Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Scientist's Climate Change Dissent Vindicated

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One of the first scientists to have purportedly suffered political martyrdom for his global warming skepticism is finding a measure of vindication in the wake of the Climategate scandal.

Henk Tennekes was precisely the sort of person whose scientific background would normally lead one to presume he would be an expert on the topic of global warming; before his defenestration, he was director of research at the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI, or Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute).

But Tennekes was openly critical of methodology and motives of advocates of the theory of anthropogenic (manmade) climate change; in point of fact, he is far more concerned about the dangers of a “new Ice Age.” (A sample of Tennekes’ work, Three Essays on Climate Models may be found here.)

According to a February 13, 2010 article
in De Telegraaf, Tennekes’ problems began when his critical views were published twenty years ago. As De Telegraaf quotes Tennekes’ 1990 observations:

I worry a lot these days. I worry about the arrogance of scientists who blithely claim that they are here to solve the climate problem, as long as they receive massive increases in funding. I worry about the way they covet new supercomputers. Others talk about ‘stabilizing the climate’. I’m terrified of the arrogance, vanity and recklessness of those words. Why is it so difficult to demonstrate a little humility?

Tennekes’ words have proven prescient, in light of the revelations unearthed by the Climategate, Glaciergate, and other scandals. But Tennekes’ blunt assessment allegedly cost him his job:

When that column was published, my associates complained behind my back to the big boss, Harry Fijnaut. “Henk, within two years you’ll be out on the street” said Harry. In fact, it took him three years because he first had to invent a reorganization which would make my position superfluous. That’s how those top- level bureaucrats arrange things. He wouldn’t even allow me a dismissal on grounds of ’incompatibility of characters.’

The result, in Tennekes’ assessment, was that his heterodoxy on the doctrine of manmade climate change resulted in him becoming a pariah. In the assessment of De Telegraaf:

And so Tennekes became the first climate exile in the Netherlands. In retrospect the incident is illustrative of how during the past twenty years climate research - and accompanying alarming statements “appears to have fallen into the hands of a small clique that tolerates no contradiction, and equates dissenters to Holocaust deniers.” Tennekes: “KNMI’ers still avoid me like the plague, because I say something different from the group dogma. First you must believe in something, only then you are allowed to participate in their discussions”

The Climategate revelations have opened the eyes of many people to what appears to be a culture with the scientific community which is unwilling to abide by a principle which must be foundation to any worthy pursuit of knowledge: To remain open to the possibility of being proven wrong. Not unlike Dr. Alan Carlin's long struggle at the EPA, Henk Tennekes has had to wait 20 years for validation of his views, but it appears his patience is being rewarded.

Photo of Climate Express train: AP Images

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