Friday, January 31, 2014

Dr. Richard Lindzen, scientist as fiction writer

Or, Science By Rhetoric As Opposed To Science By Evidence and Learning.
Based on the YouTube video short "Lindzen - Why you should not worry"

After watching this video, I went through the comments and discovered that Dr. Lindzen and the fiction writer Michael Crichton were pals.  What an interesting insight, the cynical scientist and the master of science fiction story telling.  Given Lindzen's performance in this video, and every other one I've watched, I can see how the pupil learned his lessons well.  

Look at this, or any other, YouTube performance of Dr. Lindzen mocking climatologists and you will see echoes of rhetoric over evidence reinforced by drama substituting for substance.  Hallmarks of the successful science fiction fantasist.  

But, Dr. Lindzen, what does that have to do with understanding what is happening within our atmosphere and the greater global heat distribution engine?

I wish I could ask Dr. Lindzen a few questions such as, please explain why he ignores so much important Earth observation information in his various performances?

And what's up with that superior god-like persona he loves presenting to the audience?
It's like he really believes his word is the last word.  Kind of silly considering Lindzen's own record of scientific errors.

What's with encouraging people to embrace ignorance and just ignore the whole thing?

Where does he place a "citizen's right to be informed and to learn" among his value-set?

Does he actually believe we should all just fall into step with his faith in No-Worries?

With that intro let's examine Lindzen's short video. . . 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

01 - If one asks about, is the temperature increases or decreasing, it's always doing one or the other, I have no concern about that.  By asking people to worry about whether it's going up or down you're immediately establishing dishonesty.  
~ ~ ~

With two sentences Lindzen reduces all concern about temperature trends and their impact upon the biosphere, the thing our complex society depends on, to "dishonesty."

Lindzen also displays a superior "God's Eye" perspective: Climate has always fluctuated on this planet so why worry about it.

Contrary to the impress Lindzen weaves, Earth's climate has been at a fortuitous plateau these past 10 thousand, or so, years.  This moderate climate plateau was a big factor in enabling agrarian cultures to prosper, then to evolve into complex societies.  Against this backdrop over the past century we have increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to levels not seen in over 800,000 some years.

Pumphandle 2012: Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide

{it get's real interesting at two minutes.}

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
0:25 - The earth is always changing, climate changes, nothing you have to prove uh... it always is happening, always has happened, so to make that into something alarming seems to me little bit weird.
~ ~ ~

What's weird is Lindzen advocating that we should remain oblivious to the profound impacts even mild climate change has had on societies that lived through them.  

What's even weirder is continuing to ignore the geophysical realities of what greenhouse gases are doing in our atmosphere... namely, increasing the atmosphere's insulating ability, thus warming the entire weather system.

For a fascinating account of how past minor climate changes impacted the various societies that lived through them, read Brian Fagan's “The Great Warming.”  It's not the last word, but it gives you an appreciation for what we are playing with in real life terms.

The Great Warming
- - -

For a review of what we know about greenhouse gases you better get ready for some heavy lifting.  I find it easier to accept the, consensus - that is, the shared educated opinion of the experts*, but if anyone wants to tackle it, here's the place to start :

*It also helps to consider all of the amazing things they make that would be impossible without a complete, thorough understanding.

"Who says CO2 heats things up?"  {The Air Force, that's who!}

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
0:43 - Sea level is a hard thing to measure actually, at any given place traditionally sea level was measured by what are called tide gauges, a stick in the water basically and two things change what a tide gauge shows, the land moving up and down, and the sea moving up and down. most places its the land that is the biggest effect, so you don't have a good measure of sea level rise.
~ ~ ~

So what if it's a hard thing to measure - it can be measured and other factors can also be measured and understood.  In fact, sea level is being measured with ever greater accuracy, which has led to some astounding insights.  

Here again Lindzen advocates willfully ignoring what's been learned on this topic.  It's as though he's doesn't want anyone to understand what scientists have discovered. 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1:13 - on the other hand uh... for the last thirty years or so we've had satellite measurements that are actually measuring sea level.  uh... it's very hard to relate these two measurements to each other.  They are measuring different things.  The general feeling is there is no evidence that it's different now than it has been for the last few thousand years.  It's been slowly rising ever since the initial rapid rise after the deglaciation twelve thousand years ago.1:47 - The claim that we've suddenly seen a big change in that, given we've changed the instrumentation and give the error bars cover the difference, is uh... not entirely fair, and to suggest that what's been going on for thousands of years is something we should suddenly be alarmed at uh... also doesn't seem reasonable.
~ ~ ~
Here Dr. Lindzen is plain and simply lying!  

"The general feeling" among scientists is that recent sea level rise is unique from anything experienced in the past thousands of years!  Here is an introduction to some of the evidence that supports this assertion, followed by the IPCC summation.

Starting with an eye-opener talk for those not familiar with studies into sea level rise.

"In Search of Lost Time: Ancient Eclipses, Roman Fish Tanks 
and the Enigma of Global Sea Level Rise"  

- - -
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 
FAQ 5.1 Is Sea Level Rising?Frequently Asked Question 5.1Is Sea Level Rising? 
Yes, there is strong evidence that global sea level gradually rose in the 20th century and is currently rising at an increased rate, after a period of little change between AD 0 and AD 1900. Sea level is projected to rise at an even greater rate in this century. The two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion of the oceans (water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting.- - - 
FAQ 5.1, Figure 1. Time series of global mean sea level (deviation from the 1980-1999 mean) in the past and as projected for the future. For the period before 1870, global measurements of sea level are not available. The grey shading shows the uncertainty in the estimated long-term rate of sea level change (Section 6.4.3). The red line is a reconstruction of global mean sea level from tide gauges (Section, and the red shading denotes the range of variations from a smooth curve. The green line shows global mean sea level observed from satellite altimetry. The blue shading represents the range of model projections for the SRES A1B scenario for the 21st century, relative to the 1980 to 1999 mean, and has been calculated independently from the observations. Beyond 2100, the projections are increasingly dependent on the emissions scenario (see Chapter 10 for a discussion of sea level rise projections for other scenarios considered in this report). Over many centuries or millennia, sea level could rise by several metres (Section 10.7.4).
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Furthermore, the main reasons for this sea level rise are understood and it has to do with stuff like this:

INSTAAR study shows unprecedented warmth in Arctic
Author: Jim Scott | October 24th, 2013

The heat is on, at least in the Arctic.
Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, says a new INSTAAR study.
- - -

For the bigger picture:
~ ~ ~ 

Ten Charts That Make Clear The Planet Just Keeps Warming 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2:10 - when you hear of Ban Ki-moon saying life as we know it will cease if we don't do something.  What is he referring to, i don't know.  I mean man is adaptable uh... people retire to the sunbelt not to the northwest territories canada.  local catastrophes certainly occur they have many causes of which global warming is one of the least.
~ ~ ~

What Ban Ki-moon is referring to is that our complex society is dependent on relatively mild and predictable weather patterns for everything.  

Think about it, everything from food, to transportation, to energy, to construction and much more, depends on relatively mild and predictable weather patterns if they are to flourish.

By injecting so much greenhouse gas into our atmosphere we will continue increasing the amount of heat and energy being trapped within the components of our climate system.  This extra heat within our global heat distribution engine will profoundly disrupt age old natural cycles and systems that our complex society is dependent on. 

Lindzen is using an argument from ignorance here - and he's depending on people being too disinterested to investigate his soothing claims.

The World Bank has a report which outlines what Lindzen is trying to hide:

Turn Down the Heat.  Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided
- - -

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change:
- - -

Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say
Two new reports lay out the case for fast action and increased awareness
Dec 4, 2013 |By David Biello
- - -

Climate change: IPCC issues stark warning over global warming
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2:40 - There are so many interesting questions in climate, we still do not have a complete handle on why we had ice ages.  You know if you want to be concerned you wanna disaster having too miles of ice on your head is problematic, and the Earth has had that.  It's very much a matter of the unchallengeable assertion.   
~ ~ ~

The problem isn't with challenging the assertions of serious climatologists - the problem is with people like Dr. Lindzen believing it's fair game to endlessly repeat lies and to maliciously misrepresent what climatologist are actually learning and claiming.

Lindzen has conjured up an impossible goal. We don't need a 100% complete and perfect understanding of dynamics to gain a very good handle on what is happening within Earth systems.  We don't need every grim detail to understand that unfettered sea level rise will visit catastrophic impacts on coastal cities and shipping facilities.   Or that those impacts will ripple throughout society.  Or that an energized weather system will result in more extreme and destructive weather systems, no matter what their exact makeup turns out to be.

But, Dr. Lindzen is satisfied encouraging everyone to ignore this situation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
3:00  -  All religions have dogmas, dogmas's are not proven statements, they are assertions that cannot be challenged.  It doesn't mean they are false and i'm not even suggesting that. I'm simply suggesting that it's a bad idea to have anything that can't be challenged and
~ ~ ~

Here's another smooth rhetorical trick, but still an out and out lie, climatologists are open to challenges - it's the climate science deniers' endless repetition of verifiable lies that is unacceptable and the big problem with this dialogue.  

As for religion and dogmatically clinging to one's faith, regardless of what the mounting evidence is showing you - well that sure describes the "free corporate market" mentality.  The mentality that still allows people to view our planet and it's biosphere as some sort of enemy, only worth plundering till there's nothing's left.

Anyone who has spent any time objectively tracking climate scientists knows that they are a skeptical, sharp eyed crowd that challenges each other all the time.  In fact, it's climatologists themselves who have uncovered each others mistakes or failures, the same ones, the "denialist community" then distorts, with malice, out of all proportion.

Notice Lindzen says nothing about the need to honestly represent the science.
Neither does he ever mention the importance of the public learning about the details of the science for themselves.  

Read those words.  While Lindzen gives lip service to "challenging" the science he doesn't have a word to say about learning from the science.  It's always: I see no problem, you should close your eyes and mind, and don't worry about it. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
3:25 - and the trouble is, all of us scientists are government employees even if we are working for private universities all research is supported by the government.  So as such we're very sensitive to what politicians say and believe.  It's a shortcoming.  You have to figure out how to fund science in a way that there are no incentives to artificially promoting things.
~ ~ ~

Lindzen's cynicism comes through loud and clear -  the trouble with global warming is that governments are paying to study it, got nothing to do with the weight of the evidence.

Basically he's implying that receiving government research funds, means that your research is tainted by definition.  

Ironically, Lindzen's is a religious sort of assertion considering he produces zero evidence and expects us to take his cynical no-worries perspective at face value.

I noticed, Lindzen seems to be unconcerned about the rampant interference and dirty tricks that climate scientists get subjected to.

Exclusive: Report Charges Broad White House Efforts to Stifle Climate Research
- - -

Distorting and Suppressing Climate Change Research
- - -

Politics hindering scientists on climate change 
Sunday, December 25, 2011  |  By JUSTIN GILLIS  |  The New York Times
- - -

Dismantling of Fishery Library 'Like a Book Burning,' Say Scientists
- - -

Scientists Speak Out Against Canada's "War on Science"
- - -

And then there's the deep pockets, those masters of the universe, such a Murdoch and Koch and such with their heavy handed interference with the public's right to a sober objective assessment of climate science findings.

A Climate of Corporate Control
How corporations have influence the U.S. dialogue on climate and polity

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
~ ~ ~
Answering Climate Change Skeptics, Naomi Oreskes

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4:00 -  you know when you hear for instance a scientist saying the science is settled, you know that person has stepped out of the science.  So, you know, I think that registers with ordinary people and whenever you to see someone say you know instead of answering arguments uh... how could so many people agree if it weren't true, it should be a red flag.
~ ~ ~

Here we have an interesting situation - what is meant by "the science is settled" ?
Dr. Lindzen makes it sound like "every aspect of the climate science is 100% understood and certain."  

In reality, the claim "the science is settled" is talking about a few basic facts, with plenty more work to be done.  But, still a clear message that we'd pay attention and act to slow the trend.

A)  The "physical properties" of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are well understood.  This is basic fact, heck without a thorough knowledge of CO2's radiation absorption properties - heat seeking missiles wouldn't be possible.  To learn more about why this is "settled science" 

See: Conscious Climate: Discovery of The Greenhouse Effect

B)  The burning of fossil fuels unleashes huge quantities of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  Society is producing so many of these greenhouse gases that we have increased the average atmosphere concentration by a third.  That's huge and our atmosphere has not seen those levels in nearly a million or more.

C)  Such a geologically significant increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases will have profound cascading impacts on the dynamics of our planet's global heat distribution engine, read climate system.

See: Global warming – impact on greenhouse gases

D)  A society that was conceived, nurtured and flourished under an atmospheric concentration of  <300 ppm CO2  - and the climate regime that came with that - will experience major disruptions from a climate regime that is adjusting to an atmosphere of 400 ppm, and the prospect of hitting 500 and more.

See: "If greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, it is likely that global average temperature will continue to increase, with potentially dangerous consequences"

F  Our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm and considering the physical properties of greenhouse gases there is no prospect of that warming trend reversing unless our greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced.  It simple math!

See: How long do greenhouse gases stay in the air?

E)  Our warming atmosphere will continue holding more water and energy which coupled with warmer oceans will result in a major increase in extreme weather events.  

See: Global warming and the future of storms

Simply because some aspects of the system aren't clearly understood, and that there's always going to be more to be learned, we still know a great deal.  Enough to know that humanity needs to act fast to reduce these trends.

Argue about the exact details... mock climate models that were never meant to paint 100 percent accurate prognostications - still those above points are rock solid. 
And all of Lindzen carefully staged rhetorical finesse' won't change that reality - it will only help in making people blind to it!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4:28 - My view is one that's conflated the trivial, which is that temperatures changing, climate is changing, man play some role, there's not much disagreement with predictions of disaster that are not connected clearly to warming or our activities or to anything else, and leaving people with the thought that uh... if the first part is true, the second part must be true and it is certainly not the case and then to add insult to injury to propose policies that would have nothing to do with any of it but involve trillions of dollars and harm to many people, is I think uh... crossing a line.
~ ~ ~

Another example of pure crazy-making.  Lindzen seems to be renouncing cause and effect!  Think about what Lindzen is saying here.  Though intentionally vague, he's implying that a little temperature increase has nothing to do with energizing weather patterns.

Come on now Dr. Lindzen, can we get real here!?

Our atmosphere is holding in more heat and energy and moisture...
our planet, including atmosphere, cryosphere, oceans are warming with obvious cascading consequences, such as the atmosphere holding more water, a disappearing Arctic ice cap, a confused Jet Stream.  All that stuff, and much more, is being observed by highly accurate scientific instruments.

We live within a global heat distribution engine where many major components are being altered before our eyes.  Yet, here we have Dr Lindzen on his god like perch sneering down at the hard working professional scientists, and ignoring the evidence and connections with rhetorical sleight of hand.  Then he declares there's no reason to suppose that those observable verifiable changes have anything to do with the weather that spawns out of that changing climate system.

What's crossing a line is ignoring the changes that have already been observed and putting profits above concern for the destruction and misery that an increasingly chaotic climate regime will inflict on people throughout the world. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the same argument that Lindzen used to claim that Tobacco smoke does not cause cancer. He has testified in court in support of tobacco companies and James Hansen reports that he still claims that smoking does not cause cancer. this after tobacco companies have conceded that their products kill people.