Would Einstein be a global warming skeptic if alive today?

By Will Happer

Albert Einstein would almost certainly have been a global warming skeptic if he were alive today. Many distinguished, contemporary scientists are skeptics too.

We are lucky that Einstein left a rich legacy of pithy quotes that reveal how he would probably relate to today’s cult of global warming alarmists.

Take the oft repeated propaganda that 97 percent of scientists support global-warming alarmism.

Quite aside from the falseness of the claim, Einstein would have remembered the famous attack on himself, “A Hundred Scientists Against Einstein,” published in Germany in 1931. His response was, “If I were wrong, one would have been enough.”

His view of groupthink was summarized in another comment: “In order to be a member of a flock of sheep, one must, above all, be a sheep oneself!”

Or take the oft repeated statement by climate alarmists, most of whom have little real knowledge about any science: “The science is settled!”

Science, and especially a scientific topic as complicated as the Earth’s climate, is never settled. No credible astronomer, for example, would ever say we know everything about the universe. As Einstein put it, “We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.”

Einstein himself had shown that Isaac Newton’s wildly successful law of universal gravitation had major deficiencies.

For example, Newtonian gravitation had no room for the gravitational waves, whose existence, at exactly the level Einstein predicted, was first demonstrated by my Princeton friends, Joe Taylor and Russell A. Hulse, for which they received a richly deserved Nobel Prize in 1993.

Most importantly, Einstein would have paid close attention to how well the establishment theory of global warming agreed with experiment. He famously stated: “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong.”

The earth has done the kind of experiment Einstein had in mind. It has warmed at a much slower rate, two or three times slower, than models have predicted.

To make matters worse for alarmists, no one knows how much of the relatively small warming is due to increased carbon dioxide.

After all, quite similar warming was observed more than a century ago when CO2 could not have played a role. The alarmist narrative has been proven wrong by experimental observation.

With his reverence for observational fact, Einstein would have been repulsed by the Orwellian demonization of CO2 as “carbon pollution.”

Satellites show that the modest increase of CO2 in the past few decades has produced a measurable greening of the Earth, especially in arid regions.

Plants “breathe in” CO2 and “exhale” oxygen. Commercial growers add as much CO2 as they can afford to their greenhouses, to improve the quality of their flowers, fruits and other plant products. Adult humans breathe out about two pounds of the “pollutant” CO2 per day.

Over most of geological history, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 have been much higher than those today. Both plant and animal life were more abundant when the atmosphere was enriched with three or four times more CO2 than today’s levels.

Climate alarmists are having a difficult time justifying their claims with science.

The Earth stubbornly refuses to warm as quickly as establishment models predict. Extreme weather is not becoming more frequent. Sea levels are rising at about the same rate as they did in the 1800′s. Crop yields break previous records year after year.

Rather than address honest scientific concerns, alarmists attack skeptics as “deniers,” a word deliberately chosen to vilify the person, along with CO2.

Einstein was subject to similar attacks, by envious, prejudiced contemporaries. His advice on how to deal with this was: “Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.”


Will Happer is a professor of physics, emeritus at Princeton University and member of the CO2 Coalition. Readers may write him at 258 Jadwin Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544

4 thoughts on “Would Einstein be a global warming skeptic if alive today?”

  1. The sea levels are not rising because all the continents are moving.
    That means there is no valid reference point within the margin of error.

  2. I remember when – must be more than 10 years ago – they had made 800 or so different models (in England) that all agreed that the temperatures (in England) would be within a certain window for the next two years and then those years passed and the temperatures were not.

    Making these kinds of models isn’t really science, of course. You can’t predict the weather in England without being able predict the ocean currents, strictly scientifically speaking, and you can’t predict the ocean currents without being able to actually compute a solution of the Navier-Stokes equations for some observed initial state of movement of the oceans and even if you could do that, the movements of masses of large jellyfish might throw the results off…

    But try to explain to an average science journalist that only because you know the differential equations that govern the behaviour of something you do not actually know the behaviour of that thing or that only because you have a computer at your service, you’re not necessarily able to program it in such a way that it would solve an equation. How many would follow you, if you showed by an example that Euler’s method of solving the equations for ever smaller intervals might not give you the desired result (in case of non-linear differential equations)?

    Even if you only wanted to predict the average temperature of the planet, which is of course another matter, the fact that the cloud cover has a strong influence on it, would again lead you back to the ocean currents.

    So much for the Socratic: I know that I know nothing. Coming from the other end, CO2 is indeed used in green houses, at levels of 30% above the atmosphere, no less, but it doesn’t help making the green houses any warmer (rare occasion where a LOL smiley is appropriate).

    The so called climate scientists are of course all working in specially funded faculties. I don’t know of any scientist working in a regular physics or mathematics faculty who would dare to support the non-sense. But it would appear that universities have enough interest in additional funding to sell their name and the integrity of science to the highest bidder, thus the relevance of Alex Jones etc.

    Ah well, somebody somewhere certainly thinks: That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    1. Do you think it’s possible to determine the Earth’s average temperature given that the earth has no emissivity? Or even, what is the earth’s temperature right now, if we include the temperature in the middle of the Indian Ocean or every other location around the world as we must? Even then it will be different tomorrow due to the weather.

      Also I don’t believe its possible to determine the CO2 content in the atmosphere because it’s not evenly distributed, anywhere.
      What do I know, I don’t do modelling.

      1. When I said “average temperature” I was refering to the simplest thing, namely the heat radiation into space, whch you can observe using satellites. Obviously there is a relation between that and earth’s temperature and I would be satisfied if someone was able to accurately predict that.

        Correction: “at levels of 30% above the atmosphere” should be “at levels of 30% of the atmosphere” (in the greenhouse).

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