Dr. Singer, Meet Mr. Michaels

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • Carl Pope Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

San Francisco, CA -- The global warming sceptics don't seem to feel a particular need to get their story straight. A few months ago when the IPCC report finally ended the scientific debate, CATO's leading global warming denier, Dr. Patrick Michaels (yes, he's a PhD too, but the headline needed its rhythm) of the University of Virginia, glibly commented, "There is very little in it that is scientifically new ... it will report with increasing certitude that humans are responsible for most of the surface warming that began in the mid-1970's. That's been pretty obvious for years ... for more than a century it has been known that increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide will lead to a warming of surface temperatures...."

Now another scientist left calling for inaction, Fred Singer, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, has put out a book with a very different story line -- that global warming is a phenomenon which occurs every 1500 years because of natural geological cycles. This version of the science is, of course, completely incompatible with Michaels', although many of the think tanks and reactionary politicians who are scoffing at the scientific consensus regularly quote them both in the same breath.

What is perhaps most interesting about Singer's book is the tenor of the reviews it receives on Amazon -- they are overwhelmingly positive, but this is not as strange as it seems, since Amazon also tells you what else people who bought this book are reading: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism) by Christopher C. Horner; Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming by Patrick J. Michaels; America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It by Mark Steyn; Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media by Patrick J. Michaels; and The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion by Robert Spencer. Note that the same people who are so impressed with Singer's view that global warming is not caused by CO2 are enamored of Michael's view that of course it is, but who cares.

What's important to understand is that there is a subset of the public, even the reading public (as opposed to the Limbaugh public) that consumes a diet of works that steadily frame global warming as a myth and American unilateralism as the only source of safety. Bush's popularity ratings probably can't fall much further, because he has this hard base -- as does Big Carbon.