A 2005 news release from the National Academy of Sciences opens with the words, "Climate change is real." The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report dubbed warming of the climate system "unequivocal." Since then, the evidence for climate change continues to accumulate. All major scientific bodies with relevant expertise agree that the climate is warming and humans are contributing to the problem. Sadly, this is not the impression that the average American gets when he or she picks up the paper or turns on the television. Behind the scenes, a disinformation campaign is being waged against the facts about anthropogenic climate change and what needs to be done to address it.
Shortly after Earth Day 2010, the Southeast Missourian published Dr. Richard Lindzen's opinion piece in which he reformulates and repeats his long-refuted argument of doubt among climate scientists regarding climate change. Lindzen rails against University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit scientists and other climate scientists subscribing to the consensus for "the unethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints, and even data manipulation." Although these stolen e-mails do not paint a flattering picture of these scientists, a parliamentary investigation and a university investigation both exonerated the scientists of any professional wrongdoing. Dr. Lindzen chooses to dismiss these investigations with the absurd and undocumented claim of a conspiracy of unprecedented and epic proportions.
Lindzen ignores the data available in peer-reviewed journals that contradict his conclusions. Since he lacks supporting evidence, he uses the time-tested technique of launching personal attacks against the credibility of researchers in an attempt to undermine their science. The astute reader will note that Lindzen fails to refer to any refereed scientific evidence in his article.
Although the science remains unshaken, it doesn't convince the skeptics. So one must wonder why a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would continually advance such patently false claims. Applying the tactics used by the skeptics against the East Anglia research institute (without stealing e-mails, of course) might shed some light on their approach.
First, in 2001, Lindzen co-authored the National Academy of Science review of the IPCC analysis that concluded, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities." This seems to run counter to the opinions he expresses in popular media.
Furthermore, Lindzen has unapologetically asserted that there is not a scientific consensus regarding climate change, referring for support to a deeply flawed, unpublished article by Benny Peiser. Numerous published articles have refuted Peiser's claim, some going so far as to call his work "dishonest." Refuted, unpublished study in hand, Lindzen applies his illogic to his campaign of mass media attacks on climate science, as evidenced by his recent piece in the Southeast Missourian.
Many skeptics have argued that they are denied grant funding as a result of their contrarian views. Dr. Lindzen, however, doesn't seem to have this problem. He undertakes consulting work to the tune of $2,500 a day for major players in the fossil-fuel industry. In fact, one of his (in)famous contrarian papers was underwritten by OPEC. Surely, a scientist who receives substantial funding from energy-industry proponents of skepticism must answer serious questions regarding conflicts of interest. Furthermore, Lindzen's occasional journal publications that support his position have been shredded by other climate scientists. The climate science research literature is where the debate would occur if there were one, but it is simply not happening.
As a member of the prestigious National Academy of Science that was charged with evaluating earlier IPCC reports, Lindzen seems to have supported the current scientific consensus. However, while consulting, traveling with and testifying for the energy industry, he seems to sing an entirely different tune. He wears both hats quite well, managing to become one of the most revered hired guns for the skeptic disinformation campaign. Perhaps it is time for Lindzen to reflect more objectively and explain the discrepancies in his writings as a scientist and his writings as a contrarian commentator on behalf of the energy industry.
Despite the skeptics' attempts to tear down the mountain of evidence, the scientific consensus regarding climate change is unshaken. If we hope to address the challenges posed by climate change, we must recognize that the skeptic's claims are indefensible, unintelligible, incoherent and lack support from scientific evidence and the preponderance of climate scientists. We should reject the contrarian claims for the illusions, distortions, and deceptions they are.
Finally, it is important to note that for the climate change contrarians, any small failing in the climate change argument, however trivial, destroys the entire theory. On the other hand, no flaw, however huge and profound in their own argument or the evidence (or lack thereof) that they conjure up, elicits any reflection or questioning of their own position.
Adam Gohn of Cape Girardeau is a student at Southeast Missouri State University.