Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Resigns Over Global Warming
Ivar Giaever, the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, has resigned from the American Physical Society over its declaration that "global warming is occurring" and that "the evidence is incontrovertible."
Ivar Giaever, the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, has resigned from the American Physical Society over its declaration that “global warming is occurring” and that “the evidence is incontrovertible.”
Fox News (“Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Resigns Over Global Warming“):
Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that “global warming is occurring.” The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man’s actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.
Giaever does not agree — and put it bluntly and succinctly in the subject line of his email, reprinted at Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change. ”I resign from APS,” Giaever wrote.
Giaever was cooled to the statement on warming theory by a line claiming that “the evidence is incontrovertible.” ”In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?” he wrote in an email to Kate Kirby, executive officer of the physics society. ”The claim … is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period,” his email message said.
This story is, not surprisingly, being widely touted as evidence in the conservative blogosphere that there is room for debate on the issue of global warming. After all, Giaever has a Nobel Prize! In physics! But he’s not a climate scientist:
Giaever earned his Nobel for his experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in superconductors. He has since become a vocal dissenter from the alleged “consensus” regarding man-made climate fears, Climate Depot reported, noting that he was one of more than 100 co-signers of a 2009 letter to President Obama critical of his position on climate change.
That 100 scientists could be found to sign a public letter is interesting. But the red flag should be that a major scientific society was willing to put out such a definitive statement on such a controversial issue, not that there are a handful of dissenters. This isn’t a 50-50 issue; it’s a 95-5 issue. Nonetheless, the campaign is working:
Public perception of climate change has steadily fallen since late 2009. A Rasmussen Reports public opinion poll from August noted that 57 percent of adults believe there is significant disagreement within the scientific community on global warming, up five points from late 2009. The same study showed that 69 percent of those polled believe it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs. Just 6 percent felt confident enough to report that such falsification was “not at all likely.”
But this is really not an issue where public opinion is relevant. Lay people–myself included–simply don’t have the scientific knowledge to evaluate the evidence; they’re simply repeating what they’ve heard. Alas, public opinion does matter as regards to public policy making.
The guy is a physicist not a climatologist.
Rasmussen is a sham poll.
I find it hard to question the science based on this. But the extremists will latch onto any sliver.
We need to be discussing how to respond to humans impact on climate change…not it’s existence.
Clearly, all this proves is that he isn’t a real scientist and the APS would have eventually kicked him out anyway.
Did I get that right?
“incontrovertible” is a bad word to use in science.
GW is the biggest hoax ever pulled over the collective eyes of the human race. One great big, fat ugly lie for the single purpose of political gain of a small group of people. Glad to see people are beginning to see through the vail of lies on this garbage.
That’s pretty much what the catholic church told Galileo about the earth revolving around the sun. So you are in good company. Congrats.
Spoken with the calm and reserve of a real scientist. (not.)
This doesn’t even pass the giggle test. Let’s review:
The Teavangelicals are pretty much the only group in the political world that denies the science of human influence on climate change. The Teavangelicals are organized and funded by the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers stand to benefit from an absence of action related to fossil fuels. So if there is political gain to be had, one way or the other, by a small group of people…who would that small group be? 95% of the worlds scientists? Or the handful of people making massive fortunes from burning fossil fuels and the few scientists paid by them?
Again…this discussion is a tragic waste of time…which is exactly what people like the Koch Brothers want. We should be discussing what actions, if any, should be undertaken to counter human influence on the natural process of climate change.
@john: So your next step is to refute the climate change people with facts and honest figures backed up by more than a few people, right?
There is actually a “meta” way to disprove the denialists. Do you notice how they never stand on a position, or a refutation, of AGW? They don’t. They move. If you check in one year, it’s alpha particles. Check back later and it’s heat island effects. Check back later and it’s solar variation.
The pattern should be glaringly obvious.
So while I don’t doubt that (the other) John can google this week’s refutation … don’t expect it to stand. Expect people like John to google something else up a year from now.
That process, looking for excuses, is not science.
(I’m not really sure what’s up with Giaever. If he is being cranky about “incontrovertible” he has a point. If he just thinks things look smaller on the Kelvin scale … not so much.)
(Someone should really make a timeline of failed denial arguments.)
An important thing to remember is that a nobel prize >< genius in everything science (or even a particularly good scientist). From James Watson's terrible views on "scientific race" to Alexis Carrel's support of (German) eugenics.
@Hey Norm: I’m not sure your example of the Catholic Church and Galileo would be the most appropriate example to support your point, Norm. Galileo’s fellow scientists virtually all believed he was wrong, too. IOW, there was a broad consensus in the scientific community.
Yeah I know…analogies almost always suck.
That doesn’t mean @John isn’t on the wrong side of the science, as was the church.
Why don’t scientifically trained folks like this, who are so sure of themselves about a subject they have never studied, just go ahead and study it? I’m sure he’s a bright guy and could spend a couple years analyzing the evidence in an unbiased manner if he actually tried.
But instead it sounds like he’s been infected with some sort of Climate Derangement System – he intentionally puts things in Kelvin so the difference doesn’t look like much. Would he also argue with me if I said that that water is solid at 273.1 degrees Kelvin and liquid at 273.2 degrees Kelvin? How could that be, it’s less than a tenth of a percent!?
But I think John has a perfect response: As were the scientists who formed the consensus.
So it’s kind of a wash.
@Franklin: Your point makes no sense. Mr Giaever’s position remains the same if he uses a different temperature scale. The increase is 0.8°K, 0.8°C, or 1.44°F over a 150 year period. Not very big, which is his point.
BTW, I have no idea if his claim of 0.8°K increase over 150 years is accurate, I’m just pointing out that, if the figures are accurate, his conclusion that it’s not a very big change seems to be valid.
BTW, I have no idea if his claim of 0.8°K increase over 150 years is accurate, I’m just pointing out that, if the figures are accurate, his conclusion that it’s not a very big change seems to be valid.
No it isn’t. You just assume it is because you think a 0.8°C change is “not very big.” Globally, that temperature change in such a short period of time is quite significant. I expect more from someone like Giaever, who seems to think a dramatic increase (considering the timeframe) signifies stability. He obviously does not know enough about climate to have an informed opinion on this, but he sure thinks he does.
@mantis: Okay, and you say it’s a big change because…?
I’m not asking for a huge dissertation or anything, but you’re just baldly saying that Mr Giaever is wrong, with nothing to support your claim. So, what would you consider to be a “normal” change?
So he’s a pedant over niggling phrases who doesn’t really understand how even small changes in temperature can have huge effects on climate? That’s understandable.
I wouldn’t put too much stock in his objection, seeing as how he’s not involved in any form of climate science research. Sure, he’s a Nobel Prize winner, but scientific Prize winners have embraced crazy things before (like how Linus Pauling became obsessed with Vitamin C later in life).
Exactly. They’re like creationists in that regard, treating arguments as “weapons” to defend a pre-existing belief regardless of their actual validity. They’ll just throw stuff out there until something sticks.
Before someone brings it up, that’s not to say that skepticism regarding parts of climate change are unwarranted. There is disagreement over how it will affect certain aspects of weather in certain ways (such as extreme weather). But that aside, there is definitely a pattern of behavior like the one I described above among many “lay skeptics” such as this physicists, random Republican politicians and tea partiers, and so forth.
Mr. Joyner states: “Lay people–myself included–simply don’t have the scientific knowledge to evaluate the evidence; they’re simply repeating what they’ve heard.”
Can I assume this lack of scientific knowledge applies to those who “repeat what they have heard” in support of AGW as well those who “repeat what they have heard” disputing the idea?
Often I hear advocates of the AGW point of view claim that “the science is settled.”
A note on the web page sciencebuddies.org states: “Even though we show the scientific method as a series of steps, keep in mind that new information or thinking might cause a scientist to back up and repeat steps at any point during the process.”
I have always thought that this is a basic tenet of the scientific method of finding things out.
Have the proponents of AGW closed the door on “new information or thinking”?
Do those proponents rely on the publics “scientific illiteracy” to promote an agenda?
Do those who question the existence of AGW rely on this same illiteracy to support their agenda?
Why do I think the answer to both of those questions is “yes”?
No. I realize this isn’t your field, but it should still be obvious. Temperature change matters to us because we live in biological systems. To scale the importance of temperature change you have to explain how it affects biological systems, especially important biological systems (say the US farm belt).
Putting it in a temperature scale that makes it look small doesn’t really do that, does it? It doesn’t actually answer any important questions, does it?
(Scientists have been working to quantify impacts on biological systems for 30 years now, he certainly should have referenced that.)
The way science works is that there are varying degrees of consensus, until consensus is shattered, new consensus emerges … rinse, wash, repeat.
You don’t win by introducing a new idea. You actually have to defeat the old one.
What some of you miss is that AGW has largely stood on the same conceptual foundation for 30 years. Various attacks have been tried, and they’ve failed. Yes, that means that more should be tried so that if-and-when a better idea comes along it will succeed.
But jeez, can’t some of you just see yourselves seizing on the contender because it is the new contender, and not because it is a better idea? You want something to defeat AGW, and so you believe every new idea that comes along.
That is not science.
I’m going to reference these 17 scientists not as a marker for median or consensus belief, but as an indication of how bad it could all get:
Scientists: Global warming could kill coral reefs by 2050
Of course, 17 scientists working in their own turf might be better than 1 outside his domain.
@john personna: But what is the basis for the claim that a 1.44°F increase over 150 years is “obviously” a big change, John?
I’m certainly not a climate scientist, but I am a debater (but not a master debater…insert Beavis giggle here), and I recognize when someone doesn’t have the facts to support their claims, so they try to obfuscate. My problem with the claims of AGW is that there tends to be a lot of hand waving and claims of majority consensus and so forth, without much evidence of following scientific procedures. And at least sometimes when scientific procedures are followed by those seeking to prove AGW (and that whole “seeking to prove” approach is a problem right there, too), the effort is later proved to be, at best, flawed, and in some cases, fraudulent (the hockey stick graph and the CRU data at the University of East Anglia are examples).
Why is it so hard to produce publicly available models that not only indicate the truth of AGW, but accurately model past climate changes? Something like this would be extremely valuable in undermining AGW skeptics, and yet it doesn’t exist.
I confidently say it doesn’t exist, because if it did, folks who support the AGW consensus would be posting it incessantly. Wouldn’t you agree?
@Boyd: The increase in temperature over the last 150 years is approximately 100 times faster than natural rates of change, unless one goes back about 55 million years to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. A mass quantity of greenhouse gases (about 1500 Gigatons of CO2) were quickly vented into the atmosphere creating a warming almost as fast as the current one (quickly meaning over a few centuries). The result was a mass extinction.
@Boyd: Climate models are publicly available, and do accurately model past climate change. That you and so many others are unaware of this demonstrates how effective Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and the oil industry have been in their disinformation campaign.
@john personna: I disagree that consensus has anything to do with science. Following repeatable procedures using publicly available data is how scientific advances are made, not by getting everybody to agree and sing Kumbaya. (Sorry if that last seems a bit attack-y)
@Ben Wolf: If those climate models are publicly available, Ben, please provide a link.
Did you read where I said:
Or where I pointed to:
Scientists: Global warming could kill coral reefs by 2050
This thread is not science, it is uninformed bullshit.
That’s the link to the source code and data for GISS. Let me know if you want others.
@Ben Wolf: Thanks for the link, Ben. I’ve had a quick scan, but I’ll have to reserve a more in-depth examination for later.
One thing I can say for sure: if this is the model that predicts AGW while accurately modeling historic climate change, they’re burying the lede.
This graph is how we know the current warming is so abnormally rapid:
Notice how periods of warming take tens to hundreds of thousands of years to change by only a few degrees. Now take a look at that thin little spike labelled PETM on the left side of the graph. That rapid (in geological terms) rise and fall in temperature destroyed roughly 60% of species on the planet, a true mass extinction. We’re literally conducting a global experiment recreating those conditions.
Yes of course…but I’m not interested in consensus. I’m interested in the science. The consensus thought invading and occupying Iraq was a great idea.
As you point out my analogy was bad because in Galileos day the consensus was contra the science. In climate warming the consensus is in agreement with the science. In every case I have personally examined the scientists who are contra anthropogenic climate change science are either not credible on the subject, or have been funded by fossil fuel interests.
Again…the question we need to be asking ourselves is what, if anything, we should be doing about it.
I think you sell yourself short, James.
You may not be trained in science, like me. But you are trained in analytical thinking, and the role of real live evidence, analytical processes, and of course the notion of qui bono: follow the money, or the politics.
You would note that:
1. Only 40 years ago the very same oh-so-sure, “scientists” were telling us – based on similar concerns – about an imminent ice age, until they had to change their story. Ooops.
2. That the data set is in question, not only from a technical data gathering and integrity point of view, but from a “political” point of view – code for “clearly tainted.” Some would say fabricated.
3. That the independant variable CO2 has had to been given an attribution of effect of approximately 5 x – by pure fiat – in the models to come up with the “conclusions.” Only 20% is of some substance; 80% just thrown in religiously…………….or conveniently. Heh, dishonestly?
4. That almost by the month honest people are falling away in light of accumulating evidence. Whether it is CERN data or other, honest scientists have an attribute that the religious or politicaly motivated don’t have: a need not to feel stupid in the face of real evidence.
I have a prediction. You’ve seen parts of it in this thread. The first is easy: destroy the messenger. (I’m waiting for the arrows.) The second is – just like we went from ice age to global warming – change the predicted result. Now its the coral reefs. You see, for the religious, the need isn’t to be correct in their predictions, but the sustain their wrath for the bogeyman.
And by the way, China, India and Brazil will dwarf all our ill conceived efforts, and laugh all the way to the bank at our foolishness and as we self immolate.
If you were 1/5th as smart as you think you are, you could disprove your own claim with google and 3 spare minutes.
That you’d trot it out as #1 … sad, dude.
@Drew: The global cooling myth and the misrepresentation of the recent CERN research are pretty obvious clues your list isn’t worth much without linking to something to back it up.
It’s weird. On the one hand we can see how easy lazy denial really is. You don’t have to read or understand, you can just trot out remembered complaints, or ask dumb questions. On the other hand, you’d think the very process of playing lazy denier would be so degrading that people would tire of doing it.
When you know you are treating your own position with disrespect … how can it not register?
Actually you don’t even have to go that far down the post. This:
should be enough. The “trained scientist” whose idea of scientific critique is to do mystery novel analysis on highly complex scientific matters.
@David M: There was no global cooling movement among scientists. Stop saying silly things.
There’s a long history of scientifically ‘incontrovertible’ theories (Newtonian mechanics for instance) which have turned out to be false.
I think the preponderance of evidence points towards anthropogenic global warming, but the Nobel Prize winning guy is right – ‘incontrovertible’ belongs in formal systems like math and logic, not experimental science. Its a very strange word for a scientific body to use … as he says, in physics we discuss mutli-dimensional super string theory, multiple universes, etc, but we can’t debate on whether anthropogenic global warming is occurring? That is simply very, very bad science (and like I say, I think the evidence points towards AGW … but science is experimental, and nothing in it is every incontrovertible – a lesson physicists were supposed to have learned when quantum mechanics and relativity replaced Newtonian mechanics, or so I was repeatedly told in both undergrad and graduate physics courses).
The science underpinning AGW is, in fact, incontrovertible. To invalidate the theory you would have to do one of the following:
1) Demonstrate greenhouse theory is invalid.
2) Demonstrate the laws of thermodynamics are invalid.
3) Demonstrate a forcing which has eluded identification for over seventy years, and has caused the planet to warm by 0.85C at one hundred times the natural rate while simultaneously suppressing the warming effects of increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere by 42%.
These things are possible, but so improbable as to be a waste of time to research. Some science really is so basic there is no longer a reason to question it beyond sheer stubbornness.
Sorry, but not even the laws of thermodynamics are incontrovertible in science; for incontrovertible you want math. Science is based on induction.
This is something you have drummed into your head as a student in physics – if you believe in say the 2nd law of thermodynamics to the point where you won’t consider evidence against it you are no longer a scientist.
Read the history of the end of classical, Newtonian physics; as Lord Kelvin said, they had almost come to end of physics, understanding everything, with just two small clouds on the horizon … the Michelson-Morely drift and black body radiation. They were in fact advising students away from physics, as more or less a completely solved problem. Of course, the first of those clouds led to relativity, the second to quantum mechanics, and it turned out Newtonian mechanics was in fact in error.
The evidence definitely points toward AGW. But it, like everything in science, is open to further investigation, and in fact has to be continuously tested. Science dies when its taken on faith.
Now if you’re saying we have enough information to act on AGW, I agree. But for a scientific body to say any scientific theory is beyond debate goes against the foundations of science … its a political statement rather than a scientific one.
Or put it this way: we have far greater understanding of say solid state physics (as in what these computers run on) than we do of the climate (which is a fairly new area of study), and yet there isn’t a single theory in solid state physics which would be declared incontrovertible. Including absolutely basic things such as Maxwell’s equations.
It should also be noted that´the esteemed professor seems to be somewhat behind the times (or reading blogs instead of source materials for his info). The APS adopted the “incontrovertible” statement in 2007 not as a scientific statement but a political call for action.
Furthermore, the APS did not call the idea of human influence on the climate as “incontrovertible”. That part only applied to “Global warming is occurring.”, i.e. the findings, not the theory.
In 2010, the APS issued an addendum stating:
While they could have walked back more strongly, it seems clear enough that they explicitly do not used the term in the formal sense (beyond questioning) but rather in the legal one (beyond reasonable doubt). They did not argue against the scientific method.
One and a half years after that clarification, Prof. Giaever resigns in a huff over an four-year-old, already amended statement. Seems more like either a PR stunt or misinformation on his part than a defence of scientific standards.
You also left off the big leap, that AGW matters to (ultimately) human systems and societies. Sure, it is pretty incontrovertible that CO2 absorbs radiation and passes it on as heat. But the wider AGW claim brings in much more complexity.
For instance, what will be the productivity drop to ocean fisheries? And do we care?
Those of us who would prefer AGW response do care, but as we’ve seen in other threads, some folk will say “hey, species die all the time.”
I agree. The amendment is basically admitting they used the wrong word (incontrovertible); compelling is a much better choice. For him to resign a year and a half after that clarification seems somewhat unbalanced.
@george: This is foolishness. No one, and I mean no one in the practicing scientific community questions the Laws of Thermodynamics. Nor does anyone question atomic theory: it’s empirically supported trillions of time per day, every time you turn on a light switch or use your cellphone. Your physics teachers were silly to tell you otherwise, but if you want to go back and challenge every theory every time you use it be my guest, just don’t expect anyone to humor you because they’ve got more important things to do.
AGW Theory is incontrovertible. You cannot counter it without succeeding at one of the three things I listed, and which you conveniently ignored. Those three things will never happen because the odds against them are literally astronomical, and research money is far to precious to waste reinvinting the wheel.
Aren’t you stuck now arguing against NOAA, who acknowledged that the word was problematic?
My physics teachers included a Nobel Prize winner (for a master’s seminar course, lot’s of interesting informal discussions on the philosophy of science among other things – he was very insistent that you actually have to question everything). This really is a given in science; when results are in doubt, you back to the basics as far as necessary. For instance, when faced by the discrepancy between Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell’s equations regarding the constancy of the speed of light, Einstein had to go all the way back to the notion that time always passes at the same rate.
Of course you’re not going to be simplistic about it, in the sense of questioning the basics every time you run into a problem in your research, but you have to be open to doing exactly that. In the case of climate modeling in particular, and climate science in general, there are still a vast number of real problems that are anything but unquestionable – parametrization of cloud cover for instance, or of turbulence (which is a vital process happening at all scales from atomic to the grand conveyor belt currents, and yet which we can only model with a parameter). These are definitely questions still in debate.
And though the evidence for AGW is very convincing, that’s a far cry from saying its incontrovertible. One hundred years ago we didn’t know about either the strong or weak nuclear forces. Ten years ago we didn’t even suspect dark energy (whatever that might turn out to be). Atoms were thought to be held together by electrical forces (a soup of protons and electrons), and in Lord Kelvin’s time they thought they had everything all but figured out with just gravity and electromagnetism. Its certainly within the realm of possibility that once again there are forces in play that we aren’t aware of yet.
Which is why its considered very bad form in science to say something is incontrovertible. Yesterday’s incontrovertible tends to become tomorrow’s limited theory.
The best current science says AGW is occurring, and so we should act on it. But this is science, not faith, and everything is up for debate.
And I think you’ll find you have a very hard time finding working physics (as opposed to students) who will give you a 100% guarantee that the 2nd law is correct. 99.99999% most of us will give you. 100% though is crack-pot land.
Please note above: They didn’t say AGW is incontrovertible. They said the (merely descriptive) temperature readings are. And they relativized that statement later.
I don’t know who does messaging for the Kochs, but he/they are really good. Of course by good I mean skilled, effective, and totally evil.
You know something? I really don’t give a hoot that Boyd is not convinced. I don’t give a hoot that Michelle Bachman or Rick Perry or anyone else isn’t convinced. Their opinions are worthless. I care that the people who spend their lives studying this subject believe that AGW is going to have a significant impact on the climate.
In much the same way I don’t care if my neighbor says that the mole on my back is probably nothing. Or my cousin who is a prize winning auto mechanic. The best in town, really. I only care what the people who study such moles for a living think. And that’s the way it should be.