“My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse effect is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways.”
Roger Revelle, in a letter to then Congressman Jim Bates, July 14, 1988
Among the not-very-credible denials of climate change risk, one of Lawrence Solomon's most offensive is his attack on the memory and work of Dr. Roger Revelle.
Solomon, author of 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) , picks on Revelle entirely because of the credit that climate activist, Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore offers to his old Harvard professor. It was Revelle who told Gore about climate change, spawning the passion that now seems to irritate the denial community so greatly.
Isn't it fun, then, for those same deniers to suggest that Revelle didn't really care about climate change - or that he thought it was overblown.
The evidence, as adduced by Solomon in his book and in an earlier column in the National Post, rests on some old quotes and on a 1991 Cosmos article “co-authored” by S. Fred Singer, Chauncey Starr (of the Electric Power Research Institute) and Revelle.
I put “co-authored” in quotes because there is ample evidence that Singer wrote the article entirely himself and then conned an aging Revelle into signing it. Solomon notes that Revelle's old student, Dr. Justin Lancaster, said as much in 1992, and later retracted the charge, in the face of a lawsuit from the senior and suspiciously well-funded Singer.
Solomon also implies that Lancaster only made the accusation against Singer under pressure from Al Gore.
Well, Justin Lancaster has, as Solomon notes in the book, “retracted his retraction,” the details of which are here. There are arguably two reasons for his change of heart. First, Lancaster is more established now - a personal success who has the resources to stand up to Singer's bullying. And second, there really isn't much left of Singer's reputation to defend.
But here's the bottom line: Revelle told Gore about the greenhouse effect and alerted him to the dangers, and Gore has spread that information around more effectively than any other individual on the planet. Revelle, in the last years of his life, also counseled caution in dealing with the issue - which seems to have been a reasonable, if slightly short-sighted position at the time.
But look again at the quote at the top of this post. Look at the date. Revelle suggested waiting another 10 or 20 years for evidence. Twenty years have passed, during which the world's scientists have grown more certain and more concerned by the day.
I don't know what kind of gotcha game Solomon is trying to play, but proving that Roger Revelle urged caution in 1988, and that he defined caution as adding a $1per-gallon tax on gasoline, doesn't suggest to me that we should, today, side with the deniers on the issue of global warming.
In fact, Solomon should be embarrassed to have invoked the man's name.