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Freeman Dyson on climate change science

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  • Freeman Dyson on climate change science

    Freeman Dyson is a physicist who has been teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since Albert Einstein was there. When Einstein died in 1955, there was an opening for the title of "most brilliant physicist on the planet." Dyson has filled it.
    Freeman Dyson

    So when the global-warming movement came along, a lot of people wondered why he didn’t come along with it. The reason he’s a skeptic is simple, the 89-year-old Dyson said when I phoned him. "I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic," Dyson said.

    Dyson came to this country from his native England at age 23 and immediately made major breakthroughs in quantum theory. After that he worked on a nuclear-powered rocket (see video below). Then in the late 1970s, he got involved with early research on climate change at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

    "I just think they don't understand the climate," he said of climatologists. "Their computer models are full of fudge factors."

    That research, which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.

    But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.

    "I just think they don’t understand the climate," he said of climatologists. "Their computer models are full of fudge factors."

    A major fudge factor concerns the role of clouds. The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide on its own is limited. To get to the apocalyptic projections trumpeted by Al Gore and company, the models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming.

    "The models are extremely oversimplified," he said. "They don't represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds."

    Dyson said his skepticism about those computer models was borne out by recent reports of a study by Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading in Great Britain that showed global temperatures were flat between 2000 and 2010 — even though we humans poured record amounts of CO-2 into the atmosphere during that decade.

    That was vindication for a man who was termed "a civil heretic" in a New York Times Magazine article on his contrarian views. Dyson embraces that label, with its implication that what he opposes is a religious movement. So does his fellow Princeton physicist and fellow skeptic, William Happer.

    "There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves," said Happer. "Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous."

    To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.

    I hope that guy never gets to hear Dyson’s most heretical assertion: Atmospheric CO-2 may actually be improving the environment.

    "It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation," Dyson said. "About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO-2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil."

    In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.

    "They’re absolutely lousy," he said of American journalists. "That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed."

    I know why: They’re lazy. Instead of digging into the details, most journalists are content to repeat that mantra about "consensus" among climate scientists.

    The problem, said Dyson, is that the consensus is based on those computer models. Computers are great for analyzing what happened in the past, he said, but not so good at figuring out what will happen in the future. But a lot of scientists have built their careers on them. Hence the hatred for dissenters.

    "It was similar in the Soviet Union," he said. "Who could doubt Marxist economics was the future? Everything else was in the dustbin."

    There’s a lot of room left in that bin for the ideas promulgated by people dumber than Dyson. Which is just about everyone.

  • #2
    Re: Freeman Dyson on climate change science

    Global warming

    Dyson agrees that anthropogenic global warming exists, and has written that "[o]ne of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas."[34]

    However, he believes that existing simulation models of climate fail to account for some important factors, and hence the results will contain too much error to reliably predict future trends:

    The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world we live in...[34]

    He is among signatories of a letter to the UN criticizing the IPCC[35][36] and has also argued against the ostracization of scientists whose views depart from the acknowledged mainstream of scientific opinion on climate change, stating that "heretics" have historically been an important force in driving scientific progress. "[H]eretics who question the dogmas are needed... I am proud to be a heretic. The world always needs heretics to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies."[34]

    More recently, he has endorsed the now common usage of "global warming" as synonymous with global anthropogenic climate change, referring to recent "measurements that transformed global warming from a vague theoretical speculation into a precise observational science."[37]

    He has, however, argued that political efforts to reduce the causes of climate change distract from other global problems that should take priority:

    I'm not saying the warming doesn't cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.[38]

    Since originally taking interest in climate studies in the 1970s, Dyson has suggested that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be controlled by planting fast-growing trees. He calculates that it would take a trillion trees to remove all carbon from the atmosphere.[39][40]

    Dyson is well-aware that his "heresy" on global warming has been strongly criticized. In reply, he notes that "[m]y objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but itís rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have."[41]

    "To reach reasonable solutions of the problems [of global warming], all opinions must be heard and all participants must be treated with respect."[

    Amen . . .

    (from Wikipedia)


    • #3
      Re: Freeman Dyson on climate change science

      start watching minute 30:00


      • #4
        Computers vs Truth

        The Atlantic monthly had a piece on Dyson about two years ago. Dyson is arrogant and his son hates him. Anybody who disagrees with global warming must be wrong. Great service to the readers when they run an article like that.

        But his comments on computer modeling---right on. I've used circuit simulators for years, and even in that relatively simple context, they have tons of weaknesses. Some of the arguments are also so circular. Like my advisor claiming that the observed warming must be due to human emitted C02 because the models can't explain it any other way. As if the models accurately include all known and unknown variables.