In the past couple of days I have twice received an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal which suggests that the models used for estimating climate change are grossly pessimistic and that we really need not be concerned with anthropogenic climate change. It was signed by sixteen scientists and engineers. The problem is that almost none of these people are climatologists - which is the field they are claiming is producing invalid science. Anyone can call themselves a scientist - having a Ph.D. helps - but, just because you are a scientist does not mean that you can speak authoritatively on all issues related to science. Stephen Hawking is a brilliant scientist, but he studies astrophysics, not climatology. I trust him on a lot of things, but I wouldn’t trust him on climate change. Nor would I trust Albert Einstein, Louis Pastuer, Marie Curie, or Isaac Newton on issues of climate change.
So, who are these climate change deniers that have the right frothing at the mouth again? Let’s take a quick look.
- Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris - Is a geochemist, which might make him qualified. It’s hard to tell as he has spent most of his time doing political work recently. He appears to have a strong contrarian streak, such as in 1996 when he insisted that asbestos was harmless and that anger over it was caused by mass hysteria. That last time I checked the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was pretty firm.
- J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting - This one gave me a decent chuckle. At first I thought he was a climate forecasting scientist, nope. Armstrong’s expertise is in marketing style forecasting, as in trends. His journal is also published by Elsevier. I think I threw up a little in my mouth.
- Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University - A medical doctor and not a climatologist. Breslow is perhaps most well known for his work on heart disease. This is great work he has done, but it’s not atmospheric science.
- Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society - It’s difficult to find information on Cohen. Prior to retirement he worked for ExxonMobil research, but that’s about all I can find. I can’t seem to find any publications on any issue. However, he does have a very common name, making him hard to google. He frequently consort with William Happer, who appears later in the list.
- Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences - As a member of the National Academy of Engineering I have great respect for Dr. David. However, he is an electrical engineer and has been largely retired from research for more than 20 years. Did I mention he was director of research at Exxon from 1977-1985?
- William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton - Seems to have moved away from research as he’s advanced in his career. During his prime he was a leader in the field of spectroscopy. Which, in case you didn’t know, has nothing to do with climate change. During his 2009 testimony to congress he indicated that an increase in CO2 is good for the planet because it’s good for plants. Yes, very much like the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “CO2, We Call it Life” vieo.
- Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K. - Kelly primarily works on semi-conductors, specifically SRAM. He is not a climatologist or even a chemical engineer or chemist.
- William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Kininmonth is, perhaps, a meteorologist, although there is little information easily available about his activities. It is known that he is not a prominent researcher in any field and his “Australasian Climate Research Institute” is run out of his home and appears to be only his own writings.
- Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT - Lindzen is perhaps the most qualified individual on this list. He is well known for his skepticism of anthropogenic climate change. He stands out from the other signatories because he can speak with true scientific authority on the issue.
- James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University - McGrath studies polymers and fuel cells. He is a scientist, but not a climate scientist.
- Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences - This one took me a while longer to find out information about. I believe that Dr. Nichols is a physicist from Harvard, which means he could be a climatologist. However, looking at his publication record for the last 40 years you’ll find that most of his work is dealing with science and technology policy – issues that are close to my heart. However, this doesn’t qualify him as a climatologist. I’m sure he is well learned in a variety of topics, but I don’t believe he has a deep knowledge of the current research on climatology.
- Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator - As an astronaut Harrison Schmitt was on the mission that took the famous “Blue Marble” picture of the earth. In fact, evidence indicates that Schmitt most likely took the photo that has been credited with being a critical catalyst for the environment movement in the 1970’s. Outside of his astronaut career he was a university professor, geologist, and senator from New Mexico. None of these are related to the atmosphere or climate science.
- Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem - Shaviv is primarily an astrophysicst known for his work on cosmic rays and luminosity. He has his own theory of global warming which says that the cosmic rays of the sun are responsible for global warming. His theory has not been widely accepted and has faced great challenges because of the fact that the solar output has been decreasing since the mid 1980’s.
- Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service - Also a professor of Aeronautical Engineering at Penn State, Tennekes is most well known for his work on turbulence in airflows. In fact, he literally wrote the book on it. Unfortunately, that’s not a book on climate change. He was reportedly ousted from the Royal Dutch Meteorologic Service for his denial of climate change and his sometimes reliance on biblical texts for justification. Look, I’m a Christian and a scientist, but I realize that I can’t use biblical texts to justify my work, that’s not how science works.
- Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva - Primarily a sub-nuclear physicist who has worked at labs like CERN and FermiLab. His title of President of the World Federation of Scientists is self bestowed as he is the founder. It should not be considered to be an analog to the Federation of American Scientists. He is a highly cited researcher, and has done significant work in popularizing science in Italy, but he is not a climatologist.
Out of the sixteen people listed I count one atmospheric scientist, Lindzen, and a half, Allegre. In any community of scientists you’ll have dissenters. The fact that they could round up only one and a half climate scientists for this letter should show you just how strong the case for global warming really is. Want more evidence? 255 scientists, all members of the National Academy of Science, including 11 Nobel laureates wrote a scathing response, rejected by the Wall Street Journal and later published in Science.