Mar 292009

An article on Freeman Dyson in The New York Times Magazine this week — The Civil Heretic by Nicholas Dawidoff — prominently featured Dyson’s skepticism about global warming:

IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson … announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books … that climate change has be­come an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true be­lievers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore … and James Hansen … Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

This was followed by an interesting column in today’s NYT by John Tierney, Tragedy is not Freeman Dyson’s Business, about the contrast between naturalistic and human­istic perspectives on climate change.  Tierney concludes with: “I find Mr. Dyson’s arguments compelling, but I have a feeling some Lab readers will disagree. Fire away.”

I think Freeman Dyson is a good scientist.  Last summer I sent various friends a link to his NYRB essay, The Question of Global Warming.  But I am somewhat surprised — and this may indicate my own bias — to see the doubts of a leading scien­tist displayed so visibly by the New York Times.  Is this perhaps a concession that the science is not yet settled?  Will we next see a discussion in the Times of, say, Roger J. Pielke, Sr. or the scientists at Climate Audit?  


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