The Nation Post‘s Lawrence Solomon has been writing a series of articles falsely casting scientists such as Nigel Weiss and Sami Solanki as deniers. His latest target: Roger Revelle:

Then in 1991, Dr. Revelle wrote an article for Cosmos, a scientific journal, with two illustrious colleagues, Chauncey Starr, founding director of the Electric Power Research Institute and Fred Singer, the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite. Entitled “What to do about greenhouse warming: Look before you leap,” the article argued that decades of research could be required for the consequences of increased carbon dioxide to be understood, and laid out the harm that could come of acting recklessly: “Drastic, precipitous and, especially, unilateral steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective. Stringent controls enacted now would be economically devastating, particularly for developing countries for whom reduced energy consumption would mean slower rates of economic growth without being able to delay greatly the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Three months after the Cosmos article appeared, Dr. Revelle died of a heart attack. One year later, with Al Gore running for vice-president in the 1992 presidential election, the inconsistency between Gore’s pronouncements — he claimed that the “science was settled” then, too — and those of his mentor became national news. Gore responded with a withering attack, leading to claims that Dr. Revelle had become senile before his death, that Dr. Singer had duped Dr. Revelle into co-authoring the article, and that Dr. Singer had listed Dr. Revelle as a co-author over his objections. The sordid accusations ended in a defamation suit and an abject public apology in 1994 from Gore’s academic hit man, a prominent Harvard scientist, who revealed his unsavory role and that of Gore in the fabrications against Dr. Singer and Dr. Revelle.

This is, of course, untrue. See Eli Rabett here and here and all the details from Justin Lancaster here.

I also looked up some articles from the 90s to give an idea on Revelle’s views:

20 February 1990 The Dallas Morning News

“We have a very strong belief that the climate will get significantly warmer over the next 50 years because of the increase in concentrations of so-called greenhouse gases,’ said Roger Revelle of the University of California at San Diego, chairman of the science association’s climate committee.

“This will have a profound effect on water resources in the United States, particularly in the arid West,’ said Mr. Revelle, a founder of greenhouse science in the 1950s.

Global Warming: What My Father Really Said,
Carolyn Revelle Hufbauer, 13 September 1992,
The Washington Post.

Contrary to George Will’s “Al Gore’s Green Guilt” {op-ed, Sept. 3} Roger Revelle – our father and the “father” of the greenhouse effect – remained deeply concerned about global warming until his death in July 1991. That same year he wrote: “The scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.” Will and other critics of Sen. Al Gore have seized these words to suggest that Revelle, who was also Gore’s professor and mentor, renounced his belief in global warming.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When Revelle inveighed against “drastic” action, he was using that adjective in its literal sense – measures that would cost trillions of dollars. Up until his death, he thought that extreme measures were premature. But he continued to recommend immediate prudent steps to mitigate and delay climatic warming. Some of those steps go well beyond anything Gore or other national politicians have yet to advocate.

Revelle never failed to point out that there are both established facts and remaining uncertainties about greenhouse warming.

“We’re clearly going to have a rise in temperature in the next 100 years because of … greenhouse gasses … {but} we don’t know how big it is going to be,” Revelle said in a videotaped interview with University of California at San Diego biologist Paul Saltman in December 1990. “We can’t say whether the temperature rise will be 2 or 10 degrees.”

While avoiding the word “catastrophe,” Revelle argued that the long-term effect of the predicted warmingwould be “quite serious because of the effect on water resources. … We’re likely to get a large continental area, particularly in the interior of the North American continent, where it gets drier and drier and drier.” He also thought that a small probability of an extremely adverse event, a 10-degree temperature rise, warranted serious action now.

So in recent speeches and writings, he recommended several kinds of action, including:

Change the mix of fossil fuels to use more methane and less coal and oil. “Combustion of methane produces about twice as much energy per gram of carbon dioxide as does the combustion of coal, and about 50 percent more than combustion of oil. It is also a clean, relatively non-polluting fuel. We need to expand greatly and to conserve the world reserves of methane, particularly those of the United States.” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, February 1990.)

Conserve energy. Revelle advocated conserving energy by using the price mechanism (the polluter pays principle) – for example, by increasing the tax on gasoline (Cosmos, 1991). In private, he often spoke of a $1.00 a gallon tax as eminently reasonable, not “drastic.” Who was the last national politician to advocate a $1.00 gasoline tax?

Use non-fossil energy sources. In the Saltman interview, Revelle reiterated: “I want to see us cut down on use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – especially coal … a nasty, dangerous substance.” He advocated instead nuclear energy, which he argued has been safely generated in France because of good engineers and a single design. Again, the switch from coal to nuclear energy was, to Revelle, not a “drastic” step. But who was the last national politician to speak a good word for nuclear energy? Or a bad word for coal? Revelle also recommended that we develop biomass energy from trees, plants and agricultural wastes.

Sequester carbon in trees. Revelle noted favorably President Bush’s proposal to plant a billion trees a year for the next 10 years, which could accumulate substantial amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Revelle would have been happy to see public spending of several billion dollars annually to promote tree growth worldwide.

All of us remember our father’s frustration at the White House award ceremony in November 1990, when he received the National Medal of Science. Told he would sit next to John Sununu, a well known advocate of the “wait and see” approach, he was delighted at the prospect of bending Sununu’s ear. When Sununu failed to appear, Revelle was disappointed, saying, “I had hoped to tell him what a dim view I take of the administration’s environmental policies.”

Roger Revelle proposed a range of approaches to address global warming. Inaction was not one of them. He agreed with the adage “look before you leap,” but he never said “sit on your hands.”

The writer was assisted in the preparation of this article by other members of her family: her mother, Ellen, her sisters, Anne Shumway and Mary Paci, and her brother, William Roger Revelle.

Comments

  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    May 1, 2007

    You win the RTFR medal with a bunch of carrots! A quick note, the two to ten degrees above is almost certainly Fahrenheit, which would make it something like 1 to 5 C

  2. #2 Thom
    May 1, 2007

    I’m completely gobsheit stupid! It appears that Lawrence Solomon is actually beneath Fred Singer. I don’t know how that’s physically possible.

    Singer would screw a snake, if he could get that low to ground.

  3. #3 Thom
    May 1, 2007

    Another concern troll from Kevin Vranes at Prometheus. I wonder if the journalists will come calling this time. More than likely, he’ll just get a bit of attention from right-wing blogs.

  4. #4 Coin
    May 1, 2007

    Here’s the part I find funny:

    in 1991… the article argued that decades of research could be required for the consequences of increased carbon dioxide to be understood

    So therefore now, 1.6 decades later…

  5. #5 SCM
    May 1, 2007

    People forget how much the science has moved on since the early 90′s. While many climate scientists were concerned about the prospect of climate change there was still some debate as to whether the warming signal was clearly visible beyond typical variability. I remember the a talk given in our department by a top guy from the UK Met office a few years later, in the mid 90s when he said that it was at last unequivocal that the observed warming signal was “no longer within the error bars”.

    Revelle’s views seem right on the money for a concerned scientist at the time.

  6. #6 Joel Shore
    May 2, 2007

    Coin: Or even funnier than that, when the article quotes Revelle’s 1988 letter to a Congressman saying “My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways.”

    So, it’s now been 19 years…and the science had advanced and the temperature has risen quite a lot in the intervening years! (According to the CRU temperature record, 1988 was the warmest year in the instrumental record up to that time. However, it has since been exceeded by all but 5 of the 19 years since then…and, in fact, all of the last 10 years.)

  7. #7 Rich Puchalsky
    May 2, 2007

    Solomon can’t really be below Fred Singer. Doesn’t actually taking advantage of someone at their deathbed count as being comparatively worse than writing propaganda that smears them after they’re dead?

    If I understood Eli Rabett’s posts correctly, the Cosmos article is the one for which Revelle’s only written notation was a correction of the average warming in the next century from one to a range of one to three degrees, and that correction was never used. Is that right?