Deniers still ranting like street-corner prophets

Peter Jackson pjackson@thetelegram.com
Published on May 15, 2013

You have to wonder what the weather is like over at the National Post.

While the rest of the world continues to warm at an unprecedented rate, the forecast at Canada's No. 2 national paper hasn't changed in years: dense fog with scattered drivel.

I refer, specifically, to the unscientific ramblings of one Lawrence Solomon, the climate change denier primarily famous for writing a book about other climate change deniers.

Not everyone at the Post seems to be breathing the same air. Columnist Andrew Coyne certainly seems to understand the science behind global warming. Not so Lorne Gunter and Rex Murphy.

Murphy, Newfoundland's home-grown truth-stomper, loves to take on climate science. In Murphy's world, climate is best gauged by sticking one's hand out the car window.

In his column last week, Murphy takes an easy potshot at Al Gore, emulating countless other skeptics who specialize in shooting the messenger. Al Gore is a hypocritical and irrelevant, he says.

Murphy blasts The Globe and Mail for running a feature on Gore. What he doesn't realize is that the piece is an anomaly.

The only people who harp on Al Gore these days are the deniers. Most of us have moved on since then.

But it is Lawrence Solomon's relentless rain dance around the facts that really galls.

A case in point: an April blog post singling out one isolated statistic about Arctic ice cover from one isolated point in April.

"Yesterday, April 14, the Arctic had more sea ice than it had on April 14, 1989 - 14.511 million square kilometres vs. 14.510 million square kilometres, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) of the United States, an official source," wrote Solomon.

Well, whoopity do dah.

In fact, the NSIDC reported that peak winter ice in the Arctic was reached a full month earlier, on March 15.

"This year's maximum ice extent was the sixth lowest in the satellite record (the lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011)," the centre reported. "The 10 lowest maximums in the satellite record have occurred in the last 10 years (2004 to 2013)."

The beginning of the ice melt stalled briefly in early April, triggering the one insignificant piece of data Solomon picked up.

Solomon cites another statistic that's a little harder to track down: "Over the last two months, more of the Arctic has been frozen over on average for this time of year than during the decade starting 2000."

His source, a website called Arctic Sea-Ice Monitor, is credible, but the statistic he derives from it is elusive.

He makes no mention of summer melts, which continue to set records every year. Nor does he say anything about the difference between old ice and new seasonal ice. In short, Solomon doesn't seem to have any grasp of statistical trends and how they work.

Worse, he and Murphy, among others, seem confused about the difference between climate and weather.

Here's a refresher course: weather is a snow storm; climate is the long-term trend of snowstorms combined with every other weather event.

And here's another truly sad thing. Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver reportedly doesn't pay much attention to advice from real scientists.

In an open letter last week to the minister, Jim Hoggan of DeSmog Canada noted how, in a recent scrum, Oliver cited scientists who consider global warming fears to be "exaggerated" - yet he couldn't name one of them.

"It turns out one of your key information sources is controversial author Lawrence Solomon, a climate-change denier who, by the way, isn't a scientist," Hoggan wrote.

Mind you, this is the same minister overseeing possible oil exploration in an ice-free Arctic.

You can't make this stuff up.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.