This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
In some circles, aerospace engineer Burt Rutan is a demi-god. In 2005, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He has been inducted into six different halls of fame – including the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and the US National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Rutan has received the Heinlein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aerospace, a Presidential Citizens Medal, and has been honored by British and French aeronautical bodies.
In 2004, SpaceShipOne, designed by Rutan, was the first privately-funded craft to enter space and return (twice within a 2-week period). In 1986, his Voyager craft became the first airplane to fly around the globe without stopping or refueling.
Recently Rutan delivered a talk to Experimental Aircraft Association audiences in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in which he dismissed climate change as a serious concern. (His 33-slide PowerPoint deck from that talk is also available as a PDF.)
Rutan isn’t a climate scientist. But he has spent decades honing his ability to analyze and interpret disparate kinds of data. His rule of thumb: “The more complex or uncertain the data, the more judgment is needed…and the more susceptible the conclusions are to bias.”
After examining the alleged evidence supporting global warming theory – much of it associated with NASA’s James Hansen – Rutan declares it bunk. Below is slide #8 (p. 15 in the PDF) from his talk:
The words appearing on some of Rutan’s slides are harsh: deception, presentation fraud, data manipulation. He accuses the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of weighting one group of data 390 times more than another in order to transform “falling temperatures” into “rising temperatures” in the graphs it has presented to world leaders and the public.
Rutan’s assessment of journalists is equally uncomplimentary: “The media does not investigate. They just listen to the alarmists and then report that global warming is ‘worse than the UN predictions.'”
Rutan points out that periods of slight warming – of the sort that occurred between 1975 and 1998 – aren’t unusual. The years 1860-1880 and 1910-1940 experienced similar warming, he says. He devotes four slides (26-29) to the theme of “show me the data” – in which he concludes that numerous claims of impending climate-related disasters aren’t supported by the evidence.
Because the climate has always changed and will always continue to do so, he calls climate change “the world’s safest bet” and declares it “silly” to consider it a crisis. He’s also adamant that “consensus has nothing to do with science and science has nothing to do with consensus.”
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Rutan rejects the US cap-and-trade legislation currently under consideration. In his view, these measures are “naive, non-scientific, irrelevant, hopeless and oxymoronic.”
If the US government “really wants to protect citizens from a possible planet catastrophe,” he concludes, it should fund research into systems that can defend against asteroid strikes. This is, he says “the only real extinction threat the planet has ever had and the only one in which Man can indeed use his intelligence and sweat to successfully defeat.”