A Must-Read Book on Global WarmingCommentary by H. Sterling Burnett
June 23, 2008
Originally published by: Heartland Institute
The Deniers, a riveting book by Canadian environmental journalist Lawrence Solomon, should be read by anyone who wants to understand where and why substantive debate remains concerning climate change. The book painfully shows why there is so much vitriol surrounding what until recently was a relatively quiet, unheralded, or unnoticed (except by its practitioners) field of science.
In reading it, one will become familiar with the names and findings of some of the leading scientists in the world--Edward Wegman, Roger Revielle, Richard Lindzen, Claude Allegre, Paul Reiter, Richard Tol, Freeman Dyson, and Eigils Friis-Christensen, among others. They are just a few of myriad researchers, tops in their field, whose work is at the center of The Deniers.
About a year ago, Solomon began writing a series of articles for Canada's National Post examining the credentials of, and arguments made by, scientists and economists labeled "deniers" by global warming activists and the media. True to the finest tenets of his profession, Solomon sought the truth concerning whether there was in fact a consensus on the headline-grabbing issue of global warming.
He discovered, contrary to the belief popularized by the mainstream media, dissenting scientists are not rare. There are serious scholars whose views should, but too often do not, inform the scientific and public policy debate concerning global warming. Solomon's columns were important because they brought this message to a wider audience.
As Solomon's knowledge grew, he found the limits of newspaper writing precluded an adequate in-depth exploration of these skeptical scientists' important observations. Accordingly, selecting some of the scientists discussed in his columns, Solomon wrote The Deniers. As a jacket blurb puts it, "What he found shocked him. Solomon discovered that on every 'headline' global warming issue, not only were there serious scientists who dissented, consistently the dissenters were by far the more accomplished and eminent scientists."
Solomon does not attempt to settle the science, show that humans are or are not responsible for the present warming trend, or decide what we can expect the future harms or benefits of continued warming (or cooling) might be. Instead, he simply shows in a manner accessible to a lay audience that uncertainties concerning each important facet of the "consensus" view on warming abound, and that the dissenting views are at least as plausible--and often more compelling--than the alarmist point of view.
Disappearing Hockey Stick
For instance, in Chapter Two, "The Case of the Disappearing Hockey Stick," Solomon examines the work of Dr. Edward Wegman, one of the most eminent statisticians in the world. Wegman is a past president of the International Association of Statistical Computing and past chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. House Environment and Commerce Committee asked Wegman to assess the work of Dr. Michael Mann that produced the famous "hockey stick" version of recent climate history showing unprecedented warming over the past 100 years. Wegman and his committee of experts found serious statistical flaws that undermined the hockey stick reconstruction of climate history.
They concluded that based on the evidence cited and the methodology used by the hockey stick researchers, the idea that the planet is experiencing unprecedented global warming "cannot be supported." They also concluded the close ties between scientists in the small paleoclimatology community prevented true peer review of the hockey stick and related analyses.
In Chapter Three, "Front Page News," Solomon examines several global warming claims that have captured headlines. Citing the work of experts in economics, hurricanes, and climate physics, he shows there is insufficient data to support the claims that global warming will result in economic catastrophe, more powerful hurricanes, or rapid ice melt in Antarctica.
Solomon also discusses the harsh treatment many scientists have endured simply because they follow the scientific method, and their own consciences, which led them to conclude global warming is not a crisis. In Chapter Nine, "In the Land of the Midnight Sun," Solomon details the struggles, trials, and tribulations of scientists who have had the temerity to speculate solar activity might have something to do with the present warming trend.
These scientists, following the scientific method, have put forward hypotheses that appear to explain the current warming better than the anthropogenic carbon dioxide explanation. Over time, as new data have been gathered, they have improved their theory by rejecting some of their early postulations while finding strong evidence in support of other early hypotheses.
The scientists' reward for following the scientific method has been to be on the receiving end of scorn, abuse, and false accusations. Solomon writes:
"The solar scientists found themselves being identified as enemies as far as the growing global warming establishment was concerned. Rather than funding and encouraging their research, officials of the IPCC and other leading forces in the global warming movement began denouncing the solar scientists as irresponsible and worse. Institutes funding solar-climate research faced furious criticism; funding for crucial experiments was delayed or cut off. Worst of all was a campaign to smear the solar researchers personally, even charging them with deliberately distorting data in the service of special interests."
Though there are many good books on global warming, The Deniers is among the most effective in showing how science is being fundamentally undermined in the current politicized atmosphere of climate research. Like no other book I know, it provides a concise but thorough overview of the myriad weaknesses of the consensus view, supported by the stellar qualifications of those scientists labeled derisively as "deniers."
If a person could read only one book this year on climate change, this is the one I'd pick.