My complaint to MIT – part 1

This is a transcript of my first (successful) email to MIT complaining about Professor Richard Lindzen (dated 9 March 2012): ————— Professor Van der Hilst Department Head and Schlumberger Professor of Earth Sciences Massachusetts Institute of Technology Boston, MA Dear Professor Van der Hilst, Complaint of Academic Misconduct and/or Dishonesty against Professor Richard S Lindzen, pursuant to Section 689 (Falsification) of the National Science Foundation Regulations on Misconduct. With my thanks to your Departmental Secretary, who gave me your email address, I hereby wish to make the above complaint arising from my attendance, as an invited guest, at a meeting in the Palace of Westminster of 22 February 2012, at which Professor Lindzen gave a presentation entitled Global Warming: How to approach the science (Climate Models and the Evidence?). Please note that I have previously sent an email like this to policies@mit.edu but I think this must be the cyberspace equivalent of a bAltman hole. However, now certain that I have got an appropriate email address, I would appreciate confirmation by return email that you are investigating it. Not only was I extremely concerned by what appears to have been a blatantly hypocritical, obfuscatory, and misleading presentation, I have since discovered that Professor Lindzen has given this talk, or something very much like it, on at least two previous occasions: 1. At the Heartland Institute’s 4th International Climate Change Conference in May 2010; and 2. In testimony to US House Subcommittee on Science and Technology hearing in November 2010. I have now sent Professor Lindzen 3 emails (on 23 and 25 February, and 5 March but, as yet I have had no explanation – let alone a satisfactory one – for the issues I have raised in my emails to him. Transcripts of my 3 emails have already been published on my Anthropocene Reality Blog (on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems) as follows: An open letter to Richard Lindzen (28 February 2012) – 1800 word email with questions from me. Prof. Lindzen – try this instead! (29 February 2012) – Many of my questions re-formulated as 17 simple statements via which I invited Professor Lindzen to explain his position. There is no cause for concern? You cannot be serious! (5 March 2012) – about 900 words – plus some very interesting comments from me and others. In addition to all of the above, with my thanks to Fay Kelly Tuncay (who organised the meeting), there is a video of the question and answer session that followed the presentation, in which you can see me attempting to address what I felt to be Professor Lindzen’s misrepresentation and/or obfuscation of relevant palaeoclimatic data and, consequently, being prevented from asking a question. This video and comments relating to it may be found in the comments section beneath Lindzengate – an update report (8 March 2012). If nothing else, Professor Lindzen’s repetitive divergence from – and ridicule of – the genuine scientific consensus regarding the nature, scale and urgency of the problem we face (i.e. anthropogenic climate disruption) and/or his invocation of conspiracy theory as a grounds for dismissing the validity and reliability of that consensus would appear to be in severe danger of damaging the international reputation of your highly-esteemed establishment. Furthermore, because I consider this to be such a gravely important issue with global consequences, if I do not receive such a confirmation, or alternative directions, from you by 1600hrs GMT on Monday 19 March 2012 (10 calendar days from today), I shall forward this email to Suzanne Goldenberg (US Environmental Correspondent for the Guardian newspaper) and a number of equivalent journalists in the UK, suggesting that they publish it forthwith because, in the continuing absence of a satisfactory explanation from him, I am inclined to think that Professor Lindzen appears to be part of an organised campaign to downplay, deny and/or dismiss anthropogenic climate change being orchestrated by right-wing, ideologically-prejudiced Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) such as the Heartland Institute and the CATO Institute. I have reached this conclusion, in no small part, as a result of my reading of research done by Peter Jacques et al., the findings of which may be summarised as follows: In prefacing their research, Jacques et al. observed that… “Since environmentalism is unique among social movements in its heavy reliance on scientific evidence to support its claims… it is not surprising that CTTs would launch a direct assault on environmental science by promoting environmental scepticism…” (2008: 353). Furthermore, based on their findings, they concluded that: “Environmental scepticism is an elite-driven reaction to global environmentalism, organised by core actors within the conservative movement. Promoting scepticism is a key tactic of the anti-environmental counter-movement co-ordinated by CTTs…” (ibid: 364). Jacques has also highlighted the central aim of CTTs as being to cause confusion and doubt amongst the general public, in order to prevent the creation of a popular mandate for change (i.e. achieved by using a tactic developed by the tobacco industry of countering supposedly “junk” science with their “sound” science), which he refers to as the “science trap” (2009: 148). Based on the findings of the research published in 2008, Jacques therefore also concluded that environmental scepticism is a social counter-movement that uses CTTs to provide “political insulation for industry and ideology from public scrutiny”; and that this deliberate obfuscation stems from a realisation that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” (2009: 169). However, Jacques does not blame the CTTs for the ecological crisis he feels we face, as they have merely exploited a dominant social paradigm; “because neoliberal globalism and its logic are protected from critique” (ibid: 119). In concluding, may I take the opportunity to apologise for any intemperate and/or emotive remarks I may have made on my blog; and assure you that these are indicative of my concern for the future habitability of planet Earth. They should not be interpreted as in any way hostile to Professor Lindzen personally, as I am not seeking to attack the messengers; only what I – and the vast majority of relevantly-qualified climate scientists – consider to be a dangerously erroneous message. I therefore trust that I may hear from you in the very near future. Yours very sincerely, [etc]. References: Jacques, P. et al (2008), ‘The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics, 17(3), pp.349-385. Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life. Farnham: Ashgate. ———————- When I did not get any response to this, I sent a second email on Tuesday 13 March 2012, which I will post here tomorrow.

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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 Climate Science, Cognitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias, Environment, Lindzengate, Politics, Richard Lindzen. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to My complaint to MIT – part 1

  1. Bill says:

    Hello Rick. I’ve recently come across your website and actively follow it now. Can I make a suggestion? While your message is worthwhile and the science of AGW is, to my mind, beyond doubt; I think that your style is tempering your success. To be frank, you come across as a bit if a nut-job. Can I suggest that you don’t try and bAltmanmail people to get what you want: I dare say that the Professor you wrote to concerning Lindzen probably read that bit – or a sidekick did – and decided to consign it to the universal round filing system. How about contacting them a couple of times. Then if you have no luck, send it out? Just a thought anyway. Kind regards, Bill.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks Bill. You are of course entitled to your opinion but, I think I have been very patient (and have also apologised where necessary).

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  2. Christine says:

    Nicely done, Rick. Keep up the good fight.

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  3. rpauli says:

    Very good letter. I have written to MIT on the same subject; although not as eloquently. They must be getting quite a few. I hope you get a response. Since Lindzen has accomplished some great studies that reveal how heat is measured in layers of atmosphere, he has some respect among climatologists. This may be an issue of academic tenure – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure Lindzen is certainly an embarrassment to his colleagues, but they would rather keep him, than get rid of the tenure system: It is a system designed to protect the free speech of tenured professors. Lindzen is straining and stressing the tenure system, and MIT must know this reflects poorly on them. The recent expose of Heartland Institute and their payments to Lindzen reveals what a sellout he is to the public; but he is careful to protect his formal publishing reputation. It is nice of you to respect him enough to write a civil message. He may have done great things once, but as a climate communicator, he is pissing into the wind, and trying to tell us it’s rain. He really does not deserve our respect. Academia and MIT may be required to respect him; we are not. There needs to be an institution that is the very opposite of tenure – the public opprobrium award for unethical acts. Perhaps he could lend his name to it. The Lindzen designation – where cultivated immorality, aggressive ignorance and private pandering make for a contemptuous regard by the public. For instance, a genuine US hero Charles Lindbergh embodies this transition from hero to heel – in the early days of WW2 he was a avowed Nazi sympathizer and a bit of a white supremacist. But later regained sympathy and much of his good name. Oops! Inadvertent Godwin’s law foul out – bye…. Is that rain?

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks rpauli. I have now had a reply which is disappointing but not surprising: Despite evidence indicative of hypocrisy, obfuscation and misdirection on just about every slide in his presentation, MIT appear to want to close the file on Lindzengate, based on Lindzen’s “you’re all guilty of confirmation bias” apology for a single piece of NASA-GISS data misrepresentation. I know this is not surprising given the way academic tenure works in the USA; but I am surprised at just how much embarrasment MIT are willing to put up with. This matter is not over, I will publish my second email to MIT tomorrow and discuss their response later in the week… “…he is pissing into the wind, and trying to tell us it’s rain…” – Priceless!

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    • Rick Altman says:

      I would be interested to hear about any reply that you get too; as one possibility is that all complainants will get a formulaic response.

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  4. Lionel A says:

    Have you checked out the Notes behind references to Lindzen in Mann’s new book? More stocks for Lindzen’s limbs and a number of others should join him. Rob Dekker has posted an interesting one at RealClimate here .

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks Lionel. I took a peak at Rob Dekker’s comments but they are way above my pay grade I think. As for MM’s book, I will have to sell some more second-hand before I buy his book new.

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  5. Pingback: Lindzengate – one year on | Anthropocene Reality

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