The Story Behind a Nobel Laureate’s Denial of Climate Change

Updated on May 14, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He wrote for IHPVA magazines and raced these vehicles with his father (who builds them).

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Nobel Laureate Resigns Over Incontrovertible Climate Change Remarks

Ultra right-wing blogs, libertarian news websites, and climate denial organizations were abuzz with the news that a prominent scientist recently resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) over the organization’s assertion that man-made global warming was “incontrovertible."

This news was treated with reverence for those that have taken contrarian views on the matter of climate change. Best yet, it added a new element: a Nobel-prize winning scientist was disrupting the perceived consensus on the matter. For them, this must have been Earth-shattering news.

However, a closer look at the news and person may reveal that this wasn't as Earth-shattering as it appeared. Dr. Ivar Giaever, a physics professor and Nobel laureate, has been a staunch skeptic of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) for years, despite never working in the field of climatology.

Giving credit where it's due, Dr. Giaever has had a stellar career in the field of engineering and physics (especially pertaining to the interaction of electrons and semiconductors); however, his criticism of AGW causing climate is odd, considering that he has no academic training or research history on the matter. It also begs the question of his motives and reasoning for coming up with his conclusions.

The evidence is incontrovertible. Global warming is occurring…”

— Kate Kirby, APS Executive Officer

This situation illustrates a common misconception held by the public—and lately touted by climate change deniers—that all scientists are experts in all things “science." In truth, there is a growing list of disciplines in science, medicine, and engineering. It is a rarity (but not an impossibility) for a scientist to specialize in a field outside his or her expertise.

As mentioned, this only leads to more questions about Dr. Giaever's motives.

How He Made It Official

First reported by the climate-denial website, ClimateDepot.com and picked up by FOX News Online as well as numerous politically conservative blogs, Dr. Giaever officially resigned from the APS, citing indifference with the physics society’s stance on AGW. APS later confirmed this stating that Giaever did not pay to renew his membership.

Although noted for his contrarian views, Dr. Giaever officially made his views known through a letter he addressed to Kate Kirby, APS's executive officer. He indicated that he was outraged by the following statement Kirby had written to express the stance made on APS:

“Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes. The evidence is incontrovertible. Global warming is occurring…”

Kirby's statement also warned that if no action was taken to control AGW, “significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological system” and "drastic damage of human health and security" may occur.

In Giaever's letter, he indicated that he couldn't live with himself if he accepted this statement (his letter was made public through ClimateDepot.com).

Dr. Ivar Giaever From desmogblog.com
Dr. Ivar Giaever From desmogblog.com | Source

"Incontrovertible"

According to his letter, Giaever had a problem with the word incontrovertible, a term meaning “undeniable” or “not open to question.” It’s a term, according to Giaever, that shouldn’t be used in such matters.

“In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves,” he wrote in the letter, “but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"

Also, Giaever claimed that there has been little or no change in the Earth’s temperature for more than a century. This is a claim that climatologists have disproved.

“How can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?” he wrote. “[The claim] is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period."

As a side note: there is a webpage from the University of California at Riverside that explains why these numbers are critical to climate change. As to where he definitively got the data in question is a bit of a mystery. It's possible he may have data-mined existing research on the matter.

The data behind the rise of the average global temperature has always been hotly contested. However, as more data and more research has backed much of the original finding, the consensus of scientists (more importantly, climatologists) has been rising. To date, nearly 97% of all scientists support the concept of AGW.

Not All Scientists Are the Same

Still, there are dissenters among the scientific community. There are those who are convinced a new Ice Age is coming, and others who argue the data is simply wrong. Many of these scientists, interestingly, are not climatologists or are actively engaged in studying the climate. Giaever is one of them.

One of the biggest mistake deniers have made in this situation is that they are committing a fallacy akin to appealing to authority. In this case, many believe that Dr. Giaever's credential as a professor with a Ph.D. and a Nobel prize is the foremost authority on climate change. However, as pointed out, already, he doesn't have the training or research record on the subject.

His educational and professional background are as follow: After graduating from the Norwegian Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering—and after a stint in the army—he immigrated to Canada where he worked as an architect’s aide. Later, he went to work with the Canadian chapter of General Electric.

He moved to the United States to further his education in engineering with General Electric’s engineering program. During this time, he became an applied mathematician and started to study physics at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute. He’d later receive his Ph.D. in the subject.

In 1973, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics when he showed that tunneling of electrons took place in superconductors, as well as in semiconductors.Later he would move on to the academic world, becoming a professor at RPI and a professor-at-large at the University of Oslo. Also, he became the president of Applied BioPhysics, a company dedicated to bio-engineering.

Lately, his research centers on biophysics, an interdisciplinary science using physical science to study biological systems such as cells, whole organisms and ecosystems.

What Another APS Alum Did

Giaever is not the only scientist to revoke his membership to the APS for supporting the concept of AGW. Hal Lewis, a nuclear physicist and UC Santa Barbara professor quit. He later went to work for a conservative British environmental think tank called Global Warming Policy Foundation. GWPF formed “fortuitously” about the same time the Climategate scandal broke.

In the Climategate scandal, GWPF was partly responsible for calling an independent inquiry into Climate Research at Unit at University of East Anglia after e-mails from two scientists at the center were hacked and released to the public

Giaever has been an active skeptic of global warming for years.

The site responsible for breaking this news, Climate Depot, has increasingly become one of the most vocal critics of anything pertaining to AGW. Founded and written by conservative writer Marc Morano, Climate Depot routinely publishes updates made to the notorious More than 1000 International Scientists Dissent over Man-Made Global Warming Claims since it first came out in 2007 (also known as U.S. Senate Minority Report and sponsored by Morano’s former boss, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma ). One of the scientists listed in this report is Giaever.

Giaever has been an active skeptic of global warming for years. As well as being part of Morano’s report, he’s made comments to The Wall Street Journal describing AGW as being a “new religion.” Also, in 2009, he was a co-signer of a letter rebuking President Obama’s stance on global warming.

But Did He Do the Research?

As impressive as Giaever’s resume may be, one thing seem to be missing: his own research on climate change. It’s uncertain if he reviewed other people’s work or merely theorized his concepts. Simply put, there appears to be no record of him joining in on any research groups dedicated to the matter.

And if he had done the research, what would have been his method? Dr. Giaever may have been a physics professor; however, his education was in mechanical engineering. While it’s an impressive education, it’s not something that generally crosses over to climatology.

One can only speculate about his intentions for his actions. Whether it was out of use of the word “Incontrovertible" in a letter or something totally different, the reasons behind Giaever’s response is a mystery. Still, that doesn’t seem to matter to climate change deniers. If the message affirms their belief, they'll take no matter where -- or who -- it came from.

A chart explaining the numerous effects of  climate change.
A chart explaining the numerous effects of climate change. | Source

As of 2017, Dr. Giaever isn't going away. Thanks to the Internet, his speeches are found on YouTube and are being passed along by climate change deniers. Even the conservative writer George Wills referenced him in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. That particular column has been re-published in numerous print and Internet media sites since 2014.

Also, there's still no indication that Giaever has looked at the data or has been part of any climatology studies.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Dean Traylor

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      • My Esoteric profile image

        Scott Belford 

        2 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

        Good choice Dean

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        2 months ago from Southern California

        cold, I'm well aware of the bait (law of thermodynamics) you're throwing out there. It's a creationist ploy. Sorry, not biting.

      • profile image

        Cold Gas HeeDuRs 

        2 months ago

        Which one of the people here can tell me the name of the law of thermodynamics that was written specifically for

        calculating the temperatures of gases?

        What's the name of the law scientists use, when they have to figure out whether enriching Air with CO2

        will make it retain overall, more energy?

        There's a law, and the way I know not one of you magic gas barking Dunning-Krugerite hillbillies knows the answer to that question,

        is because you're saying you think

        enriching Air with CO2 can make the subsequent mix, retain more energy than one without that enrichment.

        When not ONE of you can name that law it's called

        ''Passing for expert on internet"

        while being so insufferably stupid YOU can't even NAME the LAW

        of physics written specifically to govern the question

        ''Can enrichment with CO2, cause volumes of air to retain more energy?"

        Again: don't tell me ''LooK! A defection dressed up as a Straw Man!"

        Tell me the name of the law of thermodynamics that is written specifically to calculate the temperatures of gases,

        and the atmospheres they comprise.

        I'll bet EVERY one of your reputations, that not ONE of you

        can tell me the name of the law scientists consult when they need to know the individual energy constants of gases and mixes like Air.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Thanks Randy. I don't expect them to awaken anytime soon. I guess it's a combination of hubris, ignorance and denial that fuel them. The most I can do is put forth the evidence of why this all-important issue is being mired by politics and these folks' blindness devotion to anti-scientific views.

      • Randy Godwin profile image

        Randy Godwin 

        3 months ago from Southern Georgia

        Just saw this article, Dean. Great work despite the ignorance from the right who apparently lack the ability--or the desire--to understand the science. Since these people aren't dummies--well, some of them perhaps--then I can only blame them for their willful ignorance.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Oh, one other thing to add, he put my name and another Hubber on there about a week or so later. How he regained access to do that is beyond me.

        But, like I said, that's water under the bridge. He may incorrectly blame me, but in truth, he did it to himself.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Not as much as you are turtle boy (or girl)....besides, why he put my name in there is a bit of a mystery. He was banned for going after somebody else (and Hubpage admin had him on their radar, I assume). I just noticed that his avatar went blank and checked it out, and told that other person that he was banned.

        Too bad. He was living off of disability (which probably explained why he was so pissed off at everyone and all social programs -- I take it he was embarrassed to be dependent).

        Then again, that's water under the bridge.

      • tsadjatko profile image

        3 months ago from now on

        You really are a pissant aren't you traylor

        https://hubpages.com/@donttazemebro

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Sigh...talking about a man/woman who gets butt hurt...hey T-sad! Welcome to the jungle.

      • tsadjatko profile image

        3 months ago from now on

        Lol Will! Right on.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Naw, thats how i react to someone whose soul intent is to throw shade on me because that person got so butt hurt when i counter your arguments on another Hub by using real facts rather than some psuedo religious mantra that borders on wing nut concepts.

      • WillStarr profile image

        WillStarr 

        3 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

        And so, Twiddle Dee shows up to defend Twiddle Dum.

        Classic.

      • My Esoteric profile image

        Scott Belford 

        3 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

        Will, all one has to do is read your comments to see how little grasp of the facts you have.

      • WillStarr profile image

        WillStarr 

        3 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

        "Will, What would you know about a serious piece on climate change?"

        Is that what you think of your readers? We're all too stupid to understand you? If so, what do you hope to accomplish by posting pieces on sites like this? Acceptance without question?

        You think too highly of yourself, Dean, and frankly, Dr. Ivar Giaever has the credentials you lack, so I think I'll take him far more seriously than I take you.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Will, What would you know about a serious piece on climate change? Besides ive checked the mission states of several of these sites. They proclaim thei ideologies.

      • WillStarr profile image

        WillStarr 

        3 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

        "Ultra right-wing blogs, libertarian news websites, and climate denial organizations..."

        When a supposed serious piece begins with that sort of hyperbole, we already know what we are going to get and you did not disappoint. You simply attack other sources...ad hominems.

        The common thread that runs through almost all warmers is hatred of conservatives (the 'ultra-right wing') and absolute refusal to consider other points of view.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 months ago from Southern California

        Thanks Scott. My take is that he was looking to make money and the climate change stuff probably got in the way. It's also possible he worked for the oil company, as well. That can be a motivating factor.

        As for the CO2 helps trees part, I recently wrote a hub pertaining to that. It turns out that this was created by a company with connections to the oil and energy industries.

        Personally, if Jack will get wind of it he may go on and on about how wrong I am and not produce anything viable to counter the arguments. The same will be true for the other climate change deniers (Brad, Will, T-sad -- although the last one will probably go on some nutty argument just to prove how nutty I am (lol).

      • My Esoteric profile image

        Scott Belford 

        3 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

        Great article, Dean! I always wonder why people with such insightful minds as his, must be to understand tunneling, can't see the obvious when it comes to climate.

        In case Jack reads this 3-years later:

        "Where are the extreme storms predicted by a warming globe? " - THEY ARE just now starting, a little early; but then the models have always been underestimating how fast global warming is happening.

        "but don't you think it should correlate as least to some extent over the last 20 years? " - NO, 20 years is much, much too short of time frame to determine anything.

        "His conclusion is that we are living in the best of environment for trees in the last 200 years or so." - HE IS RIGHT. But in terms of global warming, it is meaningless

        "The increase of CO2 helps trees." - ALSO TRUE, until it doesn't. When the earth gets too warm, about another 2 degrees Celsius, the cycle reverses. Oceans, which absorb CO2, give it back and forests which are also CO2 sinks, give it back as well.

      • jackclee lm profile image

        Jack Lee 

        3 years ago from Yorktown NY

        Sorry for going off topic a bit. I was trying to demonstrate how some scientists takes the CO2 global warming as gospel that they fail to recognize discrepancies even when it appears in their own data.

        I realize his study is not on a global scale but don't you think it should correlate as least to some extent over the last 20 years? That was my question to him and he was not dismissive of my comment but a little taken a back. He was a little surprised by someone pointing out the obvious. He was not a climate scientist. His specialty was on tree forests. His conclusion is that we are living in the best of environment for trees in the last 200 years or so. The increase of CO2 helps trees.

        I did not cherry pick the data. In my research on climate change, I found it very difficult to get data that are "raw" and untouched by adjustments... That is why I found Dr. Pedersen's slide so interesting and why I call it a nugget.

        I don't doubt his sincerity or yours. I'm just pointing out some problems with the current theory of AGW. As you say, climate science is very complex and we need to understand it much better before proposing drastic changes that may or may not work.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 years ago from Southern California

        First of all, you're not getting the gist of the article. It has to do with one person spreading BS, despite never really looking at any data.

        Secondly, I figured this was going to happen: Somebody was going to tell me to look at some data that they obtained and try to tell me how wrong I am. And, as I suspected, the data was either bogus or misinterpreted by the person presenting.

        By any chance to did you read the last line of the abstract? Also, it sounds like you've cherry-picked the data to fit your opinion. You're making the mistake that uniform temperature gauges will be the same everywhere else. In fact a closer look at the graph indicates that it's not that stable as it appears (something I would've expected). It will fluctuate but steadily climb or fall. And considering you're dealing with micro-climates, that's exactly what's happening.

        Keep in mind, global warming is not merely about hot days. It's much more complex than that. It's about change in weather patterns. The data you've presented may have been consistent with a micro-climate, but it doesn't deal with macro-climate, which is probably why he may have seem dismissive about the "warming" .

      • jackclee lm profile image

        Jack Lee 

        3 years ago from Yorktown NY

        Here is link to my hub -

        https://hubpages.com/education/Climate-Change-Pred...

        Please scroll down to the chart by Dr. Neil Pedersen.

        I obtained it from the source and I was in the audience when he presented this talk at the Lamont Observatory.

        I would like your honest opinion on this. It does have implications on what the truth is and who is being deceived.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 years ago from Southern California

        Ok now you're just reaching. But i agree that there has been deception in this debate. Thing is, I not the one.

      • jackclee lm profile image

        Jack Lee 

        3 years ago from Yorktown NY

        But your explanation does not hold up to their projections. The question is who is being deceived here. Just stating the obvious. Have a great day.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 years ago from Southern California

        I've heard about the hurricane argument before. To make a long story short the reduction of hurricanes has a lot to do with atmospheric winds, which have been affected by global warming. Call it a silver lining in the whole situation.

        Also it doesn't matter how many articles you wrote or how many times you proclaim common sense or logic. If your information is faulty, then your information is faulty.

      • jackclee lm profile image

        Jack Lee 

        3 years ago from Yorktown NY

        Where are the extreme storms predicted by a warming globe? The US has not had a category 3 or higher hurricane since 2007. The climate scientist are scratching their heads trying to find the heat. I've written quite a few hubs on this topic. I am a skeptic of AGW theory and I am not paid by the Koch brothers. Some skeptics are not anti-science but just have common sense.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 years ago from Southern California

        My eyes are wide open and I've drunk my fair share of coffee. I know what's happening. Do you?

        I suggest you read the other two articles I have on the deception perpetrated by denialists. It's quite fascinating how people like you have been hoodwinked by some incredibly dumb and silly tactics. Also, this stuff about "more and more people are realizing the deception." Quite the opposite. A lot of people--- including scientists (some who were in denial in the beginning) -- who've actually looked at the data and became firm believers. This includes one scientist that was paid by a known denialist (Koch Brothers). The person at the heart of this hub never looked at the data. Heck he wasn't even a climate scientist.

        But why waste my time arguing about that? Right now, I'm sitting in 90 degree heat in the middle of February just like I did last year and the year before.

        Oh, and the climate models? First of all, that's not what the hub was about. Secondly, what are the climate science model you're referring to ? You claim they don't correctly predict current global variations .

        Finally, don't use the term skeptic to describe your climate denial. I follow a lot of skeptics and most, if not all, are offended to be associated with this denialism nonsense that's seems to be taking hold of this country. It's anti-science gibberish.

      • jackclee lm profile image

        Jack Lee 

        3 years ago from Yorktown NY

        I am a skeptic and I want to be convinced with logic and facts and not hyperbole claims. Show me where climate science models have correctly predicted current global variations... They don't exist. More and more people are realizing the deception and it is not coming from the skeptics. Wake up and smell the coffee.

      • Dean Traylor profile imageAUTHOR

        Dean Traylor 

        3 years ago from Southern California

        Thanks. The deception on this matter is so deep that there had been people challenging me and getting into Twitter wars with me on the matter. This is a problem in this issue that needs to be addressed. There's a lot misinformation being spread and a lot of people who are buying into it. I had previous article, in which somebody tried to debate me on it. Anyway I have one more article on this matter to publish. Also, I'm starting to hear more about that Exxon cover-up. I may add that to one of my hubs.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        3 years ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you for rerelease get this hub Dean. There has been so much misinformation spread by climate sceptics who seem to be funded and encouraged by fossil fuel and mining companies and the like. They seem to search out rogue scientists to add their name to he list of debunkers and the misinformation is spread by the likes of the Murdock media empire (Fox News) and the like. Thank you for exposing Ivor Giaever as a climate fraud.

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