February 01, 2005

Global Warming: Crisis or Fad?

Michael Crichton writes a mean story, as witnessed by his suspense filled Jurassic Park. He is one of the premier novelists using scientific facts to weave a compelling story and he often teaches his readers just a little bit about the science that he writes about via the stories he tells.

Too bad that his latest novel has been written to make the case that global warming is not something we need to worry our pretty little heads over. His novel skews all those silly scientists that are trying to convince the public and the politicians that global warming is a real problem. He lays out all the "facts" of why the scientists are wrong (isn't it true that some places have experienced a lower temperature in the past decade?) and he provides all the counter evidence that the naysayers have used to try to make a case that global warming is not a problem we need to worry about.

He also uses his book to snipe at the Hollywood stars that have been engaged by the deluded scientists to sell the public about the seriousness of the problem. In his latest novel, he writes that the liberal celebrities are saps for the cynical environmentalists who are trying to create disasters in order to fool the public into thinking something must be done right away. (And oh my gosh, according to the global warming adherents, the problem is imminent and it is, indeed, a crisis that we have to deal with. Listening to President Bush and his latest crisis, I can see why people might be wary of those crying wolf.)

So, who is one to believe? Michael Crichton or those legions of climate scientists who are truly worried and increasingly convinced that mankind has only a little time to prepare for the coming disaster? Perhaps David Sandolow has an answer of how to get to the bottom of this dispute:

If he has something serious to say on the science of climate change, he should say so in a work of nonfiction and submit his work for peer review. The result could be instructive for him and us all.


Posted by Mary at February 1, 2005 12:25 AM | Environment | Technorati links |

Not to DEFEND Cricton -- I'm playing the devil's advocate here -- but usually the most challenging pieces to write are ones that come from viewpoints you don't agree with.

Of course, Mike's actually in the fold of thinking that global warming is BS... He's been in Parade magazine thinking we're afraid of false problems in many cases...

I read almost all of his books as a teen and grew to love Crichton, but he's gone off the deep end with several things that he's publicly stated since then (something about aliens as well as this global warming-falsehood stuff)

Posted by: John at February 1, 2005 09:25 AM

In my view, those who address "global warming" with a view that we all should be alarmed, and concerned, and sensitive, and should look for 'someone' (someone else of course, not ourselves) to blame, have fallen for the seductive mantra of "pseudo science" that appeals to our emotional side. Sixty years ago when I was in school, a farm kid, there were those who would try to alert us that we needed to be concerned that topsoil was disappearing at a rate that in fifty years there wouldn't be enough left to grow crops. Of course that was the same kind of alarmest nonsense that the "global warming" crowd is spewing now. Real science has enabled us to grow an ever increasing amount of foodstuffs on each acre of land.

The planet is in a period of getting warmer, there's no doubt about that. 10000 years ago most of the northern hemisphere was covered with ice. It has been melting and will continue to melt until conditions, beyond our control, change that will cause the planet to cool off again. Those changes will occur, despite our worrying, pointing fingers and wringing our hands. Meanwhile we can pursue the wonderful life that is ours to enjoy. We can focus on important things like cherishing and nurturing our children, marveling at the beauty of a sunset and enjoying being who we are.

Posted by: olduffer at February 1, 2005 10:45 AM

For those who look to fiction to appreciate global warming, perhaps a better book might be Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain, which explores the events leading up to a worldwide catastrophe brought on by global warming.

Posted by: Daniel K at February 1, 2005 12:36 PM

I believe that the climate is warming, that humans have caused part of it, and that we should be doing the easy things to mitigate it. We know what those are, we've talked about them for 30 years: more fuel efficient cars, better insulated houses.

Those are easy and sensible even if you don't believe in global warming. I really don't get this idea that accepting global warming means you have to ruin the economy.

Actually, I'm not sure if you've seen it, but former CIA boss James Woolsey has bought a Prius for strategic reasons. Apparently it makes sense to him.

Posted by: jjens at February 1, 2005 01:30 PM

The evidence that global warming is becoming an increasing threat to our way of life is everywhere.

If you read enough newspapers, one can find a story every other day about changing whether paterns, metling ice (polar or otherwise) and scientific findings.

I don't think some people will be satisfied until they are standing knee deep in water or suffer from the lack thereof.


Posted by: Robert (SEABlogger) at February 1, 2005 04:37 PM

I beg to differ olduffer. The reason we are still growing food is because we use all kinds of chemicals (which can't be as healthy as natural soil) to fertilize. I wonder how much we would yield if we were to outlaw all those chemicals? And I wonder what those chemicals are doing to our long term health? Even National Geographic had an article on the realities of global warming. Those who think otherwise are in denial or are awaiting the rapture and don't care what happens to our environment.

Posted by: Karen at February 1, 2005 04:42 PM

Not just chemicals - petrochemicals. When demand for oil begins to permanently exceed the possible rate of supply, some time within the next few years, it will have a serious impact on farming as well as transport. Not that running out of oil will help the climate - it will just encourage burning coal, which is even more polluting.

Posted by: felice at February 1, 2005 06:07 PM

There was an article on the Nitrogen Bomb Here, through Discover Magazine).

For a metaphor: I've tried describing "global warming" as a car going downhill... is the driver stepping on the gas or the brake? Another thing to consider is that the atmosphere is a heat engine, therefore we can expect more extreme weather over time where the dynamics of wind and precipitation become frenetic.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at February 1, 2005 08:11 PM

"If you read enough newspapers, one can find a story every other day about changing whether paterns, metling ice (polar or otherwise) and scientific findings."

That's a valid reason right there to be skeptical of the alarmists, on one side, as well as the naysayers on the other.

The experts who claim to have assembled conclusive facts currently have about as much command of long-term global climate trends as your average meteorologist has about short-term local weather trends. They usually say so, it's in the fine print. Responsible scientists are guarded about long-term projections, and best ones have neither a pro or anti-environmental bias. It's the rest of us I worry about.

We've seen just about every conventional, superstitious, fear-based attitude about the "dangers" of the human activity to the long term health of the environment. Some of it ill-informed but passionate, some of well-informed and well-funded, but tainted.

Michael Chrichton, the novelist (not that many of his opponents will actually read his book, I sure don't plan to) isn't the first to voice a valid contrary view, he's just the first to attempt to deliver it to a mainstream readership, and reignite the debate on different terms. Most are attacking his politics, or him personally, rather than the content. (which is not uncommon here, I've noticed)

Let the content succeed or fail on merit. I imagine If we can tolerate alarmist, infantile Hollywood fiction like "The Day After" I'm sure we can tolerate its equally-annoying fictional counterpoint, "State of Fear".

Posted by: Michael at February 2, 2005 05:01 AM

Michael, I think that "the other side" has an interest in making the scientists look more divided than they are. [link and link]

Posted by: jjens at February 2, 2005 06:55 AM

Yeah: Karen those darn chemicals surly can't be good for us. The nitrogen from the manure that we put on the strawberries straight out of the barnyard to make they big, and beautiful surely must have been more healthful than the nitrogen we manufacture commercially now huh?

Posted by: Olduffer at February 3, 2005 11:41 AM

jjens, the scientists, environmentalists, and activists on "our side", unfortunately, are not free of tainted or questionable interests or motives, either.

One example: the validity of scientific findings are called into question, or science itself is attacked for being too exclusive, or too male dominated, or too first-world dominated, or in some cases, for being irrelevant because it doesn't address "spiritual" or "minority" or "gender" values, when the results of these findings don't suit the agenda or politics of the activist left. Then the findings are dismissed.

However, where the environment is concerned, the same researchers at our disposal--the men and women of science--are embraced and defended as being unquestionably honest and accurate.

A little too convenient. But not surprising.

Anyway, a healthy debate helps expose false alarmism and false complacence on both sides. It's all good.

Posted by: Michael at February 3, 2005 04:50 PM

I don't think you need to believe in "unquestionably honest and accurate" men and women of science to believe in global warming. No more than you have to believe in "unquestionably honest and accurate" voters in order to believe in democracy.

All it take is that you believe in the process, that over time (say the 30 years we have been studying global warming) the truth will out.

I'd also point out that the "no" side likes to see global warming as a "yes or no" thing.

That is not at all the case. "Yes" just leads to question of how much, how soon, and what are reasonable steps to take?

The "no" side has it too easy, and I'm sure they know it. They know that a "no" answer means do nothing. It is a (political) stonewall, and one unsupported by the science.

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