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Is it just my impression or are physicists common among climate change opponents?

I have a theory about that. I would today consider physics to be the science with the highest prestige among sciences. I think it is that way because of physics big funding, stemming from a close relationsship with big government and big industry. Physics gives guns and toys. The problem with climate change (from a physicist perspective) is the lack of solutions involving big piles of money to physics reserach. Hence the denial.

The alternative solution is to claim that it is an astronomical effect, where the sun is causing increased heat (nevermind that pouring out ghg should have some effect), because that would get astrophysics institutions more money.

Now, I am not saying that individual physicists are trying to shut down a theory that would hurt them. It is probably not that easy. It is more that a theory that hurt physics (as an institution) gets disliked among physicists and therefore a greater number of physicists then people in general becomes climate change deniers. Add the credibility of physics in general and you get prominent climate change deniers.

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:11:44 AM EST
It would be interesting to measure to what extent high-energy physicists and astrophysicsts (big-science physicist par excellence) are overrepresented among climate-change deniers, as opposed to "hard" condensed matter physicists.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:25:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ermm, got cut short.

I'm assuming geophysicists and atmospheric physicists are on the climate change bandwagon. This leaves the "soft" condensed-matter physicists and statistical physicists, who should have more of a systems-thinking mindset.

Among astrophysicists, those working on [magneto]hydrodynamics probably have the skill set and the tools to switch fields to atmospheric dynamics if money becomes available.

Ah, the sociology of science...

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:30:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm-mmm, I haven't encountered any climate cange deniers in academia, so I can't tell.

The two typical relationships to climate change I have encountered:

  1. This is a boon for us! Nuclear energy solves everything!
  2. Nuclear & Big Oil conspired to prevent free energy from the Casimir effect! (You won't believe how popular conspiracy theories are among some physics students.)

The astronomers, and to a lesser part the astrophysicists, treated geoscientists as close cousins. In fact on my university, the geoscientists had to do one or two astronomy courses, and we of course had to learn about the atmosphere.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:05:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You won't believe how popular conspiracy theories are among some physics students.

Oh, yes, I will.

I think askod's theory is testable. All we need is a list of global warming deniers that are physicists, and check their published papers for the Physics Subject Classification numbers.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:09:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, that was a general "you", not you Migeru!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:43:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not have a list of those that I have encountered (IRL or in written text), but we can start one:

  1. Folke Stenman
  2. ...


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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 08:26:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is apparently a series of articles by a certain Lawrence Solomon in the "Financial Post", called "The Deniers":
After writing 10 columns on the subject, one for each "denier" and his theories, one fact is undeniable: The science is not settled. Not on man's role in causing the warming we've seen this century. Not on the consequences of this warming. Certainly not on the extent of warming -- or cooling-- to come.

The deniers I have written about are not just credible; they have reached the pinnacle of the scientific establishment, with credentials to rival those of any of scientists representing the IPCC position. Here's Russia's Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the space research laboratory of the country's renowned Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, a member of Russia's Academy of Science. Or Henk Tennekes, former director of research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Or Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute. Or Edward Wegman, chair of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.

Or, for a more direct comparison of scientists in the denier and the "science is settled" camps, consider Richard S. J. Tol, director of the Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Science at the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije Universiteit, or Christopher Landsea of the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, or Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. These three -- among the most cited scientists in the world in the field of climate change-- were universally acclaimed IPCC scientists until they disagreed with the positions espoused by the IPCC leadership. These deniers may no longer have an unqualified IPCC stamp of approval, but their academic credentials, record of scientific discoveries, and scientific prizes remain for all to see.



Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 05:16:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(You won't believe how popular conspiracy theories are among some physics students.)

Makes sense. Both physics and conspiracy theories are about finding solutions with as few variables as possible. One force to rule it all...

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 08:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm also rather irked by Nikola Tesla worshippers (they thrive on wikipedia) who tend to be Physics or Electrical Engineering students, and often claim that his discoveries have been suppressed by a conspiracy.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 05:16:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eeer... When did climate modeling cease being physics?

The physicists among the AGW denialists probably have higher profiles than the rank-and-file (for much the same reasons that creationist engineers and doctors get more press than creationist pastors), but I very much doubt that scientists of any stripe are over-represented in the denialist community.

There does seem to be a small number of astrophysicists who are sufficiently enamored of the solar-forcing theory that they seem like AGW denialists, but I would not be surprised to find out that the newsies and politicians who reference them exaggerate their claims.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 12:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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