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.

Author Bio

tom

Comments Disabled

  1. BCC - June 26, 2006

    I concur; I enjoy reading the WSJ but the editorial writers invariably drive me nuts, especially when they write about energy and environmental issues.

  2. Paul - July 14, 2006

    Tom’s comments on Linzen’s article above are helpful, but leave me wanting more. Linzen makes a variety of specific arguments – e.g., the temperature of the Artic being cooler in 1940, some Alpine glaciers actually advancing today, atmospheric temperature not increasing since 1979, etc. – that are not addressed. As Linzen, who is an MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science, has instant credibility with laypersons, it would be highly beneficial if all of his arguments were addressed. Comments (with citations, if possible) by those knowledgeable on these issues addressing the full breadth of Linzen’s article would be very much appreciated.

  3. Adam Stein - July 18, 2006

    Paul -
    For point-by-point rebuttals of Lindzen, you want to visit the incomparable RealClimate.com, a blog authored by climate scientists that is deep but accessible to non-experts. See in particular these posts:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/open-thread-on-lindzen-op-ed-in-wsj/
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/lindzen-point-by-point/

  4. Rob Petersen - March 12, 2007

    “you want to visit the incomparable RealClimate.com” OH PLEASE! Every time some scientist comes out against the hype of anthropogenic global warming they are lambasted by the scientifically illiterate as shills of the oil industry. Yet no one ever seems to question who’s paying the bills for this group of so called “climate experts”. For instance, NASA, NCAR, and University faculty members, hmmm no problem = no money, so they better keep that problem alive and those Federal dollars coming in.

    Beyond that we have a Relativity Theory researcher who turned climate researcher? What training in climate science? None listed; oh it’s okay, it’s all just all just more theory anyway.

    Excuse me if I find each and every member of this group to be as suspect in their background and/or motivation as those who claim that every dissenter from your supposed “consensus” is an energy industry shill.

    I think the most telling clue on that junk science website is where someone asked about the 800 year lag in CO2 vs Temperature in the ice cores. They said and I quote “All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.” “..could…have been”??? Could have isn’t science folks, its conjecture! Temps rose first and that doesn’t fit the claims of the scare mongers, so they give an explanation that is insulting to the intelligence of anyone with an IQ greater than room temperature.

    These guys are just political hacks; I don’t believe anything they say.

  5. Adam Stein - March 12, 2007

    Every time some scientist comes out against the hype of anthropogenic global warming they are lambasted by the scientifically illiterate as shills of the oil industry.
    Except that no one has described Richard Lindzen as a shill of the oil industry, either on this blog or at RealClimate. Whoops.
    Yet no one ever seems to question who’s paying the bills for this group of so called “climate experts”.
    Actually, this is a standard mode of attack among denialists, who have invented increasingly outlandish scenarios explaining why the consensus view on climate change among scientists is actually a worldwide conspiracy to get grant money. Whoops again.
    These guys are just political hacks; I don’t believe anything they say.
    How convenient for you.

Facebook

Get the Facebook Likebox Slider Pro for WordPress