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Lindzen in Newsweek

Filed under: — group @ 17 April 2007

Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann

As part of a much larger discussion on Learning to live with Global Warming in Newsweek recently, the editors gave some space for Richard Lindzen to give his standard ‘it’s no big deal’ opinion. While we disagree, we have no beef with serious discussions of the costs and benefits of various courses of action and on the need for adaption to the climate change that is already locked in.

However, Lindzen’s piece is not a serious discussion.

Instead, it is a series of strawman arguments, red-herrings and out and out errors.

Lindzen claims that because we don’t know what the ideal temperature of the planet should be, we shouldn’t be concerned about global warming. But concern about human-driven climate change is not because this is the most perfect of possible worlds – it is because, whatever it’s imperfections, it is the world that society is imperfectly adapted to. Lindzen is well aware that predictions of weather are different from climate predictions (the statistics of weather), yet cheerfully uses popular conflation of the two issues to confuse his readers.

Lindzen claims that the known amount of ‘forcing’ on the system proves that CO2 will only have a small effect, yet makes plain in the subsequent paragraph that the total forcing (and hence what the planet should be reacting to) is quite uncertain (particularly before the satellite era). If the total forcing is uncertain, how can he say that he knows that the sensitivity is small? This issue has been dealt with much more seriously than Lindzen alludes to (as he well knows) and it’s clear that this calculation is simply too uncertain to constrain sensitivity on it’s own.

Among the more egregious of Lindzen’s assertions is this one:

Ten years ago climate modelers also couldn’t account for the warming that occurred from about 1050 to 1300. They tried to expunge the medieval warm period from the observational record—an effort that is now generally discredited.

It’s remarkable that Lindzen is able to pack so many errors into two short sentences. First of all, doubts about the global scale of warmth associated with the “Medieval Climate Anomaly” date back well over a decade and certainly precede any known attempts to use climate models to simulate Medieval temperatures [e.g. Hughes and Diaz (1994), Was there a ‘medieval warm period’, and if so, where and when?; there are even earlier conference proceedings that were published coming to similar conclusions]. To the best of our knowledge, the first published attempt to use a climate model and estimated forcing histories to simulate the climate of the past millennium was described less than 7 years ago in this Science article by Tom Crowley, not 10 years ago– (a 43% error ;) ). Crowley’s original study and the other similar studies published since, established that the model simulations are in fact in close agreement with the reconstructions, all of which indicate that at the scale of the Northern Hemisphere, peak Medieval warmth was perhaps comparable to early/mid 20th century warmth, but that it fell well short of the warmth of the most recent decades. Not only has the most recent IPCC report confirmed this assessment, it has in fact extended it further back, concluding that the large-scale warmth of recent decades is likely anomalous in at least the past 1300 years. So we’re puzzled as to precisely what Lindzen would like to have us believe was “expunged” or “discredited”, and by whom?

Finally, we find it curious that Lindzen chose to include this very lawyerly disclaimer at the end of the piece:

[Lindzen’s] research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.

Richard, one thinks thou dost protest too much! A casual reader would be led to infer that Lindzen has received no industry money for his services. But that would be wrong. He has in fact received a pretty penny from industry. But this isn’t for research. Rather it is for his faithful advocacy of a fossil fuel industry-friendly point of view. So Lindzen’s claim is true, on a technicality. But while the reader is led to believe that there is no conflict of interest at work behind Lindzen’s writings, just the opposite is the case.

It should hardly be surprising to learn that Lindzen was just chosen to share the title of “false counselor” in the list of leading “environmental sinners” compiled in the May issue of Vanity Fair on the newstands now (article “Dante’s Inferno: Green Edition”; unfortunately, this sits behind the subscription wall, so you’ll have to purchase the magazine for further details). Incidentally, several other frequent appearers on RC such as Fred Singer, Willie Soon, Sally Baliunas, James Inhofe, and Michael Crichton share in the award festivities. For a time, Lindzen set himself apart from this latter sort of contrarian; his scientific challenges were often thoughtful and his hypotheses interesting, if one-sided – he never met a negative feedback he didn’t like. Sadly, it has become clear that those days are gone.

174 Responses to “Lindzen in Newsweek”

  1. 51
    Pete Best says:

    In the book HEAT by George Monbiot he has devoted an entire chapter (2)to climate denialists and their story. Fred Singer and David Bellamy are mentioned with their story of advancing glaciers along with Exxon and philip morris the tobacco company.

    It compliments a lot of the RC stories quite well. Be well worth a review I reckon.

  2. 52

    [[re 14: It’s a little off course (but not totally), but… the facts of the tobacco case is that they can cause harm, but are not anywhere close to the magnitude of harm claimed by the ag’iners (I can hear the hysterics now!). Like in the 70s when the gov’t was driving the industry to keep the nicotine up when the tar was lowered. You have the answer: follow the money. A lot of people and gov’ts got filthy rich exaggerating the harm. Maybe the same is true on both sides of the AGW issue… ]]

    400,000 deaths a year is harm enough for me. As a libertarian-leaning liberal, I believe in letting people smoke whatever they want to, but that doesn’t mean cigarettes should be marketed to kids, or that cigarette companies be allowed to lie to people about how dangerous their product is.

  3. 53
    k rutherford says:

    While it may be sad to see an academic of some repute content in peddling such disingenuous commentary, it appears the world has moved on from such denial. If the topic has made it to the UN Security Council for consideration, it would suggest that the more important opinion formers have been convinced by the science.,,2059654,00.html

  4. 54

    [[What I want to know is when will people start talking about planning polar cities and towns for the future? Why the silence on this? ]]

    Because we’re talking about a change in the mean global annual surface temperature of no more than 6 K by 2100. Even with polar amplification of global warming, the poles will still be too damn cold for anyone with sense to live up there. (Inuit, Yakutsk and Kwakiutl don’t live at the north pole, by the way.)

  5. 55

    [[Re point 6 and the optimum cionditions for life on Earth, this is what Jim Lovelock has been saying for decades — Ice ages are good for Gaia, the present “fever” is bad. ]]

    The hell with what’s good for Gaia. I prefer what’s good for humanity, and covering most of the northern continents with miles of ice is not going to be good for humanity.

  6. 56
    guthrie says:

    Comments 11 and 12 do address an important issue, but it is not exactly the issue this site was set up for. As far as I can tell, Realclimate is for the climatologists to tell us about the evidence for global warming, and of course they will suggest some of the effects it will have.

    What we need now is a website run by ecologists and biologists to educate us on the current status of research on changes in the biosphere due to warming. This is an area of immediate concern, because of our dependence upon natural resources for our food and well being.

  7. 57
    Terry Miesle says:


    All anyone has to do to investigate the role of increased CO2 and warmer climates in the projected agricultural future of the world is log into Science Magazine, open the search window and type ‘climate agriculture.’ Plenty of articles are revealed stating the exact opposite. These are recent studies, fairly well covered by the popular media, and they emphatically state the coming climate will not be friendly to agriculture.

    If Lintzen has missed these articles, he’s doing so on purpose. If he knows about them yet continues to state the opposite, he’s BSing his audience.

    Just last week the prediction that the entire southwest will become a permanent dustbowl. If that’s too long to remember, then I have serious concerns for his memory.

    Perhaps Newsweek would consider a rebuttal or letter of concern. Scientific journals publish such letters and responses.

  8. 58
    SebastianDell says:

    If I were a oil company, I would of course hire Lindzen, not RC. That doesn’t make Lindzen arguments right or wrong in any sense. Following those arguments, any scientist paid by Greenpeace is therefore under suspect (again, that they don’t have any economic interest doesn’t make their -Greenpeace- arguments right or wrong).

    On the other hand, #31 (Jim), DDT was approved (again) by the WHO last year 2006 as a fight against malary, what is probably good news if you live in Africa or Asia (you don’t, probably).

  9. 59
    Chris O'Neill says:

    Jim: “Which is worse? To die from overheating in 100 years or from groundwater mercury poisoning in 10? What about food chain poisoning and the much greater risks of birth defects? I honestly think the CFLs need to be banned”

    That factsheet points out that normal lightbulbs cause more mercury to be disposed of than CFLs because of the mercury content of power station emissions. So if you’re going to ban CFLs to avoid mercury disposal then to be consistent you will also have to ban normal lightbulbs.

  10. 60
    J.C.H says:

    My family I in the oil business and I own/have owned a lot of oil stocks.

    If I’m hiring a scientist to help me find oil, I’m hiring RC types. You don’t want somebody who won’t tell you what you don’t want to hear. If I’m hiring a scientist to help me control the future regulatory climate, I’m hiring RL.

    RL is a dry-hole specialist. You hire him when you don’t want to gusher the boat.

  11. 61
    Marian says:

    Did you guys read the IPCC corrected rapport?
    Is only 80% certainty the new deal or am i as confused as i think i am?
    co2 or not, this earth is hurting.. i suppose… eh, or do i?

  12. 62
    SebastianDell says:

    Re #60: The point is not that he won’t tell you what you don’t want to hear. The point is that he would defend your business from a scientist point of view (opposing to attacking your business from a scientific point of view).

    [Response: This only works in the short term. Climate change isn’t going to go away, and if your business is in the business of being in business for many years to come, it’s better to be shaping the regulatory framework rather than continuing to insist that there is no need for one. -gavin]

  13. 63
    Tim Dennell says:

    “â�¦doubts about the global scale of warmth associated with the “Medieval Climate Anomaly” date back well over a decade…”
    Just a suggestion but it’d be worth co-opting archaeologists to help provide a more definitive answer. The Medieval World – however you define the period – has been studied and excavated in minute detail, particularly in Europe, but also elswhere, and site surveys include studies of crops grown and vegetation cover, both of which are sensitive to temperature/precipitation changes etc.

    I also agree with the suggestion for a seperate site to act as a clearing house/discussion on ecological/hydrological impacts etc. As examples, the drought prediction for the American SW, species extinction and so on.

  14. 64
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re #5

    There is a very good overview/outline of the problems associated with the sustainability of food crops in Lester R. Brown’s “Outgrowing the Earth”, including specific descriptions of how heat affects crop yield.

    Interesting stuff. And it pretty much makes a laughing stock of Lindzen’s claims.

    Whenever I run into a denialist making the argument that warming can be a positive thing in terms of greening the earth, I ask them to specify, using Australia as an example. Of course, they usually don’t have an answer because they’re simply parroting a line. But every once in a while you run into someone who actually understands why Australia is a perfect example why the claim of beneficial warming is bogus and they try to avoid it altogether. For details, check out Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”. Quite the eye-opener.

  15. 65
    Marcus says:

    But you didn’t comment on my favorite blatant lie in the piece: “Interpretations of these studies rarely consider that the impact of carbon on temperature goes down-not up-the more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere.”

    Do you know of any models that don’t take into account this effect? Maybe like an Excel spreadsheet model that students use for a freshman climate course? Except I think even most of those do…

  16. 66
    Paul Dietz says:

    There is a very good overview/outline of the problems associated with the sustainability of food crops in Lester R. Brown’s

    I get the impression Lester Brown has a history of taking short term fluctuations in agricultural statistics and predicting downturns from them. I suppose he could eventually be correct, but it will be by accident more than anything else.

  17. 67
    Rod B. says:

    “Here are a few references that I believe contradict what you believe. I’d like to know your sources and what you read that differs.” says Hank in #29.

    I said the do-gooders have extremely exaggersted the harm from tobacco. You refute this by referencing the exaggerators! How do I respond to this? But then you include the other “pile on” — second hand smoke hazards. The initial EPA “study” which triggered most of the laws and regulations on sidestream tobacco smoke, was not only rejected in court, the Federal District judge came just short of charging the EPA with Contempt and Fraud. There was a time (70s) when the consensus (most scientists and govts) agreed that only cigarette tars could cause physical health problems, nicotine was habit forming like caffine but not addictive, and cigarettes might be responsible for 30,000-40,000 lung cancer deaths. But then they smelled money in them thar hills.

    You think govts and activists groups don’t have the capability and uninhibited propensity to make stuff up? (In essence they don’t literally make it up, just take massive editorial license with things they know is not easy to refute: “Tobacco kills 400,000 a year. Prove me wrong!” and next year or so they’ll make it a half-million…) This process is also applicable to AGW on both sides. Unfortunately it’s sometimes required to effect action….

  18. 68
    Rod B. says:

    “Their actions would, to use lawyerly language, classify them as “bad actors”. says Joseph in 34.

    And oil companies are bad actors and dishonest because they resist whatever you might want to do to them????

    It’s still guilt through raw association and neither proper nor scientific.

  19. 69
    Jim says:

    38, 46.

    That still does not make it OK to use CFLs and throw them away and poison the land. There are other ways to save power and provide lighting such as LEDs and newer incandescents. In affect you kill two birds with one stone. Why bother to use a cure when eventually it will be as bad as the disease? I guess you picked up on only part of my post and did not read the rest.

  20. 70
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 66

    His description of the problems China is facing, in terms of desertification, the collapse of their grain reserves, and that country’s subsequent forays into the world market to compensate for their agricultural losses over time is rather well documented, as is the discussion regarding how crops behave when subjected to stress such as increased heat are well-documented and thoroughly cited. His observations regarding water issues tend to parallel what we’re hearing in terms of what we should expect in the forseeable future from climatologists.

    The book I noted was rather straightforward in presentation, essentially documenting the state of the overall elements we rely upon to sustain our civilization. Perhaps you saw it differently.

  21. 71
    J.C.H says:

    [Response: This only works in the short term. Climate change isn’t going to go away, and if your business is in the business of being in business for many years to come, it’s better to be shaping the regulatory framework rather than continuing to insist that there is no need for one. -gavin]

    This is exactly why RL’s stock is going down within the oil industry. There is a growing – no matter how bitter the pill – realization that Al Gore has been/is essentially correct, so the issue is how to still be an energy player in a market where fossil-fuel sales may be capped worldwide in serious ways. That is our probable strategic situation in the future.

  22. 72
    cat black says:

    #59 [“Which is worse?”] On that point, refineries around the San Francisco Bay are being asked to account for almost 2 tons a year of mercury that enters their systems in crude oil but which cannot be accounted for ( [bootnote: the Mercury News is the newspaper of San Jose, California, capitol of Silicon Valley, and is a reminder that the town got a big boost historically by mining mercury for use in gold mining and munitions.]

    I can’t say what would be the expected mercury contributions of CFLs being improperly disposed of, but I know that 2 tons annually from refineries sounds like a lot, and at least the CFLs could be collected as hazardous wastes while the 2 tons from refineries is (apparently) just oozing out of the cracks into the watershed. And I’ll bet you even money the oil companies will NEVER fully reveal what’s happening with their mercury. Shades of the tobacco companies…

  23. 73
    dhogaza says:

    And oil companies are bad actors and dishonest because they resist whatever you might want to do to them????

    No, because certain of them, Exxon-Mobile in particular, fund people to lie about the science of climatology and what it tells us about the effect of putting a bunch of CO2 from fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

    If Exxon-Mobile were to say “well, yes, the science is sound but we don’t care” they wouldn’t be accused of being dishonest.

    And those oil companies such as BP who acknowledge reality aren’t being labelled as being dishonest or evil by people who follow the climate change issue.

  24. 74
    Paul Middents says:

    Re 16.
    [[. . .a statement attributed to Roger Revelle to the effect that no action on global warming is required “thus far”. ]]

    Lindzen is probably referring to an unfortunate 1991 article Revelle supposedly co-authored with Fred Singer in Cosmos Magazine. Revelle was in his last year of life. The article is entirely Singer’s. A lawsuit ensued. This link provides Revelle’s side of the story:

  25. 75
    Erich says:

    As a paleoclimatology graduate student and Dr. Lindzen’s next door neighbor growing up (he still lives next door to my parents), I decided to meet with him a few weeks ago to hear his thoughts from his own mouth, without the media filter. He insisted that he is NOT on the payroll of any energy company. I asked if he was going to be testifying before congress given the flurry of new committee meetings on climate change. He replied that he does not testify anymore because it costs so much money to fly yourself there, put yourself up in a hotel, and even Xerox your testimony for all the staffers – and you can’t use NSF or any other funding to cover those costs. Not to mention they don’t listen to you anyway.

    I followed your provided links on the subject of Dr. Lindzen’s payoffs, and they all seem to originate with Ross Gelbspan’s book, “The Heat is On”, where he names Lindzen specifically and says he earns $2500 per day for “consulting services”. Does this include testifying before congress? I have not read Gelbspan’s book, but does he cite hard, specific evidence that Lindzen does in fact receive money from energy companies? Just providing a link to what “someone else says” doesn’t make it fact. And the fact that he now adds his disclaimer to public media articles is not surprising given that he is constantly accused of taking their money. Pleading one’s innocence in the face of constant accusations does not make one guilty (just ask a few Duke Lacrosse players).

    It is clear to me that Dr. Lindzen relishes being a naysayer, as he even talked to me about smoking risks being blown out of proportion as he literally chain-smoked through our conversation. And whether or not he is paid by energy companies does not change the fact that much of what he says about climate change is misleading, misdirection, or just plain inaccurate. But I’d like to know if there really is a financial component to his “skeptical” activities, and if he lied to me to my face.

    I’d also like to remind people that “skeptics” are an integral part of the scientific processes – they force us to go that extra mile to prove our hypotheses beyond reasonable doubt and fix any holes in our thinking. I applaud this site for trying to engage skeptics and their claims through the scientific strength of our arguments, and not through personal attacks (even if they are deserved).

  26. 76
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks, Paul Middens. I also think that rather shameful situation is probably what Lindzen is thinking of. I’d have thought he knew better.

  27. 77
    Magnus says:

    The ordinary bullsh*t from climate alarmists towards sound critics (Btw Lindzen now believe CO2 affect the temperature could be 1.1 degrees this century, which is a high figure compared to the predictions of many other good scientists with insights in the late discoveries):

    “To the best of our knowledge, the first published attempt to use a climate model and estimated forcing histories to simulate the climate of the past millennium was described less than 7 years ago in this Science article by Tom Crowley, not 10 years ago– (a 43% error ;) ).”

    I’ll now offer the simpliest logic to the most retarrded phony ppl: What was introduced 7 years ago wasn’t at our possesion 10 yeears ago. (And 10 is a perfect number to use in phrases like Lindzens here.)

  28. 78
    pat n says:

    It smacks of a cheap shot and lowers credibility.

    That’s what I thought of Lindzen’s presentation at in 2002 when he used cartoons in downplaying global warming. Dennis Hartman and Ben Santer also gave presentations on global warming in 2002, at the U of M. Lindzen’s comments in Newsweek show he hasn’t been observing real world changes since 2002 in the polar regions and Upper Midwest. Many of the comments at realclimate show Lindzen isn’t alone in his ways and observations and the credibility of material posted at realclimate has been lowered as well, in my view.

  29. 79
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #58, “any scientist paid by Greenpeace is therefore under suspect.”

    I don’t think that would be so. Greenpeace is into many environmental problems, so if GW were found to be a non-problem, I think they’d be very happy, then turn to other real problems. As environmentalists & not scientists, they focus more on avoiding false negatives (thinking GW is NOT happening when indeed it is) than false positives (GW is happening when in fact it is not), which is what scientists try to avoid like the plague (& they do need to protect their reputations, or they’ll be like the boy who called wolf). So environmentalists sound somewhat different from scientists, even though they base their actions on scientific findings.

    I’m an environmentalist. I don’t have any bad motive, or anything to gain by being concerned about GW & spreading that concern. I take the science, and understand that science is erring on the side of avoiding false positives, and therefore may be underestimating the problem. I didn’t wait until 1995 when the 1st scientific study reached 95% confidence on AGW, but started reducing my GHGs back in 1990. In fact I lose time & money & patience being an environmentalist. Aside from personal savings from energy/resource efficiency/conservation (maybe $500 a year), being an environmentalist entails sacrifice and loss. It’s a charity, it’s a concern about the life of the world. I could be doing other selfish things, or climbing the job ladder instead. It’s a labor of love.

    Lindzen and other denialists seem to have other motives, aside from any consultant fees from the fossil fuel industry, some great fear of losing freedom or economic decline if we mitigate GW (without hardly any concern for GW harms at all). It’s a paralyzing STATE OF FEAR, seems to me.

  30. 80
    cat black says:

    #73 [Cosmos] Thank you for sharing that reference. Good lord, we’re up against a professional syndicate of nay-sayers funded by some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. Some day this episode will be written up in history books as evidence that the last days of multinational oil companies were marked by desperate lies and a breathtaking contempt for truth, the hallmark of corporations in general taken to extremes. With luck, that “history” will be written shortly and these blackguarding dinosaurs will be behind us.

  31. 81
    Floccina says:

    It is hard to say what the optimum temperature for humanity would be with today’s level of technology and population. Have air conditioning, pesticides, aquiculture and medicines tipped the balance in favor a warmer climate? When society evolved, as you say, there was no practical way to make cold (no refrigeration), or keep pests off plants.

    Have cars and driving made cold weather relatively more dangerous than warmer weather?

    When a statements Lindzen claims that because we don’t know what the ideal temperature of the planet are read though literally flawed need to view not literally but with there most likely meaning.

    If I say my car is full of gasoline do you walk up open the door and see no gasoline come out of cabin and say liar, liar pants on fire?

  32. 82
    Rod B. says:

    Lynn (79), I don’t have quarrel with most of what you say. I’m in full support of many environmental causes. Problem is the protagonists often take their cause to ridiculous near hysterical extremes, Greenpeace being typical. (I don’t know what their inner motives are or if they have ‘some great fear of losing’ control, or somethin’….) But I applaud your efforts. My point was much smaller than your rebuttal. Just simple logic which says a person’s (Lindzen’s e.g.) scientific arguments are not refuted just because he might hang with guys you don’t like. At the same token, just because a guy disagrees with you does not mean at all that he has ‘ulterior motives’ or has “some great fear of losing freedom or economic decline”….

  33. 83
    pat n says:

    Those “other motives” include not wanting to admit having been wrong.

    Dr. John Tauer, Univ. St. Thomas in psychology, said to WCCO in the Twin Cities:

    That’s because two basic human needs are the need to feel good about ourselves and the need to be right and accurate about our perceptions of the world. This helps create our sense of self.

    “When those two needs do come in conflict, more often than not we end up protecting our feelings about ourselves,” said Tauer. “Even if that means sacrificing our accuracy.”

  34. 84
    Adam Nealis says:

    “Finally, we find it curious that Lindzen chose to include this very lawyerly disclaimer at the end of the piece:

    [Lindzen’s] research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.”

    Richard, one thinks thou dost protest too much! A casual reader would be led to infer that Lindzen has received no industry money for his services. … So Lindzen’s claim is true, on a technicality.”

    I disagree. Lindzen’s claim is not even true on a technicality. Consider the second sentence on its own:

    “He receives no funding from any energy companies.”

    To me that clearly states he receives no such money at all. The truthful wording of the second paragraph would have to be:

    “He receives no research funding from any energy companies.”

    So Lindzen’s claim is not even true on a technicality.

    [Response: Well, actually it could be, we don’t really know. We know he’s taken industry money in the past. Whether or not he is receiving any right now, at this very moment, is difficult to know. He could, again, be right on a technicality. But that’s hardly something to be proud of, is it? -mike]

  35. 85
    Tim says:

    Tried to post last night but without success. As a layperson it is difficult to absorb so much information about so many different potential contributors to global warming.

    Thus I would like to focus on CO2’s role. Can somebody answer a few questions?

    1. Why has surface temperature only risen .6 degrees celsius when CO2 concentrations are so high? What explains the lag?

    2. Is there a general consesus on what percentage of the .6 rise can be attributed to anthropogenic CO2 emissions?

    Thanks and my compliments on a very informative site that , for the most part, avoids personal attacks on those who remain skeptical.

    [Response: Try: and – gavin]

  36. 86
    A Siegel says:

    As always, excellent … truly excellent. My discussion was “J’Accuse: Newsweek harbors Global Warming Deniers” (

    You might want to add that Lindzen is not just misleading here but states direct falsehoods. For example,

    ” There is no evidence, for instance, that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way …”

    Well, there is evidence. Lindzen might want to contest it, but there is evidence. See, for example: Science Daily’s video “Harder Rain, More Snow: Meteorologists See Future of Increasingly Extreme Weather Events.” (

    Sadly, I don’t expect Newsweek to publish any form of corrective material. Just as they let Fareed Zakaria’s errors to pass through without correction. (

  37. 87

    The mercury controversy sees bilaterally overblown since whether ou proceed from the 13 tons Hg the EPA reckons was used in fluorescents in 1999 , or down-shift the amount per bulb ( to say 3 milligrams , as is promised ) but increase the number of units to >10 exp 10 as hoped, it still is small change compared to the ~ 100 thousand ton/year geochemical
    flux – and so is the 10 exp 1 or 2 ton coal Hg flux.

    Food chain concentration is more interesting of course, but the background driving wont go down by an order of magnitude whatever the policy.Hot springs are the mildly counterintuitive culprit globally .

  38. 88

    [[1. Why has surface temperature only risen .6 degrees celsius when CO2 concentrations are so high? What explains the lag?]]

    Well, 0.8° K, actually…. It would take a doubling of CO2 to raise the temperature 3° K, and the ambient CO2 level has only risen 40% since the industrial revolution began. And some of the increase has been masked by countervailing forces like aerosols from pollution. Now that pollution is being cleaned up (at least in the developed world), the CO2 warming signal will increase.

    On the lag I’ll let the scientists here speak, since it’s not a subject I know much about.

  39. 89
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #31, Thanks, Jim, for letting me know about CF bulbs. I knew they had something toxic, but not exactly what….so I’ve just been storing them. Not a whole lot, since they last forever & I only started using them in 1990. And to think we used to play with mercury as kids (that beaded quicksilver stuff from broken thermometers), which may have been as bad as those asbestos warmers mom used to place over the burners. I probably don’t have many years left, so I’d better get to it.

    This just points to the basic problem that there is a down side to nearly every good thing (like industrialization), and that we need to address the problems these good things create. I believe nearly everything is doable. We should never tire of finding solutions.

    Our club is about to start promoting CF bulbs, as well as Green Mountain 100% wind power, at our “BE COOL PARTIES,” so we need to find a place to recycle them….And I think our recycling center may handle them (& if not, we can see to it that they do). Then that will get people to go to the recycling center (we don’t have curbside), and perhaps recycle other stuff as well.

    Maybe if Prof. Lindzen gets down our way, we could invite him to a party, and inspire him to get on board. Everything’s doable. There are solutions to every problem.

  40. 90
    richard ordway says:

    The Publitzer prize-winning author Ross Gelbspan wrote in his global warming expose book (“The Heat is On”) that when he interviewed Lindzen, Lindzen came across as an idealogue, who was not open to established scientific evidence….bizarre, since Lindzen is a “scientist”.

  41. 91
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Mercury

    Dr. Seitz is correct about the magnitude: mercury release from fluorescent lights is less than that from coal power plants.

    Human activity, though, puts mercury into the air in amounts that fall out and bioaccumulate — far more than natural background does.

    “Methyl mercury is a developmental neurotoxicant. Exposure results principally from consumption by pregnant women of seafood contaminated by mercury from anthropogenic (70%) and natural (30%) sources.”

    Think it through. Look it up.

  42. 92
    Geoff Russell says:

    Has anybody qualified done a critique of what was described today here
    as the “Dual Critique of the Stern Review by 14 well-qualified scientists and economists”?

  43. 93
    Tavita says:

    Lindzen said,

    “Indeed, meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing.”

    Besides the fact that a warmer “less variable” world is likely to be a bad thing for species and industries adapted to, say, four seasons, apparently Lindzen has no problem with writing off the tropics.

    So much for the poor people (who mostly live in the tropics) that his side expressed concern for in the recent East Side debate discussed elsewhere on this site.

    So with regard to species the IPCC report tells that increases in temperatures will likely lead to the following:

    * Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction of increases in gobal average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5 C.

    And then concerning the tropics,

    * At lower latitudes, especially seasonally dry and tropical regions crop productivity is projected to decrease for even small local temperature increases (1-2 C), which would increase the risk of hunger.

    * Increases in the frequency of droughts and floods are projected to affect local production negatively, especially in subsitence sectors at low latitudes.

    * Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperture of about 1 to 3 C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.

    And it’s not that there is not some good news in the IPCC report, but here is the crux of the matter, it’s as if Lindzen read the following statement in the IPCC report:

    * Studies in temperate areas have shown that climate change is projected to bring some benefits, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure.

    But is completely blind to the next sentence which reads,

    * Overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures world-wide, especially in developing countries.

    As you all say, there is no serious discussion to be found in Lindzen’s piece. I think he justs hopes no one will actually read the IPCC report.

  44. 94
    Jim says:

    Hank, what really is the difference? There are better ways to save power using different technologies. (LEDs, high effieciency incandescents.) I was trying to point out that we can’t sacrifice one set of goals that are just as worthy for another set. CFLs are not a panacea for solving increasing power demand due to the side effects with their use. While there can never be a free lunch as everything in life is a tradeoff, we can minimize impacts.

    Some people simply forget things and support the latest “fad” in environmentalism. Take for instance paper vs plastic in the grocery stores, or the power line scares in the 80’s and 90’s when everyone was afraid of EM radiation. Now folks by magnets for their “healthful” effects! (I seen one on someone’s wrist the other day as a matter of fact!)

    On another note. Lynn one other tidbit. You are not using 100% wind power and as long as you use the common electricity grid you never will. What you are doing is helping the power company subsidize a type of power which is then made availble to all users on the grid. Power generation of any and all types is dynamically balanced and provided to service the entire load (People) using the grid at any given time. (Power load changes by the minute 24/7/365 and must be matched exactly to capacity or the grid starts load shedding or it goes down entirely) It is therefore not possible to supply any one set of customers with a unique source of power. Also as wind power generally is only avaiable 35 to 50% and the fact that your lights do not go off 65 to 50% of the time you rest assured that you are not just using wind power. It is an econmic thing, that enables power companies to invest in less profitable sources of power and allow you to contribute. As a whole say Texas uses 1TW and wind creates 2.9GW the power demand on the FF power plants is still reduced as a whole by that 2.9Gw and you are doing some good in an indirect method not a direct one. A direct method in this case would be to erect your own solar/wind equipment and power your own house with it. Expensive, but then you can say without a doubt you are using 100% wind power.

  45. 95
    pat n says:


    Some “good things” about climate change in Minnesota, excerpts from a Minneapolis Star Tribune article published Nov., 2004, but still said recently on some media stations in Minnesota:

    … records show Minnesota has had eight consecutive Novembers mild enough to play golf.

    Dan Luna, chief of river forecasting at the National Weather Service
    in Chanhassen, said: “It would be hard-pressed for anyone to argue
    that we’re not seeing evidence of warming. ‘Why?’ is another
    question, but we’re just not getting the really cold winters anymore.”

    Many people living in Minnesota say fewer really cold winters are a good thing here.

  46. 96

    [[Lindzen said,
    “Indeed, meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing.”

    Then in this case, meteorological theory is wrong. About a year ago I took the monthly temperature anomalies from the satellites since 1979 and divided them at the halfway point. I took the standard deviations of each group, and they were significantly different by F test — with the variation in the later group higher. Empirically, weather is becoming more variable as the world warms.

  47. 97
    tamino says:

    Re: #96 (BPL)

    Did you remove the trends before computing the standard deviations?

  48. 98
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #94, “You are not using 100% wind power…as wind power generally is only avaiable 35 to 50%”

    I also had the same question, but they told me they are supplying the same KWHs of wind that I am using, and that if demand increases they can as needed rent space from farmers, who can farm right up to the base of the wind generators. So, yes, the grid is a big mix of all types of power, and the wind they generate for me might not match the exact times I’m using peak electricity (so Dirty Beer Belching Harry might be using my supply during those times), but they are supplying KWH for KWH used & I’m paying specifically for it. And it’s now cheaper than conventional, a difference I expect to increase, as tax breaks and subsidies are withdrawn from fossil fuels.

    The glitch will come when everyone wants wind power, and potentials have been maxed out (partly because the windy times don’t match peak times — though, of course, it can be stored in batteries, say, hydrogen batteries or some other advanced form we can’t even imagine now). At any rate that just isn’t going to happen within my lifetime (I’m getting old), bec people are really slow to catch on.

    Similar will happen with my free & wonderful reused paper supply. Right now I use discarded library paper (which is very good quality, usually with only “Page Separator” on one side) for nearly all my paper uses, incl Earth Day displays pasted on used carboard (so the other side doesn’t even bleed thru). But eventually others may start REUSING the paper as well, and I may not have my vast supply. I may have to start using paper made of recycled pulp, or even virgin paper. Horrors!

  49. 99
    Chris O'Neill says:

    #94 (Jim): “While there can never be a free lunch as everything in life is a tradeoff”

    There is no mercury-energy trade-off between CFLs and normal lamps. CFLs cause less mercury emission than normal lamps as well as much less energy consumption. We could reduce mercury emission still further with a better (and currently more expensive) technology but this is not “kill(ing) two birds with one stone”, it is more like killing two birds with two stones.

  50. 100
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re #99, I think Jim’s point is that we should be conscientious about disposing of CF bulbs, so that the mercury does not leak into the environment. Or, as my pastor likes to point out, others’ big sins don’t justify one’s own smaller sins.

    That is your point, isn’t it, Jim? We should never tire to doing right. And should always be open and humble about learning what we are doing wrong, so as to correct it best we can.