Hubert Lamb, a Life Spent in the Pursuit of Accurate Climate Understanding

Published February 20, 2015

Climate Change Weekly #160

A new report by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) details how the late Hubert Lamb spent his career trying to convince the scientific establishment and the public that Earth’s climate was constantly, naturally, changing – climate stasis was a fairy tale.

Lamb was founding director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. Upon Lamb’s death, the director of CRU called him “the greatest climatologist of his time.”

How sad that CRU, at the heart of the Climategate scandal, has spent the past 20 years betraying Lamb’s legacy by redefining “climate change” as something new and unusual due to human actions. CRU now routinely ignores his life’s work of calling attention to the myriad natural factors that make climate change the norm, not the exception.

The GWPF paper details how CRU has turned against Lamb’s core beliefs:

[R]ight through to the end of the 20th century the claim was that both models and data were showing the enhanced greenhouse effect. … Thus the popular idea that global warming is now emerging from a background of climate stability … is in perfect fidelity with the new science, where the old meteorologist’s dogma of natural climate stability has been reintroduced as the baseline assumption, despite all the new evidence to the contrary. In this way, the new orthodoxy of anthropogenic climate change is only the undefeated old orthodoxy re-appearing, but cloaked anew.

In 2006, Lamb was lauded for having made one of the “top 100 world-changing discoveries, innovations and research projects to come out of the UK universities” by establishing “climate change as a serious research subject.” Ironically, the plaudits he received were for a view he rejected: Yes, climate change was a serious area of research, but natural factors dominated and change was normal.

Lamb directed CRU for six years before retiring in dismay, citing three factors distorting science in general and climate research in particular: power, money, and fashionable ideas. Lamb noted money for research is readily available if the right results are forthcoming – the right results being finding a harm or problem that can be solved only by government and large private interests working together. The same is true today: Research calling for more control of the economy or peoples’ lives by knowledgeable elites can always find funding.

Lamb also highlighted how powerful people or companies created barriers to scientific advance in order to protect or promote their own interests.

But for Lamb, “neither political ulterior motives nor the abuse of power by individuals is the whole story.” Rather, “There are also fashions in scientific work, whereby some theory catches on and gains a wide following, and while that situation reigns, most workers aim their efforts to following the logic of the theory and its applications, and tend to be oblivious to things that do not quite fit.”

Lamb considered the current obsession with anthropogenic global warming (AGW) an “extreme example” of a fashion swing. In the mid-twentieth century, he noted, when the Northern Hemisphere was cooling despite rising carbon dioxide levels, research linking carbon dioxide emissions to climate change was out of favor. The theory linking carbon dioxide to climate change “rose to renewed dominance around 1980 … after a run of up to 8 mild winters in a row affected much of Europe and parts of North America in the 1970s and 1980s. There then came a tremendous preponderance of publications on global warming, dominating the research literature …” Since then, to reject human use of fossil fuels as the cause of global warming is to have oneself branded a “crank” at best, and at worst, a “denier.”

Lamb’s true legacy is twofold. First, he showed the dangers scientists pose to society when they are caught in the grip of a theory. Second, he highlighted how fashionable but bad theories can be formed and sustained when combined with the corrupting influence of government-directed research and crony capitalism.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m ready for a new scientific fashion trend, because the AGW one is getting old, ugly, and expensive.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Foundation and


Climate negotiations about economy not ecology … Humans blameless for present warming … Plants could thrive with higher temperatures … Ocean threats overblown… Canada worried by anti-oil, climate change groups … Climate change benefits U.S. crop production


Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, let slip a dirty little secret at a news conference held in Brussels in early February. She said the treaty negotiations leading up to the next U.N. climate conference are really about elites shaping the global economy to their liking, not about preventing climate change. Per Figueres, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” She added, “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.” At least U.N. bureaucrats are now admitting what many climate realists have long suspected: Climate treaty negotiations are all about the money – who has it, and who wants to take it.

SOURCE: Investor’s Business Daily


German researchers say a number of natural temperature cycles, some poorly understood, account for the warming of the twentieth century better than increased carbon dioxide emissions from human fossil-fuel-burning. Their analysis indicates the current warm period is “the natural result of a repeating 1000-year cycle that goes back far into the past. Today’s warm period does not even reach the temperatures seen in the past warm periods. Moreover it is important to note during both of the past temperature maxima of 1000 and 2000 years ago, the CO2 values were at 280 ppm while today they are at 400 ppm.” The warming of the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first century has contained periods of rising and falling temperatures and an ongoing stasis. These trends can be explained largely by solar-influenced climate cycles, a 1000-year cycle as varied by the 230-year solar cycle and a 65-year oceanic cycle.

SOURCE: No Tricks Zone


Research out of the University of Edinburgh is breaking new ground in the understanding of how plants respond to increased temperatures, indicating “… at high temperatures, light causes seedling stems to develop in the same way that they normally would in shade or darkness. This is the opposite of how plants behave at cooler temperatures, when light inhibits stem growth.” The researchers hope their work, published in two studies in Nature Communications and Molecular Systems Biology, could aid in the development of crops that can adapt to changing climates. The researchers aren’t sure why the plant species studied have responded to temperature as they have, but they speculate plants “may associate hot weather with a risk of drought, and so grow and flower quickly to reproduce before they die.”

SOURCE: Eureka Alert


Scientists and the media present to the public a constant parade of threats to the world’s oceans. Some of these threats, such as the decline in ocean fisheries due to highly subsidized overfishing, are serious. Others, like the suggestion global warming is causing dangerous ocean acidification, are less so. A recent study by Carlos M. Duarte, et al. acknowledged there has been a measurable decrease in ocean pH possibly reaching levels harmful to some sea life by the end of the century. However, they found no evidence to support claims climate-change-caused ocean acidification has already killed billions of shellfish. As they report, “There is, as yet, no robust evidence for realized severe disruptions of marine socioecological links from ocean acidification to anthropogenic CO2, and there are significant uncertainties regarding the level of pH change that would prompt such impacts.” A second study reviewed 372 papers examining the threat of ocean acidification on sea life. It found marine species are likely more adaptable to increased ocean acidification than models predict. Only a minority of the experiments using worst-case scenarios found acidification on the scale scientists expect to have a significant impact on marine species.

SOURCES: The Daily Maverick and Bioscience


It seems Canada is joining India and Peru in determining anti-oil crusaders are potentially dangerous. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have labeled the anti-oil movement a growing, potentially violent threat to Canada’s infrastructure, the economy, and its people. According to an RCMP report, “There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels. If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.” The report goes on to note many of these groups are funded from abroad and driven by fear of global warming induced by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. In response to the perceived threat, the government has offered a bill to expand security services’ powers to collect information on, infiltrate, and disrupt the activities of suspected terrorist groups, including environmental groups and climate campaigners.

SOURCE: The Globe and Mail


A new study by Stanford scientist David Lobell and Ph.D. candidate Christopher Seifert found between 1988 and 2012, “the area of farmland in the United States on which farmers were able to harvest two crops per year on the same plot of land grew by as much as 28 percent as a result of warmer temperatures and later fall freezes.” The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, estimates the amount of land suitable for double-cropping in the United States could double or even triple by 2100. Expanded double-cropping could also provide benefits such as year-round ground cover, reducing soil erosion.

SOURCE: Stanford Center on Food Security and the Environment

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