Book review: The Deniers

B.P. Terpstra
tcsdaily.com (Technology/Commerce/Society)
January 8, 2009

There appears to be a great spiritual thirst for predicting great catastrophes. I call it Armageddon chic. In Lawrence Solomon‘s 2008 book, The Deniers, however, we hear from a good many moderate voices. There are no sensational prophecies, but there are many reasons to take a deep yoga breath.

Here are four:

Notably, the former chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Sciences, Dr. Edward Wegman, for example, exposed the “hockey stick” rot behind the catastrophic global warming narrative, in spite of attacks from all directions.

The president of the International Commission on Polar Meteorology, Dr. David Bromwich openly believes that “it’s hard to see a global warming signal from the mainland of Antarctica right now.”

The chief of Insects and Infectious Diseases, Prof. Paul Reiter from the influential Pasteur Institute acknowledges that Al Gore’s stated view that “global” warming catastrophes and “mosquito-borne diseases” are partners is not taken seriously in specialist circles.

And, not surprisingly, the director of research, from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Prof. Hendrik Tennekes, maintains that “there exists no sound theoretical framework for climate predictability studies” to justify catastrophic warming forecasts.

The Deniers also calls readers to think outside the so-called consensus box. Is there really a consensus on the consensus? And, if so, how wise is it to present science as a show of hands? In it, Solomon, a Canadian columnist raises the issue of politics in all of this. Page 183: “Headline horrors make great scapegoats. There’s no more egregious or vicious example than governments using global warming to cover up their own failures to prevent the resurgence of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

The dynamics of the global warming issue are changing, too. From Jimmy Carter’s campaign against “global cooling” and his faith in the National Climate Program Act to Hollywood’s An Inconvenient Truth, Solomon’s text is also a cautionary tale about embracing extreme theories. But rather than deleting historical records, and simply inserting ourselves in a catastrophic motion picture, The Deniers also attempts to draw our attention to the big-picture arguments.

Page 171: “For millions of years, the geologic record shows, Earth has experienced an ongoing cycle of ice ages, each typically lasting about 100,000 years, and punctured by brief, warmer periods called interglacials, such as we are now in,” Solomon argues. “The current period of global warming actually constitutes additional indication of the ice age to come.” Thus, there is no reason to blame the “evil” robber barons. Or live like Hobbits.

With so much talk about the role of politics in business (an important argument, no doubt), it’s no wonder so many of us forget just how political the “independent” United Nations and other public intuitions are. And, where, pray tell is the infamous hockey stick today? Page 21: “The IPCC has dropped it from the Summary for Policymakers for its 2007 Report,” notes Solomon. “But the hockey stick did its main work years ago and is still very widely cited by advocates of the science-is-settled position.”

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