June 28, 2008
On a tour earlier this week for his new book on global warming, The Deniers, Lawrence Solomon made a presentation at the Petroleum Club in Calgary. His remarks, adapted, appear below.
I’m surprised to see so many of you here today. I thought you might be at trial, for your global warming crimes.
James Hansen — he’s one of the leaders in the climate change movement in the U.S. — wants you in court. “CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing,” he stated yesterday. “…they should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”
Come to think of it, David Suzuki also sees those who abet CO2 emissions as criminals. And you know what, I bet some of you see yourselves as criminals — or something close to it — because there’s something in human nature that makes us feel guilty, even for crimes we didn’t commit, let alone for non-crimes. And I bet some of your friends and associates might look at you sideways. And your children may be teased and made to feel guilty about what their dad does for a living.
Even more, you’ve been cowed into silence. Instead of making your case to the public, instead of defending yourselves and your industry, you’ve thrown in the towel, or tried to be greener than green, hoping to avoid recrimination.
As many of you know, I and Energy Probe, my organization, have long been critics of the energy industry. We have opposed Arctic pipelines and tar sands that we considered to be ill-advised. We have opposed nuclear plants and big dams.
We favour conservation and renewable energy. We like clean and economic energy, something we have had too little of in Canada. For this, some of you in this room bear some responsibility.
But on the global warming issues, based on the evidence to date, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Albertans have nothing to feel guilty about either. No crime has been committed. No known harm has occurred. You’ve been had.
The fears of cataclysm over global warming are unfounded. There is no consensus on climate change, despite what Al Gore and the UN’s Panel on Climate Change would have you believe.
Let me tell you why most people think that global warming is a serious problem. It comes down to one number: 2,500. That’s the number of scientists associated with the UN’s Panel on Climate Change that the press reports has endorsed the UN Panel’s conclusions. These are the conclusions that get released in the UN’s mammoth reports every six years or so, and that then dominate the media airwaves for weeks.
“2,500 scientists can’t be wrong,” the press always says, explicitly or implicitly. Without that number, it would have no basis for the claim that they repeat over and over again — that there’s a consensus on climate change. 2,500 is an impressive number of scientists. To find out who, exactly, they were, I contacted the Secretariat of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and asked for their names. The Secretariat replied that the names were not public, so I couldn’t have them. And I learned that the 2,500 scientists were reviewers, not endorsers.
Those scientists hadn’t endorsed anything. They had merely reviewed one or more of the literally hundreds of background studies, some important and some not, that were part of this immense United Nations bureaucratic process. They did not review the final report or endorse it.
Their reviews weren’t even all favorable. I know that from many sources, including from among some of the scientists that I profiled — several of the deniers in my book are among those 2,500. And those deniers, and others, generally consider the UN’s work a travesty.
There is no endorsement by 2,500 top UN scientists. The press has been taken. And so the public has been taken.
The extent to which the public has been taken may surprise you. Not only is there no consensus, the scientists who are skeptics — the deniers — have extraordinary credentials, people at the very top echelons of the scientific establishment. They are the Who’s Who of Science.
Not only do they disagree with the UN conclusions, they often value CO2 for the benefits it provides the planet — satellite data shows the planet is now the greenest it has been in decades. Until recently, after all, CO2 was universally viewed as Nature’s fertilizer.
If these top scientists are right, you are being attacked without justification. You are being painted as criminals and your children are being made to feel ashamed of what you do. You are being victimized, in a modern form of shunning.
Your present strategy of lying low and hoping all this will pass has gotten you nowhere. You need to make your case, factually and frankly. The public will be skeptical of your arguments, as it should be. But if your critics can’t counter your factual arguments, it is your critics who will fail.
You need to decide. Do you want to go on being attacked for something that may be laudable, for producing CO2 may well be laudable? Do you want to go on feeling guilty out of public ignorance of where scientists truly stand on the global warming issue?
On global warming, the science is not settled. You have the facts on your side. But facts will count for naught as long as you see the battle as lost.