Climate Scientists React to Bizarre Climate Commentary by Robert Laughlin

Andy Revkin has posted several reactions from climate scientists to Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin’s essay in The American Scholar in which he asserts that the climate system is “beyond our power to control,” and humanity cannot and should not do anything to respond to climate change.  

Needless to say, Laughlin’s piece - and George Will’s Newsweek commentary about it - have drawn swift and severe criticism from scientists who specialize in studying climate change.

For example, Matthew Huber of Purdue University’s Climate Dynamics Prediction Laboratory takes Laughlin to task, suggesting that:

He needs to take some courses in paleoclimate — I suggest he start at the undergraduate level. I hear there might be something appropriate being taught on his campus. His know-nothing approach hearkens back to the pre-scientific era of the flat earth, vapors and phlogiston.”

Huber points out that the fundamentals of climate change are sound:

…raise greenhouse gases and the climate will warm substantially. There is no great mystery here, other than perhaps why a Nobel prize winner is either ignorant of the major results of the field of paleoclimatology over the past two decades or simply chooses to ignore the science for the sake of some sound bytes.

“Our understanding of the climate system is still rudimentary but ultimately we know what the big knobs are that turn up the heat and those are the same knobs we are cranking on right now. We know this absolutely and have known at least since Arrhenius and he got the Nobel (in 1903)!”

Check out the rest of the scientists’ reactions over at Revkin’s Dot Earth blog.


There are some excellent comments at Will’s column, and I credit blogs with excellent readership like this bringing it to those readers’ attentions.

A good many express exhaustion at the never-gets-old propaganda picture of greens as concerned about saving “Gaia” instead of the serious green motivation of preserving standard of living for future generations.

Others express exquisite shock at the logical stupidity of Laughlin’s article, if indeed he is making a policy argument.

Saving the earth for its own sake is a noble cause, but my current concern is for the lives of people in the margins and for future generations who will inherit the consequences of our unwillingness to take our collective head out of our ass. Reducing the severity of climate change for centuries to come – some of which, it’s true, we can’t stop – is not only the right thing to do, it’s the only way to prevent the human race from slipping into a perpetual “damage control” mode. Gaia will do just fine on her own. It’s US I’m worried about!