An unfortunate byproduct of the arguments over climate change has been the publication of some truly awful books. Think tank staff members, disgruntled scientists, and self-appointed experts have produced page after page of arguments we knew were wrong decades ago, framing them as earth-shattering revelations that will cause the entire scientific community to collapse. It wouldn’t be news if another one was produced.
But it was intriguing when I saw that a print ad was proudly trumpeting a “new” book that promised to explain “why there is ZERO evidence linking carbon dioxide to climate change.” The intrigue arose from the fact that the book’s author has been dead for over two years.
A quick search revealed that the supposedly new book was a not-quite-new edition of one originally published in 1997. Figuring out why it was being advertised now took me down a rabbit hole of domain registrations and paid newsletters that all led back to an unexpected source: Newsmax, best known for operating one of the Trumpier broadcasting outfits in the US.
Dead author, zombie ideas
The book in question is Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, and its author is Fred Singer. Singer was involved in the use of the US’s first weather satellites, but he’s most famous for being one of the merchants of doubt from the book of the same name. From secondhand smoke to climate change, Singer saw pretty much every environmental threat as being overhyped, all of them excuses for the government to throttle private enterprise with regulations.
Cold Science is pretty standard fare for the climate denialism industry. Its summary on Amazon claims there’s no sign of a crisis, the science is weak, and warming would actually do positive things were it to actually happen (but remember, it won’t).
When it was first published in 1997, there were some significant uncertainties regarding our understanding of the present warming trend. But by 2021, when the third edition was published, most of those doubts were gone. Any temporary trends in temperatures or ice level that enabled residual arguments had long since ended, and extensive studies had shrunk a lot of the remaining uncertainties considerably. The book didn’t need a slightly revised edition; it needed to be completely rewritten or simply discarded.
And Singer wasn’t the person to make those sorts of changes—because he had died in a nursing home a year earlier.
Down the rabbit hole
So it was surprising to hear that someone took out a large print ad offering to send people free copies of Cold Science under the bold title “Global Warming Hoax.” Yet there it was in the Tulsa World, the daily newspaper for Tulsa, Oklahoma. The paper’s staff confirmed that it had appeared in print. The ad featured all the usual climate denialism tropes: references to “decades of questionable scientific data,” accusations that warnings are about controlling how we live, proclamations that there is “ZERO evidence linking carbon dioxide to climate change,” and so forth.
Readers could get the book for free, excepting a “small shipping and handling fee.”
The ad gave no clue about who was behind it; it had been placed by a New York City agency. All it offered was a URL—located at the domain ColdScience611.com—to order the book. A quick check of the domain revealed that it had only been activated last year and that the organization that registered it was a familiar one: Newsmax Media.
For those not in the US, Newsmax is notable for running a “news” channel that was extremely pro-Trump and blithely repeated many of his debunked claims about election fraud. The false claims came to a halt when the station was sued by two voting machine companies. The suits caused Newsmax to disavow its own coverage on air and later led to one of its anchors fleeing the studio when a guest started making false claims about fraud.
Things got stranger still when the original ColdScience611 immediately redirected my browser to a page at w3.ultimatewealthreport.com—also registered by Newsmax but first activated a decade ago. “Ultimate Wealth” doesn’t seem to have an obvious connection to climate change, but there’s Cold Science again—and the standard hyped verbiage, including a promise that “in the next few moments, you’ll discover why ‘global warming’ may be the BIGGEST HOAX promoted throughout the world for the past 40 years.”
This time, there was a name attached to it: Tom Luongo.