In March 2009 in New York City, The Heartland Institute held their second International Conference on climate change. Among the climatologists, geophysicists, economists and practitioners of sundry other kindred sciences was Richard Lindzen, atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He delivered this speech.
He was introduced by Joseph Bast, President and CEO of The Heartland Institute, who had a range of other announcements to make. That is why it is not till 7:04 that Lindzen begins.
Two or three months ago on this blog there was a period when every second posting would have me getting exercised about bad microphone technique causing popping. Here the phenomenon returns with a vengeance, though don’t look to me for signs of nostalgia. I am slightly reassured that someone at least noticed, because at 7:55 a disembodied hand appears from the side to push the mics down, and Lindzen’s voice goes so quiet that cries from the audience cause him to bring them up again, making the popping even worse than before. Shortly afterwards an engineer, probably still trying to cure the problem, turns the volume right down; but this was never going to work: it just makes it more difficult to hear him. The cause is not volume but the tender bits of the microphone being assaulted by percussive columns of the speaker’s breath. Don’t speak into a microphone, speak across it.
(Isn’t it wonderful! That auditorium is lousy with scientific doctorates, but it apparently needed a mere rhetor to tell them how to make a microphone behave itself.)
He reads a script, which is a bit of a pity, though actually this is more the presentation of a paper than a speech.
Despite that and the popping, I found the speech fascinating. He strongly makes the point that global warming was never a scientific or even environmental issue but rather a political one. We have become accustomed, in the climate change argument, for academics to (ab)use their high-sounding titles as a licence loftily to wave away any dissent with cheap phrases like ‘anti-science’ rather than engaging with the arguments. Lindzen soberly engages with everything in sight using merciless rigour. Though it is very clear which side of the argument he favours, that does not stop him castigating his own side when their arguments have fallen short of the intellectual standards he demands.
It is quite difficult for us to read his slides on this video, but I am left in little doubt that his graphs are fed by data that is empirically tested for the purposes of scientific truth and accuracy rather than massaged for the purposes of promoting a pre-written narrative.
It’s an important speech and, because of it and a few like it, posterity will surely be less forgiving of the promoters of global warming alarmism and its monumental cost to Society and the environment. They shall never be able to claim that no one told them.
Heartland has put on eight of these climate conferences now, and we apologize for the technical problems of this particular presentation in our second go-round. We’ve gotten better, as you can see by reviewing the presentations by more than 150 people at these conferences:
If you’re looking for the definitive “we told you so” on the climate, that’s the place to visit. In includes three presentations by Lindzen:
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute
Thanks Jim. I shall return.
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There’s a debate between Richard Lindzen and Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union which was televised by Al Jazeera earlier this year, and which is also worth listening to (video is available on the Al Jazeera website).
Lindzen speaks softly and very slowly, so initially I thought this would be a disadvantage, given the frequency of Mehdi Hasan interrupting him. However, I think that on balance it helps him, as it gives added weight to what he says and makes it more memorable, despite the constant verbal jostling going on.
Also, he’s pretty much imperturbable – always a good trait to have, in these debates!
I went and watched it.
Mehdi Hasan quite properly made it clear at the outset what he believed, but if he had chaired the debate properly he would have used it to seek after the truth – even if that truth was unpalatable to him. In the event, whenever Lindzen came near making a strong point Hasan headed him off. This made me suspect that Hasan felt his position to be vulnerable.
In the above speech Lindzen claims that the alarmist movement is political rather than scientific or environmental. If he is right that might explain Hasan’s vulnerability.
I agree about the politics underpinning Hasan’s arguments, which seemed mostly to do with supporting/rejecting the consensus rather than an exploration of where the truth might be. The format of the programme doesn’t exactly help, though, as it is billed – literally – as a “gladiatorial contest”, and would thus appear, from the outset, prone to generating more heat than light.