Sunday, November 20, 2005

Total Mindblow

If you read one book this year, make it Michael Crichton's STATE OF FEAR.
As a thriller, it's fair to middling, with some exciting parts and Crichton's usual flat characters and contrived situations.
As a polemic, it's absolutely brilliant.
You will come away from this book, which deals with global warming, asking yourself some pretty hard questions. You will start to question just about everything you see in the media. You will start seeing agendas everywhere you look. You will wonder how it is so many people can be played for fools.
Crichton's position--and he makes a very compelling case--is that global warming is vastly overblown. According to him, they haven't proven a consistent link between the supposed global temperature rise and anything human beings have done. Every hyped report you hear about glaciers melting masks another, much-less-publicized report of a glacier somewhere else expanding. For every city whose average temperature has risen over the last century, Crichton can show you three whose temperature has remained static and two that have gotten colder. The assertions keep coming, contradicting much of what you've heard over the last fifteen years: carbon dioxide helps plants grow; sea levels have not risen perceptibly in the last thirty years; those fantastic windmills everyone environmentally positive have been touting for years are enormous bird guillotines; DDT was not carcinogenic; it's probably impossible to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere without a total reversion to the Stone Age; and on and on and on, with references from journals for each. The ecology of your mind will regenerate, like a forest does after a fire.
(Oh, did you think forest fires were bad?)
In case you're thinking that Crichton is obviously a shill for industry, he makes it abundantly clear he's shilling for nobody: somebody accuses his hero of being a spy for corporate interests and not caring about the environment at all: "You can oppose the death penalty but still favour punishing criminals...I can say that global warming is not a threat but still favour environmental controls..."
It's pretty clear that the only thing Crichton is for is the truth. And it may not be what you think.
Give STATE OF FEAR a read. It'll at least make you think. Few thrillers manage that.


Peter Dodson said...

I don't know Ken. I have heard lots about this book and have to wonder how he has it right, and all those other scientists trained in these disciplines have it wrong. For example:

"For every city whose average temperature has risen over the last century, Crichton can show you three whose temperature has remained static and two that have gotten colder."

Global warming does not mean that each and every city in the world will get warmer - that's why many scientists and environmentalists have started to use the term climate change. Increasing greenhouse gases is increasing the temperature of the earth's atmosphere itself, meaning changing weather patterns all over - some hotter, some colder. For example, one of the models they have done has shown that a warmer atmosphere may help to reverse the Atlantic Conveyor Belt, which would result in an ice age in North America and Europe.

I don't know, I chose to put my faith in the IPCC (at the UN), which is full of the world's leading climate scientists than Crichton.

Ken Breadner said...

See, Peter, that's the thing Crichton argues. He puts his faith in the truth, whatever it might turn out to be. He argues convincingly that whatever the truth may be, it's not knowable, yet.
The problem (or one of them, at any rate) is that scientists know on which side their bread is buttered. Many suppress anything that doesn't subtly support their 'patron's' views. That's why it's a little difficult to search out the references that contradict the global warming hypothesis. (Not impossible, mind you: just difficult, at least in comparison to finding the information that supports it. Hell, all you have to do for that is turn on a television.)
It's worth checking out just so you can rebut it...