Global Warming: Climate of Fear?

This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," May 13, 2006, that was edited for clarity.


ANNOUNCER: Early this morning Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.

AL GORE, FMR VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is it possible that we should prepare against other threats, besides terrorists?


PAUL GIGOT, HOST: That was a sneak peek at Al Gore's new global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." The 2000 democratic presidential nominee's movie and accompanying book are set for release later this month.

But my guest this week says Gore and other global warming alarmists have created a climate of fear, intimidating dissenting scientists into silence on the subject.

Richard Lindzen is a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professor Lindzen, welcome.


GIGOT: We keep hearing and reading that all scientists agree about certain things on global warming, that the world is warming, that it's man made, the cause is man made, and that we must act urgently about it.

You're a meteorologist, what do you think scientists really agree on?

LINDZEN: I think they agree that we've probably warmed about a half degree centigrade in the last century. I think they agree that carbon dioxide has gone up 30 percent. I think we agree that carbon dioxide would tend to contribute warming.

But there is no agreement that the warming we've seen is due to man. Moreover, the warming we've seen is much less than we would have expected on the basis of the models that produce alarm.

GIGOT: If carbon emissions aren't the cause of global warming, what are some of the other possibilities?

LINDZEN: Well, there are numerous possibilities at the level of a few tenths of the degree that we're seeing, including nothing. That is to say, the earth's climate is forever changing. It's always warming and cooling. And far more in any given locale than it is globally. And you don't need anything to cause it.

If we understood it precisely I think we'd be in much better shape, but that isn't the case.

GIGOT: Some of these predictions of global warming of five, six degrees over the next century — obviously we don't know that for a fact because it's ahead of us. They're based on computer models. How accurate are those models?

LINDZEN: At this point, there's virtually no objective criterion that says that they work. Moreover, I mean, carbon dioxide alone wouldn't cause that. It would only cause about a degree.

The predictions of a lot more come from the way the models treat clouds. Every modeler I know acknowledges that they do it disastrous job on clouds. So those predictions are based on things that we know are wrong.

GIGOT: So what is behind — what I hear you saying is that there's an awful lot of uncertainty in these models and, in fact, about global warming. What is behind this aggressive assertion that there is a consensus that this is happening, that we're the cause, and we must act radically to do something about it?

LINDZEN: Well, it's a good question. One can only guess on it, but the statement that all scientists agree has been stated since the late '80s. And, indeed, even earlier.

Senator Gore ran hearings at which he tried to get scientists who disagreed to recant. There has been pressure from very early on to get scientists on board. But the claim that they all agree occurred before most scientists involved were even involved.

GIGOT: You recently wrote, in the Wall Street Journal that, quote, "It's my belief that may scientists have been cowed, not merely by money, but by fear." How so?

LINDZEN: Well, I mean, here it differs from place to place. What I find if a scientist says he wants to actually find out if there is an impact or not or what is the sensitivity of the climate to changing CO2, he's going to have a great deal of difficulty.

The pressure is not so much to get on board the alarm, but to agree that there is sufficient uncertainty that alarm is possible. After that, I find the media, the environmental groups take over and translate that in to what you hear. That is rarely what the scientists themselves say. But it's also the case that, if a scientist does go over the top and start making things that are unsupportable, the professional organizations tend to defend him if he is attacked. But if, for instance, as Gore did with Ted Koppel on "Nightline" and asked Ted to find out any dirt he could on scientists who disagreed with him, the professional societies stay out. So there's that bias.

GIGOT: Okay, Richard Lindzen, thank you very much. Interesting conversation. Thanks for coming.

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