Credibility up in smoke
Among the scientists taking a public position sceptical of global warming, Richard Lindzen has always seemed the most credible. Unlike nearly all “sceptics”, he’s a real climate scientist who has done significant research on climate change, and, also unlike most of them, there’s no* evidence that he has a partisan or financial axe to grind. His view that the evidence on climate change is insufficient to include that the observed increase in temperature is due to human activity therefore seems like one that should be taken seriously.
Or it would do if it were not for a 2001 Newsweek interview (no good link available, but Google a sentence or two and you can find it) What’s interesting here is not the (now somewhat out of date) statement of Lindzen’s views on climate change, but the following paragraph
Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full, impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with thoughtful drags on a cigarette.
Anyone who could draw this conclusion in the light of the evidence, and act on it as Lindzen has done, is clearly useless as a source of advice on any issue involving the analysis of statistical evidence.
Lindzen argues that we should be equally sceptical about both climate change and the link between smoking and cancer, but his argument can just as easily be turned around. If you accept Lindzenâ€™s â€˜impeccably logicalâ€™ view that the two arguments are comparable, you reach the conclusion that the link between human activity and climate change is now so well-established that it makes about as much sense to doubt it as to doubt the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, that is, no sense at all.
Unlike most of the professional climate sceptics (Singer, Seitz, Milloy and so on), who are also paid advocates for the tobacco industry, there’s no* evidence to suggest that Lindzen is acting from mercenary motives. It appears that he’s just an irresponsible contrarian as a matter of temperament.
*Update Well, not much. Sourcewatch reports allegations that Lindzen was consulting for oil and coal interests in the early 1990s, but I haven’t seen anything more recent than this.