BY ETHAN EPSTEIN / weeklystandard.com
When you first meet Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, leading climate “skeptic,” and all-around scourge of James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and sundry other climate “alarmists,” as Lindzen calls them, you may find yourself a bit surprised. If you know Lindzen only from the way his opponents characterize him—variously, a liar, a lunatic, a charlatan, a denier, a shyster, a crazy person, corrupt—you might expect a spittle-flecked, wild-eyed loon. But in person, Lindzen cuts a rather different figure. With his gray beard, thick glasses, gentle laugh, and disarmingly soft voice, he comes across as nothing short of grandfatherly.
Granted, Lindzen is no shrinking violet. A pioneering climate scientist with decades at Harvard and MIT, Lindzen sees his discipline as being deeply compromised by political pressure, data fudging, out-and-out guesswork, and wholly unwarranted alarmism. In a shot across the bow of what many insist is indisputable scientific truth, Lindzen characterizes global warming as “small and . . . nothing to be alarmed about.” In the climate debate—on which hinge far-reaching questions of public policy—them’s fightin’ words.
In his mid-seventies, married with two sons, and now emeritus at MIT, Lindzen spends between four and six months a year at his second home in Paris. But that doesn’t mean he’s no longer in the thick of the climate controversy; he writes, gives myriad talks, participates in debates, and occasionally testifies before Congress. In an eventful life, Lindzen has made the strange journey from being a pioneer in his field and eventual IPCC coauthor to an outlier in the discipline—if not an outcast.