Guest essay by Richard S. Lindzen, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bill Nye looks forward to the death of skeptics in this Huffington Post essay. There is a sound basis for his wish.
While the politicized climate issue dates back to the 60’s, things really took off after the Clinton-Gore administration assumed power and funding for climate increased by about a factor of 15. This was far more than a small backwater and very difficult field could absorb, and led to a vast increase in the number of scientists who claimed their work was related to climate in order to cash in on the windfall. Moreover, the institutional structure for support of alarm was already in place with the United Nations creation of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) – both exclusively concerned with only human impacts on climate. Added to this were the wild enthusiasm of the well-funded green advocacy movement, and the motherhood nature of environmentalism.
It is, therefore, informative to look at who the skeptics (not of climate change, but of climate catastrophism and the need for specific action) were when this explosion of support began. Here is a very brief set of examples (for those who have died, the year of death is listed):
- William Nierenberg: Director of America’s foremost oceanographic research institute, Scripps Oceanographic Institute of the University of California, San Diego. The Institute is located at La Jolla. Nierenberg was also a member of the National Academy and he chaired the massive 1983 NRC (National Research Council of the National Academy) report on climate. He died in 2000.
- Frederick Seitz: Often regarded as one of the fathers of condensed phase physics, he was a professor at the University of Illinois, President of the National Academy of Sciences, and President of Rockefeller University. He died in 2008.
- Jerome Namias: Professor of Meteorology at Scripps and former head of NOAA’s long range forecasting. Namias was also a member of the National Academy. He died in 1997.
- Robert Jastrow: First chairman of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Committee, Founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Upon retirement, the bulk of the institute was moved back to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. However, a rump group headed by James Hansen successfully fought to remain in New York. Jastrow continued as Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College. Jastrow died in 2008.
- Aksel Wiin-Nielsen: Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Professor of Meteorology at the University of Michigan. Director of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather-Forecasting (Europe’s preeminent atmospheric research center), Director General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Professor of Meteorology at the University of Copenhagen. He died in 2010.
- Lennart Bengtsson: Head of Research at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Director of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.
- Henk Tennekes: Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Director of research at the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute. Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. A leading expert on atmospheric turbulence and aviation.
- Reid Bryson: Founder and first chairman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Meteorology and Center for Climatic Research. He was the first director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (now the Nelson Institute) at the University of Wisconsin. Global Laureate of the United Nations Global Environment Program. He died in 2008.
- Joanne Simpson: President of the American Meteorological Society, Director of Project Stormfury while chief of the Experimental Meteorology Branch of the Environment Satellite Services Administration’s Institute for Atmospheric Sciences. NASA’s lead weather researcher. Member National Academy of Engineering. Interestingly, she kept her skepticism private until she retired from NASA. She died in 2010.
- Robert White: Director of the United States Weather Bureau, administrator of the Environmental Science Services Administration, the first administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and president of the National Academy of Engineering. He also was the first chairman of the World Climate Conference in 1978. He died in 2015.
- Hubert Lamb: Pioneer in historical climatology, Founding Director of the Climatic Research Unit established in 1972 in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. He died in 1997.
- Paul Waggoner: Chief Scientist, Soils, Climatology, Ecology, Director, and Distinguished Scientist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Member National Academy.
- S. Fred Singer: Professor of Physics and the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia and George Mason University. Founding Dean of of the University of Miami School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences. Established the National Weather Bureau’s Satellite Service Center. Deputy assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, and chief scientist for the Department of Transportation. He is credited by many for the first prediction of the Earth’s radiation belts.
These were hardly fringe scientists (as opposed to Nye who is no scientist at all). On the contrary, they were leading figures whose deep interest in climate long pre-dated the Global Warming Hysteria and the subsequent explosion of support for those endorsing alarm. So, Bill Nye is right. The newcomers are younger, and with death of many of the previous generation, they have come to dominate the field – to the great detriment of the science, itself. Those, among the older generation, who are still alive, are the subject of constant public abuse and libel, leading several of them like Bengtsson and Tennekes to withdraw from the field. Singer went so far as to sue for libel, winning his case and obtaining a public retraction from Justin Lancaster (http://media.hoover.org/sites/default/files/documents/0817939326_283.pdf ).
In addition, there are many outstanding scientists who have bothered to actually examine this issue, and have come to the obvious conclusion that there is much less to the story of gloom and doom than is popularly asserted. Many started as supporters of alarm but came to change their minds. Here are a few of them:
- Ivar Giaevar: Nobel Laureate in Physics, Member National Academy, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Professor Emeritus, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Professor at Large, University of Oslo.
- Freeman Dyson: Distinguished theoretical physicist and mathematician who played a key role in the development of quantum electrodynamics and mathematical methods of quantum field theory. But he also maintained a strong interest in applied science and was one of the designers of the hugely successful TRIGA nuclear research reactor. Freeman spent most of his career at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. Member National Academy.
- William Happer: An experimental physicist who spent most of his career at Princeton and Columbia Universities. He is the inventor of the sodium guide star that is used in most big modern telescopes to compensate for atmospheric turbulence with adaptive optics. He was a pioneer of medical magnetic resonance imaging with laser polarized noble gases. He served as the Director of Energy Research at the US Department of Energy from 1990 to 1993. Member National Academy.
- James Lovelock: Fellow of the Royal Society, President of the Marine Biological Association, Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Lovelock actually endorsed alarmism, but eventually changed his view.
- Daniel Kleitman: Professor of Applied Mathematics at MIT and former chair of the Department of Mathematics at MIT.
- Edward Teller: He was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and was both its director and associate director for many years. Known as father of the H-bomb. Member National Academy. He died in 2003.
- Robert Adair: Former Chair Department of Physics and director of the Division of Physical Sciences, Yale University. Member National Academy.
When, today, one hears of overwhelming support for alarmism and for the control of Carbon Dioxide as the unique and precise solution to a largely unknown and uncertain set of phenomena, we should all realize the individuals promoting such narratives have not studied the underlying science, have decided to cash in on the windfall, are politically and economically motivated, fear expulsion from the ranks of the politically correct, and/or are intent on befuddling the public. In brief, we are in the midst of a very unhealthy situation for both this issue and science in general.