Portrait of a “Catastrophic Global Warming” Sceptic

Paul Mulshine at the Star Ledger on Freeman Dyson:

Freeman Dyson is a physicist who has been teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study  in Princeton since Albert Einstein was there. When Einstein died in 1955, there was an opening for the title of “most brilliant physicist on the planet.” Dyson has filled it.

[…]  in the late 1970s, he got involved with early research on climate change at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

That research, which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.

But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.

“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

[…]

Dyson said his skepticism about those computer models was borne out by recent reports of a study by Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading in Great Britain that showed global temperatures were flat between 2000 and 2010 — even though we humans poured record amounts of CO-2 into the atmosphere during that decade.

That was vindication for a man who was termed “a civil heretic” in a New York Times Magazine article  on his contrarian views. Dyson embraces that label, with its implication that what he opposes is a religious movement. So does his fellow Princeton physicist and fellow skeptic, William Happer.

“There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves,” said Happer. “Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous.

To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.

[…]

In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.

[…]

The problem, said Dyson, is that the consensus is based on those computer models. Computers are great for analyzing what happened in the past, he said, but not so good at figuring out what will happen in the future. But a lot of scientists have built their careers on them. Hence the hatred for dissenters. [Climatologists are no Einsteins, says his successor | NJ.com]