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« See you in the funny pages | Main | Overkill »

Mar 26, 2009


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As I understand his positions, Dyson doesn't fundamentally dispute claims that the climate is being changed by human activities, he just thinks it's no big deal. Determining what is or isn't a "big deal" is the job of policy makers, not economists.

It appears to me that Dyson rather enjoys his reputation as a contrarian. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to discount his outlier position. I'm not saying to discount it entirely ... but rather to take it with a large shaker of salt.


When you put monitoring equipment in places like where a jet airplane does it's warm-up, or next to a burn barrel; you get questionable data. I for one wonder why the meteorologist who discovered the discrepancies in California was banned by the idiot in charge of AMS.,27574,24861809-5009760,00.html

Ed Cone

Just to be clear, he's an eminent physicist, not an economist. Which doesn't make him much more qualified on climate science, but does give some weight to his overview of scientific practice.

His arguments against infatuation with models are interesting. I've heard the same thing from a brilliant options trader.

I find the cost/benefit model, as previously put forth by The Economist, a useful way of looking at this problem. That doesn't mean his analysis in this case is correct.


Another example of someone who questions the "global warming" crowd!


I find myself questioning why we need to believe in climate change or global warming at all. Is this the only way we can justify necessary actions such as prudent and reasonable use of our natural resources so that they are still there to be used by future generations? I mean do we need proof from some well-known economist, etc. to be convinced that saving money for the future is a practical action?


@ Newtogso

In my view it depends on one's discount rate:

Nate is studying the evolutionary mechanisms that cause humans to seek novelty, act impulsively, and value the present over the future (steep discount rates). Specifically, our neural plasticity combined with a culture promoting growth and consumption results in biochemical positive feedback loops akin to addiction.


"Just to be clear, he's an eminent physicist...Which doesn't make him much more qualified on climate science"

Dumbest statement I've read in at least a week.

Most "climate scientists" are physicists or have a degree in some other earth science not "climatology" which is a relatively new field made up largely of portions of other earth sciences.

Also seems to be a problem with the GW crowd to come up with "sufficient proof". I thought the case was closed already.

Ed Cone

Dyson sounds dumb too, I guess: "[Hansen] has all the credentials. I have none. I don’t have a Ph.D. He’s published hundreds of papers on climate. I haven’t. By the public standard he’s qualified to talk and I’m not."

Fred Gregory

Oh the alarmists just can't stand it, can they Spag ?

You want emminent climate scientists ? How about this one ?

Richard Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He gave one of the keynote addresses Sunday, March 8, 2009 at the second International Conference on Climate Change.

Here's the link to his remarks:

Climate Alarm: What We Are Up Against, and What to Do

"I would suggest that however grim things may appear, we will eventually win against anthropogenic global warming alarm simply because we are right and they are wrong.

There are many reasons for being confident of this. However, we have just gone over one of the most important scientific reasons. The satellite records of outgoing heat radiation show that the climate is dominated by negative feedbacks and that the response to doubled and even quadrupled CO2 would be minimal. In a field as primitive as climate science, most of the alleged climate scientists are not even aware of this basic relation. And these days, one can be confident that once they are, many will, in fact, try to alter the data. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that the public is not likely to understand this as well.

On the other hand, the fact that the global mean temperature anomaly has not increased statistically significantly since at least 1995, does not actually disprove anthropogenic global warming, but for the public this fact is likely to be crucial.

For some of us, this is an occasional source of frustration, but one must always remember that this is a political rather than a scientific issue, and in a political issue, public perception is important.

Moreover, the temperature record does demonstrate at least one crucial point: namely, that natural climate variability remains sufficiently large to preclude the identification of climate change with anthropogenic forcing. As the IPCC AR4 noted, the attribution claim, however questionable, was contingent on the assumption that models had adequately handled this natural internal variability.

The temperature record of the past 14 years clearly shows that this assumption was wrong. To be sure, this period constitutes a warm period in the instrumental record, and, as a result, many of the years will be among the warmest in the record, but this does nothing to mitigate the model failure to show continued warming. To claim otherwise betrays either gross ignorance or grosser dishonesty.

When it comes to global warming hysteria, neither has been in short supply."


Dave Dobson

Saying the last 14 years shows no warming (even if that were true), and from that deciding warming's not real, is like saying the unemployment rate has stopped growing so fast, so the economic downturn isn't real. Wrong scale of observation, cherrypicking of limits, false claims of statistical relevance.

All part of trying to win an argument rather than find the truth, as the namecalling in the last two sentences proves.


Hansen is also....a physicist!! PhD from U. of Iowa in...Physics!

Then there is skeptic Richard Lindzen, another physicist with a PhD (Harvard) who is the chair of meteorology at MIT (you know, that shitty, ideological, unscientific school).

Lindzen has the most impressive resume of them all in terms of education and focus on climate. But he doesn't tow the line, so he must be discounted.

Dave Dobson (another earth scientist, not "climatologist"): global warming occurring does not equal man causing global warming to occur.

Dave Dobson

Thanks for that analysis, Sam Spagnola (divorce lawyer, not "guy who knows jack about climate").


I can read as well as you can, Dave. My point about you being an earth scientist wasn't a jab at you but rather to illustrate the ignorance of Ed's remark about so called "climate scientists"- most of whom are physicists or have backgrounds in the earth sciences as opposed to "climatology".


P.S., I'll bet I know more about global warming than you know about the law.


BTW, it's toe, not tow.


'...he abhors the notion that men and women are something apart from nature, that “we must apologize for being human.”'

Something that seems too often forgotten in conversations about climate, ecology, etc. We are animals too, and a part of nature.

'William Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, who says, “I don’t think it’s time to panic,” but contends that, because of global warming, “more sea-level rise is inevitable and will displace millions; melting high-altitude glaciers will threaten the food supplies for perhaps a billion or more; and ocean acidification could undermine the food supply of another billion or so.”'

Displaced millions, threatened food supply for two billion? Um, so when is it time to panic? OK, we don't have to panic, but can we try to prevent it?


"because of global warming"

Global warming isn't happening TO us;, it's happening BECAUSE of us. Interesting that the same things that will improve food and water security, clean our air and our health will also have the potential to reduce the impacts of global warming. So, grow and buy local food, conserve water in every possible way (and for heaven sakes,let's try to keep it clean, too), and let's have neighborhoods where walking places is more tempting than getting in a car. That should mean more to most of us (and make more sense too)than whether or not we can poke holes in any global warming or climate change theories or psychoanalyze the pro- and o-ponents of either side.

Ed Cone

"I'll bet I know more about global warming than you know about the law."

I doubt this is true, and not just because Sam sometimes cites a weatherman as an authority on climate change, or because of his apparent ignorance of the breadth of physics as a scientific discipline.

But it's more than another case of Sam's laughable bluster -- it says something about the way a lot of people look at science as a form of argument, in which a layman armed with anecdote is on roughly equal footing with a specialist.

What makes Dyson's argument interesting is that he acknowledges his lack of specific expertise in the field. Instead, he appeals to a broader understanding of scientific method to question the value of consensus and overly-targeted analysis.

Again, that doesn't mean he's correct -- as he acknowledges -- but it makes for a much more interesting conversation than we often get on this subject, as this thread demonstrates nicely.

Dave Dobson

Actually, Sam, my Ph.D. is in Oceanography:Marine Geology and Geochemistry, and all three of the papers that make up my doctoral thesis are on climate change at various timescales. I've published and presented on global warming after grad school, too. But you can "earth scientist" me - whatever; geologists are awesome.

Dyson's points on challenging group-think are valid, to be sure, but ironically on that point, he's also drunk some Kool-Aid from the other side - you see in the latter part of the article where he follows the "in the 1970's, everyone was worried about cooling" line that also surfaced in George Will's recent misfire on the topic. The cooling idea from the 1970's was a natural outgrowth of our coming to understand then the strong periodicity of ice ages, and the likelihood that we would have another severe one in 75,000 years or so, and maybe some lesser ones on the way there. Global warming is a worry for the next 50-100 years, not thousands of years away.

Had Dyson immersed himself in the field, he'd know that; instead, it looks like he's just reading the contrarian bloggers, as Will did, and is mouthing (however articulately) some of their talking points.


Ed, I don't doubt it. What I do doubt yet again is your intellectual honesty and ability to admit you got it wrong. For example, Hansen's background is in astrophysics- not "climate science". Yet you casually dismiss Dyson as a mere "physicist"- ignorant of Hansen's own credentials.

Then you as a layman yourself, have the nerve to ridicule me as a "layman", something I never denied being in the first place. Further, I never questioned Dave's credentials nor did I claim that I knew more about global warming than him. I said that I know more about global warming than he probably knows about the law. I'm sorry that difference and meaning was too advanced for you to pick up on.

Dave, again, I wasn't discounting your credentials on the subject. In fact, you reiterate my point about the ignorance of Ed's generalization about physicists by confirming that most people who are considered "climate scientists" actually have a background in something other than "climatology". This of course also makes Ed look even more stupid for suggesting that a meteorologist (who have backgrounds in physics as well) is somehow not to be taken seriously.


Stupid is as stupid does - who said Dave was proclaiming to be king of the law? Even "law" is debatable. That's why there are courtrooms - or was that not part of your curriculum.

Ed Cone

In no way did I "dismiss" Dyson as a "mere" physicist.

I pointed out, in response to an apparent reference to him as an economist, that he's an "eminent physicist." He's one of the most respected scientists of modern times.

I noted, as he does, that his field of specialization is not climate science. This is actually a key to his argument.

Try to join the conversation instead of just throwing stink bombs every time.


I did join the conversation by pointing out that your premise that a physicist is barely more qualified to comment on climate change than an economist was simply ignorant.

YOU engaged in the generalization about physicists and then have the nerve to accuse me of not understanding how broad the field of physics is.

Try being big enough to admit when you are wrong instead of trying to divert attention away from your mistakes every time.

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