This interview with liberal scientist Freeman Dyson appeared in the UK Register.
The life of physicist Freeman Dyson spans advising bomber command in World War II, working at Princeton University in the States as a contemporary of Einstein, and providing advice to the US government on a wide range of scientific and technical issues.
He is a rare public intellectual who writes prolifically for a wide audience. He has also campaigned against nuclear weapons proliferation.
At America’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dyson was looking at the climate system before it became a hot political issue, over 25 years ago. He provides a robust foreword to a report written by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cofounder Indur Goklany on CO2 – a report published[PDF] today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
An Obama supporter who describes himself as “100 per cent Democrat,” Dyson says he is disappointed that the President “chose the wrong side.” Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does more good than harm, he argues, but it is not an insurmountable crisis. Climate change, he tells us, “is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?”
What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what’s observed and what’s predicted have become much stronger. It’s clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn’t so clear 10 years ago. I can’t say if they’ll always be wrong, but the observations are improving and so the models are becoming more verifiable.
[…]It’s very sad that in this country, political opinion parted [people’s views on climate change]. I’m 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side.
Is carbon dioxide as bad as the politicians say?
To any unprejudiced person reading this account, the facts should be obvious: that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide as a sustainer of wildlife and crop plants are enormously beneficial, that the possibly harmful climatic effects of carbon dioxide have been greatly exaggerated, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the possible damage.
I consider myself an unprejudiced person and to me these facts are obvious. But the same facts are not obvious to the majority of scientists and politicians who consider carbon dioxide to be evil and dangerous. The people who are supposed to be experts and who claim to understand the science are precisely the people who are blind to the evidence.
[…]The scientists and politicians who have been blindly demonizing carbon dioxide for 37 years will one day open their eyes and look at the evidence.”
E. Calvin Beisner had more to say about beneficial effects of CO2 on agriculture in an article on the Stream.
To call CO2 “carbon pollution” is not only bad chemistry and bad toxicology but also bad biology. Carbon dioxide is essential to all plant growth. The higher its concentration, the better plants grow. Below 170 ppm, plants die. At the roughly 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution, plants are “sucking air,” so to speak — barely getting enough. At today’s 400 ppm, plants grow much better — so much better that a study by researchers at the Technische Universität München found forests around the world growing up to 70 percent faster today than 50 years ago because of it. Earth is literally greening because of added CO2.
Plants will grow still better as CO2 concentration continues to rise. Thousands of empirical studies, as opposed to mere models, have found that, on average, for every doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, there is about a 35 percent increase in the efficiency of plant growth. Plants grow better in wetter and drier soils and in warmer and colder temperatures, widening their ranges and increasing their adaptability to climate changes, reducing the risk of biodiversity loss. They make better use of soil nutrients, better resist diseases and pests, and improve the ratio of fruit to fiber.
The consequence is more food for plant-eaters and eaters of plant eaters — i.e., for pretty much everything. Most importantly, it means more affordable food for the world’s poor.
A review of the refereed literature on the subject found “the … monetary value of this benefit amount[ed] to a total sum of $3.2 trillion over the 50-year period 1961–2011. Projecting the monetary value … forward … reveals it will likely bestow an additional $9.8 trillion on crop production between now and 2050.”
So honest, well-informed discussion of any policy — cap and trade, “carbon tax,” renewable mandates, etc. — to reduce CO2 emissions should first recognize the benefits of increasing its concentration in the atmosphere, not just for people but for all animals. Any rationale for reducing emissions must prove that they exact a cost that outweighs this benefit.
Ah, but being honest about the benefits would not allow our democratic socialist betters to have the platform they need to convince us to let them rule us, and control our lives down to the temperatures in our homes, what cars we drive and how much we can drive.