Freeman Dyson is talking global warming again, this time with Yale 360, and the results will definitely irk environmentalists.
His argument: A warming planet is a good thing, it saves lives. And we should let developing nations use coal and other polluting energies so they can emerge from poverty.
In late March, the New York Times Magazine hung a profile of the physicist on the hook that Dyson is being ostracized by the scientific community because he refuses to buy into the theory of man-made global warming whole hog.
The lengthy profile sent little waves of disruption through the community of scientists, pundits and eco-types, who hate when anyone goes off message on global warming. Joesph Romm, who obliterates environmental sceptics regularly on his blog, Climate Progress, called Dyson a “loopy” “crackpot,” and said “shame on the New York Times Magazine” for running the profile without refuting Dyson’s assertions.
Dyson reminds us of Warren Buffett in interviews we’ve read. Both are older. Both are confident in their intellect. Plus, at their age, their debates have a kindly grandfatherly tone to them, which dulls the incisive language they use, but doesn’t blunt the force of their arguments. For instance, at the end of the interview Dyson playfully says, “Obviously, I’m an old fuddy-duddy. So, I have no credibility.”
Here’s a few of our favourite selections of the Q&A Yale 360 conducted:
- The Times portrayed me as sort of obsessed with the subject, which I am definitely not. To me it is a very small part of my life. I don’t claim to be an expert. I never did. I simply find that a lot of these claims that experts are making are absurd. Not that I know better, but I know a few things. My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me.
- No doubt that warming is happening. I don’t think it is correct to say “global,” but certainly warming is happening. I have been to Greenland a year ago and saw it for myself. And that’s where the warming is most extreme. And it’s spectacular, no doubt about it. And glaciers are shrinking and so on. But, there are all sorts of things that are not said, which decreases my feeling of alarm. First of all, the people in Greenland love it. They tell you it’s made their lives a lot easier. They hope it continues. I am not saying none of these consequences are happening. I am just questioning whether they are harmful. There’s a lot made out of the people who died in heat waves. And there is no doubt that we have heat waves and people die. What they don’t say is actually five times as many people die of cold in winters as die of heat in summer. And it is also true that more of the warming happens in winter than in summer. So, if anything, it’s heavily favourable as far as that goes. It certainly saves more lives in winter than it costs in summer.
- And I feel very strongly that China and India getting rich is the most important thing that’s going on in the world at present. That’s a real revolution, that the centre of gravity of the whole population of the world would be middle class, and that’s a wonderful thing to happen. It would be a shame if we persuade them to stop that just for the sake of a problem that’s not that serious. And I’m happy every time I see that the Chinese and Indians make a strong statement about going ahead with burning coal. Because that’s what it really depends on, is coal. They can’t do without coal. We could, but they certainly can’t. So I think it is very important that they should not be under pressure. Luckily they are, in fact, pretty self-confident; (neither) of those countries pays too much attention to us.
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