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« Diary dates, not to be missed edition | Main | Arguing the toss »

'Conversation that Matters' with Freeman Dyson

Click the image to take you to wonderful video of Freeman Dyson in conversation with Stuart McNish - it's twenty minutes of refreshing brilliance.

H/t Hilary Ostrov.

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Reader Comments (44)

He made a very telling remark - "I am retired and not afraid of losing my job"

Apr 6, 2015 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Elliot

In fact, he made several telling remarks.

!) Enjoy being a skeptic.
2) Academia might be on message, but the people... not so much. (paraphrased this one)

I would love to see him give testemony to congress or parliament.

Wonderful man..

Apr 6, 2015 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Is it me or is the Hill better when the Bish is away ?

Just saying.

Apr 6, 2015 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

It is just you, Morph.

And it shows the pettiness of an individual who would even think of posting such a nasty, little comment. Grow up, child, or return to the sites where that sort of comment is common, if not obligatory.

Apr 6, 2015 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Morph asked, "Is it me or is the Hill better when the Bish is away ?"

Not better, just different.

Apr 6, 2015 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

Great artwork Josh. I hope FD got the original.

Apr 6, 2015 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

wrong, Morph

but BH is better when trolls are away

just sayin'

Apr 6, 2015 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Yo, morph! Wolverine is pissed and hunting for you

I'd run the other way. for a very long time.

Apr 6, 2015 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

I look forward to ATTP's (And Then There's Physics) comments on Freeman Dyson's viewpoint. ATTP is very much pub football on a Sunday compared to Dyson's Champions's league brain.

People who really understand the physics know that while the radiative forcing effect is calculable, the feedbacks are nothing more than a wild guess, which have been amplified to scare the beejeesus out of politicians. That might even have been the right thing to do in 1990 when temperatures were rising and no-one really knew how things would unfold.

Trouble is now the genie is out of the bottle the politicians have a tax they can levy which the electorate believe is morally right and they won't let go of that for all the tea in China. The scientists can't believe the funding they have and daren't speak up for fear of losing this largesse.

It will take twenty more years for this nonsense to come to an end.

Apr 6, 2015 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterStevie

Is there any possibility a transcript might emerge?

Apr 6, 2015 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

Dyson's view of climate models is vary similar to the mainstream perspective of economic models.
Referring to a friend who constructed the first climate models, Dyson says at about 10.45

These climate models are excellent tools for understanding climate, but that they are very bad tools for predicting climate. The reason is that they are models that have very few of the factors that may be important, so you can vary one thing at a time ....... to see what happens. But there is a whole lot of things that they leave out. ..... The real world is far more complicated than the models.

Neoclassical economic models are very similar. But whilst nobody who understands economics would claim that assumptions such as homo economicus, perfect information and instantaneous adjustment exist in the real world, it would seem that for many in the climate community the basic physics of the climate models are a higher reality against which any empirical evidence must be evaluated for authenticity.

Apr 6, 2015 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

This is more like it. Dyson is credible. Unlike the GWPF.

Freeman Dyson

“My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans.

They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.” –

Apr 7, 2015 at 3:54 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Freeman Dyson - Independent newspaper interview

First, the computer models are very good at solving the equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly. Second, we do not know whether the recent changes in climate are on balance doing more harm than good. The strongest warming is in cold places like Greenland. More people die from cold in winter than die from heat in summer. Third, there are many other causes of climate change besides human activities, as we know from studying the past. Fourth, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is strongly coupled with other carbon reservoirs in the biosphere, vegetation and top-soil, which are as large or larger. It is misleading to consider only the atmosphere and ocean, as the climate models do, and ignore the other reservoirs. Fifth, the biological effects of CO2 in the atmosphere are beneficial, both to food crops and to natural vegetation. The biological effects are better known and probably more important than the climatic effects. Sixth, summing up the other five reasons, the climate of the earth is an immensely complicated system and nobody is close to understanding it.

I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure.

On the intolerance of Warmists:

You complain that people who are sceptical about the party line do not agree about other things. Why should we agree? The whole point of science is to encourage disagreement and keep an open mind. That is why I blame The Independent for seriously misleading your readers. You give them the party line and discourage them from disagreeing.

Apr 7, 2015 at 3:55 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

"I am retired and not afraid of losing my job"

That's right. He's safe from the HSBC sponsored yobs at the Guardian.

Apr 7, 2015 at 3:56 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I loved the way Dyson shut down that reporter with the email interview, esmiff. It reminds me of the Duke of Chiswick declining further delegates from Birdsburg.

Apr 7, 2015 at 4:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Move along, now nothing to see... Noting worth repeating on the BBC, ABC, MSM etc.
- "We don't want to confuse the public with a 91 year old scientists whose been in Climate Science for 37 years* ..we need a 'pretty boy' like Simon Reeve" says an imaginary BBC producer.

(* during which CO2 has gone up by 40%)

- Interesting to see "Oh Boy Productions" & The Vancouver Sun pick up after the shut down of Sun News TV Network
(Are they connected ? used to be, but when Postmedia bought Sun Media (newspapers) in 2014, they didn't buy the Sun News TV Network)

It carries both alarmist articles ..which get slaughtered in the comments
and calmer climate articles
- A recent story Artist was given a grant which was then withdrawn on the grounds her work is Climate Advocacy
(I don't call, 'not giving a subsidy' censorship. )

Apr 7, 2015 at 5:03 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

(I don't call, 'not giving a subsidy' censorship. )
It is if the reason for not giving it is that the recipient expresses views you dislike unrelated to the reason for giving it.
Applies whichever side of the argument (any argument) you're on.

Apr 7, 2015 at 8:56 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

First, many thanks for the h/t, Josh ;-) And for giving this excellent interview the exposure it deserves.

One rather curious thing I observed yesterday (which was also a holiday here in BC) - and it may just be nothing more than pure coincidence - is that the University of British Columbia (UBC) decided to issue a Media Release on the work of UBC's Emeritus Geophysicist, Garry Clarke et al, dated Apr. 6.

And, miracle of miracles, even though CBC was also in holiday mode, one of their noble reporters dutifully jumped right on the story! Notwithstanding the fact that the actual article is not yet available via one of Nature's fingerlings!

Anyway, for those who might be interested ... I did notice a few ... uh ... differences in UBC's take and that of the CBC. Seems like it's back to rapidly retreating glaciers time, again, folks!

See: CBC hypes – again: Of models, memes and mythical melts

P.S. @Kevin Marshall, many thanks for capturing that particular Dyson quote ... you saved me the trouble of finding and transcribing to include in my post, for balance;-)

Apr 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

We’re sorry, this video is no longer available

Anyone gotta link that works?

[J: Still works for me]

Apr 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

Reply to @Mike Jackson ..bit of semantics Mike's bias, but it is not censorship the person is still free to post their message as much as they like, just as before.
- Is the bias automatically unfair ? well the gov might have a project to push women, children, sexual or racial/ethnic minorities etc.that's bias

- It certainly looks rough in that case - that they gave the grant and then decided to take it away. Kind of thing Team Putin would do if he found an artist was a political opponent etc.
I haven't heard the govt's side in this particular story, it's a 2011 story but in the news cos has just released the redaction saying it effected Oil Tar Sands business

(Mods : You know the Recent Comments sidebar seems to have stuck ?)

Apr 7, 2015 at 9:25 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The interview starts at 3:05 if you want to skip the two patronising, apologetic idiots at the beginning.

Apr 7, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

Apr 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

Ref. "no longer available".

I got the same thing. If you click the "OK" pb, it goes into a perpetual loop.

For conspiracy folks, it seems most of their clips are "no longer available" which could mean the easiest way for one person to disable the "spread" of evil knowledge is to simply block access/rename a directory which makes the link(s) invalid and the player defaults to presuming it's just MIA. Good hunting!

Apr 7, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

American climate reactionary journalists ignore him of course.

Apr 7, 2015 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Professor Courtillot said things in the same vein on the fascistoid "soft power" festering around academic careers and
promotions etc.

It is quite "embarassing" that the warmish find very few elderly supporting their little fraud

Other more extreme example is Gaia's Goodlock supporting nuclear after being 3 decennia against it.

Apr 7, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenuNotWarmerDueToCO2

What a wise and unassuming gentleman....

Apr 7, 2015 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

It's very easy to show Hansen et al's 1981 claim of 33 K GHE and a negative Down energy flux from a discrete OLR emission zone at 5-6 km is plain wrong.

Earth's tropopause is 10 to 17 km so the GISS claim and all that followed over the past 34 years is complete bunkum. Any professional sees this immediately. Dyson is a professional. Only the dim followers of the IPCC religion accept it.

Apr 7, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Transcript ? Tom Nelson has listed essential quotes
- WUWT commenter named Samurai has done some bullet points

video is still working here in Asia

Apr 7, 2015 at 2:40 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

What was the book that he recommended?

Apr 7, 2015 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterContendo
Apr 7, 2015 at 3:29 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

esmiff (3:55 AM): Is Steve Connor really an editor at The Independent? His sentence structure is so clumsy, it looks more like the meanderings of a simpleton’s mind than a journalist’s. Who labels the points AFTER thy have been made? If that is truly an indication of The Independent’s writers, then I can understand how the paper is failing.

Not only that, but they are seriously loaded questions, very much along the lines of, “When did you stop beating your wife?” So much for investigation, this is more along the lines of inquisition.

Apr 7, 2015 at 4:55 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Hmm. The interviewer actually knew some things, but was relatively unobtrusive at the same time. Very nice.

Apr 7, 2015 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Great guy.

There is a video of Cool It available here. Well worth the 88 minutes.

Apr 7, 2015 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

For me the money quote is where he mentions that India and China don't buy into the worldview of weary pessimism that seems to be the zeitgeist here in Europe.

Apr 7, 2015 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

"American climate reactionary journalists ignore him of course."

Apr 7, 2015 at 11:51 AM | hunter

Is that why he chooses to publish his essays in <I> The New York Review Of Books ?

Apr 8, 2015 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Perhaps we should take heart from the words of Arthur Schopenhauer:

All truth passes through three stages:

First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

We are into the second of these, with calls for “deniers” to be imprisoned, assaulted or beheaded. How much worse could it get before we move to the third?

Apr 8, 2015 at 9:39 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent
Apr 8, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Radical Rodent (Apr 8, 2015 at 9:39 AM) wrote "...with calls for “deniers” to be imprisoned..."

I'm actually in favour of this because, assuming no 'temporary suspension of the justice system', it would require the case for CAGW to be tested in a court of law where I'm sure it would fail... and the evidence of its failure would be clear for all to see.

Apr 8, 2015 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Dave Salt: you have a point there. What worries me is that the death sentence might be what is demanded, perhaps in the hope of terrifying “deniers” to such a degree that they will rescind their “denial”, thus the legal process will never be tested and the general public remains in the dark.

Apr 8, 2015 at 5:56 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR, demanding capital punishment would mean even more scrutiny for CAGW and so become an even bigger 'own goal' if the advocates were to demand it.

Remember that the CAGW meme survives because it's never allowed to be discussed in a balanced and open forum, which is something the legal process could provide... and so will be avoided by the advocates.

Apr 9, 2015 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

DS: it only takes the hysteria to be whipped up sufficiently for any attempt at scrutiny or rational discussion to be discarded. It has happened many times in history; if we are not prepared to learn from that, then we are doomed to repeat it.

Apr 9, 2015 at 1:40 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR, I believe western democracies are still robust enough to resist promoting the CAGW meme to that level of enforcement.

Nevertheless, history has many examples where a 'temporary suspension of the justice system' has been applied and so I agree that we should not get too complacent about the potential of green 'agitprop'.

Apr 9, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

DS: never forget that Hitler was democratically elected.

How "robust" are western democracies? Well, we only have to look at what is happening in the USA to ponder that question.

Apr 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

I quite like Freeman Dyson, even though I disagree with his overall view that climate change is nothing to worry about. He seems like someone who can have a rational debate and put forward a coherent argument. His books are worth reading.

I was less impressed with the interviewer, as he seemed to pose a number of leading questions, but it was quite clear that Dyson's views are:

1. anthropogenic climate change is real
2. carbon dioxide affects plants as well as being a greenhouse gas
3. when using historical weather data to look for changes in climate, it is necessary to account for other factors which may affect the result
4. models can successfully forecast the weather out to a few days
5. models are useful for understanding the climate system but cannot predict the future of climate, as it's just too complicated
6. overall he thinks the benefits of CO2 emissions outweigh the risks

Personally I'd agree with 1-5 but not 6. In particular, for me, the very fact that we can't predict the results of our influence on climate is a reason for concern not comfort. I don't see convincing reasons to trust projections of small amounts of future warming any more than those of large warming - current understanding doesn't allow us to rule out either of these possibilities.

(Exactly how to respond to this concern is of course a further issue. Recognising that there is a risk does not mean that steps to reduce the risk are themselves easy or risk-free.)

Apr 13, 2015 at 9:06 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts: I agree with five of your six points but not with the first one. Despite Freeman and you thinking that anthropogenic climate change is real it simply is not. This is extremely easy to prove but the entire internet seems to be in a conspiracy to deny it. First, let us take up the claim that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes enhanced greenhouse warming and that this is why there is AGW - anthropogenic global warming. It is simply untrue because we have been adding carbon dioxide to air for the last 18 years straight without causing any of that greenhouse warming. This critically important warming is predicted by the Arrhenius greenhouse theory of 1896, still in use by the IPCC. It so happens that if a scientific theory, such as that Arrhenius theory, makes an unequivocally false prediction the theory itself is considered false and belongs in the waste basket of history. This is where the Arrhenius theory belongs, right next to phlogiston, another failed theory of heat that took thermodynamics to dispose of. The correct greenhouse theory to use is the Miskolczi greenhouse theory, MGT. It came out in 2007 and was immediately blacklisted by the global warming establishment. You could not even mention that it exists. It tells it like it is: addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere does not warm the atmosphere. It differs from Arrhenius in being able to simultaneously handle more than one GHG at a time. Arrhenius cannot do that and can handle only carbon dioxide alone. The IPCC requirement that water vapor in the atmosphere will triple the output of greenhouse warming from carbon dioxide alone is an ad hoc addition that has not been scientifically validated. According to MGT, carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere will form a joint optimal absorption window in the infrared whose optical thickness is 1.87, determined by Miskolczi from first principles. If you now add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, it will start to absorb in the IR just as predicted by Arrhenius. But this will increase the optical thickness. And as soon as this happens, water vapor will start to diminish, rain out, and the original optical thickness is restored. The added carbon dioxide will of course keep absorbing but the reduction of water vapor will keep total absorption constant and no warming is possible. And that is the end of the enhanced greenhouse warming, the alleged cause of AGW. Since IPCC was specifically tasked with studying the effects of global warming on humans and since absence of AGW makes such effects impossible it follows that there is nothing left for IPCC to study and it should be closed down.

Apr 13, 2015 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterArno Arrak

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