I sat in a roomful of journalists 10 years ago while Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider lectured us on a big problem in our profession: soliciting opposing points of view. In the debate over climate change, Schneider said, there simply was no legitimate opposing view to the scientific consensus that man - made carbon emissions drive global warming. To suggest or report otherwise, he said, was irresponsible.
Indeed. I attended a week's worth of lectures on global warming at the Chautauqua Institution last month. Al Gore delivered the kickoff lecture, and, 10 years later, he reiterated Schneider's directive. There is no science on the other side, Gore inveighed, more than once. Again, the same message: If you hear tales of doubt, ignore them. They are simply untrue....
Here's the kind of information the ``scientific consensus" types don't want you to read. MIT's Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen recently complained about the ``shrill alarmism" of Gore's movie ``An Inconvenient Truth." Lindzen acknowledges that global warming is real, and he acknowledges that increased carbon emissions might be causing the warming -- but they also might not.
``We do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change" is one of Lindzen's many heresies, along with such zingers as ``the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940," ``the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average," and ``Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."
When Lindzen published similar views in The Wall Street Journal this spring, environmentalist Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David, immediately branded him a ``shill." She resurrected a shopworn slur first directed against Lindzen by former Globe writer Ross Gelbspan, who called Lindzen a ``hood ornament" for the fossil fuels industry in a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine.
I decided to check out Lindzen for myself. He wasn't hard to find on the 16th floor of MIT's I.M. Pei-designed Building 54, and he answered as many questions as I had time to ask. He's no big fan of Gore's, having suffered through what he calls a ``Star Chamber" Congressional inquisition by the then senator . He said he accepted $10,000 in expenses and expert witness fees from fossil- fuel types in the 1990s, and has taken none of their money since.
He's smart. He's an effective debater. No wonder the Steve Schneiders and Al Gores of the world don't want you to hear from him. It's easier to call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption than to debate him on the merits.