The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Don't Actually Deny Global Warming

Thu, 2008-04-17 12:14Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Don't Actually Deny Global Warming

Solomon's New Book Full of Hysteria, (Imagined) Persecution, and Fraud

 

 

Despite the uncertainties, there is general agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years.

Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions

National Academy of Sciences, 2001

I am afraid you won't find that quote in within the pages of Lawrence Solomon's new book, The Deniers: The World-Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud (and those who are too fearful to do so).

Nope, as the world's longest book title suggests, Solomon is not the least interested in considering a climate consensus - and if that means that he has to cherry-pick quotes, misrepresent data, cut off graphs before their curves become inconvenient and blithely ignore the logical inconsistencies in his own arguments, well, Solomon seems not to mind.

In fairness, though, he comes clean very early in the book (on Page 6, actually) and admits that the whole exercise is a parlor game, a work of sophistry. It all began because he was trying to impress some visiting Chinese environmentalists with the vigor of the environmental debate in North America. So he challenged a friend to “name three climate-change areas that he felt were settled. … I told him if he identified the areas of expertise, I would find a credible dissenting scientist in each.”

Though I can't believe anyone would have set up some of the silly points Solomon examines as the most settled in climate science, Solomon set off nevertheless to find any dissent and to write about his findings in a periodic column in the National Post. He later parlayed that series into this book.

The problem is that Solomon's “deniers” don't actually deny climate change. They quibble about the details. They criticize Michael Mann's now entirely dated hockey stick graph. They argue about snow temperatures in Antarctica, but they all still allow - what's the phrase? - that observed warming is real and particularly strong in the last 20 years.

Solomon even says so. He says that while reflecting on his own research, “I … noticed something striking about my growing cast of deniers. None of them were deniers.”

If you ask me how someone could make that concession on page 45 and then string the book out to page 213 (not counting footnotes), I have to say that I am still suffering some confusion. And all of it intentional, I am convinced.

Solomon has rounded up the usual suspects and reveled in the usual arguments. He has cherry-picked quotes like this, from the above-reference National Academy of Sciences report:

“Because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments (either upward or downward).”

Fair enough, the magnitude (if not the inevitability) of future warming is debatable. But Solomon follows that quote with this hysterical analysis:

“The press's spin? CNN, in language typical of other reportage, stated that it (the National Academy of Sciences report) represented 'a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room.'”

Click on the link at the top and I think you'll find that CNN’s reporting was accurate. “Real and getting worse” was the conclusion that was reported to President George W. Bush at the time, and while the White House was officially unhappy, they didn't challenge the finding.

But Solomon does. Using graphs that tend to end between 1980 and 2000, and throwing his lot in with the likes of Bob (Global-Warming-Ended-in-1998) Carter, Solomon adds brick upon brick to what remains a very low wall separating the purveyors of doubt from an overwhelming tide of agreement.

But, again, Solomon doesn’t make excuses for creating a phony balance between his handful of quibblers and the overwhelming scientific concern about climate change. He says: “… our job is not to settle which side is right but simply to demonstrate that there is a debate, a vigorous and serious one.”

So, he quotes Carter saying this: “There is almost universal agreement (my emphasis) that significant carbon dioxide increases – human caused or otherwise – will cause gentle* planetary warming.”

And, then later, Solomon concludes, “… our mission is accomplished. Knowing what we know now it is not possible to believe that the science is settled or that there is a scientific “consensus” for the doomsayer view of global warming.”

The best part of Solomon’s book is the last chapter, in which he suddenly starts to make sense (not counting a bizarre analogy between economics and science).

First, Solomon explains his motive for clinging so desperately to some notion of doubt about climate change: he has spent most of his adult life as a self-styled environmentalist, campaigning against nuclear energy and against the ravages of big hydro electric projects. Once he brought it up, I started to remember the incredibly good work that his organization, Energy Probe, did in the 1990s on the Three Gorges dam** in China.

Now, with fossil-fuel-sourced carbon dioxide identified as the overarching environmental threat, nuclear and mega-hydro projects are back on the front burner. Even people who consider themselves ardent environmentalists – frontrunners in the vegan Birkenstock crowd – are looking at those alternatives with a more open mind. And Solomon’s life work seems to be slipping away.

You have to be sympathetic.

Solomon also makes some very good points about the fresh batch of stupid decisions that are being made or justified on the basis of climate change. His attack on bio-fuels seems entirely reasonable. His condemnation of carbon credit trading scams is equally defensible. And his oddly contrarian call for the removal of “all the overt and hidden subsidies to road users, industries, and energy producers” is downright laudable.

That said, this book is nothing more than a gift to the denial industry, a clumsy favor to the oil-entrenched lobbyists who will do anything to slow our response to an issue that has given rise to a very convincing consensus.

Solomon says there are quibblers. He’s right. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there is a 90+ per cent possibility that global warming endangers the world as we know it. And on the central question, even Solomon’s selection of contrarian scientists won’t deny it.

If there is evidence of “fraud” in this book, it’s all in the title. Solomon should be a little embarrassed for having brought it up.

*Doesn’t Bob Carter’s use of the word “gentle planetary warming” make you feel better? And isn’t it creepy to think that a more honest sentence would have read, “gentle and cumulative planetary warming”?

** Solomon’s report of “fifty-meter-high waves” in the Three Gorges reservoir is, I have to assume, a typo.

 

Comments

Careful Ian, you're head is going to explode. ;) For the record, at no time have I said the earth is cooling.

. . . using all data except the spurious float profiles (thick dashed line) suggests much less
cooling, only about 14 ´ 1021 J.

The report confirms cooling in the oceans. This is after correcting for the erroneous data in the ARGO data. XBT data may still have integrity issues but that is another matter.

As I did say previously ARGO data will become increasingly important as they years progress and the system is improved. Now don't let your AGW-induced rage get the best of you Ian.

Paul S/G you are one of the worst deniers on this site. Everything you say is straight out of the denier handbook of obfuscation, misinterpretation, misrepresentation and down right lies when it suits you.

As for your lies, you started off this thread with the following: "Another issue which the press has been silent on is the results from the world-class pioneering Argo ocean temperature monitoring system. Initial results show no warming, in fact a slight cooling, of the world's oceans over the last 4 years". In fact, if you had read the report I cited you would see that Willis says: "This ‘Argo-only’ estimate shows no significant warming or cooling between 2004 and 2006, with an INCREASE of only 1 (± 16) x 10e21 J during this period". He didn't say that it was "cooling" as you stated above. To me you are deliberately misinterpreting what has been said. That is a LIE.

You are a low life two-faced weasel in your postings here. You rarely give references and rarely answer questions. You only blow your foul smelling smoke into the faces of the honest posters on this site.

You are a despicable person.

Ian Forrester

Coming from a sanctimonious windbag such as yourself Ian, I can take your words as a compliment.

And time for you to e-mail Josh Willis and call him a liar:

"There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant," - Josh Willis

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88520025

(Sounds of Ian's raging head exploding heard in the background) :P

Well Paul, that quote that you cite is completely meaningless since we have no context for the quote. It is useless as a scientific quote. We don't know when he said it and we don't know which data set he is referring to (there are at least three data sets in the paper I quoted). He has a number of papers out recently, all saying different things but the more recent ones show that the good ARGO data shows a very slight warming.

Willis is quite worried (as are a number of other scientists about the conflicting results from three new methods of observing changes. These are GRACE, ARGO and surface sea level measurements by satellite altimetry. The sea level rise has been consistent over the past many years (measured by two different methods). The rise is a combination of a number of factors but glacial melt (determined by GRACE) and ocean warming are the dominant factors.

How can sea level continue to rise if the ocean temps are decreasing? There are a number of ways to rationalize this but the obvious ones are: 1. glacial melt is much larger than thought, 2. the oceans are not cooling. Further work is needed but the history of ARGO would suggest that that is the most likely area for further errors in either measurements or calibration.

John Cook says: "Willis 2008 [Willis, J. K., D. P. Chambers and R. Steven Nerem, 2008: Assessing the Globally Averaged Sea Level Budget on Seasonal and Interannual Time Scales. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans (in press)] speculates that there is most likely a systematic error in at least one of the three observing systems which is introducing a linear trend".

Two out of three agree with increase in global temps, one does not, which are you willing to bet on?

Ian Forrester

Well, well, well, what happened to your "Liar, liar, pants on fire" rhetoric? As I said all along, Josh Willis said what I said he did. Do your research next time before shooting off at the mouth Ian.

Well Paul, that quote that you cite is completely meaningless since we have no context for the quote. It is useless as a scientific quote.

Take it up with Josh Willis. He said it. It's scientifically useful, a scientist said it based on the most up to date data. Your proclamation of uselessness is made because it does not fit your preconceived worldview.

Two out of three agree with increase in global temps, one does not, which are you willing to bet on?

Truth is not a two out of three proposition nor a popularity contest. Follow the herd like you always do Ian.

Stupid ass. Provide an exact citation next time, and maybe people will think it's worth reading your posts. Now they are just dishonest drivel.

Really VJ, you (and Ian) must work on your ad homs. They are hardly worth me exerting the effort responding. C'mon, try a little harder, I'm sure if you push yourself a little bit, you can do substantially better.

I can do substantially better research than you, at any rate.

Bully for you VJ, that's great news.

Paul S/G you convince no-one with your drivel and lack of expertise. How do you explain an increase in volume of the oceans with the fact that you are saying they are cooling.
If you read what Willis has written (and not to what some radio programme says he said) and can pinpoint the time that he says it you will see that he cannot explain it either so one or more of the systems used must be in error.

Obviously the two are incompatible unless you know of some previously undiscovered "new physics".

You are totally incompetent about most things but science in particular.

Ian Forrester

That's funny Ian. You have claimed all along that Josh Willis never said what I said he did. When confronted with his quote, you spend the rest of your time furiously backpedalling.

Your dishonesty in this whole debate would be shameful if your tactics weren't so obvious

The only quote you have from Willis is that ridiculous transcript from NPR. There is no context, no date saying when he made that comment, no way we know what curve or data he is discussing.

Science is based on FACTS, which are well documented and have a well established provenance. Pulling quotes out of the air is not science but just typical denier obfuscation and denial.

You are a useless joke.

Ian Forrester

NPR is a reputable organization. Willis did say the oceans are cooling. The article is from March 2008.

Science is based on facts, and according to the expert Willis, the oceans have cooled slightly.

It's not the end of the world Ian if the oceans have cooled a little bit. You'll survive you know.

The radio broadcast or what ever may have occurred on March 2008. What you can't say is that is when Willis made the comment. The interview, if in fact there was an interview, could have taken place a long time ago, before October 2007 when the problems with the ARGO divers was first communicated to the users. There is no context as I explained above. Simple comments taken without providing the context and data to which they refer are absolutely meaningless in the real world. Such things exist in your perverse view of reality no doubt, but everyone here I'm sure knows what your idea of reality is by now.

You are simply pathetic in the verbal diarrhea that you use to try and justify your position. It is a joke.

Try reading some proper scientific papers, not denier edited rubbish which is all you seem to be able to quote.

Ian Forrester

I don't remember stating any intent to "prattle on about how thin ice might be" unless you're talking about how thin the ice is under Solomon's slippery feet.

As to the "denier" thing, I still don't get the part where Solomon uses the word "denier" as the centerpiece of his tendentious title and then denies the accuracy of it in his own text - and then you say that's MY fault because, by your definition of how I use the word, Solomon was right all along.

If your argument rests on the ability to redefine MY terms, I'd suggest that you're on thin ice, as well. 

To be cynical, perhaps he thinks the word "deniers" will sell books?

Richard, I didn't mean to imply that you personally would "prattle" on about thin ice. It was more an attempt to preempt alarmist warmers who I knew would pounce on ice thickness to disavow the sea ice cover anomaly in the southern hemisphere.

The real thin ice is the overuse of the denier term. Why Solomon is using that term is beyond me also.

What if the magnitude is something close to zero or utterly subordinate to natural forcings? Wouldn't that be a reason not to starve Africa with biofuels and tell them to eat green cake?

... we don't disagree on biofuels. You clearly didn't read the Academy of Science Report. And our profound failure to make any effort to help the people in Africa has nothing whatever to do with your apparent campaign to deny an obvious and problematic bit of science.

Don't give me the Bjorn Lomborg malarkey about wasting money on climate change that you would otherwise spend on lifting up the poor and oppressed.  The US government spends more in a week on the war in Iraq than it spends in a whole year fighting malaria or AIDS in Africa.

This argument isn't about social justice; it's about Exxon and General Motors making money. Solomon should know better. 

Biofuel production has only a minor if insignificant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. 1% decrease in Canada, (Government of Canada) Biofuel production is due to ever shrinking supplies of fuel, replacement of cancer causing fuel additives, and removing middle eastern oil sources from the fuel equation (ie energy independance) thus any arguments that frame biofuels as being evironmentally movitated to decrease greenhouse gas emissions are quite off the mark. Even the goverment of Canada claims in their offical policy that the primary use of biofuels is to suppliment fossil fuel consumption not reduce greenhouse gas emissions to any significant degree.

In addition world food supplies/reserves have been shrinking for the past 20 years, which has nothing to do with biofuels. Increased consumption due to increases in Indian and Chinease standard of living, poor distribution systems, crop failure, increasing world populations etc are the most significant contributers to that problem.

I thought a review of this book would be a waste of time. Thank you, Richard, for changing my mind. As someone who studied effects of the Treaty dams on fish populations, I have a lot of trouble with promotion of hydroelectric energy over other sources. I'm still working on figuring out exactly where I stand on that.

Yeah, it's a difficult area.

And I am quite sincere in saying that Solomon's mob at Energy Probe did excellent work, both on hydro and nuclear. I was writing blistering Three Gorges Dam editorials at the Vancouver Sun in the early 1990s largely on the strength of EProbe's research and activism. Credit where credit's due.

So, I'd be quick for forgive Solomon for being conflicted. But the disingenuousness of his National Post work and the shameful pandering to the denier community that he does here is another story.

We have some difficult issues to work out here and it would be best if the smart folks in the crowd turned their attention to thinking about the best solutions. Solomon has chosen instead to tackle the problem like a first-year philosophy student who thinks it's all a game.

The problem being: if he wins; we all lose. 

The simple reason there are a lot of so-called deniers is that the vast majority (like maybe 99%) of the world's people are born, live, die and are buried at at the place of their birth. And they have probably experienced little if any climate change, that is to say, a significant change in the pattern of weather in their lifetimes.

Richard, here is a project that you just can't refuse.
DeSmogBlog.com should lease a fully-loaded motorhome with all the latest hi-tech telecommunication stuff and send you on tour during this summer to the rural areas of Canada where you can interview the really old timers and First Nation elders about climate change. You could send use us videos of the interviews which we can watch on our computers. There is no limit on the company credit card!

Wouldn't it be nice to be on a Canadian safari for summertime?

How Ironic would that be.
The CO2 alarmists out on a cross country trek in a CO2 beltching motorhome to talk to people about the changes in climate they have seen in the tiny, insignifigant little clip of time that they remember.
LOL....
Climate trends are only signifigant over LONG periods of time. Many hudreds of years.
The two (identical) little upswings in the 20th century (1880 to 1940 and 1979 to 1998) are just two little lumps in an otherwise downward trend line that began 8000 years ago.
It is just sooooo funny to see so many people pretending that our little clip of time is segnifigant.

When oh when will sanity return to scinece?

... if this is your credit card.

We'd have to find some kind of a green motorhome, as well, which could be a challenge.

I think the old timers in the Arctic would have interesting stories to tell. So would the folks across the prairies, where they have effectively cancelled winter in the form where it was once common (weeks of unbroken minus 30 temperatures).

It's harder to see the variation here on the West Coast, because moderation is the order of the day, but in consideration of our U.s. audience, it would be good to head south south into the droughtlands; you'd probably hear some interesting stories there. The folks in fire country around my father-in-law's Washington State ranch all say really interesting things about the weather now, compared to when they were kids.

I could cut through Yellowstone and see where the geysers used to be faithful (perhaps not a climate change issue, but a reflections of action in the water table). Personally, I have always wanted to drive a diagonal across the continental U.S., tracking down to New Orleans, but all you'd hear there is purely anecdotal stuff about some one-off hurricane that no one could ever prove has anything to do with climate change.

Up the East Coast is a nice drive. I could stop in Kentucky and see the nice flatlands whence Mr. Peabody has removed all those pesky coal mountains. Then there's the Northeast - liberal country that I'd probably want to drive through pretty quickly. Then into the land of the ice storms - Quebec and Ontario - and the Great Lakes, in gradual retreat for one reason or another.

And so many more places, more stops along the way that I haven't even thought about. This is a wonderful suggestion. You can leave your credit card number on my email, or even phone me - I'm in the book. 

Your credit card? Heck, count me in too.

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