CEI deniers praise Andy Revkin, diss Tiger Woods


tiger_woods_fist_pump.jpgI’d like to thank the Competitive Enterprise Institute for publishing such an unintentionally informative and amusing newsletter. Rarely has the anti-scientific nature of global warming denial been so well stated in a mere two sentences:

A scientist who says that the atmosphere is warming, and cites certain physical processes, is still a scientist. A scientist who argues that people must take certain acts to avoid disaster has become a priest.

In other words, “A doctor who diagnoses your diabetes using medical tests is still a doctor. A doctor who tells you to exercise, change your diet, monitor glucose levels, and/or take insulin to avoid acute complications has become a priest.”

What’s funny about this is that nonscientist deniers have no trouble whatsoever offering their absurd “scientific conclusions” that the climate isn’t changing, the earth isn’t warming, it’s all sunspots, blah, blah, blah, but then attack scientists for offering serious scientific and technological judgments about the solution to global warming. The amazing thing is that even non-deniers like Roger Pielke push this mantra.

But I digress. The author of this gem, “The New Environmental Priesthood,” is CEI’s Director of Projects and Analysis, Iain Murray. Murray is well known for his many over-the-top denier claims (see here and here), but he has probably never made a more inaccurate statement in his life than in his discussion of the infamous “Inhofe 400″:

Former Clinton administration appointee Joseph Romm characterized the study as “recyc[ling] unscientific attacks on global warming.” When New York Times environment correspondent Andrew Revkin, one of the few reporters to even-handedly cover the global warming debate, mentioned the Inhofe study on his blog, Romm slammed him for legitimizing it, calling Revkin’s coverage “amazing.” Romm went on to suggest that Freeman Dyson was not a serious scientist, which is a bit like saying Tiger Woods isn’t a good golfer.

Wow! First off, if I’m Andy Revkin, the last thing I want is for one the leading denialist ‘think’ tanks to say I am “one of the few reporters to even-handedly cover the global warming debate.” Ouch! That’s like Fox News calling you fair and balanced.

Second, I wouldn’t call what Inhofe did a “study,” but a laughable and padded list. I did indeed call Revkin’s coverage of the list amazing, which it was, as you can judge for yourself (see “Inhofe recycles unscientific attacks on global warming, NYT’s Revkin gives him a pass“).

Third, I did NOT “suggest Freeman Dyson was not a serious scientist.” Quite the reverse. I wrote:

I’m not certain a dozen on the list would qualify as “prominent scientists,” and many of those, like Freeman Dyson — a theoretical physicist — have no expertise in climate science whatsoever. I have previously debunked his spurious and uninformed claims, although I’m not sure why one has to debunk someone who seriously pushed the idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs! Seriously.

Isn’t it fairly clear that the first sentence is saying the list doesn’t have even a dozen who qualify as “prominent scientists” but that the few who do qualify as prominent scientists, like Freeman Dyson, are not qualified to dismiss the research, observations, analysis, and conclusions of the thousands of leading climate scientists who are responsible for our current understanding of human-caused global warming? Now I can add that not only is Dyson unqualified to comment on climate science, he is equally uninformed on climate solutions (see “Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’“).

I would not, however, have bothered to respond to this pointless piece of denier disinformation were it not for the final sentence. Anybody who knows me knows I am the world’s biggest Tiger Woods fan and will be glued to the TV set this Father’s Day weekend to see Tiger win his third U.S. Open. Dyson does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, paragraph, page, book, or universe as Woods.

Woods is almost certainly the greatest golfer of all time (sorry, Jack) and would be on many lists of the top 10 athletes of all time (see, for instance, here).

Dyson, on the other hand, is not among the top two physicists of all time. That would be Einstein or Newton. Dyson wouldn’t be on the list of top physicists or mathematicians. Dyson did not author or co-author any of the most cited papers from Physical Review. Dyson did not make the “top 100 living geniuses,” though, in fairness, Dolly Parton did. Dyson did not make the “100 Scientists Who Shaped World History.” Dyson did not make the Top 100 weirdest amphibians list [though in all honesty, I didn’t actually check the list for Dyson’s name — it just seem pretty damned unlikely to me.]

If the entire scientific community (living and dead) were golfers, Dyson wouldn’t even be on the PGA Tour. Yes, Dyson is a somewhat famous scientist, but that’s mainly because he wrote a few popular books.

In any case, this was all before Dyson ventured into the most important scientific discussion in all of human history — climate change science. By taking the “it’s not a big deal” side — [actually ‘side’ is too generous, unless we are talking a 100-sided die] — Dyson has effectively destroyed his professional reputation, as will be obvious in a couple of decades assuming we listen to people like him.

Dyson is now, I’m afraid, little more than a scientific duffer.


35 Responses to CEI deniers praise Andy Revkin, diss Tiger Woods

  1. Dennis says:

    I had an opportunity to meet Dyson many years ago when I was in college. He was described to me as a brilliant theoretical physicist. Yet, when he ventured into other areas, his ideas and views were just plain off the wall. They still are.

  2. eli rabett says:

    Inhofr had nothing to do with that list, his cat’s paw Morano stapled it together

  3. Brian G Valentine, PhD PE says:

    I complete my name and credentials here so no one will mistake me for the better known Brian Valentine, executive of Microsoft.

    We learn from our teachers, and are influenced by those who we admire – as I have been influenced, by Singer and Bryson.

    I haven’t studied under Dyson directly, although I have read numerous of his manuscripts. I would say, that I have not seen anything in the papers I have examined that would lead one to question the man’s ability to apply scientific principles to understand physical phenomena that underlie observations of the physical world, nor have I identified aberrant use of math to quantify these investigations.

    Far from it.

    Thus if Dr Dyson has conducted rational analyses of the influence of components of the atmosphere on the long-term thermal behaviour of the fluid dynamical system, one could reasonably conclude that it is unlikely that he has either neglected important effects or misinterpreted important ones.

    Senator Inhofe collected the public statements of those who have rejected the notion that human activities have or have the potential to significantly alter the radiant transport properties of a participating atmosphere over natural variations.

    At the request of the Senator’s office, some, like me, have submitted more complete statements

  4. John Mashey says:

    Cat’s paw? Do Rabetts get their other animals confused?

    SciAm’s John Rennie labeled Morano Senator Inhofe’s Pet Weasel

  5. Paulidan says:

    “Its all sunspots blah blah blah”

    Do you have a scientific response to the sunspot correlation or are you going to cover your ears and say “la la la…”?

  6. Mauri Pelto says:

    Are you now stuck on the ceiling after the last six holes yesterday. If people spent as much time understanding the real science at work and how fascinating it would be as they do trying to find some needle in that haystack to support their denier views we would be good. It is fascinating to see our dynamic systems at work such as at the Wilkins Ice Shelf. It has experienced the first significant winter breakup observed. This put in context with the ongoing detailed research of this system, that until we began to observed ice shelf collapses, the dynamics of which could not be anticipated.

  7. Joe says:

    Mauri — The last six holes by Tiger were jaw-dropping.

    Brian — Maybe Tiger and Dyson have more in common than I thought, since everything Dyson writes about global warming is jaw-dropping too, albeit not a good way.

    Paulidian — Thanks for not bothering to do any actual research on the “non-correlation,” including reading about a half a dozen posts on this blog.
    Start here

  8. Joe says:

    From the Inhofe “study”:

    Chemical Scientist Dr. Brian G. Valentine of the U.S. Department of Energy and professor at University of Maryland, has studied computational fluid dynamics and modeling of complex systems and expressed global warming skepticism. “Human development, associated with the continual advance of Civilization on the Earth, has always influenced the local weather; and the degree of influence on local weather is probably proportional to the magnitude of the changes in the Earth’s topography that have resulted from continual human advances,” Valentine wrote to EPW on May 17, 2007.

    “There is no evidence that any of these changes in local weather have ever resulted in a change to the global climate. My own research has convinced me that excepting for one situation, there have NEVER been ANY influences that have changed the global climate – not solar, not stellar, not variations in Earth’s spin on its axis – nothing – that can be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, for which equally valid evidence is available that contradicts the assumption of global climate change,” Valentine explained.

    “This single exception is the known variation of eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit about the Sun. This is the periodic variation of distance from Earth to the Sun that changes the distance from the Earth to the Sun within Earth’s seasons, and occurs within tens of thousands of year epochs,” he concluded. (Note: Valentine is expressing his personal views.)

    [JR: That, of course, is precisely why the nations of the world set up the IPCC in the first place, to have an objective review of the scientific literature by the world’s leading scientists. Scientific observation and scientific understanding are different than how Valentine represents them. He is entitled to his opinion, based on his research, or on a Ouija Board, but it has no bearing on the scientific discussion.

    It is absurd to say there is no evidence that greenhouse gases change climate, volcanoes change climate, or even that sunspots change climate.]

  9. Brian G Valentine says:

    And just how long do you think the influence of sunspots ot volcanoes or any other transient effect on the global mean temperature or relative humidity averaged over areas persits, Joe?

  10. Joe says:

    Brian — that is all well studied. Indeed NASA correctly predicted the depth and duration of temperature dropped from Pinatubo.

    The dominant source of current warming, however, Long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, of course, do not have a “transient” effect, so I’m not certain what your question is driving at.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Brian G Valentine, PhD PE — You could actually read some of the climatological literature before pontificating. I suggest you begin with “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    and then continue by actually reading the IPCC AR4. You do no credit to your PhD and especially not to the ethical obligations which are attached to your writing ‘PE” after your name.

  12. Ken Brosky says:

    Hilarious quote from the CEI. I put up the quote and its response on my blog to stir up my local neighborhood. We don’t get as many hits as this site, but every few informed people helps.

  13. Brian G Valentine says:

    The dominant source of current warming, however, Long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide … ”

    By warming, are you referring to “global” warming, Joe? Looking at the global temperature patterns over the period 1970-2000 for example – however much I stretch my imagination, this looks asymmetric to me; I cannot rationalize an influence from greenhouse gases for such asymmetry to persist over that length of time, either.

    I can’t fathom the supposed influence of greenhouse gases on the global climate, either: clearly the influence would be trivial without the influence of those on water’s vapour- but extrapolating that back to a condition of no other greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere than water, presents a condition I have no explanation for: why would there be any water present at all?

    We know that water is a greenhouse gas, and we know of its presence and influence because the diurnal temperature difference (daytime high – night time low) decreases everywhere. We would know of additional influence from any more greenhouse gases by observing that difference decrease and maybe you know that this has happened, I am not aware of that.

    I didn’t just jump out of bed one morning and say, “Hey! Maybe I’ll doubt all that Al Gore global warming stuff just to be negative!”

    Happy Father’s Day, David R Benson: whether you are a father – or if you celebrate it on behalf of your own father (should he be present with us or not) – as I do.

  14. Joe says:

    Brian — yes I am talking about global warming. If the vast amount of observations and scientific literature and major reports by scientific bodies doesn’t convince you, I know nothing I say will. But the forcings of all the greenhouse gases are well known, and not the mystery you imply them to be.

  15. Brian G Valentine says:

    Those forcings are either “known,” Joe, or they are “believed.”

    The fine distinction in the epistemological consequences of those two verbs separates “climate sceptics” and “progressive climatologists” or whatever else they may be distinguished as.

    But, the two groups usually agree on more than they disagree, too.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Brian G Valentine — Or perhaps you would care to study Ray Pierrehumbert’s

    which helps to explain the atmospheric physics (which is not so easy, to put it mildly).

  17. Brian G Valentine says:

    David, I apologize for typing your mdddle initial incorrectly in my message above.

    [can the editor of these pages fix that error please?]

    Ray P and I have had some exchanges – all of them (except a set of Lebesgue measure zero) – have been cordial

  18. Ecostew says:

    I agree with David – it shouldn’t be beyond a PhD/PE, but I am a bit concerned with Brian’s I can’t fathom.

  19. David B. Benson says:

    Ecostew wrote “… but I am a bit concerned with Brian’s I can’t fathom.” Huh?

  20. exusian says:

    “I can’t fathom the supposed influence of greenhouse gases on the global climate, either”

    Yet another engineer trots along to tell us that the geophysicists have it all wrong because they can’t fathom the process.

    Silly geophysicists.

    Never mind that the only way to increase the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere is to first increase either the pressure or the temperature of the atmosphere.

    Never mind that this in not the case with CO2, CH4, and NOxs.

    Never mind that insolation changes caused by the Milankovic cycles can be calculated and shown to NOT be sufficient to either initiate or end a glaciation without albedo and greenhouse gas feedbacks.

    Silly geophysicists.

  21. Joe says:

    Perhaps I should have said, the forcings are well known to climate scientists. I grant you that non-climate scientists have to “believe” stuff they haven’t studied enough to “know.”

  22. Brian G Valentine says:

    Back to the old tribalism/religious mysticism perspective of the status of empirical knowledge …

  23. David B. Benson says:

    You’d think a PhD PE would known that they didn’t know until they studied the science.

    There are simply too many people, because they know something about chemistry or geology or whatever, think they know about all of science.

  24. Joe says:

    You are losing me, Brian.

    I assume when you go to visit the doctor, you don’t accept any diagnosis or treatment until you yourself have gone to medical school, since obviously they are all witchdoctors.

    Peer-reviewed science and the IPCC were explicitly set up to get past what you call tribalism.

  25. Brian G Valentine says:

    Well, Doctor Romm, peer-reviewed science “explained” and Predicted “polywater” too – I’ll guess yu’re old enough to remember that one –

    An entire volume of J Coll Interface Sci was devoted to the elegant (and meaningless) theoretic underpinnings of this marvelous and fictional substance.

  26. David B. Benson says:

    Joe — Brian G Valentine does not appear to be completely sane in his posts.

  27. Brian G Valentine says:

    David –

    Your need to validate your attempts to humiliate is pathetic, consistent, and (as much as I regret to admit it) – expected.

  28. Joe says:

    Sorry, Brian, comparing climate science to polywater would be like comparing, oh, I don’t know, evolution to polywater.

    That particular analogy is the last refuge of the denier — “all science is wrong because a few people were once wrong.” I thought you were a scientist….

  29. Joe says:

    Once again, Tiger Woods proves he’s no Freeman Dyson!!!

  30. Apropos solar variation, one approach that I take with such issues is to say that, back 30 years ago, that was a reasonable supposition–but now we have data, real knowledge to replace the supposition.
    Take a look at

    Up until 30 years ago, fluctuations in temps and solar output did indeed correlate. Since then, they have diverged–and we know why.

  31. Barry says:

    David B. Benson Says:

    “You’d think a PhD PE would known that they didn’t know until they studied the science.”

    Think of it this way – time he spends posting is time that he doesn’t spend ‘designing’ anything.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    Barry — Valid point! :-)

    Brian G Valentine — I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.

  33. Dano says:


    I find there is a tribe of PEs who think that their education has taught them everything they need to know. Don’t mind this small tribe of stubborn denialists.



  34. Donald B says:

    From Brian G. Valentine’s posts, it would appear that his Ph.D. is in semantics and word smithing; maybe he could tell us what areas of physical chemistry he works in on a daily basis? How long ago has it been since he had to work out a boundary value problem, and in what area if it was recent?

  35. Rick Moore says:

    Though linked in this article I need to make it clear that I’m not a climate denier. I’ve always thought there was a climate. Wouldn’t even think of denying it.