Lawrence Solomon: Solomon’s uncanny scorecard

(December 18, 2015) Lawrence Solomon gives himself a performance assessment and it’s “pretty good”.

From climate change to foreign policy, this contrarian columnist has a pretty good track record as a predictor of key developments, if he does say so himself. Credit: National Post.

From climate change to foreign policy, this contrarian columnist has a pretty good track record as a predictor of key developments, if he does say so himself. Credit: National Post.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post

Let me now praise Lawrence Solomon. That might be a little too much for some readers, but looking back over the last few years it seems to me the man has a pretty good track record as a predictor of key developments, often based on positions that contradicted the conventional wisdom.

Last January, for example, he wrote on this page that in 2015 “the cause of global warming will continue to lose ground … the public will again yawn at the faithful’s threats of the coming apocalypse and politicians will again pay lip service to global warming while kissing renewables subsidies goodbye.”

As risible as Solomon’s suggestions seemed at the time, the unfathomable reality is that today just such a situation is occurring

Lip service was certainly on offer in the much hyped climate talks in Paris earlier this month, where world leaders unanimously mouthed their commitment to climate change reforms while agreeing to not one – zero, zilch, nada – of the binding CO2 reduction commitments that the warmists had set their hearts on. The U.K. was especially adept at kissing-off the warmists, cheerfully cancelling a slew of renewable energy projects and a £1 billion carbon capture project just days before the start of the Paris talks. For good measure, the U.K. also slashed 200 jobs at its Department of Energy and Climate Change, slashed home conservation subsidies by 83 per cent, announced that renewables no longer warranted subsidies, unveiled a massive natural gas power program and declared that it was going “all-out for shale.”

Other countries also didn’t think it necessary to wait until the Paris talks passed before taking renewables off life support. This year’s most spectacular debacle came in Spain where renewable energy firm Abengoa, failing to get the bailout it needed, began insolvency proceedings for what is expected to become Spain’s biggest bankruptcy in history. Its international lenders are at risk for some US$21 billion.

The world’s leaders offered nothing beyond lip service in Paris because – as poll after poll showed – they knew their constituents at home couldn’t care less. A massive BBC poll of 20,000 people spanning 20 countries, released three days before the Paris talks began, underlined the general apathy among the publics of the world. In 17 of the 20 countries, support for action on climate change declined over what it had been at the previous highly hyped climate conference, in Copenhagen in 2009. All told, only 42 per cent of those surveyed in 2015 considered climate change “very serious,” down from 63 per cent in 2009. In only four countries did a majority want their leaders to so much as “play a leadership role” and even then, support was tepid – in Canada, one of the four, just 53 per cent favoured this role-playing.

Last January, Solomon also said that “As renewables lose momentum in 2015, fossil fuels will gain it.” This gain is evident in China’s and India’s torrid coal expansion plans, in the Mediterranean’s emergence as a magnificent pool of energy, in the rise of fracking, and in America’s status as the world’s largest oil and gas producer. With a world awash in oil and gasoline prices plunging, pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers are back in vogue, enabling Americans to resume their love of the road: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions per new-vehicle driver are up 5 per cent over 2014 levels, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

One final energy prediction involved the Keystone XL pipeline. In March 2014, most Americans including most Democrats favoured approving Keystone, the U.S. State Department had given Keystone the all-clear, and the overwhelming consensus among pundits had Obama approving Keystone. Solomon took the opposite view, on the logic that a post-president Obama would prefer to chill with his anti-Keystone Hollywood friends than with his hardhat pro-Keystone union backers. Last month, prior to the Paris talks, Obama confirmed his preference.

Solomon’s many foreign policy predictions in recent years have also stood up well. Putin did not annex eastern Ukraine –  this was widely seen as imminent and as a fait accomplis in 2014, following Crimea’s decision to join Russia – and Western governments, the U.S. and French among them, now see Putin as an ally against terrorism, as Solomon argued they should. His predictions on the breakup of Syria into its constituent parts, once scoffed at, have become conventional wisdom in foreign policy circles. As Al Jazeera put it, “As early as 2011, a particularly frank prescription for the future of Syria was given by Lawrence Solomon, who called for a radical redrawing of the country’s borders … As risible as Solomon’s suggestions seemed at the time, the unfathomable reality is that today just such a situation is occurring –  as analysts dispassionately discuss the possibility of an independent Alawite state in Lattakia and the fragmenting of the rest of the country into separate portions for Kurds, Sunnis, Shias, and the many other ethnic and religious groups which once made up the diverse tapestry of modern Syria.”

Will Solomon continue his uncanny string of successes in 2016? There’s only one way to find out. Look for his column each week in this space and you’ll be the first to know.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe. Email Larry at: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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