Richard Lindzen: Skepticism and Unprofessional-ism
Nov15

Richard Lindzen: Skepticism and Unprofessional-ism

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. Small debates, frustrations, and sophisticated arguments, from both sides, are all expected when discussing the topic of climate change.  But did you think you would ever hear a speaker use the word “stupid” to criticize his audience? Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and a climate change skeptic, presented a seminar at York College of Pennsylvania and did just that.  Lindzen was asked about certain facts that were missing from his presentation and why they were not present.  As a questioner from the audience was giving background on his question, so that the speaker would fully understand, Lindzen proceeded to use the power of the microphone and talk over the audience member.  As an intense argument broke between the two individuals, the audience started to show frustration. One member shouted out, “Let him finish the question!”  At that point, both stopped shouting and the questioner was able to continue asking his question.  As the tension was rising in the room between Lindzen and the questioner, it was clear that the question being asked was not about to receive an answer.  The shouting match broke out again and in the end, it was answered by Lindzen saying, “This is a stupid question.” Lindzen’s presentation criticized scientists around the world.  Global warming models, data, and scientific phrasing were the main criticisms. He stated in the beginning of the seminar that the global warming debate is about three questions: How much warming is present? How dangerous is the warming? What is dangerous about the warming? In the end, Lindzen only addressed “How dangerous is the warming?” The present “alarm,” he said,  is due to the scientific phrasing, not the data; the justification for this argument was hypocritical.  Lindzen stated that scientists specifically phrase statements so that society believes what the scientists want them to believe.  But in turn, Lindzen did the same thing by re-arranging the words to make the statement seem less of a concern, and prove his point. This argument was the basis of Lindzen’s presentation.  The climate change debate is more about scientific phrasing than it is about data.  In the one instance when it was about the data, Lindzen described how climate models are wrong because they are all based on positive feedback.  His argument was that we need to create negative feedback models to show the truth behind the argument.  When describing why such a model has not...

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Climate Change Through The Eyes of Undergraduate Chemistry Majors
Nov09

Climate Change Through The Eyes of Undergraduate Chemistry Majors

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. From the sixth floor of the American Chemistry Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., we are undergraduate reporters posting our first blog from the home of C&EN.  Our names are Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block and we are honored to receive such significant credentials--UN accreditation to attend an international climate conference as well as press credentials from C&EN.  We are both senior chemistry majors at York College of Pennsylvania (YCP) and we will be reporting about the issues and events leading up to and at the UN COP16 climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. As undergraduate reporters, the journey to receive UN accreditation has already been an incredible experience, one that we treasure greatly.  Being from a moderate-sized college in the small city of York, we never dreamed that this opportunity would be presented with such vital and unique potential.  In essence, the purpose of our blog will be to assist our readers in understanding what is being presented at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th Conference of Parties (COP16), through the eyes of an undergraduate chemistry major.  We will be reporting on the events that occur at the conference, as well as interviewing scientists, official delegates, policy makers, climate change activists, and perhaps even climate change skeptics on their inputs and concerns related to the environment and sustainability.  We also plan to observe civil society and other NGO’s who are not officially accredited by the UN.  In attending this conference, our main efforts will be to explore the facts and stated interpretations from scientists, policy makers, and others in order to present them to you, the readers. We invite you to join us on this journey and encourage you to participate by posting your comments on this blog.  Think on these things; chemistry...

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Forum On Climate Change
Aug30

Forum On Climate Change

Nearly 200 people attended the ACS Forum on Science & Consequences of Climate Change on Monday, Aug. 23, during the Boston national meeting. The forum was sponsored by the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement (CEI) and was an ACS Presidential Event. It was moderated by Charles Kolb, president and CEO of Aerodyne Research and chair of CEI. The forum was one component of CEI’s review of the ACS position statement on global climate change. Position statements must be reviewed every three years, and the statement on climate change is one of four being reviewed this year. To this reporter, the disconnects that are manifest in discussions of climate change were in full blossom on that Monday. Earlier in the day, I had read an op-ed piece in the New York Times, “Disaster at the Top of the World,” by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, in Waterloo, Ontario. Homer-Dixon opens his essay with observations from a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker plying the Arctic Sea, where temperatures are rising twice as rapidly as on Earth generally. He writes: “Globally, 2010 is on track to be the warmest year on record. In regions around the world, indications abound that earth’s climate is quickly changing, like the devastating mudslides in China and weeks of searing heat in Russia. But in the world’s capitals, movement on climate policy has nearly stopped.” Homer-Dixon argues in his essay that climate change may not be a gradual process that humans can easily adapt to and that a “devastating climate shock” may well be delivered in a very short time period. He maintains that nations should be preparing plans to deal with such a climate crisis. In Boston, two speakers at the forum, Michael McElroy, a professor of atmospheric and environmental sciences at Harvard University, and James McCarthy, a professor of biological oceanography at Harvard, presented, first, a primer on climate change and, second, an examination of anticipated climate-change impacts. An ACS colleague who sat through these first two talks with me commented, “How can you possibly listen to these two talks and not be convinced that this is a serious problem?” The third talk, by John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center and a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and Alabama’s state climatologist, made an effort to answer that question. Christy is not a climate-change denier, but he is skeptical of the predictions of many atmospheric models that project significant increases in Earth’s temperature if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, and he presented a number of studies that he said...

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This And That On Climate
May17

This And That On Climate

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and several other science-oriented organizations including the American Chemical Society held a congressional briefing on climate science last week. Hosted by AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, the briefing featured a panel made up of Warren M. Washington, a senior scientist and former head of the Climate Change Research Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Richard B. Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University; and Richard L. Smith, a statistics and biostatistics professor at the University of North Carolina. In his opening remarks, Leshner said that the large number of cosponsors of the briefing was a "measure of the seriousness with which we take climate science." Leshner made a point of reading the names of all 13 cosponsors, which in addition to AAAS and ACS included the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Statistical Association, and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "Climate and energy are among the most pressing issues facing the global community," Leshner said, and he decried recent efforts to "tarnish climate science." The point of the briefing, he noted, was to review "what we know and what we don't know" about climate science. Well, what we know, Washington, Alley, and Smith made pretty clear, is that climate change is happening and humans are driving it. Alley, in particular, in a point-by-point presentation showed that incontrovertible data exist showing that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rising, the increase is due to burning fossil fuels, Earth's temperature has increased in the past 100 years, and that, so far, the changes in climate have been small compared with what will happen if we continue on the path we're on. "No single mistake, or small set of mistakes, could possibly change these results," Alley said. Smith, the statistician, showed convincingly that two of global-warming skeptics' principal arguments—that global temperature has decreased since 1998 and that the "hockey stick" graph of global temperature developed by Michael E. Mann and coworkers was inaccurate—are without statistical merit. Both Washington and Smith made the point that climate-change skeptics should be allowed to publish their research. Skeptics regularly claim that their research is being suppressed. However, when I asked the panel—which had spent an hour skewering just about every argument advanced by skeptics—if they knew of any such research that ought to be published, they were unable to cite any current examples. Meanwhile, C&EN reported in last week's issue that Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II has initiated a probe of Mann, now at Penn State, for possible fraud in carrying out his research (C&EN, May 10, page 10). This is an...

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Marine Life
Apr13

Marine Life

As some of you may remember from a previous column, my wife, Jan, and I took up scuba diving three years ago. It was kind of a lark at the time, but both of us have since become passionate divers. The week before last, we spent a week diving on Little Cayman in the British West Indies. My first dive instructor, Len Clark, admonished his class not to even think about taking a camera under water until we had at least 50 dives under our belts. "You won't take any good pictures," he said. "You won't have any fun. And perhaps most important, nobody who's diving with you will have any fun, either." I took Len at his word. It took me about 50 dives before I was even able to think about anything much more than the fact that I was breathing under water and what my dive computer was telling me about how much air I had left in my tank. On a trip last summer to Grand Cayman, however, I took a basic underwater photography rig—good-quality Canon point-and-shoot camera, waterproof box, and Ikelite strobe flash attachment—and the results were not bad. I include in this post a slide show of the photos I took at Little Cayman: This movie requires Flash Player 9 The creatures on the reefs around Little Cayman are protected because they live in marine national preserves. They are threatened by global climate change, of course, which is lowering the pH of seawater and, with it, the integrity of the reefs themselves. Other ocean creatures face more immediate and lethal threats. In mid-March, delegates at a United Nations conference on endangered species voted down a U.S.-sponsored proposal to ban international trade in bluefin tuna, largely at the behest of the Japanese government. Japan consumes about 80% of the bluefin tuna catch, much of which is caught in the Atlantic Ocean. The bluefin tuna is a magnificent marine creature, possibly warm-blooded, that is spiraling toward extinction because of the predatory fishing practices that are used to meet Japanese demand for the fish. Estimates suggest that the bluefin population in the Atlantic has dropped by as much as 80% since 1970. The vote against the ban was a shameful capitulation to an utterly unsustainable practice. Thanks for...

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