Willis Eschenbach – refreshingly simple.

In 2012 The Heartland Institute hosted its seventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC7) in Chicago. Among the speakers was Willis Eschenbach.

Climatologists delight in pointing out the lack of Eschenbach’s scientific qualifications, though it is rather sweet how seldom they make the same observation about Al Gore. The difference is that Eschenbach readily tells everyone who will listen that he is not a scientist. My having no scientific qualifications either, I am happy to dwell instead on how well he articulates his message.

They do not tell us on YouTube who makes the introduction, and this is an omission I prefer not to repeat.  Having scanned through scores of mugshots on Heartland’s website I reckon this is Steve Goreham. I wanted to name him because he does it well. Eschenbach begins at 1:13, uttering his first words before he reaches the lectern.

As I have observed before, W.B.Yeats said,

“Think like a wise man but express yourself like the common people.”

In my work I frequently find myself paraphrasing in common terms what some boffin has said to me, either the better for me to understand what he will be telling other boffins in some speech that I am helping with, or to help him make some impenetrable piece of ‘scientese’ (an Eschenbach word) more digestible for the lay people in an audience. Therefore listening to Eschenbach, who is a carpenter, handling scientific concepts in everyday language is like a holiday.

It is worth remembering that you do not need a PhD in order to read. If a scientist publishes something and you read it, the fact that you happen not to be a scientist does not make what you learnt any less relevant. Eschenbach’s speech is about species’ extinction rates having been exaggerated. Here’s a startling claim from him. It appears at the 5 minute mark: there is no record of any species having gone extinct from habitat loss.


Do you view that with suspicion? Would you have been as sceptical if, say, Dr Craig Loehle had said it? I did not invent that name: Dr Loehle is Principal Scientist with the National [US] Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). He collaborates with Eschenbach on publications.

I am not in a position to pontificate on the quality of Eschenbach’s research or his pronouncements; but I can comment on how well he puts it across. His delivery is refreshingly guileless, clear, well structured and largely shot from the hip. It is held together by a narrative thread that keeps you with him. What more could I want?

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