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A Time to Deny

Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon talks to TAS about his new book, The Deniers, and the long, hard road of global warming skeptics.

By 4.18.08

There is no shortage of reasons to suspect the debate over manmade climate change has been woefully incomplete. After all, alarmists' primary response to critical components of their case disintegrating -- the "hockey stick" graph debunked, doomsday computer models exposed as farce, no actual temperature rise since 1998 -- has been to cackle condescendingly, emit ever-louder catcall comparisons to flat-earthers and Holocaust deniers, and respond to every call for debate with a declaration that...the debate is already over.

Knee-jerk demagoguery and a refusal to engage opponents are not typical hallmarks of a movement with facts on its side, as renowned Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon ably demonstrates in The Deniers, absolutely essential reading for those seeking to truly understand the intrigue and intellectual dishonestly that has thus far prevented a reasoned debate on the merits of climate change science -- which is, incidentally, anything but settled.

Solomon, who appears at a CEI Capitol Hill Book Forum on Friday, was kind enough to speak with TAS about The Deniers, free thought in science, and the environmental devastation that could potentially be wrought by global warming "solutions."

So, judged by your resume, you do not appear to be a right-wing reactionary moonlighting as an oil company stooge. How did a good soldier in the fight for environmental justice wind up in the company of such personae non gratae in your chosen field?

Lawrence Solomon: Environmental protection relied on sound science. If we allow science to become a tool for propaganda, the environment will ultimately suffer.

The Deniers began as research to fill a few of your National Post columns, and grew into something much larger. Were you shocked by the caliber and number of climate change skeptics you discovered?

LS: I didn't know what to expect, but I was pretty sure I would find at least a few top caliber scientists. I didn't expect to think, as I do now, that the majority of top scientists may be in the skeptic camp. The press has not been doing its job. Had it done even a minimal amount of fact checking and investigation it would have realized that the science is not settled.

Is the zeitgeist such that global warming skeptics simply don't have a shot at breaking through to the political mainstream?

LS: Most of the scientists I profiled aren't interested in becoming campaigners on climate change. They aren't policy wonks. They just want to do their science.

Granted. But with the stakes so high, is there any way scientists, like the remarkable individuals you profile in The Deniers, could better connect with the culture at large and somehow circumvent the hostile media?

LS: Most don't want to connect with culture at large. Some do, and these are working hard at it. I don't know what pathway they'll find to finally get through to society at large, but I have no doubt that they'll find it. Their ally, after all, is Truth, and that makes for a potent combination.

Do you believe, convinced of a "planetary emergency," global warming alarmists see themselves as justified in using whatever fear-mongering means necessary to move people to accept their solutions -- to join the side of the angels, as it were?

LS: Most environmentalists are sincere in their belief that climate change could bring catastrophe. They aren't being disingenuous.

Then again, you write of your experiences with skeptics who "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." Certainly the media deserves blame, but aren't some sincere environmentalists and scientists helping to squash legitimate debate, too?

LS: From the typical environmentalist's point of view, the debate isn't legitimate. They think that the science is settled, that the time for debate is over, that debate amounts to foot-dragging. But the environmental camp is split. Environmentalists in the Third World are not eager to see the Third World's destroyed to fulfill some Western environmental vision. I expect tensions to surface between these two camps.

Are pressing environmental issues being ignored because of the all-consuming fixation on global warming?

LS: Without question, many environmental harms are being ignored or exacerbated while society tries to address a global warming concern that may not exist.

One of the things you talk about in the book is the tendency of politicians to say, as John McCain frequently does, that we should somehow regulate carbon emissions because, to paraphrase, if global warming is real action will ensure we won't all drown in boiling oceans and if it isn't we'll basically have a cleaner planet. What's wrong with that?

LS: Kyoto is not benign environmentally. It is spawning destructive policies such as carbon offsets, which lead to the conversion of farmland and forests in the Third World to carbon-intensive eucalyptus plantations. Kyoto is also promoting uneconomic nuclear plants and hydro-dams, which flood fertile river valleys upon which millions of people in the Third World depend. In McCain's case, and probably Lieberman's, a chief motivation for their support for emissions reduction is national security. They see climate change as a weapon in their arsenal. They hope climate change reforms will reduce Western dependence on potentially hostile oil exporting nations such as Russia and Iran, and at the same time weaken their despotic regimes economically.

As someone with years of experience in the trenches, what do you see as the global warming endgame?

LS: If climate change science doesn't turn around and soon demonstrate concrete evidence of harm, the global warming issue might well just melt away. I have met very few people who have strong convictions about global warming. In their bones, they don't believe the end of the world is nigh.

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