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Lindzen and “science illiteracy”

Richard S. LindzenI had another cringe moment today in the WSJ, reading another anti-anthropogenic warming editorial (subscription required) from Richard Lindzen, MIT professor, attacking Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. (This is the second editorial from Mr Lindzen in as many months — doesn’t Henninger have any other talent upon which to draw?)

Lindzen has a history of pointing out uncertainty in climate science, which from a scientific basis is a valid and noble pursuit. Lindzen’s critique focuses on a number of points in the movie showing alternative views of those claims (although a thorough science review of the movie at Real Climate showed only minor errors in the film.)

But, let’s put this in perspective. One of Lindzen’s main long-running arguments is that policy makers and the public is “science illiterate” and therefore is falling for statements of consensus based on repetition without understanding the science. Valid point — who is really spending their weekends relaxing with climate journals?

But does he really take his own medicine? He argues that evidence suggests that, “the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing,” without pointing out the disagreements between the three current studies. This very misleading statement is surely being repeated at water coolers today by readers of the Wall Street Journal, with little or no understanding of the complexity of the issues surrounding it.

We could go on with other examples, but there is a second order issue here — and that is of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. While the brilliant energy reporters on staff report with clarity and sophistication, the editorial board seems stuck in some sort of Fox News quagmire. While purportedly the newspaper of record for business leaders of America, the WSJ risks jeopardizing its reader’s prospects to participate in green technologies, that venture capitalist John Doerr says “could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century”. After all if Greenland is not melting, why invest in green technologies?

Update:For point-by-point rebuttals of Lindzen, visit the incomparable RealClimate.com, a blog authored by climate scientists that is deep but accessible to non-experts. Lindzen’s op-ed was addressed in several recent posts.

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