2008-07-01 58th Nobel Laureate Treffen Lindau 2008 Giaever Schellnhuber

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Date: 2008-07-01
Link: googlevideo:2851890401854789717
Author: Ivar Giaever (writingscat)
Source: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings/58 (articlescat)
Topics: Ivar Giaever global warming denial videos Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting/58
Categories: Ivar Giaever global warming denial videos Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting/58

58th Nobel Laureate Treffen Lindau 2008 Giaever Schellnhuber

longer text

This is an excerpt from the 58th Lindau meeting of Nobel laureates in 2008, and includes Dr. Giaever's comments on global warming. Giaever is introduced by one of the other panelists (the conference moderator?):

...I'd like to hand over to professor Ivar Giaever now, because I think we had some, uh, preliminary exchange of emails, and you may have a different take on this regarding the challenge, but maybe you can actually provide a silver bullet solution.

After a short pause, Giaever begins speaking:

Well, let me say first that I did not volunteer for this panel. [polite laughter; someone interjects: "So he was forced." Someone else: "no no no"] Let me say, secondly, that I am a skeptic. I told you that yesterday . And thirdly, I am from Norway, so why should I worry? [polite laughter]

Now, I am unfortunately becoming an old man... and I remember very well roughly 30 years ago, we were worried about acid rain. And I was told in the United States that the Schwarzwald had disappeared (in Germany). A few years later I went there, and by God it was still there.

Secondly, ten years ago or so, the ozone hole was in the papers, and we gonna all die from ultraviolet radiation. But the depth of the ozone hole happened, the deepest ozone hole, was in 1993, and after that it didn't come any deeper. So they start talking about the width of the ozone hole to scare people.

Now we are gotten into global warming -- has become a new religion, you are not supposed to be against global warming. You have basically no choice. And they tell you how many scientists support that. But the number of scientists is not important; the only thing this important is the scientists who are correct. That's the important part. And when you see the "hockey stick", however they call it, global warming temperature, you know, it goes... it looks sort of scary, but it's in a fraction of a degree what that is measured that... when you make a plot, you can make the plot very big, but it really isn't very big compared to the temperature of [?].

And I did a little research on Google before I went on this panel, and, uh, so I don't claim to know much about the global warming really, but I looked at Google -- if you look at in United States where they have, I think, better average records than they have on from the world -- the global temper..., the temperature inside the United States for these years, the highest temperatures were 1998, the second highest temperatures were 1934, the third highest temperatures were 1921, and... you know... how can that be? And measuring temperature all over the world, where you got to average to space, average to time and what not, seemed to me like a very difficult situation.

Thirdly, the temperature on the earth is determined by the ocean. And the heat capacity of the ocean is infinitely larger than the heat capacity of the air. I recognize that the ocean doesn't get stirred up as well, but it certainly gets stirred up to maybe a few hundred meters and still we are... the temperature of the ocean is like thousand times as important than the temperature of the air, and the temperature of the ocean is what sets the temperature of the earth.

So... I, my personal opinion is that I'm not for pollution, I'm against pollution, it's a good thing to save on oil and whatnot, and even if the global warming is caused by man, we will use the oil nevertheless. There's really nothing much we can do about it – because people in China, people in India, people in the Philippines, they want to live like we do, and they want to have cars like we have cars, and the Kyoto agreement was signed in 1990, and I look at Europe and I don't see much change in these years where you're supposed to have done something about this already.

And the third thing, the last thing I'm going to say: when you're talking about global warming, people say we've got to do something about that, we've got to make solar cells, we've got to have windmills, we've got to do all sorts of things But we really have a way of doing this already: we have nuclear power. Nuclear power uses uranium, there's no other use for uranium than getting energy, and if you really were worried about getting this thing, why don't the people talk about nuclear power? That's all.

Some dialogue ensues:

  • Moderator: Actually, we will talk about nuclear power, and I will hand over now to Carl [?], who has thought about that but he has also thought about other things. But professor Giaever, would you... don't you think that solar is an interesting option in particular because the sun shines for free, in the end?
  • Giaever: Well, the solar energy is a fine source of energy, but it is too diffuse. So therefore you need too big areas and it is too costly. If I go back 20 years ago, somebody calculated – and I don't know [if it is] true today or not – that for a solar cell to regain the energy it took to make it, it'd take 20 years. And people don't want to talk about these things.
  • Someone: That... that's not true anymore.
  • Giaever: So it takes 10 years.
  • People: No – five, four, three, two to three years...
  • people talk over each other briefly
  • Giaever:
Another thing I'd like to say, when I... when I remember it, is here in the United States we have coal for another 500 years. We have shale oil in Colorado which is equivalent to all the oil in Saudi Arabia. So there's no limit here if you are willing to do the CO2 things.
And if you look at climate in the historical sense, ice ages have happened -- I forget exactly the number -- four or five times every, like, hundred thousand years. And now we are right on the level where it's supposed to happen again. We got 10,000 years into a stable temperature – and when the ice age comes the temperature falls 8 degrees. So maybe we should... pollute more than we do, to prevent that.
  • people chuckle
And finally I'd like to say that here we discuss the global warming and stuff, but we don't know: what is the correct temperature? [It'd] be a miracle if the correct temperature for the world is the temperature we have today. Clearly that is not true. Maybe it will be better off two degrees warmer, maybe we'll be better off two degrees colder. I don't know, but what I do know: this is not the correct temperature.
  • Someone: Okay, no temperature is the correct one of course, but if you'll allow me to make a sort of climate scientist / anomaly neodynamicist...
  • Someone else: The level of the water is important.
  • Someone: Ja, right, the level of the seas....
First of all, just a little bit of evidence on this... over the next 40,000 years we do not expect any ice age because you can precisely calculate... I mean, the orbital parameters why we go into an ice age, the so-called Milankovitch cycle, so we are pretty safe that it will not... the planet will not cool down, so we don't need to put extra CO2 there. That's the one thing.
The other thing is, uh, Carlo just said, sea level rise, I mean another little bit of evidence, in principle we know just from geological measurements, no models involved, that one degree global warming means about 20 meters sea level rise. There's an almost perfect linear fit, so you can go back in history, can look forward of course, and you see that another European target climate protection confined global warming to 2 degrees only above pre-industrial levels

[transcription in progress]


  • He didn't want to be on the panel, so presumably he is uninterested in the subject or does not feel qualified to comment on it. Specific points he makes are worth investigating, but his status as a Nobel laureate does not grant him status as an authority on climate.
  • The comment about the ozone hole reveals his ignorance. The hole began shrinking only after measures were taken to reduce ozone-depleting substances in the earth's atmosphere, exactly the sort of action being proposed in response to the global warming crisis. The shrinking and disappearance of the ozone hole is a testament to the success of such techniques and evidence in favor of the methodology which recommended them and which recommends similar actions with regard to GW.
  • Although research using only Google can certainly reveal useful information, a quick search done in an afternoon is likely to uncover mainly the most widely-promoted, well-funded point of view in a situation where a manufactroversy has clearly been staged. Dr. Giaever apparently did not come across any of the many refutations of this point of view, as he seemed to be unaware of them.
  • Saying that "we can't do much about it" is essentially a straw man argument, as many actions have been proposed to counter global warming. Does Dr. Giaever believe that none of them will work or are even worth trying?
  • "the temperature on the earth is determined by the ocean": just as it takes a long time for the depths to warm up when the air is warmer, the temperature in the depths of the ocean probably does not have that much effect on the air temperature.
  • Nuclear power is certainly something we should take a second look at, but it has several serious problems which are not shared with other alternative solutions such as solar and wind. While non-nuclear alternatives have their own problems, they are generally not as serious and risky as those posed by nuclear. It doesn't make sense to casually dismiss them in favor of nuclear power until the issues with nuclear power have been dealt with somewhat. (This dismissal was also apparently based on Dr. Giaever's inaccurate understanding of solar technology, which has progressed rapidly even in the past 5 years.)
  • "we have coal for another 500 years" -- does this assume present usage rates? How long would the supply last if we switched to using coal as a primary source of power? What would the environmental effects be? The coal industry has been trying to promote the idea that coal can be "clean", but this seems to be nonsense. -W.
  • The question of the "correct temperature" is completely irrelevant; the danger comes from the temperature changing too much from what it is now. Many aspects of our civilization depend heavily on worldwide temperatures not deviating too much from current averages. At the very least, we would need to change what crops we grow in various climates, and this may require advance knowledge of how the climate will be changing in those areas -- where global warming denialists claim that predictions of warming in general are not even accurate, much less that specific regional long-term forecasts could be trusted. Small changes in global temperature result in large rises in sea level, endangering coastal communities -- including larger ones.

To be investigated:

  • Who was claiming that the Black Forest had disappeared? I vaguely remember reports in the early 1990s that parts of it were dying... W.
  • What effects has the Kyoto Protocol actually had?
  • How does the global mean air temperature compare to the mean ocean temperature?
  • Is there "shale oil in Colorado which is equivalent to all the oil in Saudi Arabia"?
  • Do rises in sea level threaten shipping? I should think 20 meters rise in sea level would swamp any existing ports, but is that figure correct?

shorter text

video of Giaever's controversial comments on global warming at the 2008 Lindau meeting, with follow-up dialogue.