lindzen-1992 Just a quickie. In response to my last JM points me at The Greening of Planet Earth (1992), featuring luminaries such as Gerd-Rainer Weber of the German Coal Association (featured just in case you were under any illusion that it was only evil USAnian fossil fuel interests causing trouble; those nice sensible well-educated Krauts show similar) and our hero, Lindzen (looking egg-headed to an astonishing degree; but we’re interested in his words, not his looks).

As you’d expect, it is the usual mixture of lies, half-truth, some genuine truth and some things technically true but in practice misleading. The most obvious lie, which L tells with a perfectly straight face, starts at 13:06:

moreover there is virtually no-one who believes that the half degree [of warming this century] is due to greenhouse gases because climate has always varied by itself without man’s intervention

That was published in 1992 so probably made in 1991, presumably in reaction to IPCC ’90. Wiki provides us with a convenient quote from the SPM:

Our judgement is that: global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 oC over the last 100 years…; The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.

So, indeed, that doesn’t say that warming has – in the technical sense – been detected. But nor does it say the opposite, which L asserts: that no-one believes the warming was human-caused. Since I was around then, I can remember quite clearly what people thought: that the warming was human caused. L, based on the video, was an outlier even then but not so much of an outlier that he didn’t talk to his colleagues: he knew very clearly that plenty of people believed it was human caused. Indeed, there is Hansen’s famous 1988 testimony to the House of Representatives. Could you perhaps argue that Hansen was “virtually no-one”? It doesn’t seem plausible. And anyway, he wasn’t alone. Indeed, the entire point of the bloody video Lindzen is in is to argue against people who did believe it was true; they wouldn’t have bothered produce the video if such views weren’t commonplace.

The rest of the words near there are of the same sort: taking anything inconvenient and not proved as false; and anything convenient and not disproved as true. And don’t miss the appearance of the old and well loved “vineyards in Britain” talking point.


  1. #1 Bob Loblaw
    The Great White North

    That last paragraph sums up so much of the “debate” on the denial side for me: the scientific position defaults to false, and the contrarian position defaults to true, in the absence of conclusive “proof” .

    I used to work for a brilliant, irrational person that behaved like that – and who would never engage in proper discussion of issues to resolved differences of opinion, because that risked creating a situation where he could no longer make his default assumptions.

    It’s like Monty Python’s The Oscar Wilde Sketch: is it a shining shaft of gold, or a stream of bat’s piss?

  2. #2 Bob Loblaw
    Still further north

    Well, the html gods stole the phrase that ended my first paragraph. Lesson learned: don’t put normal text in between “greater than” and “less than” symbols. The first paragraph was supposed to end with “insert shifting goalposts here”.

  3. #3 izen

    Lindzen was an outlier in 1991, although his statement was ‘just’ valid, if you take the strict literal intereptation of ‘believe’ to mean; ‘have faith in the absolute truth of,’ the warming being human caused. Most thought it was merely probable.
    Now the probability has increased somewhat. It requires a good deal of ‘faith’ to hold that the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability.

    This is why the WUWTters are so excited about the Wisconsin Great Lakes site update. Over the last 30 years they have seen the mainstream discussion increasingly accept and discuss the high probability that the observed warming is anthropogenic. Making Lindzen an outlier. But if Wisconsin is a sign of the times, then the default assumption that warming is AGW will fade from mainstream discussion and anyone still raising the issue will look like a activist radical outlier as they did in the 1980s.

    The importance of keeping the acceptance of AGW out of the general discussion of climate can perhaps be illustrated by an example from another field. Because the health dangers of high sugar consumption have never been a general part of mainstream health information while sat-fats are, those raising the issue have been seen as outliers in the general debate even though there is scientific backing for their position.
    The decades long omission of the health effects of sugar from mainstream health discussions was of course the result of carefull funding of disputative research and heavy lobbying of official bodies to keep such discussions out.
    It came as something of a surprise when last year the WHO, and others, finally cut the ‘safe dose; by half and suggested that half of that would be better. The sugar industry had lost its dominance of the narrative.

    The result is the proposed application of a sugar tax inseveral countries. Which I suspect will be just about as effective as a carbon tax in reducing consumption.

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    head in sand, body at beach

    Sigh. So which Cabinet post is Lindzen in line for? Climate czar? Divert the funds to, what, the War For Coal?

  5. #5 Russell Seitz

    ” The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.”

    Given the language the NAS used in its 1989 report on the future of climate , about the difficulty of deconvoluting the AGW siignal from natural decadal noise, I have to agree with Izen- the (unsatisfactory ) state of the art was what it was.

    [I think you and Izen are confusing formal attribution with “what everyone thought”. Formally, yes. But in practice, there was a perfectly decent warming signal and a perfectly decent theory to explain it; it didn’t take much to put two and two together and many people did -W]

  6. #6 Russell Seitz

    WM: here’s what I wrote at the time:

    “As a window for laymen to peer through, Global Change and Our Common Future, published in 1989 by National Academy Press, affords a startling contrast. At one end of the spectrum lies the rhetoric of uncertainty that dominates the hard sciences in the study of global change.

    It is exemplified by the admission that it will take decades for a clear greenhouse signal to emerge from the noise of climatic variation-witness the dust-bowl drought of the 1930s and the abnormally high Great Lakes water levels of the 1980s-and by the confession that it will take 500 times more computer power to realistically model the course of the quarter-century to come.

    As one participant in the forum, which produced Global Change, J.D. Mahlman, noted, “Until such decadal-scale fluctuations are understood or are predictable, it will remain difficult to diagnose the specific signals of permanent climate change as they evolve. ”

    [Yes, that’s fair enough. But it doesn’t affect my point. What people were saying in papers where proof was necessary as against what people thought was another matter -W]

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again

    You could borrow this from fellow ScienceBlogger Orac:×150.jpg

  8. #8 Kevin O'Neill

    WC writes: “[Yes, that’s fair enough. But it doesn’t affect my point. What people were saying in papers where proof was necessary as against what people thought was another matter -W]”

    Wasn’t this exactly the point of Hansen’s ‘scientific reticence’ diatribe? I.e., there’s an unwillingness to state what *I believe* fearing in might be conflated with what is known.

    Said Hansen in Scientific reticence and Sea level Rise:

    Is my perspective on this problem really so different than that of other members of the relevant scientific community?……

    In the late 1980s, an article (Kerr 1989) titled ‘Hansen vs. the World on the Greenhouse Threat’, reported on a scientific conference in Amherst, MA. One may have surmised strong disagreement with my assertion (to Congress) that the world had entered a period of strong warming due to human-made greenhouse gases. But participants told Kerr ‘if there were a secret ballot at this meeting on the question, most people would say the greenhouse warming is probably there’. And ‘what bothers us is that we have a scientist telling Congress things that we are reluctant to say ourselves’.

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again

    Yep. Wish someone would open a “scientists’ secret ballot” journal for such disclosures. I bet there would be surprises.

  10. #10 Hank Roberts
    oh, did you want a snippet before clicking?
  11. #11 John Mashey

    Although there are many sections of the video, I especiallyliked the animation showing worldwide greening, including the Sahara, destined to be the new corn belt I guess.

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again

    The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which passed in the House of Representatives on Jan. 5, is a bill that aims to obstruct even basic protections by requiring all new covered regulations to be approved by both chambers of Congress.

    Under REINS Act, If either branch of Congress does not approve any covered rule within 70 legislative days, the rule becomes null and void and cannot be re-issued. This effectively gives one chamber of Congress veto power over any new significant public health and safety protection, no matter how non-controversial or sensible it may be.

  13. #13 Hank Roberts

    that’s from, um, something Google found about the REINS Act.

    Get your kids’ vaccinations now.

  14. #14 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again
  15. #15 Kevin O'Neill
    United States

    Deregulation is just another word for ‘we don’t want to pay for externalities’

    And the people who constantly push for deregulation are either dupes to industry or industry shills.

  16. #16 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again

    Snippet follows:

    “This is the death of think tanks as we know them in D.C.,” one transition official told me. “The people around Trump view think tanks as for sale for the highest bidder. They have empowered whole other centers of gravity for staffing this administration.”

    Leaders of major think tanks don’t agree the situation is so dire. But each is working hard to figure out its stance and strategy for the next four years. Those who focus on the nuts and bolts of governing could be useful to a Trump administration that has little understanding of or experience in managing — much less changing — government.

    “The reason why the Trump people find think tanks less useful is, they are doing an acquisition, they are taking over a business, and when they ask people, ‘Tell me how this business runs,’ most people don’t know,” said James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.