Massachusetts Institute of Technology’n (MIT) ilmastotieteiden professorin Richard S. Lindzenin haastattelu Bostonissa 22. lokakuuta 2009
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’n (MIT) ilmastotieteiden professorin Richard S. Lindzenin haastattelu Bostonissa 22. lokakuuta 2009
Martti Backman: Professor Richard Lindzen, how would you describe the climate change within the last ten, fifteen years and how is it in accordance with the model predictions?
Richard Lindzen: Well, how shall I put it... one has to start with the fact that all the changes in global mean temperature anomaly we're talking about are very small. Even over the past century we are talking about less than one degree. You know, the measurements are not certain, plus or minus two tenths of a degree, let's say. For life perspective, any two temperatures whose error bars overlap are not different in this statistically significant way. For life perspective it's not just last ten, fifteen years. 2008 was not significantly different from 1987.
The models, of course, were predicting that there should be a marked increase in temperature during this period, there are not. This is acknowledged by the modeling groups, Smith in the U.K. and Keenleyside in Germany and Latif in Germany and they all keep to the religious mantra that, you know, the models didn't include, adequately or properly, the natural internal variability, but when we take this into account, warming will resume, the first papers said in 2009, the next one 2013, Latif is up to 2030. You know, this is not science, but you have to have that statement at the end that you still believe it will occur.
In point of fact, even the IPCC said that their statement, that you can tribute it to man, was based on the assumption that the models adequately handled natural internal variability. So every subsequent paper has been to say that assumption was wrong. So the statement itself has no basis, even by their crazy terms that they determined it because they couldn't make the models replicate something without it.
B: What have you been thinking about the recent cooling trend?
L: It's tiny.
L: You know, this business... you know, you can't get people to look at the numbers, so you get them to think is it going up or is it going down. Everyone knows, you know, you look at the stock market, it makes a big difference if it went up one point or a thousand points and in this case we are talking about one point.
B: But isn't it true that some of the hottest years have occurred during the past decade?
L: Of course it's true. I mean, you know, you have a temperature record, it's not very long in climatic terms. The net behavior of it was to rise until the mid 80's with... not continuously, with tips and so on and so, by the mid 80's you were at a high point in the curve and this curve always fluctuates so once you are at the high point, every fluctuation will give you a... one of the warmest years on record, tells you nothing about the trend during that period.
B: Yes, of course it...
L: I mean, it's the use of language to confuse people.
B: But there was the trend, it was quite a short term... short trend but anyway, from about -75 to -98 the trend was warming, wasn't it?
L: No, no, you know, how shall I put it... like any trend, it began sharply at the end of the 70's and began flattening by the mid 80's and is still going up a bit, but as I say, -87 is not statistically different from 2008.
B: But can one say, what was that stopped this warming trend about -98?
L: We're talking about tenths of a degree, Martti, it's always changing. You know, what's unusual is to be flat, it's usually going up or down but...
B: So is it the variability, the...
L: How shall I put it... the system is not in equilibrium. The ocean carries heat up and down. When it's down, it's shielded from the surface. The surface is not in equilibrium with the sun, so the temperature is always fluctuating. It's a fool's game to say what caused this, what caused that and so on ... and the models, when they simulate it, do it by adjusting things, so it looks okay but I mean, this is not meaningful.
B: Okay, when I have discussed with the alarmists, they use to say that heat is just hiding in the depths of the oceans and will soon pop out from there, causing a new jump in the warming...
L: That's physical nonsense. What they are referring to, is the fact that the ocean has a big heat capacity, so it acts as a drag. If you put radiation on it and try to heat it, it takes a while. You take the radiation away, there's nothing stored in the ocean. It's simply saying you have inertia in the system, it's not saying it's a commitment that's buried in the ocean. This is, again, the use of language to confuse the public and make them worry.
B: And what do you think about the aerosol explanation?
L: It's wonderful, because we know so little about aerosols, every model uses a different parametrization, so that they can adjust their results to look like whatever they want.
B: Handy... but can I still ask you the question, that many people are wondering, why the models have failed in predicting this turn in the warming trend?
L: Look, you know, there are natural phenomena that vary on multidecadal, or yearly events, you have the El Niño, you have things they call the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multidecadal ... none of the models do a good job on these, so it's saying the models do not do a good job on the natural variability on the time scales we're talking about.
B: What do you think is the primary cause for the climate change, the fluctuations since the nineteenth century?
L: Since the nineteenth century there is, you know, virtually no need to invoke anything other than nature. I mean, we're talking... you know, let's just emphasize that. We're talking about tenths of a degree, in a system that varies by the whole range of the last century and a half, from one year to the next. So we're smoothing out all these big fluctuations being , you know. You have the BBC referring to 1998, which was two tenths of a degree warmer than the subsequent years as “the dizzy temperature of 1998”. This is nonsense, it's again capitalizing on the fact that the public is not expected to look at the numbers.
B: What aspects in the nature... what is the role of sun for example?
L: I haven't the faintest idea, Martti, to be honest. The only measurements we have suggest that, you know, in terms of just output, the sun varies very little. Other people have suggested there may be other aspects of the solar output that have more impact. Most of those do not seem convincing to me. But as long as I have been in this field there have been people who want to relate what happens to the Sun and... just as with greenhouse gases, you can have one combination or another of solar factors that will make a good fit. You know, I'll leave it for the future, you don't need it is my point. And there's something called Occam's razor, I don't know if you've ever heard of that ?
B: Yes, I know it.
L: You know, if you don't need something, don't invoke it.
B: And what's the role of man in all that?
L: You know, locally man is very important. I mean, we build cities, we change agricultural practice. These affect the local climatology, far more than we are talking about for the globe. But on the globe, I don't see a great deal of impact.
B: It seems that the data is conflicting with the models anyway, so how this inconsistency should be solved within the discipline, within science?
L: Usually, the difference between observations and theory is the motor that drives science. One looks for the differences and tries to explicate them. Usually the data has priority, but it's understood, data is not perfect either. This field is completely sick that way, I mean, you have models, you know they don't work, you know they don't reproduce known phenomenon, but you bend the data to fit the model. I don't think this can go on for long without being embarrassing.
B: And now we come to your last paper, in which you made observations about outgoing radiation in the upper troposphere...
L: No, no, that's in space.
B: In space?
L: Remember, remember the picture of the greenhouse. The sun is heating the earth, the earth is trying to cool by emitting heat radiation, infrared, and if you do that, CO² doubling is only supposed to give you a degree. The reason in the models it gives more, is it says the two main greenhouse substances in the atmosphere, water vapor and clouds, always act to thicken the blanket even more.
So we, we've made the obvious point. The temperature is always fluctuating, every few months by significant amounts, but as seen, since the feedbacks that are causing this amplification operate on a time scale of days, they're just cloud issues. What does nature do and what do the models do when you force it with the observed temperature fluctuations. So in space you are looking at the outgoing radiation, you are seeing is it... is the blanket thickening every time the temperature increases and thinning when it decreases and what do the models do. The models do exactly what they are supposed to given their sensitivity. They all show the blanket thickens and it thickens by the amount consistent with the sensitivity of the models to the doubling of CO². Do the same thing for nature and it does exactly the opposite and it does it more powerfully. So you have all the models agreeing with each other and all of them wrong compared to nature.
B: And what do these results imply when we think about the feedbacks and climate sensitivity?
L: It's saying, you know, that instead of the one degree being magnified, it should be shrunken by at least half.
B: And how much would this sensitivity be, in degrees of Celsius?
L: Now, in terms of degrees Celsius, it says we can expect a doubling of CO², might contribute in the order of a half degree to the global mean temperature anomaly.
B: And how big problem is that?
L: None. We see that from month to month, year to year all the time. I mean, the truth is, we've seen already two thirds, three quarters of a degree. This is not a period when the world is falling apart, it's a period when the population has grown, when famine has been defeated, when people live longer than ever and this large number of people in this supposedly terribly warming earth are living better for the most part.
B: Okay. Roy Spencer made his measurements in the upper troposphere ?
L: He's looking for a mechanism. We're looking for the answer, regardless of mechanism. Did the greenhouse blanket get thicker or thinner with increasing temperature. We also wrote papers on mechanism, the aerosol effect and so on and that's, you know, similar to what Roy has done subsequently.
B: Yes, it has been a little difficult for me to understand, what's the basic similarity and basic difference between you and the Alabama guys. (Spencer and Christy)
L: They're... I'm not sure altogether. I'm not altogether sure, to be honest, because they are looking at it somewhat differently, we were simply asking how does tropic... what is tropical cloud covering, how does it change with temperature.
B: Yes. But I would like to ask you, why did the models fail once more with your findings?
L: Yeah... the IPCC is quite open about this. The models have absolutely no skill in dealing with clouds and yet this is big enough to handle the biggest climate change and oppose it. Let me give you an example of that. I mean, have you ever heard of something called The Early Faint Sun Paradox?
L: Okay. Two and a half billion years ago, according to all the standard models of the sun, the brightness of the sun was twenty, thirty per cent less than it is today. Remember, we're worrying about a two per cent change, this was twenty, thirty per cent, it was less and yet the geological evidence is that the temperature was not particularly different from today's. It certainly... the oceans weren't frozen. Question is why, and people have looked at greenhouse gases and you'd have to have thousands and thousands of times today's CO² or tons of methane and it still doesn't work and it's inconsistent with the geology and it's inconsistent with everything else. On the other hand, you could increase the cloud coverage within perfectly feasible amounts and counteract that change. But in order to do that the clouds have to constitute a negative, not a positive feedback.
B: Yes, that was a good example
L: By the way, that's in the peer-reviewed literature as well.
B: What do you think about the silence around your last paper?
L: Oh, I think it's because it's so simple and obvious, and I think even the alarmist groups know that the better part of wisdom is not to publicize this.
B: In general, how well have you managed to get your reports published?
L: You know, there is more difficulty if you are opposing what is the main support of the field. But to be fair, I usually... as long as the paper does not make too much of a point of it you can get them published. And you know, what I've noticed over the years is this is a political issue, people are afraid to stand up but in every laboratory including those most committed to warming, there are perfectly prominent, good people who say you know, look, we know this is nonsense, we just don't want to get in trouble and you know, these people will help you get the data, they'll review the papers and so on, so the field maintains a kind of level of integrity that's quietly underground.
B: I read this from somewhere, somebody was asking, wondering that when the high sensitivity models are so errant, why isn't there a “Lindzen model”, model with the micro physics of clouds and so on?
L: It's not a trivial issue and it's not my thing to build these large models, they're costly. I much prefer theory and these days data analysis, even more fun. I've worked on models, models are not individual efforts and when you are at this stage where you cannot build the model that's functioning well... you know, it's not a game for anyone who's intellectually stimulated by the field, I mean it's hammering away at a bad engine and hoping you can put enough chewing gum on it to make it stay without falling apart. I don't enjoy that.
B: So it's not your thing ...
L: Yeah, the question itself says something terrible about society however. Namely that they think the final judge of anything is a model. This is a disaster.
B: Yeah, “Playstation science”, as they they call it.
L: I mean, you know, we all know how good economics models are. Our models aren't much better. People know their weather forecasts are not terribly good beyond the day so, you know, why they think a model represents a kind of high point, puzzles me.
B: What are our chances to fight global warming?
L: You know, it depends on whether you think it's a phenomenon or not. I mean, if the sensitivity we get from the satellite data is correct, there's not much to fight, one and two will have a proportionally small effect. The fact of the matter is, even if you believe the models which, given that they all disagree with nature, isn't a terribly reasonable thing to do, but even if you did, it's only now they are beginning to talk about policies that would have even a small impact like, you know, cutting emissions thirty, forty per cent, bringing the use of energy down to what it was a hundred and thirty years ago, on a per capita basis at least.
These are not gonna happen and even that would only take a few tenths off whatever they project. So it's a very funny political scheme, people are being told they can save the Earth by changing a light bulb and everyone is eager to show what caring, good people they are, so in the process they are doing silly things and in some instances very harmful things for the people in the developing world, in the poor world. You know, I know I differ with many people on this, I have a concern for the environment but I don't think you prove you care by joining a political movement, that, I think on the whole has proven in recent years to be malicious.
B: After all, why there is this current alarm?
L: Well, you know, there are probably a lot of reasons for this issue starting up and many of them were political. Bert Bolin, in your neighborhood Sweden, already by the 70's was pointing out that... what was an adviser of the prime minister there, he was pointing out that climate would be a wonderful issue for global governance, North-South redistribution and so on. They just weren't sure at that time to go for global cooling or global warming but the politics came first... and of course Bert Bolin was the first head of the IPCC.
But you know, when you have something that involves energy, involves everyone's lives, involves, you know, trillions of dollars, eventually all sorts of people come to see an interest in it. So, you know, you have this unseemly competition between Enron and Lehman Brothers, both now bankrupt, and Goldman Sachs, for who will be the broker of carbon credits because the commissions alone will be billions of dollars.
You know, you have pushed the first, suddenly increased the funding in climate from a hundred and seventy million a year to several billion a year. You know that builds an interest. Every program manager, no matter how good, freely acknowledges they would not have their funds but for this issue. So, by this time, you have lots of interests and of course, as you know, the issue has been strongly publicized, not just the last few years but for over twenty years.
The real question is why the last few years have seen this huge boost with all these crazy movies, Inconvenient Truth, nonsense spewed out, hysteria, “we're all going to die if we don't change our light bulbs immediately”. I can only say, somebody must have noticed that the temperature had stopped increasing and they had all these agendas by now to make billions of dollars and do this and do that, get people to pay taxes and feel happy about it, because they're saving the Earth and so on. So you have the politicians, the bureaucrats, the scientists and so on, and all felt, you know, if the temperature continues this way, this is finished, if we don't get it through immediately so the volume was increased.
B: I think it's very funny that the green organizations, they always say and they are going to tell that again after my program comes out in Finland, that Spencer, Christy, you and so on, you are all shields of the “Big Oil” ?
L: I wish, I mean, we drive the oldest car in the department. You know, I've always noticed this, I mean, for some reason, despite this, the people who are questioning this issue live in less expensive houses, drive less expensive cars than the people who are promoting global warming.
B: Yeah, Mr. Gore has been a very rich man after his vice presidency…
L: Oh yeah, well, you know, I'm glad to speak at a university for a few hundred dollars' travel expense. He demands one hundred to one hundred fifty thousand dollars to display the same slides over and over again and he... I'll accept questions, he doesn't.
B: What do you think about the current integrity of climate science?
L: I don't know, I think it's compromised, of course. I think science in general is compromised, it's very vulnerable. President Eisenhower you know, when he left office he gave a farewell address in which he famously remarked the industrial... the military industrial complex. He also warned that government involvement in science meant that grants could be a substitute for creativity and there was a danger of the government being mislead and the people being mislead by a scientific technological elite, intimately tied to the government.
This is always the problem and it gets worse, it gets worse because you know, for instance, institution like this, (MIT) it's a great institution but the student body in faculty are not significantly bigger than they were in 1960. Administration is about ten times bigger and they depend on the overhead from contracts and so, there is a huge pressure to bring in as much money as you can to sustain the administration. The trouble with that is multiple. First of all, if you have to keep raising money you don't want to solve the problem because that ends your funding. The other thing is, it has created actually a prefunding balance between laboratory and theory. Because laboratory cost more money and brings in more overhead, there has actually been a de-emphasis of theory.
B: Okay, that was my list of questions, I'm very happy with your answers. Thank you very much.
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