Richard Lindzen

Richard Siegmund Lindzen (born 1940) is an atmospheric physicist and a professor of meteorology at MIT renowned for his research in dynamic meteorology - especially atmospheric waves. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has held positions at the University of Chicago, Harvard University and MIT.

He was a lead author of Chapter 7 [1] ( of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Annual Report.

He frequently speaks out against the IPCC position that significant global warming is caused by humans (see global warming) although he accepts that the warming has occurred, saying global mean temperature is about 0.6 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago [2] (

Lindzen's criticism of the IPCC is one of the main reasons he is widely known outside his professional circle.

His position with regard to the IPCC can be summed up in this quote: "Picking holes in the IPCC is crucial. The notion that if youíre ignorant of something and somebody comes up with a wrong answer, and you have to accept that because you donít have another wrong answer to offer is like faith healing, itís like quackery in medicine Ė if somebody says you should take jelly beans for cancer and you say thatís stupid, and he says, well can you suggest something else and you say, no, does that mean you have to go with jelly beans?" [3] (


National Academy of Sciences panel

Lindzen served on an 11-member panel [4] ( organized by the National Academy of Sciences. The panel's report, titled Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions[5] (, has been widely cited.

The first paragraph of the report summary states,

"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability."[6] (

Wall Street Journal 2001

Subsequently, however, Lindzen wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal [7] ( (June 11, 2001), which insisted that "there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends or what causes them" and "we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future."

He pointed out

"As usual, far too much public attention was paid to the hastily prepared summary rather than to the body of the report. The summary began with a zinger -- that greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise, etc., before following with the necessary qualifications. For example, the full text noted that 20 years was too short a period for estimating long-term trends, but the summary forgot to mention this."

However, while the full text does warn that 20 years is too short to estimate long term trends, this does not qualify their statement about greenhouse gases causing warming as Lindzen implies. In fact, it is a warning about the satellite data, which at the time the report was written did not show much warming. Here is the context in which the warning about long-term trends occurred:

Although warming at Earth's surface has been quite pronounced during the past few decades, satellite measurements beginning in 1979 indicate relatively little warming of air temperature in the troposphere. The committee concurs with the findings of a recent National Research Council report, which concluded that the observed difference between surface and tropospheric temperature trends during the past 20 years is probably real, as well as its cautionary statement to the effect that temperature trends based on such short periods of record, with arbitrary start and end points, are not necessarily indicative of the long-term behavior of the climate system.

IPCC Policymakers Summary criticism

Lindzen worked on IPCC Working Group 1, Chapter 7, which is the section which considers the physical processes that are active in real world climate. He has described the full IPCC report as an admirable description of research activities in climate science [8] ( although he has criticised the SPM. Lindzen stated in May 2001 [9] ( that the IPCC summary does not support the full document: see IPCC. Lindzen further criticized the IPCC for alterations to the Policymakers Summary of its 2001 global warming report, saying:

The draft of the Policymakers Summary was significantly modified at Shanghai. The IPCC, in response to the fact that the Policymakers Summary was not prepared by participating scientists, claimed that the draft of the Summary was prepared by a (selected) subset of the 14 coordinating lead authors. However, the final version of the summary differed significantly from the draft. For example the draft concluded the following concerning attribution:
From the body of evidence since IPCC (1996), we conclude that there has been a discernible human influence on global climate. Studies are beginning to separate the contributions to observed climate change attributable to individual external influences, both anthropogenic and natural. This work suggests that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are a substantial contributor to the observed warming, especially over the past 30 years. However, the accuracy of these estimates continues to be limited by uncertainties in estimates of internal variability, natural and anthropogenic forcing, and the climate response to external forcing.
The version that emerged from Shanghai concludes instead:
In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. [10] (

Editorial note: The "30 years" period begins at 1970, near the start of the warming trend. The IPCC Shanghai version's "50 years" period of "observed warming" begins in the midst of the 1945-1975 cooling period before the warming trend[11] (

However, the NAS panel on which Lindzen served (see above) said [12] (

"The committee finds that the full IPCC Working Group I (WGI) report is an admirable summary of research activities in climate science, and the full report is adequately summarized in the Technical Summary. The full WGI report and its Technical Summary are not specifically directed at policy. The Summary for Policymakers reflects less emphasis on communicating the basis for uncertainty and a stronger emphasis on areas of major concern associated with human-induced climate change. This change in emphasis appears to be the result of a summary process in which scientists work with policy makers on the document. Written responses from U.S. coordinating and lead scientific authors to the committee indicate, however, that (a) no changes were made without the consent of the convening lead authors (this group represents a fraction of the lead and contributing authors) and (b) most changes that did occur lacked significant impact."

Letter to his town mayor, 2003

In September 2003 Lindzen wrote an open letter to his town mayor [13] (, stating his opinions on global warming. He says "... [T]he impact of CO2 on the Earth's heat budget is nonlinear. What this means is that although CO2 has only increased about 30% over its pre-industrial level, the impact on the heat budget of the Earth due to the increases in CO2 and other man influenced greenhouse substances has already reached about 75% of what one expects from a doubling of CO2, and that the temperature rise seen so far is much less (by a factor of 2-3) than models predict (assuming that all of the very irregular change in temperature over the past 120 years or so -- about 1 degree F -- is due to added greenhouse gases-- a very implausible assumption).".

See [14] ( or climate model for more information.

Attempted betting on global warming, 2004-2005

The November 10, 2004 online version of Reason magazine reported that Lindzen is "willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now."[15] ( Climatologist James Annan,[16] ( who has offered multiple bets that global temperatures will increase,[17] ( contacted Lindzen to arrange a bet.[18] ( Annan offered to pay 2:1 odds in Lindzen's favor if temperatures declined, but Lindzen would only accept a bet if the payout was 50:1 or better in his favor, so no bet occurred.



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