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good link available, but Google a sentence or two and you can find it) What’s interesting here is not the (now somewhat out of date) statement of Lindzen’s views on climate change, but the following paragraph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 Lindzen’s ‘impeccably logical’ 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.

Hat tips to Tim Lambert and Eli Rabett

*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.

66 thoughts on “Credibility up in smoke

  1. Avaroo says: “The Norwegians do need to do some re-thinking though. Ever since they awarded Kofi Annan the Nobel prize..”

    The Norwegians hand out the Nobel prizes? I am pretty sure Sweden might have something to say about that.

  2. “By the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1901.

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose five members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget), is entrusted both with the preparatory work related to prize adjudication and with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

  3. Ya got me there, Avaroo, the peace prize is indeed the only Nobel prize not awarded by a Swedish Institution.

  4. So, is Lidzens credibility ‘up in smoke’ based on one article in Newsweek? I doubt it.

    And is Mark Steyn guilty of a gross distortion of the truth because he did not include France as an ally in WW2?

    I don’t think so.

  5. Dogz, I take it you don’t vote (or wouldn’t if it wasn’t for the risk of fines) after all one vote is obviously going to be irrelevant.

  6. StephenL, SJ,

    read my lips:

    The argument is not about whether any individual measure affects global warming (at some level, every measure does), but whether an expensive advertising campaign focused on turning off domestic lighting is the best use of taxpayer funds.

  7. Rog says: Laval and others had aalready been hung.

    Put to death, yes; hung, no. Laval was shot, as were Robert Brasillach and various other Frenchmen convicted of collaborating with the German occupiers.

  8. Lindzen has no credibility because he’s publicly made two contradictory statements, in writing, signed, knowing that at least one of them was a lie as he uttered it. See my first comment above for the details.

    When he says “we” would not do today something that was done by international consensus a decade ago he tells us that he speaks for an international consensus today. But six days earlier he’d whined about the “sinister” conspiracy of alarmists – his sillyspeak namecalling of those who actually do represent an international scientific consensus – who lap up the grant funding that he and his “dissenting” colleagues deserve. It is at this stage of our exacting analysis, rog, that we realize that he’s either lying now, or he was then. True he’s a fool as well – but not so silly as to not have known that he was lying at the time.

    Truth and candor (or their absence) today go unnoticed (unlamented) by our purblind, blog warring ideologues and their pet contrarian poseurs like Lindzen, as they all prattle on about “science”. If they don’t respect a notion of the possibility of truth or its absence … why would we care about their opinions on “science”?

  9. Um… the wider recognition of smoking as a cancer risk was indeed delayed by early PC effects. The problem was that it was the Nazis who first brought the matter out.

    One problem was that at the Nuremberg Trials the prosecution had asserted that there was no scientific merit in any concentration camp experiments. Unfortunately things like hypothermia research intended to help Luftwaffe pilots downed at sea turned out to be useful to the Canadians. It became rather important to downplay anything that might however tenuously appear to discredit the prosecution’s completely unnecessary spurious claim.

  10. I’m not sure why collaboration with the Nazis features on this post.

    Anyway it is well worth remembering that collaboration was more widespread that we would like to believe. Even the plucky Brits in the Channel Islands mostly passively collaborated or in somes cases actively collaborated with their Nazi occupiers. The Jews for instance were dispatched to the concentration camps without much fuss and local good samaritans who helped the Russian and Spanish slave labourers were dobbed in by their neighbours.


  11. The Vichy Govt was regarded by France as an illegal govt run by traitor.

    This argument was unsustainable and in 1995 Chirac acknowledged the responsibility of the French state when he said “Yes, the criminal folly of the occupier was assisted by French, by the French state.”

    “France, homeland of the Enlightenment and of human rights, land of welcome and asylum, France, on that very day, accomplished the irreparable,” he said. “Failing her promise, she delivered those she was to protect to their murderers.”

  12. According to Dogz “Applying Chris O’Neilll’s argument, we should all refrain from exercise because that generates more GHGs than sitting still”

    except of course that food can and should come from a non-GHG source of energy (the Sun) whereas electric lights are powered by GHG-producing power stations.

    Trust a denialist like Dogz to be ignorant of the difference.

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