Lindzen: Newsweek hides Ties to Big Oil


Richard Moore

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Newsweek Hides Global Warming Denier's Financial Ties to Big Oil
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on April 12, 2007, Printed on April 16, 2007

So Newsweek is running an opinion piece about global warming titled: "Why So 
Gloomy?" The piece is authored by Richard Lindzen, a well-known meteorologist, 
and his thesis about the potential melt-down of our climate can be boiled down 
to this: Don't worry, be happy!

At the bottom of the article, is this brief biographical sketch of the author:

        Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at
        the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has
        always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He
        receives no funding from any energy companies.

Sounds like he's on the up-and-up, no? After all, the guy's not one of those 
scientists who denies global warming and then cashes nice checks from a bunch of
big energy firms, right? Maybe those wing-nuts are right when they deny that 
there's a scientific consensus about human activities contributing to global 
warming. Hmmm.

Oh, but wait. That name Š Lindzen Š sure does sound familiar.

Yes! From that excellent investigative piece in Harper's on the funding behind 
the climate skepticism "industry" Š

        In the last year and a half, one of the leading oil industry
        public relations outlets, the Global Climate Coalition, has
        spent more than a million dollars to downplay the threat of
        climate changeŠ

        For the most part the industry has relied on a small band of
        skeptics--Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, Dr. Pat Michaels, Dr.
        Robert Balling, Dr. Sherwood Idso, and Dr. S. Fred Singer,
        among others--who have proven extraordinarily adept at
        draining the issue of all sense of crisis.

        Lindzen, for his part, charges oil and coal interests $2,500
        a day for his consulting services; his 1991 trip to testify
        before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, and
        a speech he wrote, entitled "Global Warming: the Origin and
        Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus," was underwritten by

His research may be funded entirely by the government, but Lindzen himself -- 
his kids' college tuition, his mortgage payments -- have at least in part been 
funded by Big Oil and Big Coal, including OPEC for crying out loud!

But wait, it gets worse. The positions advocated by Richard Lindzen, the 
paid-by-OPEC opinion writer commenting in Newsweek -- he's also written op-eds 
for a number of other publications including the Wall Street Journal -- appear 
to be the diametric opposite of those held by Richard Lindzen, the serious 
meteorologist, when he's writing peer-reviewed scientific texts.

Specifically, Lindzen co-authored the 2001 National Academy of Science's report 
on climate change. It concluded that despite some scientific "uncertainties," 
there is "agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong 
within the past 20 years."

        Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a
        result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures
        and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.

The report predicts: "increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility 
of semi-arid regions to drought."

        Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and
        ecological impacts by the end of this century, especially if
        globally-averaged temperature increases approach the upper
        end of the IPCC projections. Even in the more conservative
        scenarios, the models project temperatures and sea levels
        that continue to increase well beyond the end of this
        century, suggesting that assessments that examine only the
        next 100 years may well underestimate the magnitude of the
        eventual impacts.

The NAS study endorsed "The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] 
conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to 
have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," saying it 
"accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this 

Here's some highlights of what the IPCC report Lindzman endorsed considered to 
be "virtually certain" outcomes of global warming (they list other potential 
outcomes that were only "very likely," but I'm not including them here):

The troposphere warms, stratosphere cools, and near surface temperature warms.

As the climate warms, Northern Hemisphere snow cover and sea-ice extent 

The globally averaged mean water vapour, evaporation and precipitation increase.

Most tropical areas have increased mean precipitation, most of the sub-tropical 
areas have decreased mean precipitation, and in the high latitudes the mean 
precipitation increases.

Intensity of rainfall events increases.

There is a general drying of the mid-continental areas during summer (decreases 
in soil moisture). This is ascribed to a combination of increased temperature 
and potential evaporation that is not balanced by increases in precipitation.

A majority of models show a mean El Niño-like response in the tropical Pacific, 
with the central and eastern equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures warming
more than the western equatorial Pacific, with a corresponding mean eastward 
shift of precipitation.

Available studies indicate enhanced interannual variability of northern summer 
monsoon precipitation.

Most models show weakening of the Northern Hemisphere thermohaline circulation 
(THC), which contributes to a reduction in the surface warming in the northern 
North Atlantic. Even in models where the THC weakens, there is still a warming 
over Europe due to increased greenhouse gases.

In other words, Richard Lindzen the meteorogist is part of the very scientific 
consensus on global warming that Richard Lindzen the opinion writer has called 
into question.

Whether Newsweek's editors were duped by Lindzen's admittedly impressive 
credentials or not is irrelevant -- this info took me about 18 seconds on Google
to unearth. There's no excuse for that stuff about how his research is all 
government-funded in that bio -- it simply buries the rather clear appearance of
a conflict-of-interest.

That's common, and really bad for democracy. I, for one, am sick of it. If you 
are too then tell Newsweek that if they're going to run opinion pieces by 
industry-funded shills, they need to disclose those shills' financial interests.

251 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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