Freeman Dyson, Scientific Consensus and Virginia Politics

By Irfan Ali

One of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century, Freeman Dyson, recently passed away. This most unassuming man hobnobbed with the likes of Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John von Neumann, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and other giants of science and technology. He was a true giant in the world of science.

The excerpt below from The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), where he worked until his death at age 96, describes his greatest contribution to science:

In the spring of 1948, Dyson accompanied [Richard] Feynman on a fabled cross-country road trip that culminated in one of the most remarkable breakthroughs of 20th century physics. After being steeped in the work of Feynman for months and spending six weeks listening to Julian Schwinger’s ideas in Ann Arbor, Dyson was able to prove the equivalency of their two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics (QED), which describes how light and matter interact. Dyson recalled the moment of discovery as a “flash of illumination on the Greyhound bus.” He had been traveling alone for more than 48 hours, making his way to Princeton, NJ to begin his first Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Dyson wanted to have nothing to do with the so called “scientific consensus”. Had he lived in the times of Giordano Bruno, a brilliant 17th century scientist, he may have met a similar fate of being burned at the stake for his unapologetic skepticism about the notion of man-made climate change.

“I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.” To arrive at predictions being made by climate alarmists, models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming. “The models are extremely oversimplified,” Dyson said. “They don’t represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds.”

Dyson was among many scientists that signed the World Climate Declaration. Not being affiliated with business or political interests outside academia, his views are hard to dismiss as biased.

As we wade into a new Carbon Tax era ushered in by a Democratic Party majority in both houses of the General Assembly, it is safe to say that a majority of Virginia legislators who have pushed for the Clean Energy Act (CEA) have very little understanding or desire to learn the actual science surrounding the man-made Climate Change mantra which has become so pervasive among progressives. Sadly, the hundreds of millions in campaign contributions from “environmental” groups that helped elect this majority have done a masterful job of conflating CO2 with pollution. A quick reminder: We humans, too, emit CO2. What’s next, will we be taxed for breathing?

In a recent chat, an environmental lawyer who was active in advocating for a carbon tax shrugged when I mentioned that the CEA may end up adding $24 to $30 a month to electricity bills. His comment was “that’s a small price to pay for a clean environment.”

Firstly, within that comment lies a scientific untruth: Reducing CO2 does not “clean” the air. In fact, Freeman Dyson would be the first to tell you that farming and crop yields around the world have improved as a result of more CO2. Secondly, $24 to $30 a month may be a “small” price to pay for a lawyer earning a comfortable six figure salary, not so for millions of Virginians struggling to make ends meet. In fact, the economic fallout from the Coronavirus will push more and more folks into hardship.

While the CEA endorses and provides subsidies to Dominion Energy to build offshore wind farms, the costs of which are still a work in progress, the reality is that these so called “renewable” energy sources are expensive and in the end, their costs far out weigh any quantifiable benefits. Even if one were to believe CO2 to be a problem, India and China are not about to stop their march towards growing industrial activities and generating far more net CO2 emissions than we, in the U.S. can mitigate.

So, should we Virginians pay the price? Readers can do some online research to see how things have gone in Germany. And if you have the time, here is a link to a film which is quite eye opening – with subtitles and over an hour long but you can skip through and get the gist of the connection between regulations, cost of electricity and way of life – there is a great interview with Freeman Dyson at the 1:09.00 mark of the video and it is in English.

To sum up, as we ponder Virginia’s energy future, I believe it is vital not to demonize fossil fuels. While there is great logic in expanding hydro and nuclear for baseload electricity, the multi-trillion dollar “renewables” industry will continue to show you dated photographs of old coal plants bellowing dark smoke from their stacks to scare you into seeing fossil fuels as evil and solar panels and wind turbines as benevolent. You can stand next to a modern power plant and not see anything other than vapor emitting from the stacks. Nevertheless, your dogma-bound Democratic legislator conflates CO2 with pollution and demands a stop to any use of fossil fuels — likely pushing costs of doing business in Virginia to uncompetitive levels.

If I were a politician contemplating a run, perhaps I would borrow a page from Governor Hogan’s playbook and adopt the slogan: Repeal the breath tax.

Irfan Ali is developer of the Chickahominy Power natural gas-fired facility in Charles City County. He is a self-described “unabashed fan of fossil fuels,” which, he says, have enabled people all over the world to attain a decent level of living and provide reliable and affordable energy to run hospitals, factories and services.


This article appeared on the Bacon’s Rebellion website at