Subject: [JBirch] MIT's inconvenient scientist

  

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Boston.com
The Boston Globe
ALEX BEAM
MIT's inconvenient scientist

By Alex Beam, Globe Columnist  |  August 30, 2006

Speech codes are rare in the industrialized, 
Western democracies. In Germany and Austria, for 
instance, it is forbidden to proselytize Nazi 
ideology or trivialize the Holocaust. Given those 
countries' recent histories, that is a restraint 
on free expression we can live with.

More curious are our own taboos on the subject of 
global warming. I sat in a roomful of journalists 
10 years ago while Stanford climatologist Stephen 
Schneider lectured us on a big problem in our 
profession: soliciting opposing points of view. 
In the debate over climate change, Schneider 
said, there simply was no legitimate opposing 
view to the scientific consensus that man - made 
carbon emissions drive global warming. To suggest 
or report otherwise, he said, was irresponsible.

Indeed. I attended a week's worth of lectures on 
global warming at the Chautauqua Institution last 
month. Al Gore delivered the kickoff lecture, 
and, 10 years later, he reiterated Schneider's 
directive. There is no science on the other side, 
Gore inveighed, more than once. Again, the same 
message: If you hear tales of doubt, ignore them. 
They are simply untrue.

I ask you: Are these convincing arguments? And 
directed at journalists, who are natural 
questioners and skeptics, of all people? What 
happens when you are told not to eat the apple, 
not to read that book, not to date that girl? 
Your interest is piqued, of course. What am I not 
supposed to know?

Here's the kind of information the ``scientific 
consensus" types don't want you to read. MIT's 
Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology Richard 
Lindzen recently complained about the ``shrill 
alarmism" of Gore's movie ``An Inconvenient 
Truth." Lindzen acknowledges that global warming 
is real, and he acknowledges that increased 
carbon emissions might be causing the warming -- 
but they also might not.

``We do not understand the natural internal 
variability of climate change" is one of 
Lindzen's many heresies, along with such zingers 
as ``the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940," 
``the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland 
ice sheet is actually growing on average," and 
``Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the 
early 19th century, and were advancing for 
several centuries before that. Since about 1970, 
many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and 
some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we 
don't know why."

When Lindzen published similar views in The Wall 
Street Journal this spring, environmentalist 
Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David, 
immediately branded him a ``shill." She 
resurrected a shopworn slur first directed 
against Lindzen by former Globe writer Ross 
Gelbspan, who called Lindzen a ``hood ornament" 
for the fossil fuels industry in a 1995 article 
in Harper's Magazine.

I decided to check out Lindzen for myself. He 
wasn't hard to find on the 16th floor of MIT's 
I.M. Pei-designed Building 54, and he answered as 
many questions as I had time to ask. He's no big 
fan of Gore's, having suffered through what he 
calls a ``Star Chamber" Congressional inquisition 
by the then senator . He said he accepted $10,000 
in expenses and expert witness fees from fossil- 
fuel types in the 1990s, and has taken none of 
their money since.

He's smart. He's an effective debater. No wonder 
the Steve Schneiders and Al Gores of the world 
don't want you to hear from him. It's easier to 
call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption 
than to debate him on the merits.

While vacationing in Canada, I spotted a 
newspaper story that I hadn't seen in the United 
States. For no apparent reason, the state of 
California, Environmental Defense, and the 
Natural Resources Defense Council have dragged 
Lindzen and about 15 other global- warming 
skeptics into a lawsuit over auto- emissions 
standards. California et al . have asked the auto 
companies to cough up any and all communications 
they have had with Lindzen and his colleagues, 
whose research has been cited in court documents.

``We know that General Motors has been paying for 
this fake science exactly as the tobacco 
companies did," says ED attorney Jim Marston. If 
Marston has a scintilla of evidence that Lindzen 
has been trafficking in fake science, he should 
present it to the MIT provost's office. 
Otherwise, he should shut up.

``This is the criminalization of opposition to 
global warming," says Lindzen, who adds he has 
never communicated with the auto companies 
involved in the lawsuit. Of course Lindzen isn't 
a fake scientist, he's an inconvenient scientist. 
No wonder you're not supposed to listen to him.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is Alex Beam
 Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company