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Preview: DeSmogBlog - Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon


National Post Cancels Climate Change (Very Temporarily)

Wed, 16 Jul 2008 16:17:40 +0000


“… the Alberta government's assumption that humans are responsible for global warming might be on the verge of being downgraded, revised or even discredited.”

Mark Milke, National Post, July 16, 2008

Equally, we might be on the verge of discovering evidence of an intelligent underground dinosaur culture living on Mars - but I don't think so.

There was a time - apparently past - when newspapers would endeavour to fact check a reasonable portion of what they present in their pages. There was a time, for example, when a reporter canvassing a “range” of opinion would identify the consensus presented by best experts - the most reliable sources - and then, if liberally inclined, cover off all the goofy fringe opinions just for good measure.

Milke, a “senior analyst” for the right-wingy Frontier Centre for Public Policy, instead offers this:

“…the world's top scientists have a plethora of informed opinion on the subject: They range from the possibility that humans caused a modest and beneficial rise in temperatures to the possibility that the Earth may have already entered a significant cooling phase similar to the last Little Ice Age.”

So, “the world's top scientists,” (as carefully selected by Lawrence Solomon) believe that climate change is either a good thing, or it's not happening at all.

You could dismiss this as rampant stupidity or ideological madness if it weren't being presented as reasonable opinion on the pages of a national flyer. But there is, perhaps, a greater shame. Buried in this nonsense is some quite reasonable analysis of the Alberta government's plan to dump $2 billion into an oil industry subsidy called carbon capture and storage. Milke, it turns out, is actually capable of making sense out of a complicated issue.

It's a shame he doesn't make it a habit.

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

Thu, 17 Apr 2008 19:14:01 +0000

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 QuestionsNational 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[...]

The Deniers? The World Renowned Scientist Who Got Al Gore Started

Wed, 16 Apr 2008 23:00:08 +0000

“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. Tags: lawrence solomonRoger RevelleJustin Lancasterthe deniers book[...]

Solomon's "Denier" Book Cheered by Inner Circle

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 16:22:52 +0000

(image) has been irritatingly slow delivering 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. It's  like waiting for the movie version of a favorite novel: you know the whole story, but you still want to see the Hollywood spin.

The book is based on a series of columns that appeared in the National Post - a desperate attempt to prove that there is legitimate scientific debate about whether humans are causing climate change. It will be most interesting to see if Solomon includes in the book the apologies, disclaimers and corrections that he had to write after his subjects slammed him for misrepresenting their work or their position.

We'll let you know the minute the book arrives.

A Credible Denier? Incredible!

Tue, 17 Apr 2007 21:09:11 +0000

What's the DeSmogBlog to do with a climate change denier like Dr. Paul Reiter?Dr. Reiter is director of the Institut Pasteur School of Infectiology in Paris. A search of the scientific literature shows that he has published 30 peer-reviewed journal articles, mostly on mosquitoes and infectious disease - which sets him out as a legitimate scientist even if it doesn't mark him as a Nobel Prize threat. (By comparison, the less-than-illustrious Dr. Tim Ball wrote four peer-reviewed articles during his whole career, three of them mined from the same material; whereas someone like the University of Victoria's Andrew Weaver is closing in on 200 articles and he's barely mid-career.)Dr. Reiter is a trenchant critic of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a frequent participant in efforts to cast doubt on climate science. He was featured, for example, in the recent (and risible) Great Global Warming Swindle and he was a signatory to the Canadian letter of 60, joining ranks with a highly suspicious lot to question current climate theory.Faced with such a character - someone willing to stand up against the global scientific consensus - we at the DeSmogBlog generally go looking for motive, and we usually find big energy industry funding. There is no such smoking gun with Reiter (at least not that we have found). He has associated himself with some pretty questionable organizations, industry and political front groups like the Annapolis Centre for Science-Based Public Policy and Tech Central Station, but there's a Catch 22 in making that connection. Those organizations, agenda driven and/or oil soaked, are forever on the lookout for scientists who would back up their preferred world view. They would hurry to associate themselves with someone - especially someone credible - who was willing to agree with their position. What a bonus it would be if said credible scientist actually - sincerely and in good faith - held their contrarian view.What can we really say? Well, here's one option: the National Post, as part of its 16-part series to promote the denier viewpoint, ignores the possibility that Dr. Reiter's nose is out of joint because he failed to make the cut as an IPCC expert. Instead, writer Larry Solomon hails Reiter as a model scientist and dismisses the biggest scientific collaboration in history as a politicized process with a predetermined result.Well, as Kevin Grandia reported here earlier, there's no question the IPCC process is politicized, but the Post seems to have it exactly wrong. Thousands of scientists with unimpeachable credentials worked on the most recent report. And when they were done watering down its conclusions, even China and Saudi Arabia signed it, agreeing that this is the best and most reliable presentation of the science yet.Against that remarkable consensus, it's easy enough to conclude that even if Dr. Reiter is not accepting oil money - even if he just chooses his friends badly - he's still wrong. He may or may not be making an honest mistake - but he's still making a mistake. Concluding otherwise (as the National Post does) may be an act of faith or an act of passion, but it defies belief to think it is an act of reason.Tags: national postIPCClawrence solomonpaul reiter[...]

National Post apologizes for "denier" smear

Wed, 11 Apr 2007 22:57:08 +0000


The National Post withdraws any allegation that (UK astrophysicist) Dr. (Nigel) Weiss is a global warming “denier” and regrets the embarrassment caused him by (a) … Feb. 2 column and a further column on Feb. 9.

Canada's National Post newspaper deserves some credit for finally issuing the correction and apology exerpted above. Columnist Lawrence Solomon had embarrassed Dr. Weiss, and the Post, with an unfounded allegation that Weiss denies that humans are responsible for climate change. Solomon then went on a week later to exacerbate the libel by reaffirming his mistaken position, despite having received a letter from Dr. Weiss setting the record straight.

We could complain that this apology took an inexcusably long time to write. We could complain that the Post is still carrying the original columns online - without (as of this writing) providing related links to the correction.

But the otherwise unconscionable delay suggests that the Post struggled with this - and they should be encouraged for having overcome that struggle. Given the Post's enthusiasm for climate change denial in the past - given Solomon's own mutli-part feature aggrandizing “deniers” even when several of his subjects did not, in fact, deny climate change - it is refreshing to see the paper admit that taking such a position would cause a right-thinking person embarrassment.

We can't tell for sure whether it's the Post's own writers or the paper's legal advisors who finally figured it out, but it's a step in the right direction.

Solomon Defames Another "Denier"

Fri, 09 Mar 2007 23:54:59 +0000


The National Post's Denier king Larry Solomon is once more inventing climate change denial where there is none - once more straining a thin thread of “science” well past the breaking point in an effort to argue that the sun, rather than CO2, is the major cause of global warming.

In this, the 14th edition of his series, The Deniers, Solomon heralds the work of Dr. Sami Solanki of the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Solanki turns out to be another in a long line of Solomon's scientists who do not, in fact, deny that CO2 is the culprit for climate change.

Still, even as he acknowledges Solanki's true position in the fine print, Solomon's headline remains: “The Heat is in the Sun. ” Solomon also argues the case for solar forcing with this: “Dr. Solanki shows an almost perfect correlation between solar cycles and air temperatures over the land masses in the Northern hemisphere, going back to the mid 19th century.”

Well, in addition to being almost perfect, the correlation ended with a resounding crash in 1980 as solar cycles went down and warming went up. In the meantime, we have passed more than a quarter century during which we have recorded 19 of the hottest years in recorded history.

I have to say that Solomon periodically includes enough information in his articles to allow a determined reader to discern the truth. But that doesn't seem to be his aim. Rather, his arguments are constructed to lead readers away from facts that the best climate scientists in the world find obvious and into a cloudy morass of conjecture. And when that doesn't seem to be working well enough, Solomon is capable of just misrepresenting the truth entirely.

National Post Ducks Correction; Repeats “Slander”

Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:57:21 +0000

Per an earlier post, the National Post recently defamed the renowned astrophysicist Dr. Nigel Weiss with an article lumping him in with a group of climate change “deniers.”In response to this – an error that caused him a good deal of embarrassment among serious scientists – Dr. Weiss wrote this Letter to the Editor:SOLAR ACTIVITY AND GLOBAL WARMINGThe article by Lawrence Solomon, which portrays me as a denier of global warming, is a slanderous fabrication. I have always maintained that the current episode of warming that we are experiencing is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, and that global temperatures will rise much further unless steps are taken to halt the burning of fossil fuel. Compared to these effects, the influence of variations in solar magnetic activity is unimportant, however interesting it may be to astrophysicists like me.For further details see the Press Release on the University of Cambridge websiteNigel WeissIf you thought that a responsible newspaper would offer a quick correction and apology, you would have missed your bet with the National Post. Instead of running Dr. Weiss’s complaint on the letters page, “the editor” gave it to writer Lawrence Solomon, who instead challenged Dr. Weiss with this email:Dear Dr Weiss,I am writing in response to your letter to the editor of the National Post, in which you take issue with my characterization of you as a “denier.” I can understand your objection to having a negative term assigned to you, although my use of this term is meant to be ironic – it is clear that I am not hostile to those I describe. I use the term “denier” to describe scientists who do not believe that the “science is settled.” I do not understand, however, what other objections you may have to my column. Have I misrepresented your statements, for example, or attributed beliefs to you that you do not hold? If I have, I would very much like to understand how I have done so.….SincerelyLarry SolomonAs Mr. Solomon is well able to string together apparently intelligent paragraphs, it would appear that his impenetrability on this issue is intentional. It was abundantly clearly that Dr. Weiss was not complaining about the “epithet” denier because he finds it distasteful. He’s complaining because it is pointedly not true.Dr. Weiss says, “I have always maintained that the current episode of warming that we are experiencing is caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases,” and “compared to these effects, the influence of variations in solar magnetic activity is unimportant.” And yet, having written a whole column describing Weiss as a believer in the sunspot theory of global warming, Solomon wonders, “Have I misrepresented your statements, for example, or attributed beliefs to you that you do not hold?”Larry, Larry, Larry. What do you think Dr. Weiss meant by “slanderous fabrication”?More amazing than this rude riposte – this argumentative, ungracious and insensible retreat into “irony” – was Solomon’s next column: Even with Dr. Weiss’s correction in hand, Solomon followed, on Friday, Feb. 9, with this article , in which he again characterizes Dr. Weiss as someone who denies that greenhouse gases are the principal cause of climate change. Solomon then concludes with a disingenuous plea “to drop the term denier from the scientific lexicon.”Once again (and slowly, for the benefit of the National Post) Dr. Weiss is not saying that he would rather be called a “skeptic ” than a “denier” - he's neither. He is saying he would rather that Larry Solomon tell the truth.According to another National Post story, a new Compas poll shows that Canadian business executives are still divided over whether to believe that the science behind climate change is settled. Small wonder if they are depending upon the National Post for the “facts” on [...]

National Post Defames Scientist as "Denier"

Tue, 06 Feb 2007 23:51:52 +0000

For the third time, at least, the National Post has painted a respected international academic as a climate change “denier,” regardless that the scientist is no such thing.In the most recent instance - part of a 10-part series called “The Deniers” - writer Lawrence Solomon (left) justifiably lauds the work of that “Nigel Weiss, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, past President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and a scientist as honoured as they come.”But Solomon then steps way over the line of accurate journalism. He says that Weiss believes “The science is anything but settled … except for one virtual certainty: The world is about to enter a cooling period.”Weiss was so offended by this mischaracterization that he issued a news release, saying “Professor Nigel Weiss, an expert in solar magnetic fields, has rebutted claims that a fall in solar activity could somehow compensate for the man-made causes of global warming.”“Although solar activity has an effect on the climate, these changes are small compared to those associated with global warming,” Weiss said in the news release. “Any global cooling associated with a fall in solar activity would not significantly affect the global warming caused by greenhouse gases.”The Post has not yet seen fit to acknowledge Dr. Weiss' position with a correction. Which is not so surprising when you look back in the series. The first story in “The Deniers” series featured Dr. Edward Wegman, a professor at the Center for Computational Statistics at George Mason University. Dr. Wegman had testified before a Senate committee last year, criticizing the use of statistics in the now-famous graph known as the “Mann hockey stick.” But Wegman told the committee that he and his fellow statisticians “were not asked to assess the reality of global warming and indeed this is not an area of our expertise. We do not assume any position with respect to global warming except to note in our report that the instrumented record of global average temperature has risen since 1850 according to the MBH 99 chart by about 1.2º centigrade.” He's no denier.The Post's second story featured Dr. Richard S.Tol, and claimed that Tol believes climate change, if it is occurring, will be beneficial. Per this earlier post , however, Tol also acknowledges the human causation of climate change and supports action to stop it. Again, no denier.There are other questionable stories in this series. For example, Solomon quotes the research of Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center, as proof that cosmic rays are affecting the earth's temperature. But while Solomon implies that the sun is therefore the principal cause of climate change, Svensmark says clearly in this paper that that his work “does not imply that other factors can not affect clouds or climate.”The most committed denier in this series appears to be no scientist, but rather the writer, Lawrence Solomon.Tags: national postlawrence solomon[...]

Denier Specialist Solomon Offers up Careful Culling of "Science"

Fri, 22 Dec 2006 21:14:44 +0000

Lawrence Solomon is back in the National Post with another in his series on climate change “deniers” - this time lauding the patriarch of the denial movement, Dr. Richard Lindzen.

First, let's concede that Dick Lindzen is probably the most credible climate change denier on record, even if his actual denials grow ever more conditional.

But it's a leap to go from Lindzen's caution about the certainties of science to Solomon's contention that the case for anthropogenic climate change is unproven. In fact, Solomon has misled his readers on that count.

Solomon writes:

To better understand the issue of climate change, including the controversies over the IPCC summary documents, the White House asked the National Academy of Sciences, the country's premier scientific organization, to assemble a panel on climate change. The 11 members of the panel, which included Richard Lindzen, concluded that the science is far from settled: '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).' (My emphasis.)

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

This characterization of the NAS report clearly suggests that CNN was misrepresenting the NAS conclusion: that while the magnitude of the problem remains in doubt, the fact of global warming is beyond debate. Yet, in its most current climate change document , the NAS puts it this way:

How climate will change in the future is inherently uncertain, but far from unknown. If scientific uncertainty about climate change is used to delay action, the risks and costs of adverse effects of climate change could increase significantly. (My emphasis again.)

Solomon ends his piece with this quote from Lindzen:

“… lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

To which we would have to say: fair comment.