Is Richard Lindzen the devil’s advocate?

As I said yesterday, this is a sort of addendum to my review of James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren, arising out of Hansen’s characterisation of Lindzen as behaving like a lawyer – putting forward only information and argument favourable to his “client” (page 12); and as someone that does not seek truth because “a lawyer [merely] seeks a win for his client” (page 56). A brief Google search reveals that Lindzen has repeatedly threatened with litigation anyone who asserts that he denies that smoking causes lung cancer but, here again, he is just being disingenuous, playing with words, and trying to re-write history. The plain facts of this matter are that he was for many years periodically paid large sums of money by Phillip Morris to defend their product against claims that smoking was detrimental to the health of those that smoke and/or others present when they do so. In so doing, he was a member of the same ideologically-driven bunch of scientists with neo-Conservative tendencies that decided, by 1992 at the very latest, that environmentalism was and is the enemy. These are the people that Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway identify as “Merchants of Doubt”; some of whom I have called “the four horsemen of the anti-apocalypse (i.e. Jastrow, Nierenberg, Seitz, and Singer). Although 3 out of 4 of these horsemen may now be dead, many more have saddled-up and taken their place… Therefore, it was not for nothing that the German Environment Minister at the 1992 Rio Summit went on the record as saying, “I am afraid that conservatives in the United States are picking ‘ecologism’ as their new enemy” (Luke (2000) – reference details [and link] appended below). Not only was it a tobacco company executive who, in order to maintain sales and profits, once infamously decided “doubt is our product”, it was a tobacco industry lobby group (The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition [TASSC]) that also brought into common parlance the terms “sound science” and “junk science” in an attempt to deny the seriously detrimental health effects of long-term cigarette smoking (see Ong and Glantz (2001) – reference details [and link] appended below). So it is that these mischievous right-wing ideologues have repeatedly sided with special interests groups (i.e. business leaders – be that in the pesticide, tobacco, or energy industries) in a series of campaigns that have – make no mistake – been against the public interest. One final point I believe worthy of note is this: Richard Lindzen has a long association with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is also famous for having been the home of the team of researchers whom The Club of Rome, from 1972 onwards, got to do the work for their Limits to Growth reports. In this respect, it should be noted that the former was a group of very wealthy people who were concerned about the profligate and reckless consumption-obsessed society they saw around them 40 years ago (and which is still with us today). Therefore, MIT should be commended for the complete absence of political interference in the research and publications of those that work within it. This stands in stark contrast to the record of shocking – and utterly hypocritical – political interference in the work of NASA during the tenure of George W Bush (see yesterday’s post). One must hope that this has now stopped. Unfortunately, political interference in science may have stopped but, with people like Richard Lindzen still around, supposedly-scientific interference in politics certainly has not yet been stopped. Furthermore, Hansen has demonstrated just how damaging this ideologically-driven and politically-prejudiced interference has been, and how far back it can be traced: He cites the case of John Mercer who, in the late 1970s, warned that burning fossil fuels may lead to the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Forget “may lead to…” – it is now happening (e.g. see this Climate Denial Crock of the Week item about the Pine Island Glacier)!… But people like Mercer and Hansen are rare, thus Hansen laments the general scientific reticence to speak plainly, forcibly and repeatedly; and to refuse to accept political interference, posturing and prevarication. On the contrary, Hansen asserts that scientists have generally been more concerned about being accused of “crying wolf” than of being guilty of “fiddling while Rome burns” (page 87-8). Well, given that Rome is well-and-truly burning, or the ship is well-and-truly sinking (or whatever other metaphor you prefer to invoke), one is left hoping that real, objective, climate scientists – as opposed to those like Lindzen that are prisoners of neo-Conservative, anti-environmental prejudice – will find their voice and win the attention of the public and politicians alike. This is because I think Hansen is right to conclude that we are all in breach of Article 2 of the UNFCCC, because “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” is already underway and, as yet, we are doing nothing effective to stop it. ——————– References: Luke, T (2000), ‘A rough road out of Rio: The right-wing reaction in the United States against Global Environmentalism’, in Low, N. et al. (eds.) Consuming cities: The urban environment in the global economy after the Rio declaration, New York: Routledge (pp.54-69). [Available for free download here] Ong, E. & Glantz, S. (2001), ‘Constructing “Sound Science” and “Good Epidemiology”: Tobacco, Lawyers, and Public Relations Firms’, American Journal of Public Health, Volume 91(11), pp.1749-1757. [Available for free download here]

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Anthropocene, Climate Science, Consumerism, Environment, Ethics, IPCC, James Hansen, Junk Science, Limits to Growth, Merchants of Doubt, Richard Lindzen, Scepticism, Storms of my Grandchildren, UNFCCC and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Is Richard Lindzen the devil’s advocate?

  1. Donald says:

    Hang about. If this mother-ship Earth is sinking, where do us human “rats” run away to? 😦 As a 15 year old kid, I lived in a small town in Victoria called Myrleford, where we grew “Tobacco” (they no longer do), so I can categorically tell you that, during its growth, a tobacco plant may be sprayed with up to 21 different kinds of poison in order stop fungi and other diseases from killing it. Those poisons are supposedly washed-out of the plant after it is sold to the companies. I lost count of how many stupid kids would take a dry leaf, roll it then smoke it, only to end up in hospital not long after. MIT and Jet Labs … awesome places where science may flourish.

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      I’m sure I’ve said this before but, Stephen Hawking’s idea (PBUH) is that, having trashed the planet, we will colonise space; although he does not explain how we will then feed ourselves (i.e. we will need to take with us a little more than two of every species)! However, this is what is known in the trade as an “abdication of moral responsibility” for our actions. [Nothing new there then – Ed.]

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    • pendantry says:

      The fact that globalisation has left nowhere for the human rats to run to is what makes the current situation so much more dangerous than previous iterations of humanity so royally f***ing things up. Pardon my French.

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  2. klem says:

    You know what the great thing is? Almost no one except a few people such as yourself are even slightly concerned anymore about anthropogenic climate change. Even the EU, still carrying the burden of their outdated and corrupt cap&trade commodity market, has been talking about growth and creating jobs. All of their greenie talk has been tossed out the window. They are slashing greenie subsidies from top to bottom. The world has put ACC behind them and moved on, the topic of this blog is so 2008. cheers

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Trillions of flies like eating sh1t, but that doesn’t mean I have to as well. Should I take it that you are not going to do any of the things I suggested over on Where shall we go from here…?

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      • Donald says:

        Trillions of flies like eating sh1t, but that doesn’t mean I have to as well.” Awesome comment, Rick. Surely it belongs in the Comments hall of fame? 🙂 IF Global Warming is so passe then Klem might wish to explain why the IPCC has already abandoned temperature measurements and moved forward into examining solutions for the massive Climate Changes that are now expected. He might also wish to explain why world average temperatures have been slowly increasing since 1880 … a gradual, slow yet NON-STOP climb in temperatures. A new [leaked] IPCC document reports that this is only the beginning: Many other [reseach] findings show that the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves will increase over most of the world’s landscapes. Dr. Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder explained it this way in a great NBC Nightly News story: “Just as steroids make a baseball player stronger and increase chances of hitting home runs, greenhouse gases are the steroids of the climate system. They increase the chances of record-breaking heat to occur compared to record-breaking cold.” As many have said this year alone, within four years, the sh1t will heat the fan and the flies will have a feast 😦

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    • PMA says:

      I live in the EU, let’s see: Yes, our politicians are talking about creating jobs in the… *dramatic drumroll* …green sector! Germany is aiming at a both nuclear and fossil free energy sector. Denmark is aiming for 50% windpower, and Sweden’s windpower grew with 40% in 2010. Italy has just started a program for investing in solar cell energy generation. And our cap & trade system is working very well, thank you. Kind regards, PMA

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      • Donald says:

        What a coincidence … so is ours! (sob) 😦

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      • pendantry says:

        I live in the EU too. Sadly, here in the UK, our government (which has tried to sell itself as ‘the greenest government ever’ has recently announced that it is cutting back substantially on the incentive for householders to invest in solar panels. Sh1theads.

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    • Stuart Mathieson says:

      Simpleton!

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    • Stuart Mathieson says:

      The Cap and Trade system was actually developed in the US to mitigate sulphur dioxide emissions. You need to do your homework Klem. There’s a good boy, go and do your homework!

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  3. Rick_Altman says:

    If the Sh1t hits the fan, the flies will be scattered to the four ends of the Earth (allusion to the Book of Revelation is deliberate!)

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  4. Donald says:

    Should we start a new website? “The Satanic AGW Scrolls” 🙂

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  5. Rick_Altman says:

    In respose to all of these more-recent comments (from PMA onwards), I will just say this… Although I had said I would not post any more items about James Hansen, I think this is a promise I will not be able to keep. The second-half of his book is astonishing for two things – the brutality of his criticism and the simplicity of the solution he proposes: It is brutal because he criticises (1) the failure of the UNFCCC Kyoto process (i.e. emissions target have not been met by anybody); (2) special interest groups for manipulating politicians (i.e. policy inaction is the goal of those that dispute global warming); and (3) governments for lying to themselves and us (i.e. catastrophic climate change can only be avoided by phasing out coal and not developing unconventional sources of fossil fuel). The latter being the result of governments being caught between pro-fossil fuel lobbyists and anti-nuclear lobbyists who have ensured that, over the last 20-30 years we have pursued one and shunned the other – the complete opposite of what we should have been doing. This brings me to the simplicity of Hansen’s solution, which was completely unexpected – but a position I had already reached intellectually myself (although he expresses it much better) – Fast breeder reactor (FBR) programmes (cancelled in the UK and US in 1989 and 1994 respectively) should be now be pursued vigorously because FBRs can be fueled by (1) the 99% of the Earth’s uranium that thermal reactors cannot use; (2) long-lived high-level radioactive (producing shorter-lived waste products); and (3) uranium extracted from seawater (where it is universally present at greater concentration than its average crustal abundance). This solves three problems in one: climate change, our energy crisis, and our existing legacy of radioactive waste. So why are we not doing it? Answer: because of the success of anti-nuclear campaigners in the 1980s…

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    • pendantry says:

      The pro-vs-anti nuclear debate is a thorny one, I don’t want to go there*. But I do want to say that I don’t trust any government’s pro-‘nucular’ stance: they (and the military arms lobbies pushing them along) are too much in love with their depleted uranium tank-buster shells, not to mention the ‘oh look, fancy that, we can make more efficient nukuleer wepons of miss distrucktion now, ain’t that handy? of corse we won’t use ’em, we’re the good guys.’ … go figger. *Oops.

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      • Rick_Altman says:

        George Monbiot and James Lovelock are both reluctant converts to the pro-nuclear camp. However, even though it is clear that the UK capitulated to the anti-nuclear wing of environmentalism in the late 1980s, I think the pragmatic scientist in me would still say, “Yes, but this really could solve all our energy problems…” Apart from which, your position is ludicrously cynical. Sorry.

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  6. Rick_Altman says:

    In the meantime, what we all need to do is FART…! (i.e. fundamentally alter resource trajectories) 🙂

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  7. Pingback: PIG produces calf the size of NYC | Anthropocene Reality

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  9. Lionel A says:

    On Nuclear power the two major caveats I see are firstly the maintenance of adequate cooling given that water resources are going to be stretched at the same time as sea levels rise affecting coastal installations. Secondly, hardening to withstand seismic events or terrorist acts (even from supposed eco warriors – after all we have been left with a nasty Mink problem in the UK because of misguided activities of some such). To fully understand the nuclear options and processes available, as well as a brief historical back ground (I am old enough to remember pouring over cutaways of Calder Hall in The Eagle comic in the 1950s when it was commissioned) this book is an informative read: Nuclear Renaissance: Technologies and Policies for the Future of Nuclear Power: Technologies and Policies from the Future of Nuclear Power William J. Nuttall ISBN-10: 0750309369 ISBN-13: 978-0750309363 It is a bit pricey and even my local library baulked at the cost of an inter-library loan (from London) to make the required reading time, I like to soak and dig around in references, viable so having had a copy on loan I bought mine own.

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    • Anthropocene Reality says:

      Thanks Lionel. Tom Blees’ book, Prescription for the Planet makes a good argument for the folly of having given up on Fast Breeder reactors 25 years ago. We already have nuclear waste and proliferation prblems. Apart from enabling us to use the 99% of uranium we can’t use at the moment (supply problem solved), FBR would also allow us to use current waste as fuel and reduce volume needing ultimate disposal (all other problems solved). Because of my geological background, unlike most environmentalists, I am sitting on the fence regarding nuclear power. To me the greatest aregument against it is not the envoironmental one (we already have the problems), it is the fact that it is high-tech; whereas what people in poor countries need are low-tech solutions.

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      • Lionel A says:

        I forgot to, as intended, include a reference to Greg Palast’s book Vulture’s Picnic where he describes the band-aid nature of the supposed emergency generators and why they were technologically designed to fail. I can understand the problems of the high stresses imposed by the requirement for a sudden burst into full power having had to deal with the Gas Turbine starters on the RN Phantom F4ks (FG1 to some), fun and games on the flight deck they were for sure. Vulture’s Picnic will disturb those not aware of the evil shenanigans of those controlling ‘The Monsters from the Oily Lagoon’.

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  10. Lionel A says:

    On Richard Lindzen this article from Eli’s will assist in understanding what we are dealing with here: If Richard Lindzen shows up at your door, slam it http://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/04/if-richard-lindzen-shows-up-at-your.html Who invited him to speak to our parliament this February? Somebody associated with the GWPF perhaps.

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    • Anthropocene Reality says:

      The meeting was organised by the group seeking to repeal the Climate Change Act. Their ePetition currently has 1% of its required 100k signatures; so they have no chance. However, that is not the point. The point is that Lindzen was given a direct line to further pollute the minds of people like Rt Hon Peter Lilley, Sammy Wilson and the ever-worshipful Lord Monckton. Although I could spot all the misdirection and obfuscation, a non-scientist would have no chance. At a time when the Heartland Institute is making headlines for being caught-out indulging in massive amounts of political interference in the USA, it is almost criminal that Lindzen should have been able to come over here and interfere in our political process as well. If Lindzen wants to sue somebody, he should have sued Oreskes and Conway for publishing Merchants of Doubt. The fact that he did not tells you all you need to know. I very much doubt he will answer my questions though, because to do so would expose the extent to which his scientific objectivity has been blunted by ideological prejudice.

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      • Lionel A says:

        I have just looked up that e-petition and noted the outrageous lie in it: ‘…the science of anthropogenic global warming was completely discredited by the “climategate” scandal…’ Roger Longstaff (aka TallBloke IIRC) must be responsible for that given that his name is on the petition. He needs to be called out on that. George Monbiot are you there? I also note the use of the ‘Heat or Eat’ dichotomy.elsewhere which is another spurious at http://repealtheact.org.uk/ which is a disgraceful and devious association of ideas.

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      • Anthropocene Reality says:

        Thanks Lionel. I have just set the cat firmly amongst the pigeions by emailing the Editors of 5 national newspapers and copying in just about everyone I can think of – this Lindzen story is most definitely not over yet. The petition is a collaboration of a variety of bodies including the “Global Wonky Policy Foundation” – see elsewhere on here!

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      • Stuart Mathieson says:

        Yes he is ever-worshipful, “my good friend Dick…” Talk about Brideshead revisited!

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      • Anthropocene Reality says:

        OK, Stuart, I can see that “he” here is Lord Monckton but… What do you mean by referring to ‘Brideshead Revisited’? (Yes, I admit it, I never watched it!)

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  11. Lionel A says:

    Oops! Got over my senior moment, TallBloke was of course another Roger, Roger Tattersall. Don’t hold your breath on your emails stirring anybody up though.

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