Naomi Klein's new documentary on "environmentalism" is nothing more than a cover for centrally managed economies, wealth redistribution, and intrusive government regulations.
by Rachelle Peterson
October 6, 2015 - 10:35 pm This Changes Everything, the movie version of Naomi Klein’s bestselling book by that title, is a moment of astonishing candor on the environmentalist left. For decades, conservatives have argued that environmentalism is a cover for centrally managed economies, wealth redistribution, and intrusive government regulations. Klein comes out and says that indeed, environmentalism is exactly that. Conservative critics, she says in so many words, “are right.” Climate change is an opportunity to write “a new story.”
The film itself—billed as a “documentary”—is a ho-hum 90-minute foray into climate change victimhood that, if not for Klein’s cult following, would be forgotten the day it came out. But Klein is a leftist rock star and an architect of the burgeoning fossil fuel divestment campaign. The film is constructed to feed her fandom. The comic movie Mr. Bean’s Holiday climaxes when Mr. Bean accidently interrupts a film, Playback Time: A Carson Clay Film, that is directed by, produced by, acted in, and written about the narcissistic Carson Clay. Klein’s film is something similar. It is produced by Klein Lewis Productions, filmed and edited by Klein’s husband Avi Lewis, narrated in first person by Klein, and generously sprinkled with shots of Klein cradling a Canadian Indian child, talking to activists in the developing world, or gazing solemnly on a trash dump while wind whips her hair about her face.
Though the film plays to its leftist audience, conservatives should pay attention. Klein is among the clearest, most popular North American advocates of unadulterated progressive theory, and the movie This Changes Everything offers a condensed, simpler package of the full story she tells in its 550-page companion book.
Klein’s basic contention, presented in patient, step by moccasined step in the film, is that mankind is good and society is evil. Political action on climate change has stalled because “they told us the problem is us: we’re greedy and shortsighted.” Human nature, “they” say, isn’t malleable, “so there’s no hope” for fixing climate change. Klein builds an alternative narrative on different premises: the problem isn’t human nature or consumption or greenhouse gas emissions but society’s mischaracterization of nature as a “machine” that we operate rather than a “Goddess” we respect.
Two hundred fifty years ago Rousseau postulated that “Man is born free, and everywhere is in chains.” Klein picks up those chains and attributes their modern iterations to a fossil fuel-based economy. In her account, early modern societies founded on the “machine” hubris remained constrained by nature. Entrepreneurs built factories only where hydro power could run them and shipped their goods only where sailing winds could take them. Then fossil fuels gave us “the ultimate one-way relationship with nature.” We could build wherever we wanted, travel whenever we wished. When the pollution overwhelmed us, we sent industrial production to “sacrifice zones” in poorer countries. Now, says Klein, we’ve run out of frontiers to exploit and overtaxed nature’s limit. The angry Goddess is hitting back.
The bulk of Klein’s film is devoted to introducing the people in the “sacrifice zones.” Alexis and Mike, Sierra Club members, run a goat ranch in Montana that got flooded with oily water after a spill. Crystal from the Beaver Lake Creek tribe organizes indigenous activists against Canadian tar sands extraction on their ancestral land. Melachrini and her Greek compatriots protest a gold mine that would bring the nation much-needed cash but mar a mountain range. Here Klein snags the opportunity to link capitalism to the “domination” narrative of nature as a machine. The economic machine demands constant growth and consumption of resources, she says, and requires cutting loose hindrances like fair wages and good working conditions: “Squeeze nature. Squeeze the people.”
In the rush to showcase outrage at that “squeeze,” Klein’s analysis gets tangled. Solar panels, for all their dependence on natural sunlight, are tech-intensive and have proven a perfect opportunity for government boondoggles and corporate cronyism. Windmills eat up habitats and disrupt wildlife. Is the green revolution she praises in Germany really a back-to-nature reversal?
And if mankind is so innately good, wouldn’t a free market system maximize opportunity for those good humans to make unfettered good choices? After a clip of Ronald Reagan’s famous quip, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” Klein demands a government that “has your back” and guarantees decent standards of living. But if society is the source of our ills, might not Leviathan make them worse? When the EPA unleashed a flood of pollution in the Gold King Mine in Colorado, we saw a government program backfire. Klein breezes through these complications.
And for a leader in a movement that delights to smear fossil fuels as “on the wrong side of history,” Klein doesn’t seem to pay much attention to history. Nature as a machine is an eighteenth century allegory no longer at play in physics or philosophy. Science has long used metaphors to describe the natural order. The most famous is legal, the idea that nature obeys standard laws that can be deciphered. There are others. Medieval geocentric cosmology postulated planets interrelated and inclined towards each other’s “influence.” The “machine” analogy largely grew out of, rather than predating and justifying, the explosive growth of tools for mass production. William Paley’s famous 1802 defenseof deism by comparing the earth to a clock that required a clockmaker postdates the steam engine, the spinning jenny, the power loom, the cotton gin, and even an early battery. Contemporary physics doesn’t jibe with Klein’s preferred “Goddess” analogy, but it readily acknowledges the riddles of the world that can’t be described and that we don’t understand. Quantum physics is rife with mysteries that, if anything, match the medieval metaphor better than the early modern.
There is a lesson conservatives should learn from Klein. She takes a perceived evil that her fellow activists standagainst and turns it into an opportunity to stand for something: “What if global warming is not only a problem but the best chance you’re ever going to get to build a better world?” Conservatives should stand not only against big government, climate apocalypticism, politicized science, and intrusive regulation, but we should also stand for self-governance, responsibility, self-determination, and the conditions that foster life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What if the rise of a progressive environmental movement is not just a political opponent, but an opportunity to make the case for small-r republicanism?
Rachelle Peterson is a research associate for the National Association of Scholars, and co-author of Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism.
Comedian Michael Loftus, host of the new TV show "The Flipside" goes on an extended rant about how people who supposedly believe in the upcoming end of the world brought on by global warming primarily seem interested in just making money for themselves.
By DAVID ROSE FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. ‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’
Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.
But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
To put it another way, an area the size of Alaska, America’s biggest state, was open water two years ago, but is again now covered by ice.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006 (see graph, right), and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
Other figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute suggest that the growth has been even more dramatic. Using a different measure, the area with at least 30 per cent ice cover, these reveal a 63 per cent rise – from 2.7 million to 4.4 million square kilometres.
The satellite images published here are taken from a further authoritative source, the University of Illinois’s Cryosphere project.
They show that as well as becoming more extensive, the ice has grown more concentrated, with the purple areas – denoting regions where the ice pack is most dense – increasing markedly.
Crucially, the ice is also thicker, and therefore more resilient to future melting. Professor Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University and University Coillege, London, an expert in climate satellite monitoring, said yesterday: ‘It is clear from the measurements we have collected that the Arctic sea ice has experienced a significant recovery in thickness over the past year.
‘It seems that an unusually cool summer in 2013 allowed more ice to survive through to last winter. This means that the Arctic sea ice pack is thicker and stronger than usual, and this should be taken into account when making predictions of its future extent.’
The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore (above) was apocalyptic. He said that the North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff and could be gone in seven years
Yet for years, many have been claiming that the Arctic is in an ‘irrevocable death spiral’, with imminent ice-free summers bound to trigger further disasters. These include gigantic releases of methane into the atmosphere from frozen Arctic deposits, and accelerated global warming caused by the fact that heat from the sun will no longer be reflected back by the ice into space.
Judith Curry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said last night: ‘The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.’
Those who just a few years ago were warning of ice-free summers by 2014 included US Secretary of State John Kerry, who made the same bogus prediction in 2009, while Mr Gore has repeated it numerous times – notably in a speech to world leaders at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, in an effort to persuade them to agree a new emissions treaty.
The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in summer in as little as 7 years from now
Mr Gore – whose office yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment – insisted then: ‘There is a 75 per cent chance that the entire polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.’
Misleading as such forecasts are, some people continue to make them. Only last month, while giving evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on the Arctic, Cambridge University’s Professor Peter Wadhams claimed that although the Arctic is not ice-free this year, it will be by September 2015.
Asked about this yesterday, he said: ‘I still think that it is very likely that by mid-September 2015, the ice area will be less than one million square kilometres – the official designation of ice-free, implying only a fringe of floes around the coastlines. That is where the trend is taking us.’
For that prediction to come true it would require by far the fastest loss of ice in history. It would also fly in the face of a report last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated with ‘medium confidence’ that ice levels would ‘likely’ fall below one million square kilometres by 2050.
Politicians such as Al Gore have often insisted that climate science is ‘settled’ and have accused those who question their forecasts of being climate change ‘deniers’.
However, while few scientists doubt that carbon-dioxide emissions cause global warming, and that this has caused Arctic ice to decline, there remains much uncertainty about the speed of melting and how much of it is due to human activity. But outside the scientific community, the more pessimistic views have attracted most attention. For example, Prof Wadhams’s forecasts have been cited widely by newspapers and the BBC. But many reject them.
Yesterday Dr Ed Hawkins, who leads an Arctic ice research team at Reading University, said: ‘Peter Wadhams’s views are quite extreme compared to the views of many other climate scientists, and also compared to what the IPCC report says.’
Dr Hawkins warned against reading too much into ice increase over the past two years on the grounds that 2012 was an ‘extreme low’, triggered by freak weather.
‘I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back,’ he said.
However, Dr Hawkins added that the decline seen in recent years was not caused only by global warming. It was, he said, intensified by ‘natural variability’ – shifts in factors such as the temperature of the oceans. This, he said, has happened before, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, when ‘there was likely some sea ice retreat’.
Dr Hawkins said: ‘There is undoubtedly some natural variability on top of the long-term downwards trend caused by the overall warming. This variability has probably contributed somewhat to the post-2000 steep declining trend, although the human-caused component still dominates.’
Like many scientists, Dr Hawkins said these natural processes may be cyclical. If and when they go into reverse, they will cool, not warm, the Arctic, in which case, he said, ‘a decade with no declining trend’ in ice cover would be ‘entirely plausible’.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that at least until 2005, natural variability was responsible for half the ice decline. But exactly how big its influence is remains an open question – and as both Dr Hawkins and Prof Curry agreed, establishing this is critical to making predictions about the Arctic’s future.
Prof Curry said: ‘I suspect that the portion of the decline in the sea ice attributable to natural variability could be even larger than half.
‘I think the natural variability component of Arctic sea ice extent is in the process of bottoming out, with a reversal to start within the next decade. And when it does, the reversal period could last for several decades.’
This led her to believe that the IPCC forecast, like Al Gore’s, was too pessimistic.
‘Ice-free in 2050 is a possible scenario, but I don’t think it is a likely scenario,’ she concluded.
GOOD NEWS FOR POLAR BEARS...
The apparent recovery in Arctic ice looks like good news for polar bears.
If there is more ice at the end of the summer, they can hunt seals more easily. Yet even when the ice reached a low point in 2012, there was no scientific evidence that bear numbers were declining, with their estimated total of 20,000 to 25,000 thought to be higher than in the 1970s, when hunting was first banned.
In many Arctic regions, say scientists, they are in robust health and breeding successfully.
Computer model predictions of decline caused by ice melt have also failed to come true. In 2004, researchers claimed Hudson Bay bear numbers would fall from 900 to fewer than 700 by 2011. In fact, they have risen to over 1,000.
However, the main international bear science body, the Polar Bear Specialist Group, admits it has no reliable data from almost half of the Arctic, so cannot say whether numbers are falling or rising.
TIME TO JAIL THE CLIMATE SCAMSTERS Exclusive: Lord Monckton says prosecuting 'scientists' is best way to stop hysteria
SYDNEY, Australia – It’s official. What I was howled down and banned for telling the recent U.N. climate conference in Doha is true. There has been no global warming for 17 years.
Rajendra Pachauri, the railroad engineer who heads the U.N.’s accident-prone climate panel, the IPCC, recently admitted this fact here in Australia.
The Hadley/CRU temperature record shows no warming for 18 or 19 years. RSS satellites show none for 23 years. Not one computer model predicted that.
Pachauri said the zero trend would have to persist for 30-40 years before it mattered. Scientists disagree. In 2008 the modelers wrote that more than 14 years without global warming would indicate a “discrepancy” between their predictions and reality. By their own criterion, they have grossly, persistently, profitably exaggerated manmade warming.
The 17-year flatline gives Australia’s $180,000-a-year, part-time climate kommissar, Tim Flannery, a problem. In January he crowed that extreme weather like Sydney’s recent heatwave had been predicted for decades.
Skeptics, he wailed, continued to ignore the thousands of hot-weather records tumbling worldwide. Yet without statistically significant warming for nigh on two decades, recent extreme weather cannot be blamed on global warming.
Warming that was predicted yesterday but has not happened for up to 23 years until today cannot have caused yesterday’s “droughts and flooding rains,” now, can it?
Flannery relentlessly gives only one side of the story when it is his duty to give both. He is carefully silent about the thousands of cold-weather records that have also tumbled in recent years – more than 650 this week in the U.S. alone.
The Northern Hemisphere is enduring one of its coldest winters in 100 years. Before the usual suspects try to blame that too on global warming, the IPCC says – unsurprisingly – that warmer weather means less snow.
Sea-ice extent in the Arctic has reached a record high for this time of year, despite a record low last summer. In the Antarctic, sea ice has been increasing for 33 years.
There will be further extreme weather in the coming decades. It will not matter whether the world warms or cools. Extreme weather is not the new normal. It is the old normal – but the new slogan.
The best-kept secret in climate science is that extreme weather, or “tipping points,” will be no likelier if the planet warms than if it cools. For the climate behaves as a chaotic object. What mathematicians call “bifurcations” can occur at any time.
We may warm the world this century, but not by much. What is important is not only the embarrassingly long absence of warming but also the large discrepancy between the rate of warming the models predict and the real-world rate.
The IPCC baselessly predicts 3 degrees Celsius manmade warming this century. The warming rate since 1950 has been a third of that. The maximum warming rate over any decade since 1850 was equivalent to less than 2 degrees per century.
No surprise, then, that the IPCC recently gave the lie to Flannery in a special report saying extreme weather cannot yet be attributed to manmade warming. Yet its own errors relentlessly exaggerate both manmade warming and its consequences.
In 1990 the first of its five reports said that from then till now the world would warm at 0.3 of a degree Celsius per decade. Outturn: less than half that.
In 1995 the scientists said five times there was no human influence on temperature and they did not know when it would become detectable. IPCC bureaucrats got a single bad scientist – a one-man “consensus” – to rewrite the report to say the flat opposite.
That year another bad scientist emailed a colleague: “We have to abolish the medieval warm period.” His problem was that the Middle Ages were warmer than now. Today’s temperatures are normal.
In 2001 the IPCC’s “hockey stick” graph duly “abolished” medieval warming. The shank showed little temperature change for 1000 years; the blade showed a sudden spurt in the 20th century, which the IPCC – six times – blamed on us. In 2005 two Canadian scientists proved the graph bogus.
In 2007 the IPCC doctored another graph to pretend manmade warming is accelerating. The Obama administration is using this faked diagram to justify introducing a carbon tax just as the EU/Oz tax collapses.
This year will bring a fifth “Assessment Report.” As an expert reviewer I shall try to halt further fraud. It will not be easy. The weevils are at it again. This year’s new predictions, backcast eight years to 2005, bizarrely overstate already measured warming and project the exaggerations to 2050, forecasting unrealistically rapid warming.
A senior Australian police officer specializing in organized-crime frauds tells me the pattern of fraud on the part of a handful of climate scientists may yet lead to prosecutions.
When the cell door slams on the first bad scientist, the rest will scuttle for cover. Only then will the climate scare – mankind’s strangest and costliest intellectual aberration – be truly over.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/02/time-to-jail-the-climate-scamsters/#toavX9bjbD4JVy5C.99
More Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims Scientists Continue to Debunk Fading“Consensus” in 2008 & 2009 & 2010
By Patrick J. Michaels
A version of this article appeared in the DC Examiner on December 2, 2009.
The more we learn about the purloined e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit the more it resembles Watergate. As was the case in 1974, there will be no one particular spectacular revelation, but rather an unremitting and unrelenting daily drip-drip that ultimately brings down the house.
The latest gem comes from none other than Rajendra Pauchari, the climatologically untrained head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Without the IPCC there would be no cap-and-tax legislation awaiting debate in the Senate. There would be no meeting in Copenhagen, where, next month, world leaders will attempt to globalize cap-and-tax. There would also be no pledge from President Obama to emissions reductions that have never been passed by the Senate.
“The last IPCC compendium on climate science, published in 2007, left out plenty of peer-reviewed science that it found inconveniently disagreeable.”
The e-mails have given Pauchari the onerous task of defending the IPCC from its own “scientific” leadership, now accused (or, perhaps, incriminating itself) of seriously manipulating the scientific literature that goes into the august IPCC scientific reports.
In one of the e-mails, East Anglia’s Phil Jones, long a power player in the production of these reports, said this about some scientific articles he did not like: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
This is pretty serious stuff, because it, and many similar e-mails, paint a picture of IPCC boffins committing science’s capital crime: Trying to game the peer-reviewed literature, which is akin to editing what goes in the Bible.
In this case, Jones is actually speculating about keeping contrary information out of the IPCC reports by blacklisting certain professional journals.
One series of these e-mails called out the journal Climate Research, which had the audacity to publish a paper surveying a voluminous scientific literature that didn’t support Mann’s claim that the last 50 years are the warmest in the past millennium. Along with the CRU head Phil Jones and other climate luminaries, they then cooked up the idea of boycotting any scientific journal that dared publish anything by a few notorious “skeptics,” myself included.
Their pressure worked. Editors resigned or were fired. Many colleagues began to complain to me that their good papers were either being rejected outright or subject to outrageous reviews — papers that would have been published with little revision just a few years ago.
So what is Pauchari’s response to all of this? Denial.
“IPCC relies entirely on peer-reviewed literature in carrying out its assessment and follows a process that renders it unlikely that any peer reviewed piece of literature, however contrary to the views of any individual author, would be left out.”
That’s just not true. The last IPCC compendium on climate science, published in 2007, left out plenty of peer-reviewed science that it found inconveniently disagreeable.
These include articles from the journals Arctic, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society,Earth Interactions, Geophysical Research Letters, International Journal of Climatology, Journal of Climate, Journal of Geophysical Research, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Quaternary Research.
We have hardly heard the end of Climategate, but don’t expect some climactic grand finale. In 1974, errors, boo-boos, and downright duplicities slowly piled up.
The same is happening now. Like Tricky Dick, Pauchari may soon be headed home.
List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warmingFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.
A majority of earth and climate scientists are convinced by the evidence that humans are significantly contributing to global warming.
This is a list of notable scientists who have made statements that conflict with the mainstream scientific understanding of global warming as summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and endorsed by other scientific bodies.
Establishing the mainstream scientific assessment, climate scientists agree that the global average surface temperature has risen over the last century. The scientific consensus and scientific opinion on climate change were summarized in the 2001Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The main conclusions on global warming were as follows:
Listing criteria: The notable scientists listed in this article have made statements since the publication of the Third Assessment Report which disagree with one or more of these 3 main conclusions. Each scientist included in this list has published at least one peer-reviewed article in the broad field of natural sciences, although not necessarily in a field relevant to climatology. To be included on this list it is not enough for a scientist to be merely included on a petition, survey, or list. Instead, the scientist must make their own statement.
Peer reviewAs of August 2012, fewer than 10 of the statements in the references for this list are part of the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The rest are statements from other sources such as interviews, opinion pieces, online essays and presentations. Academic papers almost never reject the view that human impacts have contributed to climate change. In 2004, a review of published abstracts from 928 peer-reviewed papers addressing "global climate change" found that none of them disputed the IPCC's conclusion that "Earth's climate is being affected by human activities" and that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" A 2013 survey of 3984 abstracts from peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011 that expressed an opinion on anthropogenic global warmingfound that 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity. (see also Scientific opinion on climate change and Surveys of scientists' views on climate change).
Scientists questioning the accuracy of IPCC climate projectionsScientists in this section have made comments that it is not possible to project global climate accurately enough to justify the ranges projected for temperature and sea-level rise over the next century. They may not conclude specifically that the current IPCC projections are either too high or too low, but that the projections are likely to be inaccurate due to inadequacies of current global climate modeling.
Graph showing the ability with which aglobal climate model is able to reconstruct the historical temperature record, and the degree to which those temperature changes can be decomposed into various forcing factors. It shows the effects of five forcing factors: greenhouse gases, man-madesulfate emissions, solar variability, ozonechanges, and volcanic emissions.
Scientists in this section have made comments that the observed warming is more likely attributable to natural causes than to human activities. Their views on climate change are usually described in more detail in their biographical articles.
Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson has been roundly criticized for insisting global warming is not an urgent problem, with many climate scientists dismissing him as woefully ill-informed. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Dyson explains his iconoclastic views and why he believes they have stirred such controversy.by michael d. lemonick
On March 3, The New York Times Magazine created a major flap in the climate-change community by running a cover story on the theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson that focused largely on his views of human-induced global warming.
Basically, he doesn’t buy it. The climate models used to forecast what will happen as we continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere are unreliable, Dyson claims, and so, therefore, are the projections. In an interview withYale Environment 360, his first since the Times article appeared, Dyson contends that since carbon dioxide is good for plants, a warmer planet could be a very good thing. And if CO2 does get to be a problem, Dyson believes we can just do some genetic engineering to create a new species of super-tree that can suck up the excess.
These sorts of arguments are advanced routinely by climate-change
skeptics, and dismissed just as routinely by those who work in the field as clueless at best and deliberately misleading at worst. Dyson is harder to dismiss, though, in part because of his brilliance. He’s on the faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study, where as a young physicist he hobnobbed with Albert Einstein. When Julian Schwinger, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Richard Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics for quantum electrodynamics, Dyson was widely acknowledged to be almost equally deserving — but the Nobel Committee only gives out three prizes for a given discovery.
Nevertheless, large numbers of climate modelers and others who actually work on climate change — as Dyson does not — rolled their collective eyes at assertions they consider appallingly ill-informed. In his interview withYale Environment 360, Dyson also makes numerous assertions of fact — from his claim that warming today is largely confined to the Arctic to his contention that human activities are not primarily responsible for rising global temperatures — that climate scientists say are flat-out wrong.
Many climate scientists were especially distressed that the Times gave his views such prominence. Even worse, when the profile’s author, Nicholas Dawidoff, was asked on NPR’s “On The Media” whether it mattered if Dyson was right or wrong in his views, Dawidoff answered, “Oh, absolutely not. I don’t care what he thinks. I have no investment in what he thinks. I’m just interested in how he thinks and the depth and the singularity of his point of view.”
This is, to put it bluntly, bizarre. It matters a great deal whether he’s right or wrong, given that his views have been trumpeted in such a prominent forum with essentially no challenge. So I visited Dyson in his Princeton office in May to probe a little deeper into his views on climate change.
Yale Environment 360: First of all, was that article substantially accurate about your views?
Freeman Dyson: It’s difficult to say, “Yes” or “No.” It was reasonably accurate on details, because they did send a fact-checker. So I was able to correct the worst mistakes. But what I could not correct was the general emphasis of the thing. He had his agenda. Obviously he wanted to write a piece about global warming and I was just the instrument for that, and I am not so much interested in global warming. He portrayed me as sort ofListen to the full interview (43 min.)
obsessed with the subject, which I am definitely not. To me it is a very small part of my life. I don’t claim to be an expert. I never did. I simply find that a lot of these claims that experts are making are absurd. Not that I know better, but I know a few things. My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me.
e360: So it’s a sense you get from the way the argument is conducted that it’s not being done in an honest way.
Dyson: I think the difference between me and most of the experts is that I think I have a much wider view of the whole subject. I was involved in climate studies seriously about 30 years ago. That’s how I got interested. There was an outfit called the Institute for Energy Analysis at Oak Ridge. I visited Oak Ridge many times, and worked with those people, and I thought they were excellent. And the beauty of it was that it was multi-disciplinary. There were experts not just on hydrodynamics of the atmosphere, which of course is important, but also experts on vegetation, on soil, on trees, and so it was sort of half biological and half physics. And I felt that was a very good balance.
And there you got a very strong feeling for how uncertain the whole business is, that the five reservoirs of carbon all are in close contact — theYou can learn a lot from [models], but you cannot learn what’s going to happen 10 years from now.”atmosphere, the upper level of the ocean, the land vegetation, the topsoil, and the fossil fuels. They are all about equal in size. They all interact with each other strongly. So you can’t understand any of them unless you understand all of them. Essentially that was the conclusion. It’s a problem of very complicated ecology, and to isolate the atmosphere and the ocean just as a hydrodynamics problem makes no sense.
Thirty years ago, there was a sort of a political split between the Oak Ridge community, which included biology, and people who were doing these fluid dynamics models, which don’t include biology. They got the lion’s share of money and attention. And since then, this group of pure modeling experts has become dominant.
I got out of the field then. I didn’t like the way it was going. It left me with a bad taste.
Syukuro Manabe, right here in Princeton, was the first person who did climate models with enhanced carbon dioxide and they were excellent models. And he used to say very firmly that these models are very good tools for understanding climate, but they are not good tools for predicting climate. I think that’s absolutely right. They are models, but they don’t pretend to be the real world. They are purely fluid dynamics. You can learn a lot from them, but you cannot learn what’s going to happen 10 years from now.
What’s wrong with the models. I mean, I haven’t examined them in detail, (but) I know roughly what’s in them. And the basic problem is that in the case of climate, very small structures, like clouds, dominate. And you cannot model them in any realistic way. They are far too small and too diverse.
So they say, ‘We represent cloudiness by a parameter,’ but I call it a fudge factor. So then you have a formula, which tells you if you have so much cloudiness and so much humidity, and so much temperature, and so much pressure, what will be the result... But if you are using it for a different climate, when you have twice as much carbon dioxide, there is no guarantee that that’s right. There is no way to test it.
We know that plants do react very strongly to enhanced carbon dioxide. At Oak Ridge, they did lots of experiments with enhanced carbon dioxide and it has a drastic effect on plants because it is the main food source for the plants... So if you change the carbon dioxide drastically by a factor of two, the whole behavior of the plant is different. Anyway, that’s so typical of the things they ignore. They are totally missing the biological side, which is probably more than half of the real system.
e360: Do you think it’s because they don’t consider it important, or they just don’t know how to model it?
Dyson: Well, both. I mean it’s a fact that they don’t know how to model it. And the question is, how does it happen that they end up believing their models? But I have seen that happen in many fields. You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as beingThe whole livelihood of all these people depends on people being scared.”real. It is also true that the whole livelihood of all these people depends on people being scared. Really, just psychologically, it would be very difficult for them to come out and say, “Don’t worry, there isn’t a problem.” It’s sort of natural, since their whole life depends on it being a problem. I don’t say that they’re dishonest. But I think it’s just a normal human reaction. It’s true of the military also. They always magnify the threat. Not because they are dishonest; they really believe that there is a threat and it is their job to take care of it. I think it’s the same as the climate community, that they do in a way have a tremendous vested interest in the problem being taken more seriously than it is.
e360: When I wrote my first story about this in 1987, I had to say this is all theoretical, we haven’t actually detected any signal of climate change. Now, people point to all sorts of signals, which are just the sort of things that were being predicted, based in part on the models. They made predictions and they’ve tested the predictions by seeing what happened in the real world, and they seem to be at least in the same direction, and in about the same magnitude, they were predicting. So isn’t that a hint that there is something right about the models?
Dyson: Of course. No doubt that warming is happening. I don’t think it is correct to say “global,” but certainly warming is happening. I have been to Greenland a year ago and saw it for myself. And that’s where the warming is most extreme. And it’s spectacular, no doubt about it. And glaciers are shrinking and so on.
But, there are all sorts of things that are not said, which decreases my feeling of alarm. First of all, the people in Greenland love it. They tell you it’s made their lives a lot easier. They hope it continues. I am not saying none of these consequences are happening. I am just questioning whether they are harmful.
There’s a lot made out of the people who died in heat waves. And there is no doubt that we have heat waves and people die. What they don’t say is actually five times as many people die of cold in winters as die of heat in summer. And it is also true that more of the warming happens in winter than in summer. So, if anything, it’s heavily favorable as far as that goes. It certainly saves more lives in winter than it costs in summer.
So that kind of argument is never made. And I see a systematic bias in the way things are reported. Anything that looks bad is reported, and anything that looks good is not reported.
A lot of these things are not anything to do with human activities. Take the shrinking of glaciers, which certainly has been going on for 300 years and has been well documented. So it certainly wasn’t due to human activities, most of the time. There’s been a very strong warming, in fact, ever since the Little Ice Age, which was most intense in the 17th century. That certainly was not due to human activity.
And the most serious of almost all the problems is the rising sea level. But there again, we have no evidence that this is due to climate change. A good deal of evidence says it’s not. I mean, we know that that’s been going on forAnything that looks bad is reported, and anything that looks good is not reported.”12,000 years, and there’s very doubtful arguments as to what’s been happening in the last 50 years and (whether) human activities have been important. It’s not clear whether it’s been accelerating or not. But certainly, most of it is not due to human activities. So it would be a shame if we’ve made huge efforts to stop global warming and the sea continued to rise. That would be a tragedy. Sea level is a real problem, but we should be attacking it directly and not attacking the wrong problem.
e360: Another criticism that’s been leveled is that your thoughts and predictions about the climate models are relatively unsophisticated, because you haven’t been in close contact with the people who are doing them. But if you sit down and actually talk to the people about what goes into the models today and what they are thinking about and how they think about clouds, you might discover that your assumptions about what they are doing are not correct. Is that plausible? Do you think it might inform you better to actually sit down with these people and find out what they are doing today?
Dyson: Well, it depends on what you mean by sitting down with people. I do sit down with people. I don’t go over their calculations in detail. But I think I understand pretty well the world they live in.
I guess one thing I don’t want to do is to spend all my time arguing this business. I mean, I am not the person to do that. I have two great disadvantages. First of all, I am 85 years old. Obviously, I’m an old fuddy-duddy. So, I have no credibility.
And, secondly, I am not an expert, and that’s not going to change. I am not going to make myself an expert. What I do think I have is a better judgment, maybe because I have lived a bit longer, and maybe because I’ve done other things. So I am fairly confident about my judgment, and I doubt whether that will change. But I am certainly willing to change my mind about details. And if they find any real evidence that global warming is doing harm, I would be impressed. That’s the crucial point: I don’t see the evidence...
And why should you imagine that the climate of the 18th century — what they call the pre-industrial climate — is somehow the best possible?
e360: I don’t think people actually believe that. I think they believe it’s the one during which our modern civilization arose. And that a rapid change to a different set of circumstances wouldn’t be worse in a grand sense, but it would be very badly suited to the infrastructure that we have got.
Dyson: That’s sort of what I would call part of the propaganda — to take for granted that any change is bad.
e360: It’s more that any change is disruptive. You don’t think that’s reasonable?
Dyson: Well, disruptive is not the same as bad. A lot of disruptive things actually are good. That’s the point. There’s this sort of mindset that assumes any change is bad. You can call it disruptive or you can call it change. But it doesn’t have to be bad.
e360: One thing is that if the temperature change projections are accurate for the next 100 years, it would be equivalent to the change that took us out of the last Ice Age into the present interglacial period, which is a very dramatic change.
Dyson: Yes, that’s highly unlikely. But it’s possible certainly.
e360: And the further argument is that this would happen much more quickly than that change happened. So it is hard to imagine that, at least in the short run, it could be anything but highly destructive.
Dyson: There’s hidden assumptions there, which I question, that you can describe the climate by a single number. In the case of the Ice Age, thatIf they find any real evidence that global warming is doing harm, I would be impressed.”might be true, that it was cold everywhere. The ice was only in the northern regions, but it was also much colder at the equator in the Ice Age.
That’s not true of this change in temperature today. The change that’s now going on is very strongly concentrated in the Arctic. In fact in three respects, it’s not global, which I think is very important. First of all, it is mainly in the Arctic. Secondly, it’s mainly in the winter rather than summer. And thirdly, it’s mainly in the night rather than at the daytime. In all three respects, the warming is happening where it is cold, not where it is hot.
e360: So, the idea is that the parts that are being disrupted are the parts that are inhospitable to begin with?
Dyson: Mostly. It is not 100 percent. But mostly they are, Greenland being a great example.
e360: Do you mind being thrust in the limelight of talking about this when it is not your main interest. You’ve suddenly become the poster child for global warming skepticism.
Dyson: Yes, it is definitely a tactical mistake to use somebody like me for that job, because I am so easily shot down. I’d much rather the job would be done by somebody who is young and a real expert. But unfortunately, those people don’t come forward.
e360: Are there people who are knowledgeable about this topic who could do the job of pointing out what you see as the flaws?
Dyson: I am sure there are. But I don’t know who they are.
I have a lot of friends who think the same way I do. But I am sorry to say that most of them are old, and most of them are not experts. My views are very widely shared.
Anyway, the ideal protagonist I am still looking for. So the answer to your question is, I will do the job if nobody else shows up, but I regard it as a duty rather than as a pleasure.
e360: Because it is important for you that people not take drastic actions about a problem that you are not convinced exists?
Dyson: Yes. And I feel very strongly that China and India getting rich is the most important thing that’s going on in the world at present. That’s a real revolution, that the center of gravity of the whole population of the world would be middle class, and that’s a wonderful thing to happen. It would be a shame if we persuade them to stop that just for the sake of a problem that’s not that serious.
And I’m happy every time I see that the Chinese and Indians make a strong statement about going ahead with burning coal. Because that’s what it really depends on, is coal. They can’t do without coal. We could, but they certainly can’t.
So I think it is very important that they should not be under pressure. Luckily they are, in fact, pretty self-confident; (neither) of those countries pays too much attention to us.
But that’s my motivation... Anyhow, I think we have probably said enough.
Michael Pollan: What’s Wrong With Environmentalism
Elizabeth Kolbert: The Media and Climate Change
Thomas Friedman: Hope in a Hot, Flat Crowded World
Rajendra Pachauri: The World’s Global Warming Challenge
Julienne Stroeve: Tracking the Fallout Of the Arctic's Vanishing Sea Ice
POSTED ON 04 JUN 2009 IN CLIMATE CLIMATE ENERGY POLICY & POLITICS
By RICHARD MCNIDER And JOHN CHRISTY
Updated Feb. 19, 2014 7:31 p.m. ET
In a Feb. 16 speech in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry assailed climate-change skeptics as members of the "Flat Earth Society" for doubting the reality of catastrophic climate change. He said, "We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists" and "extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts."
But who are the Flat Earthers, and who is ignoring the scientific facts? In ancient times, the notion of a flat Earth was the scientific consensus, and it was only a minority who dared question this belief. We are among today's scientists who are skeptical about the so-called consensus on climate change. Does that make us modern-day Flat Earthers, as Mr. Kerry suggests, or are we among those who defy the prevailing wisdom to declare that the world is round?
Most of us who are skeptical about the dangers of climate change actually embrace many of the facts that people like Bill Nye, the ubiquitous TV "science guy," say we ignore. The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.
What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth's atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.
We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.
For instance, in 1994 we published an article in the journal Nature showing that the actual global temperature trend was "one-quarter of the magnitude of climate model results." As the nearby graph shows, the disparity between the predicted temperature increases and real-world evidence has only grown in the past 20 years.
When the failure of its predictions become clear, the modeling industry always comes back with new models that soften their previous warming forecasts, claiming, for instance, that an unexpected increase in the human use of aerosols had skewed the results. After these changes, the models tended to agree better with the actual numbers that came in—but the forecasts for future temperatures have continued to be too warm.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a speech on climate change in Jakarta on Sunday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The modelers insist that they are unlucky because natural temperature variability is masking the real warming. They might be right, but when a batter goes 0 for 10, he's better off questioning his swing than blaming the umpire.
The models mostly miss warming in the deep atmosphere—from the Earth's surface to 75,000 feet—which is supposed to be one of the real signals of warming caused by carbon dioxide. Here, the consensus ignores the reality of temperature observations of the deep atmosphere collected by satellites and balloons, which have continually shown less than half of the warming shown in the average model forecasts.
The climate-change-consensus community points to such indirect evidence of warming as glaciers melting, coral being bleached, more droughts and stronger storms. Yet observations show that the warming of the deep atmosphere (the fundamental sign of carbon-dioxide-caused climate change, which is supposedly behind these natural phenomena) is not occurring at an alarming rate: Instruments aboard NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association satellites put the Mid-Tropospheric warming rate since late 1978 at about 0.7 degrees Celsius, or 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit, per 100 years. For the same period, the models on average give 2.1 degrees Celsius, or 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit, per 100 years (see graph).
The models also fail to get details of the past climate right. For example, most of the observed warming over land in the past century occurred at night. The same models used to predict future warming models showed day and night warming over the last century at nearly the same rates.
Past models also missed the dramatic recent warming found in observations in the Arctic. With this information as hindsight, the latest, adjusted set of climate models did manage to show more warming in the Arctic. But the tweaking resulted in too-warm predictions—disproved by real-world evidence—for the rest of the planet compared with earlier models.
Shouldn't modelers be more humble and open to saying that perhaps the Arctic warming is due to something we don't understand?
While none of these inconsistencies refutes the fundamental concern about greenhouse-gas-enhanced climate change, it is disturbing that "consensus science" will not acknowledge that such discrepancies are major problems. From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's beginning, that largely self-selected panel of scientists has embraced the notion that consensus on climate change is the necessary path to taking action and reducing man-made carbon emissions around the world. The consensus community uses this to push the view that "the science is settled" and hold up skeptics to ridicule, as John Kerry did on Sunday.
We are reminded of the dangers of consensus science in the past. For example, in the 18th century, more British sailors died of scurvy than died in battle. In this disease, brought on by a lack of vitamin C, the body loses its ability to manufacture collagen, and gums and other tissues bleed and disintegrate. These deaths were especially tragic because many sea captains and some ships' doctors knew, based on observations early in the century, that fresh vegetables and citrus cured scurvy.
Nonetheless, the British Admiralty's onshore Sick and Health Board of scientists and physicians (somewhat akin to the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) dismissed this evidence for more than 50 years because it did not fit their consensus theory that putrefaction (or internal decay) caused scurvy, which they felt could be cured by fresh air, exercise and laxatives.
"Consensus" science that ignores reality can have tragic consequences if cures are ignored or promising research is abandoned. The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker. The recent Obama administration announcement that it would not provide aid for fossil-fuel energy in developing countries, thereby consigning millions of people to energy poverty, is all too reminiscent of the Sick and Health Board denying fresh fruit to dying British sailors.
We should not have a climate-science research program that searches only for ways to confirm prevailing theories, and we should not honor government leaders, such as Secretary Kerry, who attack others for their inconvenient, fact-based views.
Messrs. McNider and Christy are professors of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and fellows of the American Meteorological Society. Mr. Christy was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. Mr. Christy was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore.
Correction: An earlier version of the attached chart on global temperatures transposed the labels for the balloon and satellite lines.
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