If there is an opportunity anywhere in the “Cosmos” to deny the science of climate change – the evidence notwithstanding – The National Post’s Lawrence Solomon seems intent upon finding it.
In a 19-part series on climate change “Deniers,” Solomon has canvassed the science world for people whose work challenges the consensus that human-produced CO2 is changing the climate in a potential disastrous way. Fair enough; fringe voices are often interesting. But on several occasions, Solomon has let his enthusiasm get the better of him, identifying as deniers people who are on record as agreeing with the scientific consensus (here, here and especially here).
Now, Solomon has disinterred one of the most infamous attacks not only on climate science but on the reputation of a renowned climate scientist, Dr. Roger Revelle.
Solomon identifies Revelle accurately as “the grandfather of the greenhouse effect,” whose early research and eloquent writing brought the issue to public attention in the late 1950s. Al Gore, once a student of Revelle, credits the professor with inspiring Gore's personal campaign to make climate change better known and understood.
Solomon is also correct is pointing out that Revelle was cautious by nature, arguing against ill-considered action. Solomon quotes a letter to Congress in 1988, in which Revelle says, “My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways.”
Solomon then skips over the 19 years of compelling research that has occurred since, choosing instead to concentrate on a paper, the content of which has been misrepresented as Revelle’s work ever since 1991.
The paper in question was entitled What to do about greenhouse warming: Look before you leap, and it appeared in the Cosmos Club Journal. Vaguely skeptical in its content, the paper listed Revelle as a second author. The lead author, Fred Singer, and the third author, Chauncey Starr, Solomon refers to as “two illustrious colleagues.”
It’s true that Starr and Singer had showed well early in their careers, but by 1991, the lustre was coming off in a disappointing way. Both had aligned themselves with industry (Starr with coal, Singer with tobacco) and both were already part of a well-financed campaign to deny climate change.
It is not clear by what means Singer convinced Revelle to allow his name to be listed as a second author, but it has been demonstrated conclusively that Singer wrote it (with editorial assistance from deniers like Pat Michaels, Hugh Ellsaesser and Robert Balling). Indeed, Singer had published the major points of the paper the year before in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Revelle’s input, elicited months from death from a worsening heart condition, is not reflected in the final product.
When the paper was published, Revelle was embarrassed by the content and optimistic that the small readership of the Cosmos journal would save him further attention. But after Revelle’s death, Singer started quoting the paper widely as Revelle’s work. A former student of Revelle’s, Dr. Justin Lancaster, then challenged the paper’s contents and made disparaging statements of Singer and his tactics.
Singer sued and, facing a court battle he could ill afford, Lancaster backed down, promising not to release the details of a settlement for 10 years. Then Singer spent that decade (and the years since) telling everyone that Revelle was ultimately a climate change skeptic, and using Lancaster’s acquiescence as additional proof.
Well, the 10 years have passed. Now, Lancaster’s detailed chronology and evidence are all available on his website, demonstrating Singer’s role. And that means there is no excuse for Larry Solomon to be touting Revelle’s mythical opposition to climate science as fact. The controversy is well-known. Indeed, others get to it pretty quickly.
If this was Solomon’s first “mistake,” it would be fair to assume that his misreading of this story is a result of inadvertence or inexperience in the field. But there is a pattern here that suggests that he is not learning any lessons as he pursues his agenda.