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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. 1
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    I already wrote to NEWSWEEK that after nearly 30 years of subscribing to them, I’m seriously thinking of halting it, bec of the Lindzen piece (they’ve had stories on him before that have made me really angry).

    OTOH, they did have a good section on global warming in this week’s edition.

    So maybe that’s the media’s new tact: not have “balanced format” pieces, but have separate pieces from opposing sides.

    The world is getting really schizophrenic…

  2. 2
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    I read the editorial after Grist posted on it last week. As an informed layman I knew that Lindzen’s opinions about global warming did have some factual support, but were not likely. After reading this editorial it seemed to me that Lindzen had completely gone over to the dark side, where its advocacy first and foremost and scientific facts are to be ignored.

    I also noticed the “lawyerly” worded disclaimer. I wonder who wrote the disclaimer? Was is Lindzen himself, or was it the Newsweek editors?

    [Response: Given that a nearly identical disclaimer ran with a previous story on Lindzen that appeared in the Journal News of Westchester NY, I would guess that the media outlets are being fed this line, rather than arriving at it through their own independent research. -mike]

    Lindzen has been paid money by anti-global warming crowd to act as an expert witness in the public arena.

  3. 3
    Gene Hawkridge says:

    It has been my contention for some time that nothing we do right now to lower greenhouse gas emissions will have any measurable, immediate effect on global warming. Sea level will keep right on rising as glaciers melt. Therefore, we should plan for its impacts. Spend billions of dollars rebuilding New Orleans, at a time when sea level is rising, the delta is eroding, and land elevation is sinking? Exactly how does this provide evidence of higher human cognitive function? Short answer: it’s insanity.

    None of this is to say I’m not an advocate of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the experience of nearly 60 years of life within US culture tells me that public policy doesn’t change overnight. As an engineer, I can also readily see that even if it did, we have an enormous investment in fossil-fueled vehicles and power generation capacity that simply is not going to be replaced quickly. That’s just the financial and technical challenge. Then there’s the challenge of getting Greenpeace activists to understand that Nuclear power is one of the few viable alternatives we have to generating electricity without pumping more CO2 into the environment. Carbon sequestration may help, wind generation and solar power may help, but they are not going to be the whole entire solution. We need to have some rational discussions about costs, risks, and outcomes that are not mediated by head-in-the-sand denialists, nor by starry-eyed idealists (with little practical knowledge of energy infrastructure).

  4. 4
    Rod B. says:

    Other than in demogogic activities, I fail to see how a top-rated professor being asked to consult for oil companies or OPEC or whomever at ballpark going rates degrades his credibility. Maybe his credibility is affected in other objective ways; maybe not. But degradation through association is a silly (though popular) proposition.

    [Response: Perhaps Lindzen shouldn’t have raised the issue then, should he? -mike]

  5. 5
    Johnno says:

    I believe elsewhere Lindzen has said agriculture could benefit from climate change. If the last year or two is anything to go by that is not true, shrinking grain reserves being an example. While the global mean temperature and rainfall may increase slightly, the variation within seasons at a local level has made farming more difficult, not less. Drought, floods, windstorms, hail and unseasonal frosts do not help grow food whatever the long term trend.

  6. 6
    James says:

    [Lindzen claims that because we don’t know what the ideal temperature of the planet should be…]

    But I think it’s possible to construct reasonable arguments about what that idea temperature might be. Suppose we define “ideal” as maximizing biological productivity and livable/arable land for humans, then it seems to me that the ideal is reached during ice ages. Admittedly this is just the opinion of one non-specialist, but consider:

    Colder temperatures mean cold ocean waters at lower latitudes, and these are more productive than warm waters.

    Lower sea level means more of the continental shelf is above sea level, thus more land area (even subtracting what’s under the larger polar caps).

    Changed rainfall patterns mean current desert areas – the Sahara, western North America, much of Australia – can return to being the productive grasslands they were during the last Ice age.

    So I say bring on the orbital sunshades, and cool this planet down :-)

    Seriously, I think it would be good to have some calculations of this sort done, if for no better reason than refuting Lindzen et al.

  7. 7
    morgan lamberth says:

    What irks me is warming deniers called skeptics when they distort matters,not using reason and facts but their prejudices for answers.

  8. 8
    Colette Williams says:

    You should send a shorten version of this response to Newsweek. It’s the best way to counteract all the misinformation in this article.

  9. 9
    Richard LaRosa says:

    I wish someone would take a serious look at what I am working on: An ocean-powered pump (powered by thermal energy stored in the ocean) that brings up cold water and nutrients from 1000-meter depth and distributes them over the tropical ocean surface. Benefits: cooling of surface water and overlying atmosphere, use of dissolved CO2 for photosynthesis so that less CO2 is available for decalcification of ocean creatures, enhancement of thermohaline overturning. Pumping rate is 10 cubic meters/sec. Takes 100,000 pumps to make a measurable response to global warming and fisheries destruction.

  10. 10
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 5

    I’ve long repeated the “news” that agriculture thrives when this year is like last year. The farmer has a horizon of 2 years. He can only plant this year with last year as his guide. With the increasing variability of weather due GW, agriculture will NOT thrive.

  11. 11
    Andrew Sipocz says:

    “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.”

    You guys are killing me, absolutely killing me. I strongly suggest introducing a biogeography specialist or evolutionary ecologist onto the Real Climate Blog team.

    What about the plants, animals, fish and other living, non-human, organisms that we share this Planet with? Their recent evolution has occurred in a world that hasn’t seen the future climates we’re now facing. Any additional warming beyond “what’s in the pipe” is going to be very harmful. In the past, such rapid climate change hasn’t lead to biological adaptation, but rather mass extinction.

    Maybe I’m totally off base, but the above quote makes it sound like Real Climate thinks human society can work independent of the rest of the earth’s life forms or that nature will take care of herself. Am I going to be forced to lump climate physicists, glaciologists, meteorologists (ok, yes I forgot what your day jobs are) with folks like Richard Lindzen when it comes to my opinion of their biological knowledge?

  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andrew, as a reader with a biology bias, I agree; I’ve often wished to see more biologists even as one time invited writers. My _guess_ is that the models don’t yet incorporate the biological feedbacks, and the visits we see are a fair measure of that.

    For example the people studying arctic sea ice levels (who in answer to my question, said they got interest from people studying life affected by the change) are one step away from the ecology folks. The WHOI site is focused on ocean and biology change.

    It’s a gap, but I suspect only to be filled once the climate models require some funded staff who spend their time “here” to participate.

    Hoping I’m wrong and more biology/ecology researchers speak up or email the contact address and ask to get involved (the contact email is under one of the top level buttons, top of main page).

  13. 13
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #6: james — An interesting proposal, but not quite in accord with the evidence, I fear. Lets pick 30 kya, before LGM. Desert and semi-desert extended continuously from the Sahara Desert to the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. The Mammoth Steppe (open woodlands and steppe grasses) extended from Spain across Europe to Siberia and beyond into Beringia and some of Alaska. Across the Ukraine into Germany to the Paris basin and beyond, the winds blew loess, now highly productive soils as there now is enough rainfall. Similarly the wind blew loess in Northern China. A similar situation existed in North America and in South America the Amazon Basin was savanna.

    Altogether, the picture is not promising for agriculture. For the estimated half a million hunter-gatherers in Africa and Eusasia, life was survivable. As for me, I prefer twentieth century temperatures as being perfect. :-)

  14. 14
    Thom says:

    I think it’s great that you guys are tracking the money. In his testimony for the House Science committee, Sheldon Rampton testified on how industry groups pay scientists to be â��neutralâ�� experts who will support industryâ��s contention that their products are harmless, while attacking the science that suggests that there is harm. Rampton documented how the technique goes back at least 40 years to early efforts by cigarette manufacturers.

    His testimony is here:

    One of these front groups has been the Cato Institute which has paid scientists and their own experts to contest the dangers of cigarettes in the 90s and now the dangers of global warming (see Patrick Michaels).

    Roger Pielke Jr. wrote an article for their in-house magazine, “Regulation” which functions like an industry mouthpiece. [edit]

  15. 15
    Paul M says:

    The worst part of all this is we won’t even get to the serious impact that this warming has without having a major (nuclear) war. Once things start getting really bad, the worst of human nature will show itself. This will be one for the history books, I can assure you that. I’m going to drink beer, rent the first mad max movie and get ready for the future. With the oil thing going, China being industrialized (as well as India) and the climate changing, something has to give. This is a no-brainer.

  16. 16
    Pat Cassen says:

    To the Editor:

    Richad Lindzen’s article (“Why so gloomy?”, Newsweek International, April 16), which is severely critical of the results of modern climate science, ends with a statement attributed to Roger Revelle to the effect that no action on global warming is required “thus far”. Revelle is honored for his commitment to science for the benefit of society, as well as for his pioneering work in climate science. He wrote articles as early as the 1950s examining the fate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, and its potential impact on climate. He died more than fifteen years ago. So when does “thus far” apply to? To suggest that Revelle would advocate inaction in the face of today’s evidence is unconscionable; to invoke his name in such a way, after denying the credibility of the science he helped found, is an affront to his legacy. Lindzen has no shame.


  17. 17
    Gerry Beauregard says:

    Thanks so much to Drs Schmidt and Mann for this article!

    I don’t subscribe to Newsweek, but recently I noticed that both Newsweek and Time had special issues on global warming, so I bought both. I was amazed at the difference in tone of the two magazines.

    Time’s overall message was that anthropogenic global warming is real, the effects are serious and almost entirely negative, but there are things we can do to mitigate and adapt. Newsweek’s was that, well, it looks like maybe AGW is real after all, but it’s not nearly as bad as people would like you to believe. Besides, AGW provides so many benefits and business opportunities, so you should welcome it, not fear it. The Lindzen article seemed especially out there on the credibility index…

    It’s remarkable how people living on the same planet, even in the same country, can live in such completely different mental universes :-)

  18. 18
    Rod B. says:

    RE “Perhaps Lindzen shouldn’t have raised the issue then, should he? -mike”

    Lindzen knows absolutely that he will be attacked for any services offered to the “bad guys”. Might as well address it. If Greenpeace wanted some scientific facts (in a moment of weakness, probably) and offered you a consultancy, you should take it (in general — I don’t know your specific situation) knowing you’ll present the science as you know it and not degrade your own credibility. Though you can bet the farm that the extreme denialists will blast you to high heavans. And you’ll have to address it.

  19. 19
    Rod B. says:

    “What irks me is warming deniers called skeptics when they distort matters,not using reason and facts but their prejudices for answers. —
    Comment by morgan lamberth ”

    What irks me is proponents when they distort matters, not using reason and facts but their prejudices for responses.

  20. 20
    Rod B. says:

    “[The farmer] can only plant this year with last year as his guide.”

    I was raised in Iowa. That’s a teeny piece of how a farmer plans his next year.

  21. 21
    Mark A. York says:

    You know, if you share this POV any background will subscribe to the Talking points. Just look at my sceptic bingo contestant on the other thread.

    He slammed Gavin as, only “a modeler,” who didn’t understand the data as he did with a BS in chemistry from decades ago. “Feedback” was an eyebrow-raising code word.

    Personal politics is responsible for this, and the media help by publishing lies with the truth. You decide.

  22. 22
    J.C.H says:

    I wonder how many Americans the Canadians are going to allow to migrate to that better hotter climate?

    I guess at the border we’ll either have to swear allegiance to hockey and accept the true dimensions of a gridiron or die by the sword.

  23. 23
    Rod B. says:

    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…

  24. 24

    From what I read and hear, Lindzen’s biggest problem ; undermining his faculty and science repeatedly without remorse. According to him, the fields of Climatology and Meteorology are so low in stature and intelligence, a science he presumably teaches. But he can’t come up with something innovative anymore, like postulating an alternative explanation for GW for instance. Suggesting a counter AGW theory would be better posturing, yet he stands hesitant above the very thin ice he created.

  25. 25
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #2 & “public policy doesn’t change overnight.”

    There is a possibility for fairly rapid change, but it has to well up from the grass roots, with the top guys either being replaced or bending to meet the folks. In anthropology we call it a “revitalization movement,” a rather sudden change to construct a more satisfying culture, one that reduces serious problems (whether social or environmental).

    Most conversion religions started off as revitalization movements, the American revolution was one, as was the Civil Rights movement & women’s movement, etc. I did a term paper on the hippy movement as a revitalization movement, since I lived in the Sunset Dt of SF in the mid-to-late 60s (next to the Haight-Ashbury), and observed the rapid transformation at both the individual level and societal level. It was as if the pied piper had called that generation (I was sort of out of it, due to several things I didn’t like about it, but there were lots of good things — like “love is more important than war or money”). And I met some hippy hypocrites – couldn’t even practice the kindness & gentleness they preached.

    The point is, there can be a sudden shift in world view & ethos, and even in actual behavior.

    I feel a glimmer of hope today. We had our Earth Day Festival at our campus. The Environmental Club (which had been defunct for 2 years) put it on. A Green Mountain Energy man came & explained how easy it was to shift to 100% wind power, and that the cost was actually a bit cheaper than conventional electricity (I know that since I’m on GM Energy). The club is now talking about organizing tupperware-type parties, showing An Inconvenient Truth, and promoting GM wind energy. There’s lots of positive energy, and as adviser, I’m determined not to let them get burned out.

    It was fortuitous that our city’s Environmental Advisory Board representative came, then met the GM man, and now there’s talk of our city getting on GM Energy, as well as the campus.

    Unfortunately GM Energy isn’t available in most states, but when I was in Illinois, I called them and asked if they do come & there’s a growing demand, how would they meet that demand. They simply told me they’d rent space from farmers for their wind generators, and the farmers could farm up to the base of those. No problem.

    So the main problem is inspiring people to wake up; undergo a “mazeway resynthesis,” sort of like a sudden insight or religious experience, a shift in their world view & ethos to one that addresses the problems of our day with helpful solutions and way of life, rather than making the problems worse; then do something.

    There’s really enough wind and sun in Texas to light up a pretty big chunk of the state, esp if everyone goes onto CF & LED lights. We’ve just gotta start getting off our duffs.

    We also had a Civic Hybrid at the festival, and when I explained how I was waiting for the plug-in type due out in a few years, one student immediately got it: We can drive on the wind!

  26. 26
    Roger Jones says:

    Re #11 and #12

    You both misunderstand the point. The point is that just as this the world that humans are imperfectly adapted to, the same goes for ecosystems. This statement does not preclude the fact that climate change will create novel conditions that will affect humans and all other life.

    This is a statement that refers to the adaptation baseline, not future needs for further adaptation/mitigation.

  27. 27
    pat n says:

    Re: 17.

    It’s not that remarkable if we consider that even in the same U.S. agency (NOAA) we have the skeptics (NWS) and the believers (everyone else).

  28. 28
    tico89 says:

    “An effort that is now generally discredited.” Well, I guess you’d know, Lindzen. He sounds exactly like a lawyer (but then, I guess in a sense he is being a lawyer, for people like Michael Crichton), and this was a good job of prosecution. He spends his time dancing around every matter, to the extent that I cannot see how anyone could possibly take him seriously.

  29. 29
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, where are you getting these beliefs? Why do you trust your source? Are you quoting Lindzen perhaps? He’s certainly blunt about believing his tobacco isn’t hurting anyone. But I can’t find what you’re posting attributed to him. Where are you getting it?

    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.

    Surprise me, Rod? Tell me you took the time to read those, and to look through the references and read a few of the footnotes, before you responded with your opinion?

  30. 30
    Danny Bee says:

    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?

  31. 31
    Jim says:


    You do realize those CFL bulbs contain mercury right? And that hardly anyone recycles light bulbs? (I imagine or hope that you do.) 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, or will be banned when mercury pollution begins to increase again. Otherwise why not start using DDT again.

    There was a big reason why lead and mercury and such are limited in uses for consumers becuase of this type of pollution.
    If anything you should be using LEDs, or those ultra efficient incandescents when they come out. (If they come out.) It is like using paper to bag your groceries. We went to plastic to save the trees. Now we want to go back to paper to save the oil and kill the trees. (Most people don’t recycle paper either.) People forget where paper comes from I guess. The also don’t connect paper to trees to the C02 sinks that we need so badly.
    I am not trying to be crass I was asking an honest question.

  32. 32
    Jim Roland says:

    Jim (#30), very good point (Reuters story here). I hope you will campaign for CFLs to be included in doorstep recycling like I do, and banned from simple disposal.

    In same Newsweek issue I found at least as worrying Arnold Schwarzenegger’s remarks claiming to be making environmentalism sexy, but doing just the opposite.

    He says “[I want to] show that biofuel is not like some wimpy feminine car, like a hybrid. Because the muscle guys, they have this thing: ‘I don’t want to be seen in the little, feminine car'”.

    He lauds biofuel- and hydrogen- powered gas guzzlers at a time when hydrogen is worse than petroleum because of the marginal power station emissions caused (correct me if I’m wrong), and more biofuel use seems to be worse from almost every angle.

    Use corn ethanol, and you contribute to the boom in futures for soya and other crops/prime agricultural land throughout Americas, that will accelerate S.American deforestation. Use palm oil and you directly drive tropical deforestation/peat erosion. Use N.American canola or chicken fat, again you’re using up limited resources so in the long run your demand still means more Southern deforestation.

  33. 33
    Arthur Smith says:

    I read the Newsweek print issue on global warming (last week’s) and didn’t notice an article by Lindzen in it. Are we sure it was in the print edition? Sometimes they do these as web-only. Or maybe it was in some versions of the print issue and not others? I thought the copy I got was pretty good on the issues actually.

  34. 34
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Mike’s response to my comment #2: my hunch was that the disclosure was written by Lindzen himself. I would think that editors should make those disclosures based on their own investigation as journalists and not accepting them from the authors of the op-eds without question.

    For Rob B. there are two issues with Lindzen working for oil and other energy companies. First is the oil companies and their allies behavior when it comes to potential regulation. Their actions would, to use lawyerly language, classify them as “bad actors”. In everyday terms, they have been less then honest. By allying himself with dishonest people it is not a stretch to say Lindzen is also being dishonest.

    Second is Lindzen’s actions. Being an advocate is not bad, even the way that a lawyers advocate for their clients is not bad. Scientists have a different code of behavior. As Steven Schneider puts it a scientist should advocate while being true to the scientific facts. Lindzen is not doing this. He is advocating for positions that are not supported by the facts.

    On an off topic note, the apostrophe in O’Sullivan comes across as O backslash ‘Sullivan. I’m not sure why it does that.

  35. 35
    John Gribbin says:

    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.

  36. 36
    Jim Eaton says:


    I don’t know about elsewhere, but in California CFL bulbs are considered hazardous waste and must not be disposed in regular garbage. I don’t know how well citizens are complying with this, but here in Yolo County there is quite an educational effort going on the benefits of compact fluorescents and the proper disposal of used bulbs.

    Of course, I’m in a small minority, but when I go shopping I take along my canvas bags and don’t use either paper or plastic for bagging my groceries.

    With proper education, people can be given options to make this planet a little greener. And many will respond.

  37. 37
    David Graves says:

    Could some of the climate scientitsts explain how Lindzen gets away with his dismissals of say ice core chronoology? Or how the Iris hypothesis sank without a trace? Or how long his appointment to the Sloan professorship will last (retirement at 70?) And bravo for comments #11 and #12.

  38. 38
    John Mashey says:

    re: #30 & #31

    Actually, according to the EPA, if your electricity is coal-generated, CFLs are actually better than incandescents w.r.t. mercury:

    Also, of course, batteries and other consumer products have some of the same issues as things with mercury in them, and CA has rules about them also (and so do other places). Of course, products like capacitor-based flashlights not only don’t have batteries … but never have dead batteries.

    Of course, we should keep hoping LEDs keep coming down in price, along with solar panels.

  39. 39
    Paul says:

    Re 14:

    Yes, this third party cutout system of using supposedly “neutral” academics for industry purposes is well documented. If a physician wrote a monograph for PhRMA, he would be required to disclose the funding when publishing in JAMA or New England Journal.

    Likewise, Roger Pielke Jr. should disclose any funding he received for writing for Cato. It’s pretty much the same issue with Cato’s “Regulation” serving as advertising for pro-corporate messaging.

  40. 40
    P. Lewis says:

    A US EPA-produced factsheet (via NEMA) on CFLs (indeed, any fluorescent tube) and mercury can be found here

  41. 41
    jona says:


    I am amazed how your critique of Lindzen degenerate to the level of peronal attack. In this blog and other places, the claim that Lindzen is paid by industry to present these arguments seem to be repeated without reference to any evidence.

    Can anyone direct me to any documentation of conflicting interests other than the usual “guilty by association” argument of the environmentalists?


    [Response: Did you try following the link we provided? And if you don’t believe in “guilt by association”, then why not have disclosed up front your association with Schlumberger Limited,
    a company that is heavily involved in petroleum exploration. -mike]

  42. 42
    Michael Gell says:

    There are interesting developments here in the UK and Europe with respect to energy using products. The European Energy Using Products (EUP) Directive, which is being transposed into UK law this summer, requires (through various specific implementation measures) companies who are placing EUPs on the market to have a technical ecodesign file for their product. When you combine that with the RoHS legislation (which places restrictions on hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, etc) and WEEE legislation (concerned with take-back and recycling etc) there are powerful forces brewing.

    In principle, competitors (and others) can take apart each others product, do analysis on them, and demonstrate with scientific results that the product should not be allowed to be sold. When you add in long-standing competition legislation, the mix starts to get heady, as businesses may begin to compete to be less damaging to the environment or compete to be more “climate friendly” than competitors.

    The EUP legislation is the first that I am aware of that compels companies to ecodesign their products and prove that they have done so. When you add in compliance requirements, such as that of Sarbanes-Oxley, which requires a company to have a single accounting truth for its business, and connect that to having a single accounting truth for GHG emissions disclosure, there are significant implications.

    Businesses which strip out unnecessary costs and eliminate unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions through implementation of high-impact climate change programs are placing themselves in a highly competitive position. A low-carbon world order has the potential to emerge a lot quicker than many realise, especially when one appreciates that time horizons in the corporate world are often measured by the quarter (which is lot less than some of the paleoclimatic timescales discussed on this website!).

  43. 43
    pete best says:

    Re 31, Energy bulbs contain mercury, if disposed of on masse then they could be dangerous.

  44. 44
    pat n says:

    I’d like to see reasonable explanations on why

    Honey bee populations have suddenly begun to decline,

    Could the decline be at least partly due to more doppler radars while the National Weather Service and others claim ignorance as they are on climate change and global warming?

  45. 45

    Gavin & Michael : Re
    “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.”

    Since biologists are clamoring for more representation in RC, perhaps you should invite some philosopher of language to weigh in on the status of the collective noun “society : in that sentence.

    Do you actually assert it to be as singular in fact, as in your usage? Someone of Saul Kripke’s ilk would ask if “society” , as applied to the entire set of states of cultural adoption to world environments , is a rigid designator in the real set- a material entity like a “rhinoceros” ,or rather an idealization like a “unicorn.” Political philosophers might even suspect it shorthand for the entity whose terms of existence some might wish to subordinate to an external ideal of climatic stasis unchanged by human activity. Such folks are as real as rhinoceri, and are called “ideologues.”

    So perhaps Gerry Beauregard (17 )is on to something in remarking: “It’s remarkable how people living on the same planet, even in the same country, can live in such completely different mental universes ” Little wonder the existential status of the term “society ” has given Margaret Thatcher such difficulty- she’s a chemist.

  46. 46
    Paul Dietz says:

    You do realize those CFL bulbs contain mercury right?

    IIRC, if every incandescent bulb consumed in the US each year were replaced by the appropriate average number of CFLs, the total mercury flow, assuming modern low-mercury bulbs were used, would be less than 1 ton/year. This is considerably less than the mercury being released by coal burning powerplants, which IIRC is somewhere around 50 tons/year in the US.

  47. 47

    “The lady doth protest too much” is in third person singular. But “thou” is second person singular, so it would be “thou dost,” not “thou doth.” You’re going to offend any Elizabethan Englishmen in the audience.

    [Response: Thanks, fixed. -mike]

  48. 48
    Dan says:

    re: 44. Please Pat. There are legitimate concerns about bee populations but to spout such pure speculation without a shred of evidence is highly unscientific. It smacks of a cheap shot and lowers credibility. And it sounds like the actor/wacko Larry Hagman complaining on TV talk shows years ago that he got liver disease (not mentioning his years of drinking of course) or whatever it was due to a new Doppler across the valley from his home. This is a science site, not a conspiracy theory site.

    [Response: Bees and radar are definitely off-topic. No more please. -gavin]

  49. 49
    Fredrik says:

    To dismiss someone because of his foundings instead of his arguments is bad. I also think it is bad retorics because people can (and have) get the impression that people use the founding argument because it is difficult to argue against his points.

    It is also completely unecessary in Lindzen case because it is clear that he is dishonest and say things just for its retorical, desceptive value. Examples are when he compare weather forecast with climate forecast and when he said that it is global warming on, Mars, Tritan and Pluto in a debate about global warming.

    He definitely know that these are no argument for his case but say them anyway just to score points from laymen.

    Seriuosly a MIT professor talking about global warming on Pluto in a debate about global warming on earth… Why dont MIT try to get rid of him?

  50. 50

    [[Richad Lindzen’s article (“Why so gloomy?”, Newsweek International, April 16), which is severely critical of the results of modern climate science, ends with a statement attributed to Roger Revelle to the effect that no action on global warming is required “thus far”. Revelle is honored for his commitment to science for the benefit of society, as well as for his pioneering work in climate science. He wrote articles as early as the 1950s examining the fate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, and its potential impact on climate. He died more than fifteen years ago. So when does “thus far” apply to? ]]

    If I’m not mistaken, Revelle died in 1991.