By Dr. Lubos Motl
Richard Lindzen’s talk in Prague
Richard Lindzen, prof emeritus at MIT, is the most famous atmospheric physicist among the climate skeptics. I know him from Greater Boston, and because he spends several months in every year in Paris, I have convinced him that Czechia (Prague but even Pilsen) is worth seeing.
Václav Klaus, whose new book about the climate was coincidentally published these days, was moderating Lindzen’s lecture in the Autoclub of the Czech Republic, which was the main “business part” of his trip to our land. He was lecturing in a relaxed atmosphere (he kindly offers the files for his presentation through his e-mail rlindzen at mit.edu) and was primarily focusing on tricks by which the alarmists are influencing the public.
Lindzen sketched events some 25-30 years ago which elevated several fringe climatologists to the focal points of a new industry and a newborn massive political movement. Natural scientists like James Hansen were able to accumulate finances for themselves and the new movement only at the point when others, like Michael Oppenheimer, had helped create an alliance of about 1100 non-governmental organizations in 120 countries along with allied lawyers and began to spread libelous books that their targets couldn’t effectively defend themselves against.
The main tool of the manipulation is the constant repetition of slogans and forcing of absurd thesis as the substitute for original propositions which are easily acceptable by the listener (the so-called bait-and-switch trick, or a trick lure-and-replacement). In the case of the climate, the bait is the seemingly obvious proposition that the climate is changing and man contributes something, but the agreement of scientists and most laymen with that is misinterpreted as their support for the statement (the substitute or switch) that there exists a serious problem linked mainly with the consumption of energy, which justifies fear, immense expenses, deep changes in the society, and also the deceleration of the progress in climatology (which Lindzen, an expert, is especially disturbed by). While the efforts to impose a full government control over the energy sector began in the 1960s, the reality is that the energy consumption is clearly positively correlated with the GDP per capita and other self-evidently desirable variables.
Lindzen showed numerous graphs implying that the global mean temperature is an artificial quantity whose changes (smaller than one degree C even after 100 years) are negligible relatively to the spatial variability of temperatures, especially the predictable one which depends primarily on the latitude (the temperature difference between poles and the equator, about 40 deg C today, used to be a more important quantity than the global mean temperature up to the entry of the alarmists; and it varied between 20 and 60 deg C in the geological past); but also relatively to the changes of temperatures in time which have a natural origin (e.g. Milankovitch glaciation cycles, changes of temperatures in geological epochs hundreds of millions of years ago when the CO2 concentrations often surpassed the current ones by a factor of many, which nevertheless didn’t have far-reaching consequences).
Listeners (and especially the educated ones: Lindzen was praising the common sense of the broader public) often like to be fooled and accept the belief that the greenhouse effect enhanced by human activities is increasing the number of natural catastrophes and extremes. In details, however, Lindzen demonstrated that the number of observed natural catastrophes in the last 100 years either shows no visible trend (forest fires, number of extremely hot days above 38 deg C, areas plagued by drought etc.) or they even hint at a decreasing trend. Especially the quantities that a wealthy society may reduce (e.g. the casualties of hurricanes) have been detectably decreasing. After all, there don’t even exist theoretical reasons to support the opinion that the number or intensity of extreme climate phenomena should go up. Anthropogenic global warming should lead to a modest decrease of the temperature difference between poles and the equator (poles should heat up a bit more) and this decrease of the difference and gradients should produce a modest decrease of the variability and frequency as well as intensity of extreme phenomena.
On several last slides, similar ideas were highlighted with a few equations, in order to show not only that the carbon dioxide isn’t increasing any measure of undesirable atmospheric phenomena, but even the fact that we know numerous factors, e.g. minor changes in the average cloud level, that nevertheless affect the energy flows and temperatures (and especially their variability) more than CO2. Changes of CO2 modify the vertical flows of energy in the atmosphere by some 2% and the belief that this uniform and gradual change of the global mean temperature decides about the character of the complex weather is more or less equivalent to the belief in magic. A rational person exposed to the tale about this influence could guess that something is wrong about the theory and the same conclusion will be reached by a genuine scientist because asking questions, and not a belief, is ultimately the cornerstone of science.