Reclaiming the World of Real Science: Heartland Institute Vs RealClimate

By | February 2, 2008

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The Heartland Institute organizes a climate conference in March that is, unlike the conferences that you usually hear about in the media, open to climate skeptics and experts regardless of their political opinions or overall sentiments about the relationship between Nature and human civilization.

The organizers have sent invitations to many kinds of climate experts, including some of the well-known champions of the climate alarm. These invitations have provoked a hysterical reaction from RealClimate.ORG.

The profoundly concerned scientists describe all the scientists who will attend – before they actually know who they are – as being corrupt by the "evil" oil industry, not being scientists at all, as people being paid concrete amounts of money to fabricate papers and talks, and so on. Their talks are described as "tobacco science". RealClimate.ORG even recommends their readers conspiracy theories from two hardcore smear, radical environmentalist websites, ExxonSecrets.ORG and SourceWatch.ORG, that preemptively throw mud at very concrete people who might (or might not) attend.

What about the remaining 450 scientists at the updated Inhofe’s list? Are the green activists fast enough to create a similar Goebbelsian web page about every scientist who says the obvious, namely that the dangerous global warming orthodoxy is a hoax? Do they actually believe that they can eliminate the opposition as completely and effectively as NSDAP did without actually having police and other arms under its control?

The RealClimate "group" explains that the participants are not scientists at all – before they actually know who is attending – and they encourage the participants to skip the talks and enjoy a nice hotel in New York instead. They wouldn’t hear any science at all, so it is important that the participants can’t hear the talks…

Their smear job is so blatant, hostile, and inconsistent with any kind of a reasonable, balanced, open-minded, or scientific analysis of a question that I can’t really believe that there exist people who are intelligent enough to learn how to read but antediluvian enough to be influenced by this incredibly transparent propaganda.

Motivation behind conferences

The Heartland Institute conference is clearly not designed as a cutting edge conference that is expected to lead to some revolutionary scientific results. No truly groundbreaking discoveries have been made in climate science for many decades and it is unlikely that some of them will occur in a foreseeable future. Climate is just too messy and there are too many moderately important small insights about it. On the other hand, there are scientists – such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Henrik Svensmark, and numerous others – who understand the climate much better than most people, including many active participants of the "climate debate", and who have a lot of things to teach others.

The real problem here is a political one – there exist powerful forces that don’t want other people to learn what is actually known about the climate, not even some of the basic results and numbers. There exist organizations and their ad hoc unions that prefer constant lies to be promoted by the media and myths to thrive among ordinary people.

They have certain reasons to make people believe that the temperature of the second millennium looked like a hockey stick – even five years after the papers were shown to be bunk and their main author an apparent dilettante in statistics. They want everyone to believe that carbon dioxide was driving temperature during the ice ages and interglacials – many years after it became absolutely clear that the causal relation behind the correlation goes in the opposite direction.

They want everyone to believe that small changes of the temperature can exterminate polar bears and other species even though the actual scientific evidence shows that it can’t; that the Solar activity doesn’t have any impact on the terrestrial climate even though there is extensive evidence that it does; that small warming creates catastrophic hurricanes even though all links of this type have been shown erroneous. They want everyone to believe that there is a scientific consensus and this consensus can settle the debate and justify arbitrarily oversimplified conclusions – even though there is clearly no consensus and even if there existed one, it wouldn’t mean anything and it would certainly not justify any oversimplification.

Indeed, the official goal of the organizers of the conference is a political one – to inform the world about the real state of affairs, namely that many qualified experts who have carefully thought about these questions simply disagree with the global warming orthodoxy. Individual participants may have purer (or, on the contrary, more material) reasons to attend. At all conferences it is always like that to one extent or another, and any "group" is simply less than forthcoming if they insist that pure scientific curiosity is their sole objective . But I find it refreshing that the Heartland organizers honestly state what their goal is because the goal of analogous alarmist conferences is highly political (while many of their attendees have material reasons to attend), which fact is routinely obscured.

There is another difference that RealClimate.ORG points out: that the preferred speakers are recommended by the organizers or sponsors while it is usually a scientific committee that does it at "ordinary" conferences. Unlike RealClimate.ORG, I am not so sure which of these two arrangements is superior.

I have learnt a great deal about the work in committees – most of them were inflexible, constantly stuck bodies composed of people driven by their extremely narrow-minded personal interests and desire to look politically correct and coincide with whatever opinion is felt to be dominant according to the wind direction at the moment. Whenever the question was whether an adjacent discipline would be allowed extra funding or job, the dominant argument was always in the pockets of the participants. 90% of the arguments offered at certain committee meetings were driven either by material interests of the participants or maintenance of their public image.

At any rate, I recommend all big-shots and even medium-shots regardless of their position within the science and policy spectrum to attend, learn a lot, and teach others – climate realists and climate alarmists alike.

Luboš Motl (born 5 December 1973) is a Czech theoretical physicist who works on string theory and conceptual problems of quantum gravity.

Motl was born in Plzeň. He received his master degree from the Charles University in Prague, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rutgers University and has been a Harvard Junior Fellow (2001-2004) and assistant professor (2004-2007) at Harvard University. He currently has no known academic affiliation, though in July, 2007 he announced his plans to return to the Czech Republic after leaving academia.[1] His blog[2] lists his current location as Pilsen, Czech Republic.

He made an important contribution to matrix and nonperturbative string theory, under the impulse of his advisor T.Banks. Recently he worked on the pp-wave limit of AdS/CFT correspondence; twistor theory and its application to gauge theory with supersymmetry; black hole thermodynamics and the conjectured relevance of quasinormal modes for loop quantum gravity; deconstruction, and other topics. He has a presence on the Internet, where he often participates in heated discussions supporting string theory against loop quantum gravity. Along with Urs Schreiber and Arvind Rajaraman, he founded and moderates the sci.physics.strings newsgroup.

Motl translated The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene to Czech, and together with Miloš Zahradník, he co-authored a Czech textbook on linear algebra (We Grow Linear Algebra).

Motl keeps a blog mainly about string theory but also discussing general science, politics and events at Harvard. In science, besides talking about string theory, he frequently criticizes what he thinks is alarmism about global warming.


Heartland Institute

Real Climate