Lindzen in WSJ

Judd Legum has already debunked Richard Lindzen’s repetition of Benny Peiser’s discredited study, but I want to add one point. Lindzen wrote:

More recently, a study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words “global climate change” produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.

Note that he got her name wrong (it’s Naomi), what she said she’d found (which was that 75% implicitly or explicitly accept the consensus) and what the corresponding claim by Peiser was (that only one third of the papers accepted the consensus). It seems likely that he never checked what Oreskes actually wrote and relied on a second or third hand account.

Lindzen also writes:

A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the
environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the
scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring,
and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate
system. This is still a most peculiar claim.

Lindzen concedes that warming is occurring, but on the question of
human influences argues that there has been a “clear attempt to
establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual
repetition”.

One of the examples of this repetition that Lindzen gives is the 2001 NAS panel report which unequivocally stated:

Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere
as a result of human activities, causing surface air
temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.
Temperatures are, in fact, rising.

Lindzen does not mention that he was one of the authors of this report. He says one thing in a scientific report and another thing in an op-ed.

Lindzen continues:

Even more recently, the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush
administration’s coordinating agency for global-warming research,
declared it had found “clear evidence of human influences on the
climate system.” This, for Mr. Easterbrook, meant: “Case closed.” What
exactly was this evidence? The models imply that greenhouse warming
should impact atmospheric temperatures more than surface temperatures,
and yet satellite data showed no warming in the atmosphere since 1979.
The report showed that selective corrections to the atmospheric data
could lead to some warming, thus reducing the conflict between
observations and models descriptions of what greenhouse warming should
look like. That, to me, means the case is still very much open.

The report absolutely does not say that satellite data shows no warming since 1979. It states:

For observations during the satellite era (1979 onwards), the most recent versions of all available data sets show that both the low and mid troposphere have warmed.

As for the conflict between models and observations, the report finds there is no such conflict:

The most recent climate model simulations give a range of results for
changes in global-average temperature. Some models show more warming
in the troposphere than at the surface, while a slightly smaller
number of simulations show the opposite behavior. There is no
fundamental inconsistency among these model results and observations
at the global scale.

Comments

  1. #1 Carl Christensen
    June 26, 2006

    it’s pretty interesting that the WSJ is coincidentally rerunning this Lindzen piece, right after propping up McIntyre’s “win” at the NAS, after they had invented Mc as the “climate expert” in the first place!

  2. #2 Steve Sadlov
    June 26, 2006

    I was not surprised to see that in there.

    Rightly and sometimes wrongly, the WSJ categorically opposes pessimists. To be fair, if I had invested $1 in a blue chip stock back in 1928 and never sold it, I would have experienced remarkable appreciation. So, from the point of view of the WSJ, a generally optimistic outlook would appear to be compelling.

    I think that we must chose our battles wisely when electing to employ a pessimistic outlook.

  3. #3 Eli Rabett
    June 26, 2006

    Steve, if you had invested $1 in blue chips in 1928, you had a fair chance of losing it all at the bottom in 1932, or later in the depression as firms used up their cash reserves and went belly up.

    One of the things that statements such as yours gets wrong is that zero is a very special number. Once your investment is worthless, there is no coming back, so simple ideas of random variation around a mean are not enough (this was also essentially a hole in Black-Scholes).

    The second is that you assume that your stock will not be one of those that go to zero. Good luck.

  4. #4 Meyrick Kirby
    June 26, 2006

    A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all

    913? Last time it was 1117.

    Does this mean Peiser has rerun the replication?

  5. #5 Kevin Donoghue
    June 26, 2006

    Another point about investing in stocks in 1928 is that things could actually have been even worse in the 1930s. Suppose, for example, that the New Deal hadn’t happened because FDR was a denialist who refused to accept the existence of a depression. Banks failing? Nonsense; it’s just the way you’re looking at the data. Rising unemployment? Hogwash; people just feel like taking more time off. And anyway, if we try to do anything about it we’ll only make things worse. I’m not making this up, you know. See the writings of John Maynard Keynes for examples of what he and other like-minded people were up against.

    If such thinking had prevailed, not only would a lot more stocks have gone to zero; it’s entirely possible that American faith in capitalism would have been undermined completely. Remember, Mussolini made the trains run on time. Hitler built autobahns and created jobs. Who is to say that Americans wouldn’t have concluded that fascism delivers the goods?

    That’s the trouble with the Polyanna types. They think things always come good because they came good in the past. They refuse to acknowledge our debt to people who actually confront problems instead of assuming they will just go away.

  6. #6 Joel Shore
    June 26, 2006

    I wonder what Lindzen means by “selective corrections to the atmospheric data.” Is he saying that he does not accept the corrections that Spencer and Christy, both clearly on the skeptical side on climate change, have admitted need to be implemented after others showed them the errors that they had made?

    I read the entire op-ed piece and also noticed that Lindzen says that the global mean temperature has “remain[ed] essentially flat since 1998.” I would have hoped that some semblance of intellectual honesty would prevent him from repeating this. It is sad that Lindzen has decided to completely sell out his scientific honesty in order to promote the denier viewpoint.

  7. #7 coby
    June 26, 2006

    I don’t think there can be any reasonable doubt left as to whether or not his opinions deserves any respect anymore.

  8. #8 Lubos Motl
    June 26, 2006

    Dear Steve Sadlov,

    if WSJ categorically opposes pessimists, could you please explain me why they promoted Peter Woit and his ideas about physics and its future? ;-)

    Best
    Lubos

  9. #9 Lubos Motl
    June 26, 2006

    Unlike Deltoid, the Reference Frame can offer you even the full text of Lindzen’s article:

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/06/richard-lindzen-there-is-no-consensus.html

    Also, we can offer you the first-hand presentation by Peiser about Oreskes’ study:

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2005/05/oreskes-study-errata.html

    He shows that Oreskes’ errors that have led to her embarrassing paper were really painful.

    Moreover, I can even say how Oreskes is called. Naomi. Naomi. Naomi. As many times as you need.

  10. #10 Carl Christensen
    June 26, 2006

    Benny Peiser’s methods are laughable. They’re analogous to googling the phrase “George Bush is great” and claiming there are 87,400,000 websites that claim “George Bush is great.” And then complaining that Oreskes used the more limiting search phrase “George Bush is a great ass” (which only has 11,500,000 hits).

    I did my own “study” with better methods than Benny. I walked around every poster presentation at the EGU (European Geophysical Union) conference in Vienna a few months ago. There were over 10K posters, maybe 500 directly related to climate studies, and I only saw two skeptics. One was the psychotic Fred Singer and some crazy Swede (can’t remember his name) who thinks AGW is a hoax because he looked at his monitoring station in Tuvalu and everything is just dandy.

  11. #11 Carl Christensen
    June 26, 2006

    Lubos, funnily enough, there’s more to bitch about with string physicists monopolizing the field of physics, than what you guys rant about climate science (per the WSJ article cross ref’d here http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articleArchive/jun2006/notevenwrong.php)

    So how to you explain that your field has done zilch for mankind, probably far less than the similarly unimpressive artificial intelligence & grid computing in comp sci? Jeez, you’re a Harvard string theorist physicist and you spend most of your time kissing McIntyre’s butt and wishing your poor Czech bank account had some Republican $$$ in it!

    again, though, Benny’s smoking gun is hilarious, searching “climate change” vs. “global climate change.”

  12. #12 Robert
    June 27, 2006

    Tim L. wrote:

    the corresponding claim by Peiser was (that only one third of the papers accepted the consensus)

    Did Lindzen write that Peiser said “13 of the remaining 913″, or “(one-third) of 913″?

  13. #13 Meyrick Kirby
    June 27, 2006

    Lubos, you’re behind the times. Peiser messed up the replication. Of the 34 papers, they were either not in Oreskes’ 928, or they were misclassified by Peiser (i.e. don’t reject the consensus opinion).

    Here’s posting on the subject

    And another piece on why Peiser should not the trusted

  14. #14 Michael Seward
    June 27, 2006

    Lindzen is a published climate scientist. Why does he rely on Peiser, (a social scientist) to claim that papers exist that repudiate the consensus view? Can’t he list the papers he’s written that explicitly refute the consensus view? If a list of such papers were possible to assemble, don’t you think Lindzen would be able to point to such a list of peer-reviewed papers, rather than merely claim that Peiser says so? If there are scientifically credible papers explicitly refuting the consensus, Lindzen hasn’t pointed to them. I’m guessing no such papers exist.

    Even if you give Benny P the benefit of the doubt, and 34 papers refuting the consensus exist, that still leaves an overwhelming consensus among nearly all of the world’s climate scientists, and their professional organizations, and decades of research, versus 34 (or more likely 4 or 5) papers. Perhaps it’s not unanimous, but it is a clear and overwhelming consensus, by any measure. Oreskes was right.

  15. #15 Brian J
    June 27, 2006

    I notice that Lindzen also repeats his favorite “TAR SFP is different from the main text” meme:

    > But the “summary for policy makers” claimed in a manner largely unrelated to the actual text of the report that “In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

    Which is only true if you completely ignore Chapter 12, which repeats the same conclusion in its Executive Summary.

    So all in all, a lacklustre effort from Lindzen: 3/10. He loses points for picking up the “global warming stopped in 1998″ chestnut, as well as still claiming that the satellite data shows no warming. Also, why no mention of the Iris Effect?

  16. #16 Magnus
    June 27, 2006

    Carl Christensen!

    Hi!
    As a Sweed it would be realy fun to know the name of the Crazy Sweed :)

    Regards

  17. #17 Dano
    June 27, 2006

    Perhaps it’s not unanimous, but it is a clear and overwhelming consensus, by any measure.

    See, the quibblers have seized on some shill’s made up sh*t to say:

    ‘there’s not complete, utter, unanimous concencus++ ! There’s only almost complete concencus!!! SEE! SEE!!!! Therefore, there’s no concencus!! See everybody! No concencus! Clap harder!

    That’s all they’ve got, Michael. Nothing more.

    Best,

    D

    ++ or however the rubes spell it…

  18. #18 Carl Christensen
    June 27, 2006

    I found the “crazy swede”: http://exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=1114

    he had a “Fred Singer-style” poster at EGU, i.e. claiming there’s no global warming based on his observations at Tuvalu.

  19. #19 rogergathman
    June 27, 2006

    The Al Gore quote is in the context of his comparison of how the numbers in the scientific literature are not mirrored in the popular press.

    His point stands, even if you dispute the number of scientific papers that come to the conclusion of a human generated contribution to the global rise of temperatures. If we compare how the press is reporting this issue to how they report issues on, say, the efficiency of anti-depressants or some new medical procedure, we find that the stories are uncharacteristically sensitive to the denialists.

    Why is this?

    I have a five letter answer: E-X-X-O-N.

  20. #20 z
    June 28, 2006

    “If we compare how the press is reporting this issue to how they report issues on, say, the efficiency of anti-depressants or some new medical procedure, we find that the stories are uncharacteristically sensitive to the denialists.”

    “It is odd that the logic of epidemiology embraced by the press every day regarding new drugs or health risks somehow changes when the mechanism of death is their armed forces.” (Les Roberts, Media Alert: Burying The Lancet, Media Lens, September 5, 2005)

  21. #21 Stephen Berg
    June 29, 2006

    Here’s another “contrarian” argument debunked:

    David Parker’s study that concluded that the Urban Heat Island is not responsible for the current records of large-scale global warming is featured in the current issue of Journal of Climate:

    http://ams.allenpress.com/amsonline/?request=get-toc&issn=1520-0442&volume=19&issue=12

    (A subscription is required to view the full document)

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.