Lawrence Solomon: Trump’s new climate committee could welcome the world’s smartest global-warming skeptics

(March 1, 2019) Make way for the scientific misfits and incompetents the press has castigated for putting the planet in peril by questioning climate change.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, was first published by the National Post

For decades, the world has heard from the so-called “97 per cent” of scientists said to believe that the planet faces an existential threat from global warming. Soon, through the Presidential Committee on Climate Security that the White House is today contemplating, we may be hearing from “the deniers” said to populate the other three per cent — i.e., the scientific misfits and incompetents that the press has castigated for putting the planet in peril by questioning climate change.

Some misfits, some incompetents. The head of the committee would be William Happer, currently a senior director at the National Security Council who oversaw a US$3-billion research budget in the first Bush administration as Director of Energy Research in the Department of Energy. In Happer’s academic career as a professor at Columbia and Princeton universities, he published some 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and became a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Happer is also past president of the CO2 Coalition, a non-profit that he co-founded following research by him and others that found CO2 to be a boon for the environment. As put by the CO2 Coalition’s website: “the recent increase in CO2 levels has had a measurable, positive effect on plant life. Future CO2 increases will boost farm productivity, improve drought resistance, bolster food security and help create a greener, lusher planet.”

Trump’s plan to expose both sides of the global warming debate is back

Other “deniers” reportedly being considered for the commission include Richard S. Lindzen, emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of both the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a recipient of the Jule Charney award for “highly significant research” in the atmospheric sciences from the American Meteorological Society. Lindzen’s pioneering research in atmospheric dynamics debunked the notion of disastrous climate change. Also under consideration is Judith Curry, past chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, who argues that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the chief fount of climate dogma — should be disbanded. And John Christy, notable for discounting a large role for humans in climate change and for co-developing a record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, for which he received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.

Other skeptics of the prevailing climate orthodoxy who would be qualified to round out the commission include Michael Griffin, the former head of NASA, Princeton’s Freeman Dyson, arguably America’s most famous scientist, and Edward Wegman, a past chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences. Statistics are important because many claims in the global warming debate — such as the IPCC’s infamous “hockey stick” that purported to show unprecedented increases in temperatures in the 20th century — are based on statistical models. It was Wegman’s testimony before a congressional committee that established the statistical incompetence of the hockey stick’s authors. Their model was so flawed that it would produce a hockey-stick shape regardless of the data used as inputs — keying in baseball stats would produce a hockey-stick shape.

In truth, many if not most of the world’s highly prestigious scientists are skeptics. They can afford to be, either because they are retired and no longer dependent on government grants for their livelihood, or because their reputation protects them from attack. Not so for the majority, mediocre in talent or not, who depend on government grants. Even in the era of Donald Trump, they know their papers won’t be published, and their careers will be shortened, if they dare to defy the global warming orthodoxy.

That orthodoxy remains especially strong among the political class — it’s a supertanker that President Trump can’t quickly turn around. In 2017, he planned to test the scientific consensus on climate change by staging a televised “red team, blue team” debate, only to have it scotched by critics, particularly former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who dismissed the argument that public discourse would benefit from open and transparent presentation of competing views. With Kelly gone, the idea of exposing the public to both sides of the global warming debate is back in the form of a President’s Committee on Climate Security, but like climate science itself, this committee’s future is not yet settled, perpetuating the myth that 97 per cent of scientists agree that CO2 imperils the planet.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Toronto-based Energy ProbeLawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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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