Burt Rutan: engineer, aviation/space pioneer, and now, active climate skeptic


Burt Rutan - aviation pioneer, engineer, test pilot, climate skeptic. Note the car.

Recently after some conversations with a former chemical engineer who provided me with some insight, I’ve come to the conclusion that many engineers have difficulty with many of the premises of AGW theory because in their “this has to work or people die” world of exacting standards, the AGW argument doesn’t hold up well by their standards of performance.

Today I was surprised to learn that one of the foremost and world famous engineers on the planet, Burt Rutan, has become an active climate skeptic. You may be familiar with some of Rutan’s work through his company, Scaled Composites:

Click here to learn about X-Prize flight #1Click here to learn about X-prize flight 2

Thanks to WUWT reader Dale Knutsen, I was provided a PowerPoint file recently by email presented by Mr. Rutan at the Oshkosh fly-in convention on  July 29th, 2009 and again on August 1st, 2009. It has also now been posted online by an associate of Mr. Rutan’s.

There were a number of familiar things in the PowerPoint, including data plots from one of the USHCN stations I personally surveyed and highlighted, Santa Rosa, NM. Rutan had an interest in it because of the GISS adjustment to the data. For him, the whole argument is about the data. He says about his presentation in slide #3:

Not a Climatologist’s study; more from the view of a flight test guy who has spent a lifetime in data analysis/interpretation.

In the notes of his PowerPoint on slide #3,  Rutan tells us why he thinks this way(emphasis mine):

My study is NOT as a climatologist, but from a completely different prospective in which I am an expert.

Complex data from disparate sources can be processed and presented in very different ways, and to “prove” many different theories.

For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data.  I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”.  That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit.

Now since I’m sure people like foaming Joe Romm will immediately come out to label Mr. Rutan as a denier/delayer/generally bad person, one must be careful to note that Mr. Rutan is not your average denier/delayer. He’s “green”. Oh horrors, a “green denier”! Where have we seen that before?

From his PowerPoint, here’s his house, note the energy efficient earth walled design.


In his PowerPoint notes he says about his green interests:

My house was Nov 89 Pop Science Cover story; “World’s Most Efficient House”.  Its big advantage is in the desert summer.  It is all-electric and it uses more energy in the relatively mild winters than in the harsh summers – just the opposite of my neighbors.

The property has provisions for converting to self-sustaining (house and plug-in hybrid car) via adding wind generator and solar panels when it becomes cost effective to do so.

Testing Solar Water Heat in the 70s at RAF; the Rutan Aircraft Factory was converted to solar-heated water in the 70s, when others were only focused on gasoline costs.

My all electric EV-1 was best car I ever owned.  Primary car for 7 years, all-electric with an 85 mile range.  I was very sad (just like the guy shown) when the leased cars were recalled and crushed by General Motors.  I will buy a real hybrid when one becomes available (plug-in with elect-range>60 miles). The Prius “hybrid” is not a hybrid, since it is fueled only by gasoline.  A Plug-in Hybrid can be fueled with both gas and electricity.  You might even see a ‘plug-in hybrid airplane’ in my future.

And he notes in the slide:
Interest is technology, not tree-hugging

Well that right there is reason enough to put all sorts or nasty labels on the man. Welcome to the club Burt, we are proud to have you!

Rutan’s closing observations slide is interesting:


Slide #32 from Burt Rutan's presentation

And, in his notes he makes this mention:

Is the debate over? – The loudest Alarmist says the debate is over.  However, “It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry”.

I think by the “loudest alarmist” he means Al Gore.

And his final slide:


Slide #33 from Burt Rutan's presentation

Rutan’s PowerPoint file is posted at:


For those that don’t have PowerPoint, I’ve converted it to a PDF file for easy and immediate reading online which you can download here.

I wonder if in conversations with his biggest client, Virgin’s Richard Branson, he ever mentions Gore and their joint project? I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Is the debate over? – The loudest Alarmist says the debate is over.  However, “It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry”.

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My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”.
Now that is a quote of the week


Better to be like-minded with Burt Rutan than with a hundred thousand gavin schmidts, james hansens, and michael manns


“many engineers have difficulty with many of the premises of AGW theory because in their “this has to work or people die” world of exacting standards, the AGW argument doesn’t hold up well by their standards of performance.”
I am an Engineer, and I could not have said it better….


I agree with his points. Though he towers above me, apparently our experiences have been similar in dealing with other engineers and scientists — both the good and not so good.

Douglas DC

MattB (17:37:45) :
My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”.
Now that is a quote of the week
Amen.Snake oil, anyone?

Tim McHenry

Ahh, It’s good to see another saying that warmth is GOOD. How can this point be lost on the AGWers?? Just think of the arable land available in Canada and Russia. Just think of the extended growing seasons. All for the cheap price of a little beach erosion. How did we ever let them paint that as a bad thing?

Ron de Haan

I am a great admirer of Burt Rutan who caused a revolution in the experimental aircraft scenery with his great “canard” designs (I fly a canard myself), his record non stop flight around the world, his space project and numerous aircraft (and other) designs.
Hopefully he will communicate his “climate opinion” to his customer, Billionaire Richard Branson who has completely lost it and joined the camp of Al Gore last year.
Burt Rutan’s opinion is a “heavy one” and much apriciated, at least by me.
Thanks for posting this.

Rocket Man

Rutan has essentially the same view on AGW I do. Not surprising as we both work in the Aerospace field and have both done a lot of testing in out time (I have even done some work for him in the past). Bottom line is that a lot of the data used to justify AGW, especially the surface temperature data, is scientifically meaningless.
There are issues with how the data is collected, with the instruments used, how the instruments are sited, how the data is recorded, how the data is adjusted, etc, etc, etc. The raw surface temperature data and the “adjusted data” would be thrown in the garbage if anybody, for whatever reason, needed that type of data to design a flight vehicle (airplane or rocket), and real data, using scientifically rigorous collection methods, would be collected instead.
I simply cannot understand why anybody who understands the scientific method can take the surface temperature reconstructions of global temperatures seriously. Satellite data is better, but even that has its own instrumentation issues and coverage issues. It is a shame is that with all the billions of dollars that have been spent on AGW research carbon taxes, we still do not have a good idea what the temperature of the earth actually is.


SSO is what inspired me to get into aerospace engineering! This guy is my hero, no doubt about it. Freakin’ awesome. Quite frankly, freakin’ awesome.

Kevin Kilty

OK, Burt deserves all of the accolades, and it is nice to have a fellow with his reputation on one’s side. However, how do we leverage people like him, and ourselves to prevent the self inflicted wounds that are practically scheduled for us? How do we stop this train-wreck?

Douglas DC

Branson’s only on board the AGW gravy train to cater to the Hollywood crowd and the elites that will be his customers.

I am another engineer who has spent a career evaluating data, and agree completely with Rutan.

Patrick Davis

Great post/article. I have been wondering these last few months since discovering this site, are there enough people aware of this site and the articles/posts, in particluar, about Co2? I mean, here in Australia, we are continually bombarded with pollitically bisased BS on climate change and Co2. KRudd747 and Penny w(R)ong are so commited to “establishing” their ETS they will do alomst anything before Copenhagen to pass the legislation. I also note the PM, Ms w(R)ong and many other “green” groups are claiming the ETS is required to “protect” jobs!!! So they need ETS subsidies to maintain these companies?! Yeah, OK, I get it!
There was another guy interviewed last night on TV, cliaming that 100 jobs at *his* solar mfg plant would be at risk if the renewable energies side of the bill(s) were not passed. Of course this person would not be selfinterest in this bill would he? He want me to pay him to employ people making solar panels which I, and *most* people in Sydney (Because they rent) can’t use.
It sickens me to see so many people just waiting to get their snouts in the gravy train trough that is an ETS.


Burt Rutan is someone I’ve always admired and respected for his innovative and entrepeneurial spirit. I am delighted to see his common sense and reasoned approach to the “Climate Change v2” (Global warming being v1) is in accord with my own beliefs on the issue.
The greatest immediate risk, by far, is sweeping legislation that will cripple the worlds productive efforts, through energy starvation, based on grieviously faulty theories and models.
I also agree strikes by NEO’s is the bigger long term risk to our planet we should focus on. Think Alvarez Event and K/T boundary extinction.
I sense the fracture/collapse of the biggest fraud in history.
Great post! Lloyd Graves


Good for Burt! I’m sure this will generate a considerable amount of wild handwaving and proclamations of disaster by the usual supects.
You might also be interested in this blog about next weeks rallies against the climate change legislation. http://blogs.chron.com/newswatchenergy/archives/2009/08/next_weeks_ener_1.html

David Ball

People need to hear both sides of this debate and be allowed to make up their own minds. Rutan has clearly done his “due diligence” and studied this subject very thoroughly (case in point; his home). Gore would have been smarter to not say “the debate is over”. Do NOT tell me what to think for I am capable of making up my own mind, thank you very much. Great post, Anthony and moderators !! Burt Rutan, if you happen to read this, you are one the sharpest minds on the planet and courageous enough to take a stand, despite the personal harm that often comes with skepticism.


PS: Be sure to read the memo linked to at the Houston Chronicle blog post I mentioned. It’s very, very interesting!


Steve McIntyre said the same thing a few years ago. Since his expertise was in mining, his template for good research was an mining engineering report. He opined that no one comes close to this standard in climate science.

Methow Ken

Burt Rutan: An American hero; wish we had more like him.
SIDEBAR: I still remember being down at their base in the Mojave Desert something like 30 years ago; and getting a ride in their LongEasy homebuilt aircraft. One of the most fun plane rides I ever had.
BTW: Do not underestimate the importance of Burt Rutan signing on to oppose the dark side of AGW: His world-wide reputation as an engineer, innovator, and all-around sharp guy is beyond reproach. . . . Oh, the AGW fanatics will probably try, but efforts to trash Burt Rutan ain’t gonna sell outside of their own little closed-loop, politically-correct world.
Time for a little adult supervision from real scientists and engineers, sez me.

Eric Anderson

Congratulations and kudos to Burt Rutan. I’ve followed his space-related work for several years and am glad to see he is taking a careful and measured approach to this issue. Keep up the good work!


I used to work at Scaled Composites, and honestly this is surprising to me.

Jimmy Haigh

Hmm. Nice house and a nice lifestyle. To live like this, you need to be a) rich and b) to have a real concern for the environment. Al Gore is rich…


I guess he ain’t getting much sunlight for his ‘weird’ House and has started to becoming a Sceptic…

Methow Ken

Hopefully the moderator(s) will tolerate 2 closely-spaced posts by the writer for this special case:
I just finished downloading and reviewing all of Burt Rutan’s slides.
Versions of quite a few of them have of course appeared in various other good presentations. But Burt has done an especially outstanding job of putting this fairly long slide show together; the result of which is IMO one of the best logical and cohesive presentations on this subject that I have seen anywhere (and I have looked at many).
Every member of Congress should be required to study these slides.
Too bad not many likely will. . . . . [sigh]
Even so:
These slides are important; thanks much to WUWT for greatly assisting in their wide dissemination.
IMO it is not too far-fetched to say that civilization is again threatened by a modern equivalent of the barbarian hoardes; that finally overcame ancient Imperial Rome. Never forget that the so-called barbarians finally won no so much because of what THEY did, but because of what Rome did NOT do. Let’s hope sanity prevails before we repeat clear but unlearned lessons of history. . . .

Mr Lynn

Please let us know when the video is available.
Anyone know how to print the notes with the slides? All I can print are the slides.
/Mr Lynn

Mr Lynn

Mr. Rutan may be the most prominent public figure to speak out against the AGW movement. And of course his technical credentials are impeccable.
If any of you have contacts in the media, this is the time to make them aware of the huge fabric of lies that the Alarmists have promulgated, and Burt Rutan’s presentation is the ideal vehicle.
Just make sure you include the notes, which explain and explicate the slides.
/Mr Lynn

My impression is that the only people who can afford the green lifestyle are the very wealthy, like Burt Rutan. And good luck to him.


When engineers screw up people get killed or maimed.
When climatologists screw up they adjust the data and issue another dire press release.
Way to go Burt, you have reinforced my substantial respect for you as an engineer and original thinker.

Dan Evens

Re: A product that depends on complex experiments. The time it worksk ok is when there has been a long interplay between theory and experiment. The theory predicts a test. The test is done and matches the theory or does not. The theory is expanded, improved and the cycle redone. And until the cycle is able to go through several cycles of correctly predicting tests, with a wide variety of conditions, then things should be considered as provisional.
That’s how a mature industry works. Planes fly because there have been many decades of theory matching experiment, and all up and down from thermo-hydro-dynamics, materials science, electronics, traffic control, human performance, and so on and so forth.
I’ll take climate science seriously when they can usefully and accurately predict something.


but look at the pdf, many of the graphs/data he cites are flawed in themselves. For example the first one cites the flawed argument that human emissions of co2 are only about 3% of total co2 emissions.

F. Ross

I have always admired Mr. Rutan for his aeronautical engineering and inventive skills. One of his plane designs – a canard pusher plane [don’t remember the exact model] – flies out of the local airport and, when possible, I stop to watch it land/take off.
Based on the above post, Mr. Rutan rises even higher in the pantheon of critical thinkers on AGW.
Nice house too!


My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”.
Now that is a quote of the week
The Rutan starship was a flop.
Rutan is a creative artist. he is not good for successful manufacturing.
Aviation has a lot of people that understand the weather. Algore is decades behind aviation.

John Laidlaw

Bobn (20:22:18) :
but look at the pdf, many of the graphs/data he cites are flawed in themselves. For example the first one cites the flawed argument that human emissions of co2 are only about 3% of total co2 emissions.

Care to be a little more specific please?
“henrychance (20:34:00)
The Rutan starship was a flop”

Surely you don’t mean the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne? Last I heard, that did exactly what it was intended to do…


Rutan will be summarily ignored by the CAGWers. Or they’ll categorize engineers in the same vein as geologists, i.e. too trapped in their own expertise to fully appreciate the breadth of climate science. Or Rutan will be vilified as an insidious capitalist. Whatever, the CAGW faithful will dismiss him as just being wrong, without ever addressing the salient points he makes.
I guess I’m just pessimistic.

D. King

Makes me proud to be an American.

I fully support the argument that engineers either get it right, or people die. The Chemical Safety Board has a good summary of what happens when engineers get it wrong. http://www.csb.gov/
Burt Rutan is, as others above have noted, one of the most famous of technical men to weigh in on the skeptic side. There are many others, perhaps not so famous world-wide, who also know that CO2 cannot be a cause of climate change. Dr. Pierre Latour, PhD chemical engineer, recently wrote on this. Dr. Latour designed some of the control systems for the Apollo spacecraft. They worked, or people would have died.
Another commenter above asked what can we do to spread the word. I was asked this same question on my blog, and I re-post my response here:
“I see several avenues to pursue to make a difference. First, and most effective, is to use the legal system to repeal or soften the existing laws. Many environmental cases have been decided in the courts.
Next, is to rally huge numbers of voters to voice their opinion to legislators. Written letters, emails, faxes, phone calls, peaceful demonstrations, and personal visits to the offices of elected officials can be very effective when great numbers of people participate.
Next is to publicize the laws and their ill effects on people. A blog such as this is one example. Other media can also be used; the more the better.
Ultimately, as long as California is the only, or one of just a few, states with unfounded climate change laws, people will vote with their feet and leave the state for a friendlier location. This option disappears when a national law exists. We already see that California’s population is changing due to businesses leaving the state, and people migrating to other states. No longer is California the golden state that attracts people from the other 49 states due to better opportunities.
Even with a national law, businesses will move offices and manufacturing to more friendly countries, as happened during the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s when off-shoring became a buzzword.
A simple check on the price of one-way rental trucks verifies that more people are leaving than entering the state. One can go online, and obtain a rental price for a one-way trip on a moving van from Los Angeles to Dallas (or another non-California city). Then check the same moving trip for the other direction.
Another way I try to make a difference is by making speeches to various audiences around the country. These speeches are enthusiastically received. I find that most people suspect they are being conned by the media and government, and what I show and tell them confirms what they suspected.
One can also make note of valid science and reports and send links to friends and colleagues via email and popular networking sites. I do this regularly. In fact, here is a link that discredits three of AGW’s most sacred cows: Ocean Level Rising, Ocean Temperatures Rising, and Polar Ice Decreasing. The link is
Finally, the words of President Abraham Lincoln are appropriate: “The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it strictly.” With climate change laws, the harm to businesses and hardships on people will be visible.
I certainly hope we can repeal or soften these laws before the harm and hardships become too great. “



Bobn (20:22:18) :

but look at the pdf, many of the graphs/data he cites are flawed in themselves. For example the first one cites the flawed argument that human emissions of co2 are only about 3% of total co2 emissions.

If you are going to make statements like this, then you need to cite the source of your assertion.


Now in addition to his long lists of accomplishments add, Patriot.

Gordon Ford

Mr. Rutan is spot on. As a Geological Engineer I’ve sold mineral exploration projects based on a few facts and lots of arm waving to others who examined the facts and liked my arm waving. Most of these projects failed, as expected. As those projects that didn’t fail in the early stages moved forward large data bases were built from acquired facts. If all went well these facts (survey data, geological data from surface sampling and diamond and other drilling, metallurgical test results etc. were assembled into a document called a “feasibility study”. In the normal course of events this document would be torn apart by teams of geologists, metallurgists, mining engineers and accountants hired by banks and major investors. If no significant interpretaton errors were found, and comodity prices didn’t tumble, hundreds of millions were invested and the property put into production. About 50 % of new mines never returned a profit, often because product prices fell or production costs went through the roof. The other 50% are the ones you want in your retirement portfolio. Throughout the whole process the basic data from day one was preserved on it’s origional form. Post mortums are interesing.
Today when dealing with climate change we have inadequate data (some of which appears to be only available in “adjusted” form) and much arm waving.
We have prophets pontificating that the ‘science is settled ” while others protest “we don’t yet know what questions to ask”. Our political leaders by and large see this as an opportunity to tax and control.
And daily nature shreds the most rock solid theories.
Mr. Rutan is spot on, we know enough about the worlds climate to know that we are short of adequate, quality data on which to make major decisions.

Gene Nemetz

I still haven’t seen anyone of the caliber of Burt Rutan go to the alarmists side in years. They are all coming the ‘skeptic’, ‘denier’ direction.
I saw a good documentary about is outer space plane that cork screws back into earths atmosphere. It was interesting.

Gene Nemetz

“….destroy US global competitiveness through Cap and Trade taxes.”
America should be concerned about this. We are falling behind China. And now China has said they aren’t going to do anything about carbon emissions until 2050. We will fall behind even faster with Cap and Trade. We can’t afford the luxury of Yuppie self loathing.
“China’s emissions will not continue to rise beyond 2050,”
Mr Su restated Beijing’s view that, as China still needs to grow its economy to help its 1bn-plus population to escape poverty, it is too early to discuss emissions caps.



“Curiousgeorge (19:23:54) :
PS: Be sure to read the memo linked to at the Houston Chronicle blog post I mentioned. It’s very, very interesting!”
The last thing the skeptic community needs right now (or ever) is rallies funded by the API or a conservative think tank. First of all, rallies accomplish very little, especially when the media is bound to report the rally with a pro-AGW slant. Secondly, we don’t want the American public to view the debate about global warming as Government versus Industry Lobbyists, since the Lobbyists may be the only group the public holds in lower regard than politicians. Why try to bully public opinion when the scientific truth is on your side?
Right now, the public debate is way too political anyway, and many otherwise intelligent people are turned away from the skeptical side because they perceive it as being an unscientific, politically conservative position. They’re wrong, of course, but political or industry “rallies” to the cause make it harder to convert people with the evidence, not easier.

Patrick Davis

“Roger Sowell (21:03:16) : ”
Thankyou Roger. I believe the situation regarding accessing law makers, legislators, ministers etc here in Australia is that, to me at least, appears to be “out-of-bounds” to the masses. We go to the polls every three years or so (I wasn’t able to vote in Australia because 1, I was a temporary resident the last election. I now can vote. 2, I believe not one single politician has earnt my vote), and then those elected, get free reign. I never see genuine public involvment in Govn’t policy making, no public consultation espectially with new taxes being dreamed up (Well actually it’s not new, initially, as far as i can tell, here in Australia, it’s be a form of GST creep. GST will grow to 12.5% from 10%, and grow to possibly 17% as soon as 2015. I understand most Aussies are not aware of this aspect of the ETS bill) and considering the “science is settled” the elected Gummint just does what it wants.
I see a lot of apathy here in Australia (Although registering to vote is compulsory here in Aus), and similarly in New Zealand when I lived there, with regards to politics, Gummint and policy makers. I find Aussies and NZer’s too trusting of their elected (And in NZ many are not thanks to a form of proportional represntation called MMP) representitives to “do the job”. Well, they certainly do, at our expense.
I have tried, e-mails, but I get no response. There is an advert on TV here which shows black balloons of Co2 pollution popping out from every energy consuming device and, magically, floating up in to the air. I wrote to the authorising official to point out the blatant misinformation. I received no reply.
Australians, and NZers too, pay more attention to sports, and when sports personalities “endorse” AGW you know you’re on the losing side.

Gene Nemetz

The documentary I mentioned; it’s from Discovery Channel. Title : “Black Sky: The Race for Space”
12 parts in YouTube


Another great Post Anthony! Burt coming out and speaking His views is showing more and more Scientists that are Realists and speaking their Minds…Look at the Eighty Scientists that went against their Editor in the APS, American Physic’s Society! The oldest in America, amoung one of them…Now people like these need to go to Washington and denounce this Cap & Trade Bill as with the American People!

Robert Bateman

How do you stop this?
You have to stop the 3 Marketeers: Pelosi, Waxman & Gore (for the US).
And that is political. Write thier opposition and express your deepest gratitude for oppsosing this crass stupidity. If you belong to the Party that is trying to shove this through, dump them.
It’s you or them. Some in history have sought to rule the world. They intend to own it, and they are willing to pay any price, your future included.

Robert Bateman

Gene Nemetz (22:10:54) :
Absolutely. Another unbearable price tag of thier leglislation.

Hank Hancock

Like other engineers commenting on this topic, I too have concluded that the case for global warming (er, um, climate change), has been built on the framework of circular citations and poorly QC’d, disparate, and too often cooked data. My training as an engineer compels me to demand solid evidence over emotional hype if I am to be convinced of anything. The solid evidence of AGW is lacking and the emotional hype is in much abundance. Alas, I remain a skeptic.
I’m glad to see a respected engineer such as Rutan challenge so-called concensus by underscoring the logical disconnects of the AGW hypothesis. He will be labeled as “out of his field” and scorned by AGW believers but he is too respected by most to be summarily dismissed.
I’ve been e-mailing national news outlets with links to this story on WUWT. I hope others will do so too.


The first half of the twentieth century saw an unparalleled explosion in knowledge and scientific progress that lifted our standard of living to where it is today. As a token of their appreciation the people have chosen to take this remarkable leap forward for granted and adopt a mindset embracing weak and unproven science that would never have led to the technological advances enjoyed (and taken for granted) today. It is no wonder that true scientists in the area of physics, chemistry engineering and other rigorous, disciplined fields of study are moved to voice their concerns about this mindless acceptance of agw garbage. The only thing is, will anyone bother to pay attention?


Asteroid strikes, communists and theocrats. Those are threats, not global warmthingy.