Freeman Dyson on Heretical Thoughts and Climate Change

Previously I wrote about Camille Paglia’s view of “fancy-pants, speculative, climate models”. Like Paglia, Freeman Dyson is listed as one of the top 100 intellectuals in the world today, rated at number 25.

In an essay, Dyson writes:

 My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models.”

That’s quite a statement. But this one is really what hit home with me, because it captures the essence of what my project is all about:

“It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models. ” and also “When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge.”

Too much of climate science today is removed from the measuring environment. I wonder, would such scientists have invested so heavily in studies of the surface temperature record if they knew the condition it was in?

Read Dyson’s full essay here on his website.

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Bob L
November 6, 2007 7:29 am

That is a great essay, thanks for bringing it to our attention.
I consider it true genius to be able to clearly express intellectual though processes to non-scientists. I find myself getting bogged down in the statistical and deep science arguments on both sides of the AGW debate, when common sense logic is winning the day. I am proud of the skeptic side because we generally don’t attack our detractors nor do we find it necessary to wear an air of smug superiority.
As I have stated here before, my view is a warming world will make more land available for food production. It may present challenges in sea levels, but the market will solve them.
A cooling world will put pressure on agricultural production and that is where some concentrated effort should be made and given enough market freedom, the dollars will be drawn there.
Trillions of dollars confiscated from the world economy and thrown haphazardly at a poorly understood problem is what I fear the most.

November 6, 2007 8:03 am

Nothing really new here. That’s pretty much the same stuff we’ve been saying for years. What’s different about Dyson that he should be listened to over the likes of Ball and Bellamy and all the others?

November 6, 2007 10:02 am

What is different about Dyson is that he is one of the greatest men of science of the 20th century.

November 6, 2007 10:43 am

Scientists are always way behind. Did not Job and Isaiah say he sits on the circle of the earth and hangs it upon nothing? How long did it take “Scientists” or so called intellectuals to realize that as fact?
God will destroy them that destroy the earth – Revelation 11
The earth shall wax old like a garment – Isaiah 51

November 6, 2007 10:50 am

Climate change is real, whether humans are making an impact or not. View this video to get an idea about what choices we can make regardless of how our climate is actual changing:

Steve Moore
November 6, 2007 10:56 am

I encountered Dyson too late for him to be a “boyhood hero”, but for me he stands next to Feynmann and Oppenheimer (who were).
He thinks BIG, and can back it up. Think Project Orion or Dyson Spheres.
He also knows something about modeling, as his paper “Time without end” shows:
When Dyson talks, people SHOULD listen.

November 6, 2007 11:16 am

Modelvolume, how about we stick with science instead of fantasy books.
Balancedman, Of course it’s real, sheesh! That’s everyone’s point here. If by “real” you mean caused by CO2, then you simply have no proof.

Stan Needham
November 6, 2007 12:05 pm

Great essay. I can’t really improve on Bob L.’s comments.
Balancedman, I watched your video; in fact, I watched it twice, because I thought I must have missed something. Depending on who you listen to, the planet is predicted to warm by from approximately 3 – 11 degrees F by 2100. Most best estimates put the rise at somewhere around 4-5 degrees. In the video, one of your scenarios is Global Warming is real, but man takes action in time and averts disaster (big smiley face), and everyone’s happy. Assuming that mankind assesses that risk (a 4-5 degree rise in the next 92 years) as one we shouldn’t take, what specific action (the thing missing from your video) or combinations of actions would you suggest the human race take to avoid such a potential catastrophe? Please also provide mathematical and/or scientific proof as to how your proposed action or actions will effect global climate. If you could, also please factor in the approximate cost in economic terms, as well as ROI, and how that ROI compares to spending the same amount of money on other critical problems facing mankind (clean drinking water, disease, AIDS, etc.. This is not a trick question, I genuinely want to know what I can do as an individual (or assuming I convince a lot of other individuals to join me) can do that will impact global climate.

November 6, 2007 1:25 pm

“Climate change is real, whether humans are making an impact or not.”
Maybe it is and maybe it ain’t.
All you can show me is a buch of badly taken, scandalously maladjusted data, collected and manipulated by partisans of the debate, drowned in statistical snow, the base (sans snow) margins of error of which are greater than the warming claimed to be measured.
That data shows a modest 0.6C rise in World temps over the last century.
Add to which, those who adjust the data and construct the models refuse to release their data and methods–like any common witch doctor.
Is it getting any warmer? How would I know? How would you know?
If you look at the charts they show on TV, all you see is an arrow going straight up. What you probably missed was that those are done by multi-year averaging.
But if you look at the year-by-year data, temperatures have actually declined over the last decade. But you probably have not been shown those charts.
Join our quest for the most routine of due diligence, balancedman. Let the chips fall where they may. Then decide for yourself.

November 6, 2007 2:31 pm

I’m not sure why Dyson put so much emphasis on alleged Western Antarctic ice sheet disintegration. IMO much more remarkable is the absence any sign of global warming in the temp records. There are 2 trustworthy stations:
Amundsen-Scott station:
Those are ideal not only because there is no parking lot nearby. They give more reliable yearly average temperature data because there is less noise with daytime temps variability. Now can you spot a hockey stick trend on both graphs?

November 6, 2007 5:13 pm

Of interest is Macquarie island at 54.5 degrees south, which is the latitude in the NH that shows the most warming. Macquarie Island shows no warming at all.
What could possibly be the cause of this discrepancy? The obvious answer is that in the NH there are hundreds of millions of people living around this latitude with high energy consuming lifestyles (remember Canada has the highest per capita energy consumption in the world), all of which ends up as heat in the atmosphere.
In the SH the population at the same latitudes is a few thousand and zero in the vicinity of Macquarie Island.

November 6, 2007 5:23 pm

And for those of you with too much time on your hands,
-54.4994 158.9369 in Google Earth
will give you a view of what appears to be the white box used to take the measurements on Macquarie Island. No asphalt parking lots here.

November 6, 2007 5:51 pm

Also of interest, Punta Arenas, which is the closest I could find in latitude to Macquarie island shows a marked cooling trend in a record that goes back to 1888.
And people wonder why I say the warming observed isn’t global, it’s local.

Stan Needham
November 6, 2007 8:23 pm

Balancedman appears to be drowned out by the crickets. I asked his clone on another blog the same questions, and the answer was, “the first thing I do would be to institute a carbon tax.” I’m still anxious to hear whether or not Balancedman has a better idea, but I’m not holding my breath; speaking of which — maybe if we all just held our breaths………..

November 7, 2007 12:29 pm


November 9, 2007 1:58 pm

What happened to that marxist street preacher Demonicweed or his Gore-worshipping sidekick McMax of New Worlds? Perhaps they could indulge in their usual apparatchik tricks, and spew some lies, defamations, ad hominems to undermine Dr. Dyson’s criticisms of AGW and IPCC claims based on “modelling”. Dyson probably eats… meat as well.

James Lilling
December 17, 2007 1:25 pm

Aside from having to assume the devices are calibrated, accurate and properly sited, that the air and water samples accurately portray conditions, and that the data has been properly combined, the issue boils down to one real question; does the global mean anomaly reflect the Earth’s energy balance. Doesn’t seem so, no.
But say for the sake of argument that the number is a proxy for energy balance and all our other assumptions about the number are correct. Then we say that it’s abnormal and dangerous, and something has to be causing it.
The way we use and change the land seems to be most or all of it. I would think this is the logical (and obvious) conclusion.
It rests on a very shaky foundation and counts on a weak and crowded chain of assumptions. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspend judgement on this; it’s not particularly convincing given the unknowns.
Then I’d ask this question: Since the major human-caused greenhouse gases appear to all move in tandem, isn’t it more likely they are an effect of temperature than the other way around?

May 12, 2008 7:40 pm

Freeman Dyson is one of the best-known and most revered of modern physicists. His notion of the “Dyson sphere” ( look it up) is proof positive that he thinks larger and wider than the rest of us.
I’d listeb to him.

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