Tuesday, March 23, 2010
My classmate, Mark Bernstein, writes about climate change skepticism at Princeton University, including in the internationally prestigious department of physics. There is a lot more of it than I would have suspected.
Mark has done a good job of highlighting many of the reasons why some great scientists are skeptical of the mainstream warming chorus but he does note that the Princeton scientists consider the goals of developing alternative energy sources and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels to be laudable. Regardless of what one believes about the warming debate, I hope that the "laudable" goals can be embraced by all. It would be great if Mark also had a chance to probe the question of whether the burning of fossil fuels is resulting in increased acidification of the seas and lakes, which, if true, would also be another reason to move forward with thoughtful investments in alternative sources of energy.
Two older professors doesn't seem like a whole lot to me.
I hope Mark spends more time with Socolow, because he seems to be buying some of the arguments about "Glaciergate" and Greenland that he really shouldn't.
Heh. I come by my climate skepticism honestly, it seems. Will Happer taught me quantum mechanics, and Bob Austin was my prof for junior lab.
@Brian Schmidt: the article characteristically understates Will Happer's eminence. It's one of those things PAW does from time to time with our faculty - it's bad form to brag, don't you know. You can check out his biography for more -- he's had a very interesting career.
"Two older professors doesn't seem like a whole lot to me."
Science isn't a popularity contest or a consensus-building exercise. At least it didn't used to be.
The following quotes from the article go to why there have been so few "heretics":
"Happer says he’s been attacked verbally over the issue both inside and outside academia, including at Princeton. He claims that climate-change orthodoxy has had a chilling effect that has made some junior faculty around the country reluctant to voice support for his position out of fear of hurting their chances for tenure."
Happer characterized hostility toward climate skeptics in harsh terms. “This is George Orwell,” he said. “This is ‘the Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the earth.’ It’s that kind of propaganda.”
Tenure is supposed to promote academic freedom. In practice, it often does the opposite.
Austin and Happer's views on AGW co-incide with mine, actually. I got there through skeptical digging on my own. Much of my digging was reacting to claims made here by Brian, funnily enough. Until then I mostly accepted orthodox thinking -- because I heard nothing but.
This isn't just an academic issue. The political fight continues.
Come on boys...Global Warming has as much to do with the environment as the recent healthcare bill has to do with "health".
these guys are living in a police state... I meant members of the academy...hate thought is everywhere. Its actually quite brave of them to assume skepticism
Michael Crichton in his book "State of Fear" (2004):
"There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fearmongers. So far as I know, nobody had to ban horse transport in the early twentieth century."
Re: State of Fear
I don't disagree with Crichton's point, but US regulation is an obstacle to progress. The House-passed Energy bill would only make this worse.
When Henry Ford came along he didn't have to deal with a regulatory regime that would only license horse-drawn carriages and nothing but.
From everything I've read, thorium reactors have great potential but the USA won't be a leader in its development.
Some random thoughts on things that jumped out at me:
I love this line. "Meanwhile, the APS’s public-affairs panel is preparing a commentary about the 2007 statement and the science behind it. That panel is led by Princeton professor Robert Socolow, an influential researcher who studies technologies to reduce carbon emissions"
Would there be a conflict of interest that somebody who studies carbon reducing technology is in charge of a panel reporting on the critical need for same? If an AGW critic engineer from Shell/BP were to be in the same position, would the Greenies throw a foaming fit? (Answer to both: Yes!)
Interesting how he managed to invoke George Orwell twice in one article. But then again, Orwell would understand the AGW people quite well.
Strange how most paragraphs that throw doubt on AGW is ended by a sentence that promotes AGW, but paragraphs that supports AGW just end with a period... How the emails from East Anglia were "stolen", and "seemed to suggest" and were "taken out of context". Interesting how the opponents of the APS statement were "a handful" that later turn out to be "more than 160 past and present members".