“Here’s to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options,” Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry wrote this month at her popular Climate Etc. blog.
William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is similarly optimistic. “I think we’re making progress,” Happer said. “I see reassuring signs.”
Nevertheless, new organizations like the CO2 Coalition, founded in 2015, suggest the debate is more evenly matched intellectually than is commonly portrayed. In addition to Happer, the CO2 Coalition’s initial members include scholars with ties to world-class institutions like MIT, Harvard and Rockefeller University. The coalition also features members of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society, along with policy experts from the Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and Tufts University’s Fletcher School.
With such voices joining in, the debate over global warming might shift. Until now, it’s normally portrayed as enlightened scholars vs. anti-science simpletons. A more open debate could shift the discussion to one about global warming’s extent and root causes.
Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and a member of the National Academy of Sciences who has long questioned climate change orthodoxy, is skeptical that a sunnier outlook is upon us.
“I actually doubt that,” he said. Even if some of the roughly $2.5 billion in taxpayer dollars currently spent on climate research across 13 different federal agencies now shifts to scientists less invested in the calamitous narrative, Lindzen believes groupthink has so corrupted the field that funding should be sharply curtailed rather than redirected.
“They should probably cut the funding by 80 to 90 percent until the field cleans up,” he said. “Climate science has been set back two generations, and they have destroyed its intellectual foundations.”
The field is cluttered with entrenched figures who must toe the established line, he said, pointing to a recent congressional report that found the Obama administration got a top Department of Energy scientist fired and generally intimidated the staff to conform with its politicized position on climate change.
“Remember this was a tiny field, a backwater, and then suddenly you increased the funding to billions and everyone got into it,” Lindzen said. “Even in 1990 no one at MIT called themselves a ‘climate scientist,’ and then all of a sudden everyone was. They only entered it because of the bucks; they realized it was a gravy train. You have to get it back to the people who only care about the science.”