|The man who started it all off - Herbert Lamb. Source WP:NFCC#4|
Lamb was once described by one of his successors at the CRU, Trevor Davies ( probably self-servingly) as ‘the greatest climatologist of his time’. Davies credits him with ‘convincing the remaining doubters of the reality of climate variation on time-scales of decades and centuries’ and an obituary in Nature offers his great achievement as overturning the ‘old orthodoxy’ of climate stability. Other scientific admirers suggest that it was Lamb who first introduced the idea that climatic change has happened, and is still happening, on human time scales. But Bernie Lewin has no doubt that much of this is political fiction, noting that Lamb was far from the first to introduce the idea of a constantly changing climate. And where Lamb’s successor at his climate research centre found it, ‘ironic’ that even as the world became ‘acutely aware of global climate change’, Lamb maintained a guarded attitude to the importance of greenhouse warming, Lewin sees nothing odd in the position of a scientist advocating the idea of natural climate change being ‘guarded’ about the evidence of a global human influence. Awareness of past variability would rather tend towards scepticism of claims to have identified a single, new and extraordinary cause of climate change.
Hubert Lamb, in fact, was an old-school meteorologist, and there was something of a clash of cultures between those like him brought up on geology and weather records, and the new kinds of ‘climate scientists’ only recently tempted by research money into applying their mathematical skills to the natural world. Lamb expressed open scepticism of the theoretical physics used now to predict future climate trends noting that often the models failed to match reality. He argued for:
* the existence of negative feedbacks dampening warming trends where the climate modellers allowed only positive feedbacks amplifying them;
* that 20th century climate variation was better explained by natural factors (such as solar and volcanic effects);
* wonders how accurate the figures relied on for identifying relatively tiny temperature trends even were.
Such doubts led him to spend time analysing the political impetus for the new climate science, including vested interests, and the reasons why climate modelling in particular received so much support. Lamb completed his memoirs in 1997, just a few months before Kyoto, the international summit in which man-made Climate Change was given it preeminent role. In these memoirs he laments:
‘It is unfortunate that studies produced nowadays treat these and other matters related to changes of climate as if they are always, and only, attributable to the activities of Man and side-effects on the climate.’
This post is lightly adapted from Martin Cohen's book:
Paradigm Shift: How expert opinions keep changing on life, the universe, and everything