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« Happy Christmas! | Main | US usurps EU's role of climate fool »

Seitz is no guarantee

Readers are no doubt familiar with Harvard physicist Russell Seitz, a frequent commenter in these parts. If so you may be interested in an email I received today:

Take a look at this 1990 article by Russell Seitz, placed online recently here. It's colourfully written, but ironically it sets out a sceptic position rather well. Does this sound like something that you might have written?

A disturbing reality confronts us:  the deliberate creation of a double standard, with one set of facts for internal scientific discourse and another for public consumption.

On whether CO2 is a "big" problem:

Clearly, a sharp-toothed carnivore is on the prowl. But we've yet to see a full-grown specimen.  Are we dealing with Snoopy or Cerberus? It's hard to tell- it's only just a foundling pup, and the question of its diet remains to he wrestled with-it might grow into either. But grow it will-slowly, and for a long while undetectably. One of these centuries, we're going to have a real dog in our front yard. But what kind?  And when?  An interdisciplinary consensus on the magnitude of the "greenhouse effect" and its impact on sea levels in the next century won't come cheap-or soon.

On activists and scientists:

On CO2, some [scientists] have cast objectivity aside and openly made common cause with the eco-politicians. The salvation of the world affords an enchanting pretext for those predisposed to societal intervention. They have already raised the abolitionist banner, pointing to the prospect of Bangladesh awash and water  skiing down the Mall to the Capitol-a prospect no more likely in my lifetime than nothing happening.

On nuclear:

Rather than embarking down the soft energy path that leads back beyond the Industrial Revolution's roots into a future dark age, the Greens should pause to consider the effect on the environment of renewing and perfecting our mastery of the atom's pale fire.  The prospect of nuclear power's second coming presents environmental millenarians with a real source of cognitive dissonance: it is they who are the problem. It is their delaying tactics that wasted years and squandered billions at Seabrook and elsewhere. And it is their past indifference to the environmental consequences of the fossil fuel that the reactor might have saved that makes a mockery of their present rhetoric.

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Reader Comments (233)

I have had no time for Seitz since he mocked Anthony Watts for his deafness.

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I have seen video of Schneider from the early seventies. He fooled a lot of people, but first he had to fool himself.

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Heh, the Picture of Dorian Russell.

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

typo alert:
"Readers are no doubt familiar with Harvard *physcist* Russell *site*"
Should it be
"Readers are no doubt familiar with Harvard physicist Russell Seitz?"
[corrected. BH]

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

1990 article? 25 years out-of-date?

The scientific position may have stayed the same, but the politics have changed utterly. Nowadays you would not be allowed to write such an article, and believers will dismiss it out of hand as 'ancient'...

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Martin A, you are not the only one.

This all goes to prove with a high level of confidence, that 97% of scientists advocating the perils of carbon dioxide, can't be trusted.

Climate science realised it had a 'communication problem' after the e-mail release in Climate Gate. What they failed to realise, was that it doesn't matter how well a bucket of crap is wrapped up, with fluffy ribbons, and a sprinkle of glitter, it is still a bucket of crap.

It is only fair to vvussell Seitz at this festive time of year, to congratulate him on removing the fluffy ribbons and sprinkle of glitter, so everybody gets to see what is in the bucket.

Dec 23, 2015 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

... those predisposed to societal intervention.

Bingo! Bango! Bongo!

Dec 23, 2015 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

I concur with Martin A and golf charlie but since Russell is a frequent visitor to this site perhaps he could explain exactly what has happened in the last 25 years that have undermined his scepticism and turned him into an apologist for the Climateers — complete with their ability to insult everyone who deviates a fraction of a degree from the course they have set.
Bearing in mind that ...
The lies about sinking Pacific atolls and the likely demise of Bangladesh are just that — lies.
The rate of rise in sea level continues to do nothing that cannot be fully accounted for by natural causes.
The panic-mongering about "ice-free Arctics" and "collapsing ice-sheets" assumes (certainly in the case of the former) that the world was created fully-formed in 1979 — even the most fundamental of fundamentalists say 4000BC!
That the scaremongering predictions included in AR5 are, by the IPCC's own admission, unrealistic scenarios.
That, much to the dislike of the Climateers and the "choir" (Lewandowsky, Oreskes, Klein, Cook et al, sober scientific papers are lowering the climate sensitivity almost daily.

Not to mention a variety of other inconvenient truths that are coming to light to suggest that not only has "Global Warming" © become a scam but that it probably always was.

Don't be a Wuss, Wussell. Turn back to the good side of the Force. You know you want to!

Dec 23, 2015 at 5:17 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I was unsurprised to find Dr Seitz's writing was just as unnecessarily opaque 25 years ago as it is now.

In my opinion, he is a man who wishes to seem profound, but lacks the intellectual ability; so he fakes it by inflating his writing with unnecessary verbiage.

Compare his writing to Feynman's. Feynman simplified and illuminated. People walked out of his lectures thinking how beautiful and simple his explanations of phenomena were. I get the sense that Dr Sietz wants people walking out of his lectures thinking "wow, that guy must be clever because I didn't understand half of what he wrote!"

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered Commentertarran

Follow the money?

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Mike Jackson, maybe vvussell missed out on the sex 'n drugs 'n rock 'n roll life style in his youth, and was envious of Michael Mann's instant rise to stardom, fame and riches.

Was it a British pop group that achieved fame by smashing their guitars to match wood, having completed their act? Michael Mann achieved fame by completing his Hockey Stick out of match wood, and continues to perform his act.

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

tarran + 1

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

golf charlie
The difference must be that I didn't miss either the rock 'n' roll or the drugs. What was the third thing again?
I'm happy to take Seitz at face value. If he was a sceptic in 1990 and is now a Believer then fine. But it would be good to know why since I also was a sceptic in 1990 and the more I have learned about physics, climate, academia, and (especially) the genetic tendency towards mendacity among environmentalists the more sceptical I have become.

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:54 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Is he a commenter here ? What name ?

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Spot on about the verbiage, Tarran. Eg, what's all that garbage about Snoopy and Cerberus?

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrubberduck

Is this individual actually allowed out without supervision?

He really does sum up academia though.

Dec 23, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2


maybe vvussell missed out on the sex 'n drugs 'n rock 'n roll life style in his youth
In his youth? He was born old - and cantankerous.

Dec 23, 2015 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Andrew's reluctance to cut to the chase in quoting A War Against Fire is hardly surprising :

there may indeed be a solution to the profound uncertainty that engenders reluctance when we are offered insurance against C02 bracket creep-at a trillion-dollar premium. Consider a double Scots Verdict: even if the verdict on global warming is not proven, we could still save a bundle of hard cash if a canny enough energy policy can be found.

Rather than mandating reduced consumption of fuel and its Luddite consequences here and in the growing industrial sector of the Third World, let us consider getting more Kilowatt-hours by literally turning up the heat. A policy that promotes raising the minimum thermodynamic efficiency of hotter-running fuel-burning power stations by say 8 percent (to around 44 percent) by the year 2000 might be paid for by the very fuel it saves.... And should the presently hung scientific jury reach a Scots Verdict in the interminable trial of Earth v. The Greenhouse Gases, little macro-economic mischief will have been done.

But should nature follow art, and oblige the environmental televangelists with an unambiguously toasty third millennium -- when I have spoken of uncertainty in this essay, I have meant what I said-- the retrospective imposition of such a policy regime will he a source of some satisfaction to all, save hardened libertarians. ..

The prospect of nuclear power's second coming presents environmental millenarians with a real source of cognitive dissonance:... it is their past indifference to the environmental consequences of the fossil fuel that the reactor might have saved that makes a mockery of their present rhetoric.

The sooner their paranoia about nuclear waste disposal is laid to rest alongside that waste itself-deep in the and badlands, well secured, and as soon as the criminal mischief of Chernobyl is buried under the foundations of a reactor both safe and sanely contained, the sooner will civilization cease to he obliged to make a chemical waste repository of the sky...

If candor prevails, climate professionals will realize once again that laymen too can recognize cant when they hear it and cartoons when they see them. Scientists would do well to recall that insight's inevitable corollary-the neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist if it is to he respected.

For as the thaw continues in the Eastern bloc, we see emerging from beneath the glacial recent facade of science in the Soviet Union grim evidence of what happened when science was last subordinated to the true believer's agendas for changing the world.

Whether the trial of Galileo or the tyranny of Lysenko, at all times and in all polities, science politicized is science betrayed.


Dec 23, 2015 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Is he a commenter here ? What name ?
Dec 23, 2015 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph


Dec 23, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A


I don't comment a lot (usually above my pay grade) but I have seen your comments and some responses here before. I could almost agree with what you wrote, if only I knew what it meant. I agree with tarran above when he said your writing is "unnecessarily opaque." Could you say that again in English for the benefit of us of lesser abilities?

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

"science politicized is science betrayed."

Never a truer word etc. Question is, Russell, how come there are so many betrayers out there?

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrant

Thank you, Russell. Though I note that, as yet, you have not deigned to come out from behind the verbiage and explain what has driven you into the arms of the Climateers.
As Andrew says, it sets out the sceptic position rather well. I would prefer to say that it sets out the practical and sensble position rather well once you dig down through the waffle. So why are we now in thrall to a bunch of luddites whose avowed position is that unless we reduce CO2 emissions mankind is doomed but whose every action demonstrates that their objective is the end of cheap and abundant energy regardless of how it is created?

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:06 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Sorry to dissapoint Kim, but the lede photo was shot by The New York Times in 2002 for a piece on another reseach project of mine :

Many thanks to golf charlie, & Harry Passfield for the Christmas gift of mirth--

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Did I say "cantankerous"? Darn spellcheck. I'm sure I wrote, "unintelligible".

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Andrew Montford has also indulged in an act of ellipsis rivaling Naomi Oreskes.

The money quote he's cut from between the two parasof his 'On activists and scientists ' heading warns that :

any pretension to oracular foreknowledge of how, over the next quarter century, the earth will respond to our presence lies in the realm not of science but of intuition.

And just as surely, any denial that unrestrained C02 injection can transform the world within five generations lies beyond the pale of both-especially if China's vast coal reserves are exploited at a per capita rate approaching that of the U. S. today."

Which , a quarter century after it was written, begs the question of what those indifferent to what China has since done may fairly be called today ?

Commenters are invited to read the whole essay before demanding explanations of its parts.

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

I can't tell who
looks better in the bow tie
Our Beloved Russell
Or Bill Nye The Sciency Guy


Dec 23, 2015 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

[ellipsis] not of science but of intuition.
Intuition??? And on this, (this, ffs!!) you expect the first world to cough up trillions of dollars, enriching oligarchs in the third world and impoverishing the inhabitants of the first? Intuition is something that thought it's arse was hanging out of bed - and got out to tuck it back in. [snip]

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

At least VVussell vveads Bishop Hill (he certainly follows it assiduously) - he might learn something.

Fat hope.

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

'Many thanks to golf charlie, & Harry Passfield for the Christmas gift of mirth--'

Dec 23, 2015 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Russell poised for Christmas cheer ....
.... For mirth doth come but once a year!

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterbullocky

“I have had no time for Seitz since he mocked Anthony Watts for his deafness …”.
Indeed, on a puerile parody site that wasn’t even funny.

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Hanley

Crapulence is no substitute for doing your homework , Harry; after you read the article Andrew has so kindly linked, please compare what I posted last week:

with what I wrote regarding energy policy in 1990:

"we need not he idle while awaiting newer and more elegant generations of climate models and nuclear technology-or that Holy Grail of applied physics, hot fusion that truly emulates the power of the sun.
So there may indeed be a solution to the profound uncertainty that engenders reluctance when we are offered insurance against C02 bracket creep-at a trillion-dollar premium. "

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"the power of the sun"

Is this the same sun that can't make the climate warmer?


Dec 23, 2015 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Does that dicky bow flash lights and spin around ?

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Christopher, in what may a judge hold a juror who turns off his hearing aid to avoid listening to the evidence ?

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"Crapulence", Russell? OK, you get to answer the trillion dollar question: CO2 - Thermostat or thermometer? What's your intuitive answer?

Dec 23, 2015 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Russell would be a great spokesperson for my new idea: C02 Christmas Sweaters with Matching Bow Tie.

You can look all sciency *and* be that much warmer than you would have been because your sweater is laced with powerful C02 threads.


Dec 23, 2015 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

You guys realize that he is reveling in all the attention, right?

Strip away the PhD and the embellished verbiage, and you get the annoying kid who would disrupt his third-grade class so that people would pay attention to him.

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commentertarran

Christopher, in what may a judge hold a juror who turns off his hearing aid to avoid listening to the evidence ?
Is that a trick question or a lame attempt at Socratic dialogue?

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Hanley

EternalOptimist, 9:45pm;

"Russell Does that dicky bow flash lights and spin around ?"

No, but his head does.

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:26 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Best idea Bad Andrew has voiced to date , but do they require dry ice cleaning ?

Harry should get back to us with a complete one sentence quote-

The essay speaks for itself.

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"Is that a trick question or a lame attempt at Socratic dialogue?"
Half an hour reading Plato convinced me that Socratic dialogue only works if you get to write both the questions and the answers :-)

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGavin

I don't want to attack Russell in particular, but he sums up this debate for me.
A jobsworth academic who values an academic consensus very highly and an interdisciplinary consensus above all else. even elbow patches.
Absolutely refusing to accept that there might be truth outside this structure, or that this way of seeking the truth might even be an obstacle

With Global warming, I believe this academic arrogance IS an obstacle

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

"but do they require dry ice cleaning ?"

No but they do require that stupid people buy them.


Dec 23, 2015 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Not exactly, Mike, the Bish's good and great forebear Archbishop Usser pegged it at 4004 BC.
This lot are amateurs- I've stood harsher raillery of late from Naomi Oreskes, for dissing politically correct one dimensional climate models back in the '80s, when Schneider and I made common cause in critiquing 'nuclear winter'

Deliberate misquotation is the ground state of politicized science.

Dec 23, 2015 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

I think I do want to attack Russell in particular. In a contest for worst piece of semi-literate obfuscation his post here would be a leading contender. I don't think anyone who writes as badly as this has the right to expect people to take their views seriously.

Dec 23, 2015 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterKestrel27

vvussell, I am sure you are enjoying the publicity being generated by a thread at one of the top blogs on matters related to the absence of evidence of Mann made climate change, but you have been given this opportunity to explain why you changed your mind about it.

If there is some piece of science, so dramatic, or some series of events, so persuasive, why don't you take a few hours to type it, so it may be reviewed at this site, on this thread, over the Christmas break?

If you only post comments here to attract attention to your own blog, I am guessing, it has not proved too successful. If it is just attention you seek, you are getting it, but you are being laughed at, rather than laughed with.

Q1. What was the science or evidence that convinced you to mistrust climate science?

Q2. What was the science or evidence that convinced you to change your mind?

I make this as a suggestion, not a challenge. There are far more scientific minds than mine visiting this site, who can evaluate your scientific evidence. For myself, I just note a complete absence of anything happening to the weather, that has not happened before.

Dec 23, 2015 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I still don't want to attack Russell in particular, rather that academic approach he relies upon.
I know why he likes it and I know why he can switch positions with one hundred percent knowledge he is being accurate. every time.
It's because he sets the rules.
That's what the academic approach to this theory is all about and that's why it is so phoney and that's why we get people speaking with authority like Lewendowsky, Oreskes and even Gavin. People who , ordinarily, would not be given the time of day.

I don't blame Russell, this is in his blood now. He relies so utterly on being able to set the rules that he is probably terrified. He comes here because he wants to show how clever he is, by using his rules and his verbiage.
I doubt he understands us

Dec 23, 2015 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Russell writes:

> The salvation of the world affords an enchanting pretext for those predisposed to societal intervention

Yet another lightly sarcastic description of Noble Cause Corruption

The point is that such intervention from the mindset of Noble Cause Corruption is both widespread and maliciously damaging

Poking fun at it has no effect at all. It just doesn't notice - so even being laughed at does not deter it. And it attracts so many malicious bed fellows

Dec 24, 2015 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

The purpose of writing in a pretentious style like this is not to explain but to impress and confuse. It is supposed to inspire respect but has exactly the opposite effect on me. The result is that I have little interest in what his views once were or are now. Those hoping for any clear explanation of why his views have changed will, I am sure, hope in vain.

Dec 24, 2015 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterKestrel27

Lets hear from someone who can encapsulate his thoughts, delivering them in a precise idiomatic English and with pleasing alacrity. All the while, emphasizing that, this humble guy, his existence is acknowledged by many [and I place myself in such exalted company] to be probably, the greatest physicist presently bestrewing his gems, on this planet.

"“I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic,” Dyson said."

But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.

“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

A major fudge factor concerns the role of clouds. The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide on its own is limited. To get to the apocalyptic projections trumpeted by Al Gore and company, the models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming.

“The models are extremely oversimplified,” he said. “They don’t represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds.”

Professor. Freeman Dyson.

I believe that, another luminary of the physics world, one Professor Lindzen would hang with all of the above.

On the other side you have, the likes of a 'muddle'; Al Gore, Oreskes, Dana Nutcasecelli, James Cameron and various self appointed climate change sages inclusive of Russell whose physics credentials don't amount to a hill of beans but and most of whom steadfastly refuse to publicly debate with any [amateur] realists - let alone physicists like the aforementioned Prof's Dyson and Lindzen............
And to boot who would, in open debate slaughter the likes of Mann, Romm, Schellnhuber, Rahmstorf, Slongo et al and Hansen and any other comers.

MM CO₂ emissions causes warming is the vehicle for political transport to a much darker place and the temerity oozes as does the sanctimonious cant: they name realists as the deniers - aye and science is inside out in a parallel universe.

In his own words:

The salvation of the world affords an enchanting pretext for those predisposed to societal intervention.

"science politicized is science betrayed."

Hoisted himself up and upon his own petard.

Dec 24, 2015 at 12:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

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