Freeman Dyson's views on climate in the Independent

  • 28 Feb 2011, 19:00
  • Verity

Eminent theoretical physicist and climate sceptic Freeman Dyson was interviewed by emailin last Friday's Independent by their science editor Steve Connor.

Dyson is famous for his work in the field of quantum electrodynamics, in which he made a major advance in 1948. Now retired, he is a member of the academic advisory board of the climate sceptic thinktank the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

In an occasionally testy email exchange, The Independent sought to tease out Dyson's position on climate change. We took a look at what he said.

Claim 1:

"the computer models are very good at solving the equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly."

This statement implies that computer models do not take into account the impact of clouds, vegetation, soil and dust on temperature trends. This is not true.

Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land, ice and sun. This is a complex task, which means that there are limitations to the certainty that scientists give to model predictions. These uncertainties are factored into the predictions made by the IPCC, and are made obvious in their reports.

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Science is sound despite “Climategate” claims, finds US probe

  • 25 Feb 2011, 11:45
  • The Carbon Brief

(c) NOAA

A report published by the inspector general of the Commerce Department into scientists at its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration following the hacking of their emails to the CRU at the University of East Anglia in the UK states: "We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data."

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Climate change interacts with pollution and overfishing to make bigger problem for reefs

  • 25 Feb 2011, 10:52
  • Verity

The combination of climate change and ocean chemistry impart "significant and growing threats" to the world's coral reefs, according to a report published yesterday.

"Reefs at Risk Revisited" involved 25 research, conservation and educational institutions and took three years. It found that three quarters of coral reefs are currently under threat from impacts such as fishing practices, pollution and coastal development and climate change.

The report concludes that the local processes present the most "immediate and direct risks" to coral reefs. However, it says that

"Coral reefs face a wide and intensifying array of threats… In addition, the global threat of climate change has begun to compound these more local threats to coral reefs in multiple ways".

The interplay between local and global processes is complex, and the part played by global processes, most particularly seawater warming, should not be overlooked.

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Johnny Ball's climate science

  • 24 Feb 2011, 18:11
  • The Carbon Brief

Retired children's presenter Johnny Ball expressed fears this week that his school appearances have been cancelled and he is a victim of an internet smear campaign because of his climate scepticism. No-one should be abused for their position on climate science, although his claims have been disputed in different newspapers. Ball was a fantastic television personality who presented science in a clear and concise way to millions of children. Carbon Brief examines some of his statements on climate science.

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Video: Lord Monckton on glaciers - fact checked

  • 23 Feb 2011, 16:48
  • The Carbon Brief

The Heretic - a climate sceptic fantasy

  • 21 Feb 2011, 14:18
  • Christian

'The Heretic' is a fascinating play, because it gives us a view of the world that many would like to believe is true. It's a climate sceptic fantasy, full of scientific errors and the rewriting of reality, writ large as absurdist comedy and given respectability by a run at the Royal Court in London's Sloane Square. The main character Diane makes a very good climate sceptic, but she's not a very convincing scientist. We're told her scepticism arises because she thinks "the science isn't good enough", and the play makes a lot of this, including a section where she 'debunks' some climate science live on stage. This raises a slight problem, because many of Diane's own scientific pronouncements are factually incorrect.

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“Climategate” used by US Republicans to end IPCC funding

  • 21 Feb 2011, 13:47
  • The Carbon Brief

Funding to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the United States could be cut following a vote in Washington where Republicans cited "climategate" to argue the £1.3 million grant should be stopped.

The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 jointly with Al Gore, for its work analyzing the huge body of peer review science to inform policy decisions about climate change.

However, the organization has become a focus of attack from climate sceptic Republicans, the Tea Party, free market think tanks and oil giants including Koch Industries.

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The Spectator's "bias and bluster" on Antarctica and Stieg et al.

  • 18 Feb 2011, 12:50
  • The Carbon Brief

spectator new

The cover of this week's Spectator announces: "The ice storm: Nicholas Lewis and Matt Ridley expose the bias and bluster behind the latest set of shaky global warming data".

An accompanying blog from the magazine's editor Fraser Nelson, entitled "Debunking the Antarctica myths" argues that the tale is "…another powerful, and depressing tale of the woeful state of climate science."

So what's going on?

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Bjorn Lomborg at the LSE

  • 17 Feb 2011, 22:59
  • Robin


It was with a certain amount of trepidation that Carbon Brief set off to an evening with Bjorn Lomborg at LSE last night. Styling himself as the Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg has made a high-profile career as a plausible contrarian on climate science. The author of several best-selling books, he has garnered significant media coverage, been named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine and recently produced a film "Cool It" aimed at challenging the received wisdom on how to tackle climate change.

So what did Lomborg have to say, and was it convincing? These days, Lomborg's brand of climate scepticism involves agreeing that climate change is happening, is real and man-made, but arguing that human society will adapt, and that we shouldn't bother cutting emissions, because it's an expensive and inefficient way to make the world a better place.

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Google creates 21 science communications fellows

  • 16 Feb 2011, 13:32
  • Robin

Professor Andrew Dessler, one of Google's new 'science communication fellows,' goes up against sceptic scientist Richard Lindzen.

Calls for scientists to speak out about their work and counter misinformation in the public debate have been growing in frequency recently.

Sir Paul Nurse, head of the Royal Society, argued on BBC's Horizon that

"Earning trust means more than just focusing on the science. We have to communicate it effectively too. Scientists have got to get out there; they have to be open about everything that they do…This is far too important to be left to the polemecists and commentators in the media. Scientists have to be there too."

Now Google was waded into the fray, with the announcement of 21 new "science communication fellows". The fellows were elected from a pool of post-PhD scientists from institutions all over the USA, who work on climate change research and are early to mid-career.

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