Who are the scientist who don’t believe in global warming and why don’t they? The list is short but illustrious. Furthermore, it would be more correct to say that they don’t believe that temperature changes can be accurately projected or whether the problem is or will be as serious as predicted.
Who is this person? For the sake of brevity: a super genius. Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force in World War 2, BA degree in mathematics from Cambridge University, graduate student at Cornell University, awarded honorary PhD degrees (without going through the program) from Cornell, Princeton, Oxford, Georgetown and over a dozen other universities, worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology, author of “Disturbing the Universe” (1974), “Weapons of Hope” (1984), “Infinite in All Directions” (1988), “Origins of Life” (1986, second edition 1999), “The Sun, the Genome and the Internet” (1999), a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London, and Templeton Prize for progress in religion winner, merely scratch the surface of his professional accomplishments. Personally he is “Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources”. (1)
Below are the highlights of the “why” as discussed in the new York times article, The Civil Heretic written by Nicholas Dawidoff.
1. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere helps plants grow (they inhale Co2 and exhale oxygen). In addition we could breed special “carbon eating trees”. According to his calculations, the required number of trees to eat all carbon dioxide is a trillion trees.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations there has been a net loss of about 52 million hectares of forests between 2000 and 2010. Fortunately, this number is down from approximately 83 hectares per during the 1990s. See The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 for detailed information. Total forest area is 4 billion hectares or about 31% of total land. While reforestation is happening, with China, India, Vietnam being the largest contributors (2), the net change is still negative. Determining the number of years to exhaust our resources would be mere child’s play for someone Like Prof. Dyson.
2. “He brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus.” He mistrusts expert opinion, remembering all false predictions of the past.
Challenging the beliefs of the majority is part of the scientist’s responsibility. That the earth is round and revolves around the sun, that not washing hands when going from an autopsy to delivering a baby led to the 18% mortality rates of babies in the 1700’s (as opposed to 2% after the practice picked up) were all highly unpopular theories. On the flip side we have the consensus of the majority of the medical community that smoking is unhealthy while some still disagree and some who even advise pregnant women to continue smoking because quitting would be too traumatic (does this also apply to other drugs?). Sometimes they’re right; sometimes they’re not. Ultimately it becomes a question of whether it is something to gamble with. Keep smoking and see whether lung cancer settles in; deal with if and when it happens. Continue to pollute and wait and see; fix it then … if need be.
3. Believes the true harm of burning coal are the soot, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides released by the process.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, burning coal has the following yearly output:
-3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) the equivalent of cutting down 161 million trees. (but of course this is no real problem as mentioned above).
-10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), leading to acid rain that burns forests, poisons lakes, damages buildings, and causes respiratory complications.
-500 tons of small airborne particles, which can lead to respiratory conditions. 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) leading to ozone buildup causing inflammation of the lungs. 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), 220 tons of hydrocarbons, 170 pounds of mercury, 225 pounds of arsenic, 114 pounds of lead, all with their own side effects on human health. (2)
Although, it is cheap and it produces jobs!
Nasa showed us that the Clean Air Interstate Rule passed by the EPA in 2005 (to the despair of coal burning companies) reduced pollutant levels by 75%.(3) To make coal cleaner, Clean Coal Technology has been implemented to capture the damagining byproducts. Pollution has continued to decrease significantly over the past few years despite a 9.3% increase in pollution emission by China in 2011. This, however, seems to be as a result of a switch to renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, natural gas, rather than “clean coal technology”. (4)
Perhaps the gamble with the Clean Air Act is whether it is an inconvenience for now, pushing us towards cleaner sources of energy, but a blessing later. Seems like gambling on this hand as opposed to the one where coal gives us jobs now and probably won‘t make any problems later, would have less dire consequences should we lose on it.
4. The rise in temperature may actually be forestalling a new ice age.
According to scientists (oh no …) ice ages occur roughly every 200 million years. Sedimentary deposits suggest that the last major cooling occurred about 3 million years ago and that we are actually still in it. Since then the ice caps have advanced and retreated 20 times, with the last large ice covering 20, 000 years ago. We do not know the causes for ice ages and “the glacial cycles within them“, but it is suspected that they are linked to an interaction between solar output, distance from the sun, position and height of the continents, air and ocean circulation, quality and quantity of gases in the air, and plate tectonics. (5)
So, as far as forestalling an ice age… we are apparently already in one. Thousands of years ago north America had a sub-tropical climate.
5. He is a “humanist” who believes eliminating war, poverty, and unemployment are more important than protecting the environment. He believes that being “green” is a luxury only afforded to richer people. Coal is affordable and can help people rise out of poverty: “the move of the populations of China and India from poverty to middle-class prosperity should be the great historic achievement of the century. Without coal it cannot happen.”
Global warming aside, the picture above seems to say it all. Humanitarian? Depends on the definition. Who needs clean air when there’s food to eat! Luxury for the privileged? True! But we aren’t exactly starving are we?
6. He believes that ultimately solar power will become cheap and effective and will be preferred to coal, therefore reducing the impact on the environment.
Human beings don’t like change; we only do it when we need to. So… no problem? Then why change? Add to that the resistance of an entire industry and … well … you know.
Here is a dialogue from Dawidoff’s article between Dyson and his wife Imme as they are watching An Inconvenient Truth:
“How far do you allow the oceans to rise before you say, This is no good?” she asked Dyson.
“When I see clear evidence of harm,” he said.
“Then it’s too late,” she replied. “Shouldn’t we not add to what nature’s doing?”
“The costs of what Gore tells us to do would be extremely large,” Dyson said. “By restricting CO2 you make life more expensive and hurt the poor. I’m concerned about the Chinese.”
“They’re the biggest polluters,” Imme replied.
“They’re also changing their standard of living the most, going from poor to middle class. To me that’s very precious.”
“Nature’s been going crazy.”
“That is of course just nonsense,” Dyson said calmly. “With Katrina, all the damage was due to the fact that nobody had taken the trouble to build adequate dikes. To point to Katrina and make any clear connection to global warming is very misleading.”
“All my friends say how smart and farsighted Al Gore is,” she said.
“He certainly is a good preacher,” Dyson replied. “Forty years ago it was fashionable to worry about the coming ice age. Better to attack the real problems like the extinction of species and over fishing. There are so many practical measures we could take.”
“I’m still perfectly happy if you buy me a Prius!” Imme said.
“It’s toys for the rich,”
The math makes sense; his reasons for being skeptical just as valid as the other side’s. Lucky for him and for all of us, it won’t really matter to us one way or another. Even if he’s wrong and we are the cause, none of us will really get to taste the fruits of our seeds. So it comes down to whether we want to gamble with the lives of our children and grand-children. and whether we want to invest in the future or the present.
Next Richard Lindzen.
5. What Triggers Ice Ages, Kirk Maasch, posted 01.01.97, NOVA.