Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Book That Caused Me to Question My Beliefs

I just finished reading a book that rattled my cage quite a bit: Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. He basically takes the position that the scientific data does not support the idea that human activity is causing global warming, despite the fact that it is widely reported that the scientific community is in nearly a complete consensus about this. His character, Kenner, some sort of Government agent who is chasing evil Earth Liberation Front villains who are trying to create environmental catastrophes to keep the supposedly hugely well funded environmental organizations in the money – the Kenner character challenges what he sees as conventional wisdom about global warming. The book has lots of footnotes and citations and charts that supposedly prove his premise, that weather and environmental activity are too complex to draw conclusions or even think in terms of managing it. (It’s interesting to have so much scientific looking data included in a book that is an action adventure with narrow escapes and all sorts of excitement. I’ve never read Crichton before and have to be impressed with his narrative skill in pulling this fete off.)

As to the presumed consensus of scientists about global warming caused by fossil fuel burning, he compares it to the eugenics movement of the early 20th century which was supported by nearly everyone, even leftist liberal types who should have known better (actually, to me the idea of eugenics has some merit even it did lead to the German holocaust; the only problem is the old “who decides” as to who is “feeble minded” enough to be taken out of the reproductive loop, a responsibility that provides too much easy temptation for abuse).

I certainly don’t have the knowledge to check Crichton’s sources or interpret his graphs. I can declare it all to be bullshit (if impressive bullshit) but I can’t prove it is, or I can believe it and declare global warming to be unproved bullshit, but I can’t prove that.

For a while I had an intense “how dare you” reaction to the book until I got into it. I, as the Paranoid Pessimist, had an emotional attachment to the idea of global warming, figuring it made sense and somehow served humankind right (I had the same reaction to the idea that silicone breast implants caused disease, a concept later seemingly disproved).

Still, there is an appendix in the book full of optimistic “I believe” bullet points, among them:

“ * I suspect the people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today. I don’t think we have to worry about them.”

That well may be true, but what we do have to worry about are the people between now and this golden age Crichton sees. “Have a smaller global population” ain’t a gunna happen unless there is a huge die off, or die back as some people call it. Crichton’s sunny faith in the future slips by this fact.

And, again fulfilling my role as the Paranoid Pessimist, I say that even if global warming as it is presently conceived is not true, there are plenty of other things going on environmentally that are sure to have destructive consequences (the lessening of the oil supply in a world utterly dependent on oil with no “alternative energy resources” available to pick up the slack being high on the list). Despite Crichton, I believe with Kurt Vonnegut that we have “squandered our planet’s resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn’t going to be one.

But I could be wrong.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. I like your blog, and since I term myself a "paranoid optimist," I feel that we might be able to reach a consensus on some level.

Glad to see you were open minded about the Crichton book. It's amazing how challenging our perception of global warming being sacrosanct can make even the most open-minded liberal jump up and shout "heresy!"

I've always believed global warming to be an example of human arrogance in thinking we can actually ruin our planet in a few short years when volcanoes put out more crap in a single eruption that humanity has been able to churn out in 50 years. Buy hey, July was hot this year so that must mean Gaia hates Bush.

I'll keep an eye on your blog - and when my equally paranoid blog takes shape I'll show enough balls on here to comment without anonymity. :)

11:55 AM  
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2:19 AM  
Anonymous Lois said...

Here is a good web page to read about climatology: http://www.lakepowell.net/sciencecenter/paleoclimate.htm
If you scroll down to where it says, "What is the Earth's Climate Record?" you'll see a chart clearly showing that there is no way humans can be responsible for Earth's warming. We are actually in one of the COOLEST periods of Earth's history, and the warmest ones occurred long before humans existed! The world IS warming up, but that is because we are coming out of an ice age--what do people expect is going to happen? Do they want us to go back to an ice age? Earth's climate has fluctuated wildly over the eons, with no help from humans.

Does that mean I think we should go on living as we are? Not at all. We need to take care of Earth because it is the only place we know of that can support life, so we can't simply pack up and move. There are limited amounts of drinkable water, clean air, arable land, etc. so we need to reduce the amount of stuff we use and wastes we produce. I don't see that happening in my lifetime, but I hope future generations get smarter and do something about it.

2:50 PM  
Blogger KJ said...

the book was fiction and so are its arguments.

there is way too much evidence for global warming
http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/threat/threat6.htm

the polar caps are shrinking and the erratic climate changes are happening way faster!! than thought previously.

Oil and gas giants have no more arguments left. It is a huge problem.

If you want to talk about a solution then perhaps the next book you should read is one of Ludlum's by Larkin (The Lazarus Vendetta) and join a Lazarus environmental group.

8:37 PM  
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