My response to Ivar Giaever: Sell out or senile
Ivar Giaever was once a great physicist. He made a very public spectacle of resigning from APS over the word “incontrovertible” in its position statement on AGW. He phrases it in high and mighty language about how science does not consider anything incontrovertible.
This is a nuanced and artful dodge. He does not come out and deny the science itself - but he directly undermines the results none the less. This way he gets to create propaganda without openly saying something scientific that can be directly disproved. Instead, he makes a “principled” stand on the grounds of philosophy pointed at propaganda even though Ivar knows that there are many incontrovertible things in science.
Consider the roundness of the Earth. This was once open for debate. Is it now? Is that incontrovertible? Consider the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun (also once a topic of intense debate). Nothing will ever change those things. No new discovery will invalidate them without invalidating essentially all other human scientific knowledge. The same can be said for relativity, the fact that CO2 absorbs IR in certain bands, the fact that energy is conserved and the fact that ice melts when it gets hot. Perhaps there is room to doubt that atoms are real (in a physical as opposed to philosophical way) also?
Ivar, of course knows that he is on shaky ground even from a purely philosophical point of view. The best he can do from his stance is make a lame argument based on Cartesian Doubt… Yes, Ivar, in that context, nothing can ever be proven… and while we are at it, all of reality could be the dream of the blue turtle. Scientists who believe that truly then should have no reason to take data on anything. So, if you truly think that way, why did you ever bother doing physics for your career?
The “incontrovertible” language in the APS position has been in the position statement for years now. Many members urged that it be put in (including myself). It is odd that he so suddenly decided to get a bug in his ass about it. In the intervening years since the position statement was written, the data has been coming in mountains confirming the correctness of the stance.
It is wrong to bash the credentials of someone like Ivar Giaever. He made incredible contributions to solid state physics and fundamental quantum theory. He is certainly more qualified to make a call on the science than a Fox News anchor. This is why he is so very much worse. He knows better. All the science is there and very easy to see. Then again, Richard Lindzen at MIT, who denies climate, also knows better. But Lindzen is paid well for it by various Koch and Exxon funded groups and started his extra science career as a tobacco industry “expert” denying that cigarettes cause cancer.
Anyone who knows quantum mechanics and who knows thermodynamics, can, if they wish, be almost instantly convinced that the greenhouse effect is real. The original calculations were done over a century ago and are practically back of the envelope. Giaever certainly knows both of those subjects sufficiently to do the calculation himself and at a level that no-one on Fox could ever approach.
The next question might be: “ok so the greenhouse effect is real… how do you know we are causing it here and now?”
Again this is easy. Anyone who knows how to look at data, and he certainly does, can look at the Keeling Curves. As CO2 increases each year O2 has been decreasing. That is burning. That is burning right now, because something is using up that O2.
You can look at the radio isotopes and burning by-products and find that the carbon involved in that burning is old carbon from fossil fuels.
You can look at the ice cores.
He knows this stuff.
But of course, we can go much further. He can certainly calculate the heat equations like anyone else. If you have a greenhouse effect you expect the atmosphere to warm from the bottom up - again exactly what we see.
We can look at orbital variations as a primary driver of past climate shifts and see that right now, according to them, we should be cooling, yet something has reversed a thousand year cooling trend in the span of less than a century. Does Ivar also doubt classical mechanics?
Why exactly would a man who made great contributions to solid state theory some 50 years ago suddenly decide, after all these years, that all of his colleagues and all of their strong data were wrong? I very strongly suspect that if some digging is done, it will be found that this profound traitor to all the science he once stood for is getting a lot of money from the usual suspects.
Ivar, you know better. I hope the pay check you got for this betrayal was worth it. On the chance I am incorrect about that, then my condolences for whatever mental infirmity has ruined your once great mind. You know better and you know your colleagues know better.
UPDATE: It turns out that he sold out. A little web digging finds that he has been with the Heartland and Cato Institutes for some time.