How could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so wrong about the environment?



Kenneth Brower has a number of theories:

1.       Contrariness

2.       He doesn’t really mean it

3.       Educated fool

4.       Old age

5.      Collision of faiths

From The Atlantic:

In August 2009, Dyson appeared on the Charlie Rose show. His inimitable voice—somehow both diffident and firm, its original British accent overlaid by an American one—caught me in transit of my living room, and I pulled up a chair. Dyson has aged well. He has kept himself trim, not to say scrawny, and what he radiates in his 80s is a kind of wizened boyishness. I smiled at the familiar mannerisms. Freeman and his son, George, share an odd, cryptic style of chuckling in which the chin drops, the eyes get merry, and the shoulders shake with laughter, but no sound comes out.

Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic. Charlie Rose began his interview with questions about the climate. Dyson answered that he remained very skeptical about the dangers of global warming. He did not believe the pronouncements of the experts. He did not claim to be an expert himself, so he would not argue the details with anybody; he had not given much time to the issue and did not pretend to know the real answers, but what he knew for sure was that the global-warming experts did not know the answers, either.

Dyson did not deny that the world was getting warmer. What he doubted was the models of the climatologists, and the grave consequences they predicted, and the supposition that global warming is bad. “I went to Greenland myself, where the warming is most extreme,” he said. “And it’s quite spectacular, of course, what you see in Greenland. But what is also true is, the people there love it. The people there hope it continues. It makes their lives a lot more pleasant.”

Dyson argued that melting ice and the resulting sea-level rise is no cause for alarm. He said that the release of increasing volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a very good thing, as it makes plants grow better. The important thing to remember, he said, is that the planet is warming mainly in places that are cold, and at night rather than during the day, so that the phenomenon is essentially making the climate more even, rather than just making everything hotter. 

“The Danger of Cosmic Genius”, Kenneth Brower, The Atlantic