Top Physicist Freeman Dyson: Obama ‘Took the Wrong Side’ on Climate Change

Mairead McArdle | October 14, 2015 | 5:32pm EDT
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Physicist Freeman Dyson.  (AP)

Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s top theoretical physicists and a self-described “100% Democrat,” criticized  President Barack Obama for his views on climate change, stating that he was on the “wrong side” of the issue and that Republicans were on the “right side” of the topic.

“I'm 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side,” Dyson told The Register last week.

Dyson’s name looms large in the scientific and political worlds. He taught physics at Princeton University, worked as a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force in World War II, and has advised the government on many scientific and technical matters.

Dyson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. Among the honors he has received over the years are the Enrico Fermi Award, the Templeton Prize, and the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize.  

Climate change "is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery,” Dyson said in his interview with The Register. “How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?"

The physics professor studied climate trends at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1980s before the topic appeared prominently on the political scene.

About models that predicted drastic climate change Dyson said, “What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what's observed and what's predicted have become much stronger.”

Dyson offered several of his own solutions for carbon dioxide policy.

“The rise of the oceans is a real problem and while they're not rising as fast as people say, they're still rising,” Dyson said. “That could be stopped if you could arrange that it snows a bit more in Antarctica. That's something that could be quite feasible, but it's not been looked at very much.”

(AP  photo.)

Dyson also mentioned land management, “particularly building up topsoil.”

The physicist suggested that resolutions by the West to limit coal burning will not meet expectations.

“Whatever the rest of the world agrees to, China and India will continue to burn coal, so the discussion is quite pointless,” Dyson said.

He added, “Pollution is quite separate to the climate problem: one can be solved, and the other cannot, and the public doesn't understand that.”

Dyson said the lucrative nature of pushing a climate change agenda based on models predicting drastic consequences is only part of the problem.

“It is true that there's a large community of people who make their money by scaring the public, so money is certainly involved to some extent, but I don't think that's the full explanation,” he said.

Dyson compared the “mood of the times,” today to that of the pre-World War I period.

“It's like a hundred years ago, before World War I, there was this insane craving for doom, which in a way, helped cause World War I,” said Dyson.  “People like the poet Rupert Brooke were glorifying war as an escape from the dullness of modern life. [There was] the feeling we'd gone soft and degenerate, and war would be good for us all.”

“That was in the air leading up to World War I, and in some ways it's in the air today,” Dyson said.

As a young man, Dyson earned a mathematics degree from Trinity College, Cambridge. He did his graduate studies at Cornell University in New York, under the direction of the world-renowned physicists Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who built the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, awarded Dyson a lifetime appointment to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1953.

Dyson, born in Britain, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1957.

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