Climate scientists around the world debunk Wall Street Journal “Stalinist” screed

The Wonk Room is reporting on the scene from Copenhagen during the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published a bizarre and vile screed by editor Bret Stephens, who compared climate scientists to anti-Semites and Stalinists, furthering the descent of the Climategate swiftboating campaign into parody. The Wonk Room has the exclusive responses to the charges Stephens made from several of the thousands of scientists working to understand the dynamics of our climate system. These scientists are participating in the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Science Q&A for Copenhagen program. The Wonk Room would like to thank the scientists “” from the United States, Norway, Australia, Scotland, and Germany “” for their thoughtful replies to a pile of otherwise unredeemable twaddle.

These scientists refute the charges that they are guilty of “utopianism,” “anti-humanism,” “intolerance,” and “indifference to evidence.” Their responses may be summed up by that of David S. Stevenson, a University of Edinburgh climate scientist: “Mr. Stephens is missing something here, and it is called a scientific understanding of the climate system.”



Stephens writes:

In the world as it is, climate alarmists see humanity hurtling toward certain doom. In the world as it might be, humanity has seen the light and changed its patterns of behavior, becoming the green equivalent of the Soviet “new man.” At his disposal are technologies that defy the laws of thermodynamics. The problems now attributed to global warming abate or disappear.

Alastair Jenkins, Senior Scientist, Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen:

All the proposed “carbon neutral” energy sources (wind, hydropower, solar, biomass, CO2 storage, nuclear) and storage/transmission technologies (electrical network, hydrogen) provide more energy in the lifetime of the installation than they require in construction, maintenance, etc.

Dieter Issler, PhD, Natural Hazards Division, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute:

The Laws of Thermodynamics have been found to apply wherever they are supposed to apply. Saying that the “technologies needed to abate the problems attributed to global warming defy the laws of thermodynamics” is therefore just about equivalent to saying that no technology, whether existent or not yet invented, can possibly solve the problem of climate change. Both in Law and in Science, anybody making such a far-ranging claim is generally held liable to prove their claim, but the author certainly does not do this in his article. . . .

Suppose we were able and willing to replace all combustion engines (including power plants) by electric engines and produced the needed electric energy solely through nuclear reactions. Through this, we would still be adding about the same amount of heat from non-solar sources to our system, but we would not add new CO2 to the atmosphere and thus eventually reduce the greenhouse effect. This solution””even though quite radical and not so very desirable either in my personal opinion””is perfectly in agreement with the Laws of Thermodynamics.


In his 2007 best seller “The World Without Us,” environmentalist Alan Weisman considers what the planet would be like without mankind, and finds it’s no bad thing. The U.N. Population Fund complains in a recent report that “no human is genuinely ‘carbon neutral’”””its latest argument against children. John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, cut his teeth in the policy world as an overpopulation obsessive worried about global cooling. But whether warming or cooling, the problem for the climate alarmists, as for other totalitarians, always seems to boil down to the human race itself.

Alastair Jenkins:

Replacing fossil fuel energy sources with “carbon neutral” energy sources is very feasible at the current and foreseeable future population levels. Wind, solar, and nuclear technologies use up little or no productive agricultural land. Hydropower is known to cause local population displacement. Certain biofuel production methods (e.g. ethanol from corn) may use up some food production capability. However, “business as usual” will lead to climate changes (global warming of 4 deg C and more) which can seriously reduce food production (by reduced rainfall in today’s grain production belts). So, massive depopulation is more likely if we do nothing about reducing emissions than if we convert to “carbon neutral” technologies.


Why did the scientists at the heart of Climategate go to such lengths to hide or massage the data if truth needs no defense?

Jennifer W. Harden, Research Soil Scientist and Biogeochemist, U.S. Geological Survey:

Observations throughout the world have led to overwhelming consensus among scientists that global warming is occurring and is the result of human activities. There are multiple causes of climate change that are always operating, but for the past 60 years, the gases emitted by human activities have been the strongest cause of climate change. These conclusions are based on decades of progressive steps involving scientific observations, interpretations, debates, and computer modeling that constitute the process by which objective conclusions are reached by such a large body of scientists. Such multiple lines of evidence have not been refuted.

The scandal is the theft and distribution of private emails, and not their contents. There is nothing in the emails that disputes the reality of global warming. Some words in the emails have been taken out of context and portrayed as having a different meaning than was intended. The word “trick” means “technique” or “method,” such as in “tricks of the trade.” It does not mean an attempt to fool anyone.

Bruce E. Taggart, Assistant Director, Leetown Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey:

The “misleading” statements do not, and will not, determine whether the Earth’s climate is changing or not; or, if changing, what is causing that change. The current controversy is really about the possible behavior or attitudes of a few scientists and the impact these statements (true or not, in context or not) may have on their reputations and credibility. It is not about the validity of the scientific method or the conclusions reached through its application by tens of thousands of other independently-minded scientists throughout the world on the topic of climate change. The assessment, interpretation, and testing of multiple independent lines evidence will ultimately be what determines scientific community’s consensus of the nature and cause of the environmental changes we are experiencing at present.

Indifference to evidence?

Climate alarmists have become brilliantly adept at changing their terms to suit their convenience. So it’s “global warming” when there’s a heat wave, but it’s “climate change” when there’s a cold snap. The earth has registered no discernable warming in the past 10 years: Very well then, they say, natural variability must be the cause. But as for the warming that did occur in the 1980s and 1990s, that plainly was evidence of man-made warming. Am I missing something here?

David S. Stevenson, Reader in Atmospheric Modelling, School of GeoSciences, The University of Edinburgh:

Because climate scientists know about natural climate variability (i.e. year-to-year fluctuations in climate caused by natural processes), they do not draw conclusions about climate change from individual years of data. They average over several years, generally 30 years, so as to remove the effects of such unusual years. That is why the global temperature record is normally overlaid with smooth curves that have decadal, or longer, running averages. Such curves show that recent warming has been ongoing since about 1970 — i.e. we have had about 40 years of warming. This is rather more significant than considering the cooling since 1998, relative to 1998. There have been several periods of short-term (i.e. ~10 years) of what appears to be cooling in the last 150 years. Nevertheless, the overall trend is upward. It is not inconsistent for long-term warming to have periods within it of shorter-term cooling.

In short, Mr. Stephens is missing something here, and it is called a scientific understanding of the climate system — namely the requirement of climatologists to look at multiple year (typically 30) averages before drawing conclusions.

Sebastian Koenig, Climate System Research Center at the Department of Geosciences University of Massachusetts Amherst, Dr Helen McGregor, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, and Carsten Lemmen, GKSS Forschungszentrum:

Heat waves and cold snaps in a period of global warming can seem confusing but it really boils down to the difference between weather and climate. In general, weather is what we experience day-to-day, whereas climate is the average of the weather over a longer span of time. For example, the general or “average” (climate) during summer is warm, but on any given day in summer the temperature (weather) may be warmer or cooler than the average. As Robert A. Heinlein is famously quoted as saying, “Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get”. In times of global warming there are many complex factors that lead to short term fluctuations, and indeed this may result in heat waves and cold periods occurring at the same time but in different locations. The key to detecting the global warming trend is to look at long term changes, and by doing so short term cool and warm periods are averaged out by the overall longer-term warming trend.