Freeman Dyson speaks out about climate science, and fudge

Climatologists Are No Einsteins, Says His Successor

by Paul Mulshine, The Star Ledger via the GWPF

English: Freeman Dyson

English: Freeman Dyson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Freeman Dyson is a physicist who has been teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since Albert Einstein was there. When Einstein died in 1955, there was an opening for the title of “most brilliant physicist on the planet.” Dyson has filled it.

So when the global-warming movement came along, a lot of people wondered why he didn’t come along with it. The reason he’s a skeptic is simple, the 89-year-old Dyson said when I phoned him.

“I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic,” Dyson said.

Then in the late 1970s, he got involved with early research on climate change at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

That research, which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.

But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.

“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

A major fudge factor concerns the role of clouds. The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide on its own is limited. To get to the apocalyptic projections trumpeted by Al Gore and company, the models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming.

“The models are extremely oversimplified,” he said. “They don’t represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds.”

Dyson said his skepticism about those computer models was borne out by recent reports of a study by Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading in Great Britain that showed global temperatures were flat between 2000 and 2010 — even though we humans poured record amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere during that decade.

That was vindication for a man who was termed “a civil heretic” in a New York Times Magazine article on his contrarian views. Dyson embraces that label, with its implication that what he opposes is a religious movement. So does his fellow Princeton physicist and fellow skeptic, William Happer.

“There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves,” said Happer. “Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous.”

To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.

I hope that guy never gets to hear Dyson’s most heretical assertion: Atmospheric CO2 may actually be improving the environment.

“It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation,” Dyson said. “About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil.”

In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.

“They’re absolutely lousy,” he said of American journalists. “That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed.”

I know why: They’re lazy. Instead of digging into the details, most journalists are content to repeat that mantra about “consensus” among climate scientists.

The problem, said Dyson, is that the consensus is based on those computer models. Computers are great for analyzing what happened in the past, he said, but not so good at figuring out what will happen in the future. But a lot of scientists have built their careers on them. Hence the hatred for dissenters.

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Plainly spoken good sense.

Didn’t Michael Mann or another member of The Team refer to Dyson as a “mere physicist” once? Wish I could track down that quote.

Gary Pearse

Dyson’s skepticism is simplicity itself: ““I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic,” His declarations on the usefulness of models versus experiment is also simple and pretty much what thinking skeptics have been saying. Nice to be in such company!!

mpaul

This has been a really bad few weeks for the Alarmists. No wonder they are unusually cranky.

James Ard

I’m glad to hear my home town was trying to use real science to learn about climate change. Of course, if they didn’t practice real science in Oak Ridge, the place wouldn’t have still existed in the seventies.

Kaboom

Not only lazy but very much infested with leftist leanings and a considerable amount of envy for those who are enterprising and make a good living from a bit of calculated risk-taking. Journalism in my experience attracts two kinds of people, those in it for the love of reporting and investigating and misanthropes, delighting only in telling their audience off. Most of the former turn into the latter under the yoke of publishers who only see them as a means to sell advertising while squeezing them for every penny of budget. The rest takes flight and becomes successful writing books or in other endeavors, reinforcing the cycle of envy for those left behind. And I say that as someone who has worked in the profession for over a decade.

Dr. Dyson is a hero of mine. However, his media comment calls for some input from a man who has been in the television news media for 60 years.
At it’s peak during the 70’s through the 90’s the TV media was not lazy. There were some solid science reporters. However, the Management above them was all most universally politically liberal motivated in all judgements. Global Warming came to the media via Al Gore and that was the “ballgame”. Whatever this leading liberal said was taken as absolute and any efforts by science reporters to balance coverage were rejected.
As TV began to decline in 2000 and after, science reporters were among the first to be eleminated. The liberal bias, for the most part, continued and their were no people and no money to explore scientific issues. In the meantime the Al Gore position had been accepted by all important scientific organizations and the Federal research dollars were producing a steady stream of pro Global Warming papers. The “lazy” and biased media accepted them without any doubt in their correctness.
In this internet and smart phone dominated time, the lazy and biased media is losing its power. Now a more balanced presentation of the issues is available thanks to WUWT and other fine internet blog sites. The special presentationsw are there on You Tube as well. A new survey has found that 37% of Americans are now skeptical of Global Warming. There is hope. We skeptics need to continue to make our case as professionally and in as scientifically sound manner as we can.
Dr Dyson, we old men should not give up.

DougS

Oh the truth hurts! The CAGW religion is failing along with the hopes and dreams of the false prophets who peddle their special brand of snake oil. May the liars and cheats suffer the same fate as the poor disadvantaged people who have suffered and died as a result of cruel energy policies.

Peter Stroud

So good to hear the views of a real scientist. Trouble is, our politicians think he is the chap who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner.

cui bono

My hero in science for many decades. A giant, fair and imaginative intellect now under attack from farcical anthropophagian midgets.

mmmm – fudge

klem

Dyson is my hero. I first heard about him when he was hired by NASA to investigate the Challenger disaster in the late 1980’s. They hired him because they knew he’d find the cause of the disaster and he wouldn’t sugar coat the findings. And that’s exactly what he did.

Jimbo

Warmists have often told me that we can’t carry out an experiment to see if AGW is valid as we don’t have 2 Earths. They can’t see the Wood For The Trees.

…..the University of Reading in Great Britain that showed global temperatures were flat between 2000 and 2010 — even though we humans poured record amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere during that decade.

Latitude

..and yet, no one questions why CO2 levels were so low, and stayed so low, to begin with…..
for the dimwits, there’s a reason, and it’s not a good one

TRM

“They’re absolutely lousy,” he said of American journalists. “That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed.”
When 5 people control 95%+ of the media it is not a stretch to think in terms of top down “editorial parameters” that must be followed. So do those 5 people have a vested interest in the warmista religion?

It is wonderful when the old and wise share their wisdom, but not all respect their elders. Some Alarmists will simply sneer, “He is old; what does he know about new stuff?” What I’d really like to see is more and more young scientists displaying the courage (and risk to their careers) that the old and wise are displaying. Have the young no guts? (That’s a challenge, in case you wondered.)
Oh, and by the way, the science is NOT settled.

dp

Who are you going to believe – an old crank like Dyson or a stellar young genius like Michael Mann?
If I don’t add /sarc there are those who will miss the fissionable sarcasm in that statement.

Mark Buehner

Great article. Only mistake was missing Feynman’s tenure as most brilliant living physicist.

Resourceguy

Wow, I got two quotes out of this one post to add to my personal Great Quotes list. Thank you Prof. Dyson and Prof. Harper. My other quotes are from Ghandi, Churchill, Ben Franklin, Keynes, and Bertrand Russell….I love this science blog site.

Andrew Harding

To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.
That really does say it all about the Warmist crowd doesn’t it? What is scientific about views like that?

But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning,
But? I thought Mosher kept telling us to trust their models and algorithms, even when real world data disagreed?

alacran

Was it Fermi or Bethe who said: “Give me four variables and I’ll let an elephant appear, give me five and he will wag with his trunk!” ?? R.Feynman told it in one of his popular books!

Did Richard Feynman ever opine on the subject of AGW or climate change? I would be interested to hear some of that.

When one of the popular press skeptic organizations gives climate science a fair going over instead of dropping steaming warmist dogma in their readers’ laps, then all will know the end is at hand. BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

JCrew

Unsurprisingly, the more pure scientists I meet on each side and in between, the more I see who is the most open, investigative, and carry the most common sense about the CO2 issue.

A “Civil Heretic”? Oh, that was the kind article! There was this piece in the Atlantic a few years ago which more accurately expresses what the AGW fanatics really though of Prof. Dyson:
“In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets. And yet on the matter of global warming he is, as an outspoken skeptic, dead wrong: wrong on the facts, wrong on the science. How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment? The answer lies in his almost religious faith in the power of man and science to bring nature to heel. “
—————
How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment?….

Really???
That really pissed me off when I read it. Apparently though, Dyson really didn’t care what this “journalist”, or what anyone else thought. He is indeed the smarter, wiser man, than his critics.

Money quotes (from the article):

“It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation,” Dyson said. “About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO-2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil.”
In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.
“They’re absolutely lousy,” he said of American journalists. “That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed.”

sparky

I like the way freeman identified the rationale behind cagw believers ( the need to feel more virtuous than non believers ). he made it sound like a psychiatric disorder. I wonder if we could find a tame sociologist and funding for some research into the validity of this observation with online surveys perhaps ?

Paul Homewood says April 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

But? I thought Mosher kept telling us to trust their models and algorithms, even when real world data disagreed?

Maybe Mosher needs to be ‘modeled’; include incorporation of facilities or provisions to ‘project’ forward regarding sanity as well as validity of future argument …
.

Tilo Reber

“There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves,” said Happer. “Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous.”
I’ve been explaining this point on web comments and blogs for years. Nice to have someone smarter than me put it out there as well.

John W. Garrett

What would we do without savants like Freeman Dyson? Beholden to no one and commanding the deserved admiration and respect arising from true scientific accomplishment, this is a statement that should be broadcast far and wide.

Milwaukee Bob

Computers are great for analyzing what happened in the past…
ONLY IF the data being fed into them is accurate/correct AND meaningful to the process they are analyzing! Otherwise they are nothing more than a cheap boat anchor!
AND, as for these so-called climate scientists, how absolutely self-aggrandizing and morally corrupt is it for a human to program a computer to run a human designed process (full of fudge or not) and then glorify the results – “by consensus” – BECAUSE it’s a computer model. Talk about fudge! …. and where did I put those last pieces of fudge….?

David L. Hagen

Dyson Freeman is a classic real scientist:
“There is more carbon in the vegetation than in the atmosphere – understand the vegetation first”
He notes recent experimentation a high correlation between vertical air flow and CO2 flux.
e.g., CO2 going into the ground in Mass, Brazil, coming out in Canada.
We do not have detail on CO2 flux in/out of ground on global scale.
Stratospheric cooling much greater than global warming. A direct effect of CO2. That immediately affects the ozone.
Freeman Dyson, The Wet Sahara, earth warmer 6000 years ago than now
Herd paintings show the Sahara was wet 6000 years ago. Deciduous forests in Europe. Trees in valleys in Switzerland now filled with glaciers. 6000 years ago was the warmest period of the last 12,000 years.
If we put more CO2 in the atmosphere will we arrive at a wet climate?
Is that more preferable then today’s dry climate?
See also Dyson Freeman global warming on youtube

Robertv

A great human a great scientist a great personality all joint in a humble but strong man looking for truth in a dark world. A world in a universe we just are starting to understand.
Earth is so small in a solar system with forces we don’t comprehend. Just to ignore that these forces control our world is beyond any logic.
http://youtu.be/t7EAlTcZFwY

tadchem

Another beneficial aspect of putting CO2 from fossil fuels into the air is that the carbon from fossil fuels is not radioactive – unlike the atmospheric carbon that is exposed to a constant supply of radioactive carbon-14 from the interactions of cosmic rays and the nitrogen in the atmosphere. Oak Ridge National Laboratory reports CO2 from fossil fuels is diluting the radioactive carbon in the air:
http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/epubs/ndp/ndp057/ndp057.htm
The concern about radioactive carbon-14 is that plants (and food animals that eat plants) incorporate it into our food. Our bodies incorporate C-14 from our food directly into our DNA, and when C-14 atoms in our DNA undergo radioactive decay, there is a 100% chance (!) of genetic damage, which contributes to mutations and cancer.
Diluting the C-14 in the air with fossil fuel emissions reduces the C-14 concentration in our food, our bodies, and our DNA.
Less radioactivity in our bodies is a *good* thing.

Laurie Bowen

Snake oil Baron: Could you explain (define) this for me. “Turing Palaver Into Gold Through Alchemy”. Or did I fall for some GIGO joke. Don’t mean to be a troll but, red herring hunting is how I put some things in perspective. Lets say, I know some humans who couldn’t pass a “Turing test” . . . . .a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of an actual human.

Paul Mulshine, in The Star Ledger via the GWPF, said:
{Note: bold emphasis by me – John Whitman}

That research [ that Dyson was involved with at Oak Ridge ], which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.
But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.
“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he [Dyson] said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

Yet we are advised even by some skeptics cum lukewarmers that relevant climate experimentation outside of the in-situ Earth-Atmosheric System (e.g., in labs) is not realistically achievable. Even some skeptic cum lukewarmers say climate science is essentially observational, not experimental.
Dyson, as an ardent skeptic, thinks those skeptics cum lukewarmers are wrong about futility of climate phenomena experiments.
I suggest we divert a significant amount the obviously wasted funding currently used on models to a actual experimentation a la Dyson’s position..
John

climatebeagle

dfbaskwill says:
April 5, 2013 at 11:28 am
Did Richard Feynman ever opine on the subject of AGW or climate change?
I find it interesting that the rise of the CAGW “science” occurred just after Richard Feynman’s death. Would it have gained such a hold on the scientific community had he been around to critique it?

dabbio

sparky, how about Lewandowsky?

OldWeirdHarold

“I know why: They’re lazy. Instead of digging into the details, most journalists are content to repeat that mantra about “consensus” among climate scientists.”

Actually, most journalists are content to pull the Greenpeace guy’s card out of their Rolodex, and get all their ‘facts’ from their ‘experts’, and call it a day. It’s a different kind of lazy.

stricq

Dr. Dyson came up with the concept of the Dyson Sphere. That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the article title. This concept has inspired some really great SciFi. He is indeed someone to be admired. Glad I’m on the same side as him.

dabbio

dfbaskwill, I don’t know that Richard Feynman ever commented on climatology, but he did have some choice words to say about social science. I suggest that you substitute CAGW for social science in this little bit, with which you may be familiar: http://youtu.be/IaO69CF5mbY

Reblogged this on If You Voted For It — You Own It and commented:
I have been writing about the climate modeling fudge factors for years and now one of the smartest men on the planet reports that climate models are “full of fudge factors.” I have been vindicated!

cd

Without sounding too pretentious – I hope – Dyson is not just a great scientist he is a great man. He speaks what he believes irrespective of what the current fashion in science is, whether it be climate change, God etc. As a scientist he draws his conclusions from evidence; always dividing his only world view from what observations show him.
What a great chap!

atarsinc

John Parsons AKA atarsinc
klem says:
April 5, 2013 at 11:02 am
Richard Feynman was the physicist that had the insight as to the cause of The Challenger Disaster, not Freeman Dyson. JP

Frederick Michael

It’s no wonder the alarmists are in snit. Just think how close they came to being permanent super-heroes. Had we jumped through the hoops Kyoto commanded, they would now be taking credit for the subsequent lack of warming.
They might have even won a Nobel Peace prize!

Bernie Hutchins

Here are two quotes from Dyson, which I have treasured over the years and shared when I got the chance. Nothing to do with climate, except as the second one is likely to increase the moisture level in your eyes – just a bit. A truly great man.
*****************************************************************************************************
Freeman Dyson in “Disturbing the Universe” (Basic Books, 1979) on becoming a (Naturalized) US citizen.
On Page 131
“By that time I had finally become an American citizen. The decision to abjure my allegiance to Queen Elizabeth might have been a difficult one, but the Queen’s ministers made it easy for me. An official lady in the Queen’s Foreign Office decided that my children were illegitimate according to British law. They were therefore not British subjects and not entitled to receive British passports. As a consequence of her decision, my family for a while consisted of five people with five different nationalities, one British, one German, one Swiss, one American and one stateless. Traveling around Europe with a stateless child is no joke. So it was with considerable relief that I went to the courthouse in Trenton and said the magic words that released me from dependence on any foreign prince or potentate. Bastards or not, the U.S.A. would at least give my children passports.”
Then on Page 135
“On the Fourth of July I went with my wife and our two youngest children to watch the fireworks on the Ellipse behind the White House. A big crowd was there, predominantly black, sitting on the grass waiting for the show. We sat down among them. Our children were soon running around with the others. Then came the fireworks. After the official fireworks were over, the crowd was allowed to let off unofficial fireworks. Everyone seemed to have brought something. The black children all had little rockets or Catherine wheels or sparklers and were shouting with joy as they blazed away. Only our children were quiet and sad because we had not brought anything for them. But suddenly one of the black children came up to us and gave our children a fistful of sparklers so they could join in the fun. That moment, rather than the ceremony in Trenton, was the true beginning of my citizenship. It was then that I knew for sure we were at home in America.”

Simon

Seems to me on reading about Freeman Dyson that he believes in AGW, but like many here he thinks the dangers are overstated. He is also quite rightly saying that we should give all sides the chance to state their case free from ridicule.
It got me reading about other very clever people who don’t work in the field who have a bit to say. Stephen Hawking is very vocal in the other direction…
“As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change… There’s a realization that we are changing our climate for the worse. That would have catastrophic effects. Although the threat is not as dire as that of nuclear weapons right now, in the long term we are looking at a serious threat.”
“The danger is that global warming may become self-sustaining, if it has not done so already. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps reduces the fraction of solar energy reflected back into space, and so increases the temperature further. Climate change may kill off the Amazon and other rain forests, and so eliminate once one of the main ways in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The rise in sea temperature may trigger the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide, trapped as hydrides on the ocean floor. Both these phenomena would increase the greenhouse effect, and so global warming further. We have to reverse global warming urgently, if we still can. ”
All very interesting. Who to believe… or to give more weight? That’s the question. It’s a funny thing about this whole argument. No one is going t be 100% correct, so it’s more a case of who is going to be most right?

Dyson speaks