Skepticism denied: one writer found out the hard way how sensitive the scientific community is when it comes to climate change.IT only took 10 columns of a 26-part series for writer Lawrence Solomon to get himself into trouble. The executive director of the Urban Renaissance Urban renaissance is a term used to describe the recent period of repopulation and regeneration of many British cities, including, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, and parts of London after a period of suburbanisation during the mid-20th century. Institute was profiling global warming global warming, the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. "deniers," those scientists who reject the view that climate change is man-made. But in the seventh installment, he hit a nerve. The column profiled Nigel Weiss Nigel Oscar Weiss (born South Africa, 16 December 1936) is an astronomer and mathematician, and leader in the field of astrophysical and geophysical fluid dynamics. , a Cambridge astrophysicist. The firestorm that followed is raising red flags for anyone questioning which way the scientific wind is blowing when it comes to climate change.
Solomon says he deliberately chose the provocative term "deniers" to label the people he profiled, because he felt it was a tongue-in-cheek way to suggest that those who question the line on climate change are shunned from society, as are those who deny the Holocaust. "There is a tarring of scientists who question the science as being agents of the oil industry or somehow ill-motivated," he says. Fear of such treatment fuelled a passionate outcry from Weiss that Solomon says was beyond reason.
Weiss was exactly the type of distinguished expert Solomon liked to profile. He first found out about Weiss in a September article written by journalist Stuart Clark Stuart Rupert Clark (born 28 September 1975, Sutherland, New South Wales) is an Australian Test cricketer who plays for the New South Wales Blues and Hampshire. He bowls right-arm fast medium deliveries. for the New Scientist. The article focused on a group of scientists, Weiss among them, who forecast a new era of global cooling
Global cooling in general can refer to a cooling of the Earth. brought on by the sun. The article held that global warming will be offset by the sun's cooling effects. Weiss says, "Although the direct quotes in that article of what I said were accurate, the rest of the article reflected Clark's opinions and not mine."
But Solomon picked up on the theme in his Jan. 12 National Post column, in which he said that Weiss agreed climate change science was "anything but settled." Solomon says he e-mailed Weiss prior to writing the article, but received no response from the scientist.
After reading the column, Weiss sent a letter to the National Post stating that Solomon's portrayal of him was a "slanderous fabrication fabrication (fab´rikā´shn),
n the construction or making of a restoration. ," that he did believe the current warming of the Earth is caused by greenhouse gases, and that "global temperatures will rise much further unless steps are taken to stop the burning of fossil fuels." His letter also said that compared to these effects, the sun's cooling would be "unimportant, however interesting it may be to astrophysicists An astrophysicist is a person who professionally studies and conducts research in astrophysics. Famous astrophysicists
Solomon's editor at the Post, Terence Corcoran Terence Corcoran (born 1942) is editor and columnist for the Financial Post section of the Toronto-based National Post. His editorials tend to favour market-based solutions and a reduced role for government. , published the letter and says, "We only got the letter three weeks after the column appeared. Curiously, it appeared the same day the [International Panel on Climate Change] released its report."
Also on the same day, Cambridge took the unusual step of issuing a press release clarifying Weiss's views, saying the "reports" that Dr. Weiss thought solar cooling would outweigh global warming were untrue.
Solomon says he was "perplexed" by Weiss's letter and e-mailed him a second time, again with no response. "I thought the letter was inconsistent with the New Scientist article," he says. On Feb. 9, Solomon wrote another of his "deniers" columns in which he mentioned that Weiss "denies being a denier de·ni·er 1
One that denies: a denier of harsh realities.
Noun ," and quoted Weiss's complaint about having been misrepresented.
Then Corcoran received a libel notice, which he suspects was the fallout of a blog entry by Richard Littlemore, a speechwriter speech·writ·er
One who writes speeches for others, especially as a profession.
speechwrit and freelance journalist. Littlemore posted on DeSmogBlog, a climate change website led by Jim Hoggan, chair of the Suzuki Foundation, that Weiss had been "defamed," which had caused him "a good deal of embarrassment among serious scientists."
Upon receiving the notice, the Post wrote an "Apology to Dr. Weiss," which now appears atop Solomon's columns about Weiss in databases and online. For its part, DeSmogBlog was satisfied, saying the Post "deserved some credit" for its apology, even if it took an "inexcusably long time to write." Weiss seems satisfied, as well, saying that the "false description of my views" was corrected by an "apology and retraction In the law of Defamation, a formal recanting of the libelous or slanderous material.
Retraction is not a defense to defamation, but under certain circumstances, it is admissible in Mitigation of Damages. Cross-references
Libel and Slander. , following legal action on my part."
But for Corcoran and Solomon, the incident is a troublesome example of academic intolerance. Corcoran says there "are signs [Weiss] was under pressure," and Solomon goes further: "This is chilling. It stifles debate. It shows what happens if you dissent in the scientific community."