When heralded Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon first set out two years ago — on a bet, no less — to find credible dissenters to the well-entrenched climate change dogma, he thought he might perhaps unearth enough material for a few National Post columns. Instead, like Alice passing through the looking glass, Mr. Solomon entered a world wherein it soon became clear the much-ballyhooed idea of a “scientific consensus” was as nonsensical as “Jabberwocky.”
“I had picked several of the most essential and/or most widely publicized ‘building blocks’ of the case for catastrophic global warming,” Mr. Solomon writes. “In each case, not only was I able to find a truly eminent, world-renowned leader in the field who disputed the point in question, but in each case the denier had more authority, sometimes far more authority, than those who put forward the building block in the first place.”
The debate over anthropogenic — that is, human induced — climate change, is, in other words, just a bit more complicated than Al Gore suggested on “Oprah.” Few books have captured this cognitive dissonance as well as “The Deniers,” Mr. Solomon’s essential, engrossing travelogue through the world of climate-change dissent.
In “The Deniers”’ deniers are not the usual suspects paraded out by a media eager for Scopes Monkey Trial II: Flat Earthers’ Revenge. They aren’t blustery, ill-informed television pundits or slash-and-burn polemicists.
Rather, Mr. Solomon introduces us to legendary scientists with impeccable resumes and prestigious appointments at major universities and mainstream research institutes; thoughtful, serious professionals who, at their own professional peril, looked at one or another of the shibboleths of global warming alarmism — from the debunked “hockey stick” graphic and misread ice core samples to the amateurish or incorrect computer models and fear-mongering — and bravely refused to join the herd, profitable as that may be these days.
Likewise, Mr. Solomon’s own position as founder and executive director of the well-regarded international environmental group Energy Probe makes it considerably more difficult for opponents to shellac him as a right-wing reactionary moonlighting as an oil company stooge — though, of course, no slander has been proven entirely off limits for demagogues who believe they are the Jack Bauers incarnate in a special environmental doomsday season of 24. (“There’s no time for debate, Chloe, we’ve got to regulate now!”) Witness “60 Minutes” reporter Scott Pelly’s answer when queried as to why his reports featured no global warming skeptics: “If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?”
So who, exactly, has convened the conspiracy of silence Mr. Solomon is now attempting to shatter with “The Deniers?” Well, it’s … complicated. As the author would learn, many highly-qualified scientists who question even some small aspect of the global warming orthodoxy “don’t want to be found at all and try very hard not to appear as dissenters. They have no wish to be called names in the press, or to lose their jobs, or to have their funding cut off as many deniers have.”
Beyond the disturbing issue of self-censorship, however, stand those for whom the sexy business of saving the world is much too gratifying to bother with any credible contrarianism. Who wants to just live on an ever-changing planet when one could be a mini-Zeus lording over all the elements? Thus, even a balanced scientific report can end up resembling a lost quatrain from the Book of Revelation in the hands of regulation-happy politicians and reporters with small paychecks and large hero complexes.
Never mind that, as Mr. Solomon demonstrates to great effect in the closing pages of “The Deniers,” the practical effect of popular climate change regulation schemes will likely be old-growth forests in Third World countries felled to make way for profitable “carbon intensive plantations.” (“Every time we buy carbon offsets to salve our consciences at flying in a jet,” Mr. Solomon writes, “we are helping to dispossess someone, somewhere, by boosting the carbon credit value of their land.”) Forget that bio-fuel fads are pricing the world’s poor out of sustenance. Ignore the myriad other environmental problems that could be addressed with the resources eaten up to solve a problem that very well may not exist.
“The Deniers” is a timely, necessary antidote to a political and scientific discussion poisoned by hubristic groupthink and the kind of scorched earth (mis)behavior that inevitably arises when a movement becomes so uncritically wedded to the commandments of a pseudo-religion its adherents would rather destroy their adversaries than risk debating them.
Shawn Macomber is a contributing editor to The American Spectator.