO2 levels or temperatures despite their immense cost. This is relatively good news since there is ample evidence that both changes are likely to be beneficial although the immense waste of money is not.

    I haven’t spent much time on the details of the science, but there is one thing that should spark skepticism in any intelligent reader. The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure.”
    –Dr. Richard Lindzen

  6. John V. Linton permalink
    May 8, 2017 6:35 pm

    Mr. Homewood I am an instant fan of your most excellent site.

    Forgive me if you cover this mini-scandal somewhere in these pages, but one topic which I think needs to be better addressed by the climate skeptic community is the production of a simple Average Absolute Global Temperature Table for the past X years.

    I have noticed a maddening trend that 0.0% MSM articles on AGW ever set forth the absolute average global temperature and only trade in deltas and complex 50- and 100-year mean comparisons and other sorts of tricky normalizations. (E.g., this year is +0.04 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than last year, etc…)

    I recently wrote Stephen Koonin who provided me a link to a NOAA repository that mentioned last year’s average global temperature but it should be noted that even NOAA makes no great display of this information.

    To my mind this is one of the greatest deceptions at the heart of the climate religion: The endless obfuscation of the most relevant (and tersely stated) real number set. Nor do we ever see from any science journalists even the most rudimentary bottom-up discussion of these numbers, as if the goal of their writing is to confuse and misdirect. Yet if AGW is so dangerous, why are the absolute values always hidden from view?

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