Art Raiche / Geoff Davies
December 1, 2008
The Deniers: The world renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution and fraud
by Lawrence Solomon
Publisher: Richard Vigilante Books, 2008,239 pp.
RRP: $56.00, ISBN: 978-0-9800763-1-8
Reviewed by Art Raiche
Does society benefit from a fear-driven science-funding policy that threatens the livelihood of scientists with the courage to argue against ‘orthodox’ and established ‘beyond doubt’ views on climate? The media drives this fear with increasingly hysterical messages that the earth is
getting hotter, that this is being caused by human CO2 emissions and, that without radical social and economic surgery, we will face a myriad of global catastrophes, the like of which have not been seen since the dawn of our history. We are told that all serious scientists agree with this and that those few who dissent are either charlatans or are funded by the fossil fuel companies.
Other dissenters are regarded on a par with creationists, Holocaust deniers or supporters of tobacco companies. But is this true? Is the science really settled. To answer this, Lawrence Solomon, the Canadian environmentalist and antinuclear campaigner, sought to find well regarded scientists who disagreed with the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) hysteria promoted by Al Gore and the IPCC. The result was astonishing in that for all of the headline issues of the AGW hypothesis, he found dissenting scientists who were consistently the most
accomplished and eminent people in their respective fields of expertise. In fact, the more he searched, the more there seemed to be, complete with data and analysis to support their positions. Chillingly, several of them, despite their substantial expertise and reputations, declined on-record interviews for fear of losing their funding and, in some cases, their jobs.
Solomon’s book, The Deniers, is a tour-deforce of expert opinions organised into chapters corresponding to the headline issues of AGW. It starts with a chapter on the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph, created by Michael Mann from temperature proxies such as tree rings and ice cores.
The graph purports to show that for the past 1000 years, temperatures had been declining until about 1900 when they began rising alarmingly in correlation with the growth of human-induced CO2 emissions. It showed the 1990s as the hottest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium. This graph of northern hemisphere temperatures for the last 1000 years appeared seven times in the IPCC
report of 2001. Curiously, the ‘hockey stick’ graph failed to show a well-known period of warmin in the 1930s and essentially contradicted
records from Russian naval log books that noted substantial Arctic warming durin the period 1920–40. It also contradicted
information from British naval log books that showed a period of rapid warming in Europe during the 1730s similar to that
recorded during the 1990s. Most astonishingly, it failed to show the well established existence of the Medieval Warming Period of 800–1300 CE.
Amongst many other critics, a Canadian statistician, Steve MacIntyre, recognised the graph as being similar to the deceptive
graphics used by mining promoters to hype risky hard-rock mineral exploration projects based on isolated results. After analysing
the statistical process used by Mann, he concluded that even when applied to random data, it would produce a ‘hockey stick’ graph. The Energy and Commerce Committee of the US Congress asked Edward Wegman, a man with a long, distinguished career, including being a past chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences, to examine the controversy. After he corrected Mann’s errors in statistical methodology, the hockey stick disappeared. Along with the panel of prominent statisticians that he had recruited (pro bono) to help him, Wegman concluded that, at most, Mann’s graph was valid for less than half of those 1000 years. As a
result, despite its prominence in the IPCC’s 3rd AR (Assessment Report) of 2001, the graph was dropped from their 2007 4th AR.
Another chapter of The Deniers discusses the work of Richard Tol, one of the world’s leading environmental economists and an author for chapters from all three IPCC Working group contributions. A holder of multiple prestigious academic appointments, he was highly critical of the Stern Review on the Economists of Climate Change. Tol said that the Stern Report was a mishmash of bad mathematics and bad faith and had treated worst case scenarios with the unwarranted likelihood of being correct.
A lot of the alarmism connected with climate change is associated with the predictions of various climate modelling programs, sometimes referred to as GCMs (general circulation models). The Deniers contains a long chapter on the limits of predictability of these programs and how their simplifications do not begin to capture the complexity of climate processes. To quote Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most eminent physicists: ‘The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.’
Solomon notes that Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT, consultant to NASA and recipient of many professional society honours, testified that numerous problems had been found with the way the models treated clouds and water vapour, two very critical drivers of climate. He states: ‘It isn’t just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn’t happen even if the model results were right.’
One example of this was Lindzen’s observation that if the model results were correct, global warming would reduce temperature differences between the poles which would decrease rather than increase the energy in tropical storms.
Nevertheless, fuelled by Hurricane Katrina and several other storms in 2004, many doomsayers predicted an apocalyptic increase in the number and ferocity of hurricanes due to global warming. Dr Christopher Landsea, of the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological
Laboratory, one of the world’s top experts in hurricanes and a contributing author to the IPCC’s 2nd and 3rd ARs, disagreed
strongly because his work was showing the direct opposite. He resigned his involvement in the 4th IPCC report after the lead author of the chapter in which hurricanes were discussed had made a speech supporting the increased hurricane hypothesis. Solomon devotes several pages describing the efforts of Landsea, Lindzen and others to combat this falsely generated hysteria. These efforts eventually
succeeded, partially due to the failure of subsequent hurricane seasons to live up to prior billing. The latest IPCC Summary for
Policymakers stated: ‘There is no clear trend in the annual numbers of tropical cyclones’.
The Deniers discusses another of the apocalyptic predictions of AGW, the rise of sea levels and the concomitant flooding of
low-lying heavily populated areas. After analysing satellite data from 1992 to 2003, Prof. Duncan Wingham, director of the
NERC Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling and principal scientist of the European Space Agency Cryosat Satellite
Mission, found that there was a net growth of the Antarctic ice sheet of 5 mm per year.
This includes the well-publicised melting on the Antarctic Peninsula that juts so far to the north. Since Antarctica contains
about 90 percent of the world’s ice, the fact that it seems to be a sink rather than a source of sea water would indicate that
concerns of rising sea level are misplaced. Another headline issue discussed in The Deniers is the predicted catastrophic
spread of malaria and other mosquitoborne diseases with increasing temperature. Prof. Paul Reiter, head of the
Insects and Infectious Diseases Unit at the Pasteur Institute, chairman of the American Committee of Medical
Entomology and contributing author to the IPCC 3rd AR regards this as utterly without foundation. He notes that until the
second half of the 20th century, malaria was widespread throughout the world including Europe, the US, Siberia and with
major epidemics as far north as the Arctic Circle. Malaria was an important cause of death in England during the Little Ice Age
and only began to decline there in the 19th century when the present warming trend was well underway. It was largely
eliminated through the use of insecticides, anti-malarial drugs and sound public health and land management practices.
Reiter notes that the rapid recrudescence of mosquito-borne diseases is due to inept government public health policies and
resistance to insecticides and drugs. The Deniers features extensive discussions by prominent scientists of aspects of the
greenhouse effect of CO2. The technical details are difficult to summarise in a short book review but they include discussions
of atmosphere–ocean interactions, radiative transfer, ice core measurements and the lifetime of CO2 emissions in the
atmosphere. All basically conclude that cultural CO2 concentration has very little effect on global temperature. Several
prominent researchers note that the graph in An Inconvenient Truth showing a 600 000 year correlation between increased
atmospheric CO2 concentrations and rising temperature is somewhat dishonest in confusing cause and effect. Temperature
rise led rather than lagged the CO2 increase, typically by a few hundred to a thousand years. In the same vein, Dr Syun-
Ichi Akasofu points out that the dramatic fall in temperature from 1940 to 1970 doesn’t correlate with increasing CO2.
Moreover, the IPCC’s own models point to the irrelevance of CO2 as a driver of climate change because different
geographic regions were warming at different rates while others actually cooled.
Has the earth actually warmed during the 21st century? This is a contentious issue because of the problems associated with
trying to define an average global temperature, especially from ground-based measurements. Although 70% of the
earth’s surface is ocean, 90% of the ground-based measurement stations are on land. Moreover, as urban centres have
expanded, these are now disproportionately located near heat sources. The IPCC says that the data has been corrected for this but
this is contentious. By contrast, satellite temperature measurements, which can sample the entire globe, show a cooling
trend so far this century. Is this temporary or is it possible that the earth is starting to cool?
Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov the head of the Space Research Laboratory at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, a man
at the pinnacle of Russia’s space-oriented scientific establishment, is a strong critic of manmade CO2 as driving global
warming. The Deniers presents his observation that parallel global warmings on Mars and Earth can only be due to a
long term change in solar irradiance. He has identified a 200-year cycle in solar activity that has peaked and is now decreasing. He believes that a protracted cooling period will begin in the period 2012–15 leading to a deep freeze around 2055–60, similar to that of the Little Ice
Age. His hypothesis is now the focus of Russian experiments on the International Space Station. Project Astrometria has
been given high priority by the Russian and Ukrainian Academies of Science to try to identify the likely duration and depth of
the predicted global cooling period.
The effect of solar cycles on our climate goes beyond the total solar irradiance reaching Earth. Periods of high solar
activity result in high solar wind velocities and magnetic fields that shield us from the cosmic ray barrage from the rest of the
cosmos. This shielding attenuates significantly during periods of low activity.
The Deniers presents the science that links increased cosmic ray flux with global cooling because it promotes an increase in
low altitude cloud formation. As shown by Project SKY at the Danish National Space Centre, this happens because the passing
muons in the cosmic radiation release electrons that promote the formation of molecular clusters, the building blocks for
cloud condensation nuclei. A follow-on study of this crucial effect, the CLOUD experiment has been established at CERN,
with an interdisciplinary team of scientists from 18 institutes in nine countries,comprised of atmospheric physicists, solar
physicists, and cosmic-ray and particle physicists.
The Deniers is a fascinating journey through leading-edge climate research. The experts cited by Solomon are clearly
neither charlatans nor pandering to any particular funding channel. Rather, these eminent scientists present cogent reasons,
strongly supported by data, for questioning the accepted ‘truth’. One is left with astonishment and indignation that their
work is largely ignored by the media.
Second review of The Deniers by Geoff Davies for CSIRO Publishing (an independent science and technology publisher)
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that a US Senator once wished plaintively for ‘a ne-armed scientist’. The Senator was ired of hearing from cautious scientists
who would offer an opinion, but then say ‘On the other hand …’ Science does not deal in certainties. The ife of policy makers might be simpler if it id, but nothing else in life is certain so really they don’t have much reason to complain.
Perhaps the distinctive thing about scientists is that they are more often honest about uncertainties. Come to think of it a politician might not be able to comprehend that, and might therefore find it frustrating.
In my assessment this book carries messages at several levels. Level One is that it’s not proven that humans are the cause of global warming. Level Two is that
policy makers should not do anything about global warming unless and until it’s proven that we’re the cause. Level Three is that there is a conspiracy to suppress
debate about the causes of global warming.
I hesitate to put my view on Level One in writing, for fear it will appear out of context on the websites of sceptics. I think it is not proven that we are the main cause of global warming, but then I don’t think it can be proven rigorously that the sun will rise around the time my clock next says 6 am.
So to Level Two. A great deal of the public discussion of global warming concerns whether or not it is proven that we are the cause of it, and thereby a great deal of
mischief is done, because it should no longer be the issue preoccupying our policy makers. This may well seem contentious so I will explain. We have known for decades that the effect, if any, of our greenhouse gas emissions would be delayed by decades. Climate scientists have also assembled a long list of potential positive feedbacks that could be triggered by our emissions, any, some or all of which could swing our climate uncontrollably and irreversibly into a dramatically different state. Together, these points mean that if we are to act effectively to avoid human-caused global warming we have to act before we have a high level of confidence that we are the cause. Simply, if we wait that long it will be too late.
What to do? The only thing to do is to ask those most familiar with the climate for their considered professional judgement. We have that, and the message is very
clear: in the considered professional judgement of a large majority of climate scientists, it is 90% sure that we are ccausing global warming. That is not at all
the same thing as saying human-caused global warming is proven. It is a professional judgement on the state of the science. I think policy makers would be irresponsible to ignore a warning like that. They do have to consider the safety of their citizens.
Yes, there are plenty who argue the IPCC exaggerated this or that, or got the other thing wrong, and by now there are probably just as many, myself included, who think the IPCC was irresponsibly conservative and unduly influenced by political considerations. The IPCC is, after all, created by governments and its members are nominated by governments. Thus I think we must act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. At the very least it’s an insurance policy, and not a very expensive one. Even those economic modellers who are unsympathetic are only claiming that growth of GDP would be slowed by a percentage point or so, and other modellers suggest much less.
There are studies, frankly much more credible because they’re only summarising things already being done, that show we can cut a lot of our emissions for little or
no cost if we go about it the right way, which is to stop using energy so wastefully. For example, the McKinsey Institute estimates Australia can cut emissions by
20% by 2020 for zero net cost. In other words we’d be smart to do it anyway, regardless of global warming. Why, then, are the sceptics making such a fuss?
So we come to Level Three, the conspiracy. I think this charge has little going for it. I’ve been on the minority side of a major scientific dispute, so I’m personally acquainted with the frustration, but there’s nothing to do but keep plugging away. So my advice to the sceptics is, if you want to debate the science, then do it
in the scientific fora. If, on the other hand, you want to debate policy, then get clear what the issues are for policy makers.
So let the scientific debates continue, but do it in the responsible way. Sceptics who are out to prove a point actually have a strategic advantage. It’s relatively easy for one person to trawl through a scientific discipline and find diverse bits that challenge the prevailing view of the time. It’s much harder for one person to have the breadth and depth of knowledge to respond to the full range of questions raised. Thus it’s easy to sit on the sidelines sniping. It’s harder to reach a broadly well-informed view.
I’ll finish by mentioning one issue in the book that I happen to know about in more detail. In the record of glacial cycles CO2 fluctuations lag temperature fluctuations
by hundreds of years. This is claimed by sceptics to prove CO2 can’t be the cause of the current global warming. A study by Hogg (Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, doi:10.1029/2007GL032071, 2008) shows that in the glacial cycle CO2 is a major amplifier, accounting for the striking asymmetry of the fluctuations. But CO2 can cause a lot of warming on its own too. Thus there is no contradiction between CO2 lagging during the glacial cycle but leading in the present episode of warming.