Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 10, 2004
SCIENCE: The Skeptical Novelist

Iím intrigued by Michael Crichton coming out as a global warming skeptic in his new novel, see here and here, but probably not intrigued enough to actually buy it. Crichtonís highly intelligent and has a lot of interesting ideas, but doesnít seem to be writing very entertaining stories these days. This book in particular sounds like it would work a lot better as non-fiction, although it would almost certainly reach a much smaller readership that way.

Anyway, Iím a certified dunce when it comes to science and would hardly claim to be an authority one way or another, but am a relative skeptic on environmental matters. Thus, before reading Crichtonís book, I should probably try and tackle this one.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, here is a very positive review of Crichtonís new book.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 12:35 PM | Science | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I'm about 3/5 of the way through. It's not bad, better than "Timeline," "The Lost World," and "Disclosure." Maybe it helps that one of the main characters is an associate at a large Century City law firm. . . .

Posted by: Tung Yin at December 10, 2004 03:46 PM

Crank - Crichton has been speaking out about junk enviornmental science for a while. I posted a link to a speech he gave in 2003 that I think you'll like.

Posted by: chris at December 10, 2004 04:26 PM

Actually, I'd seen that Crichton speech back when Dr. Manhattan linked to it. I'm no expert on the subject either, but it's powerful stuff.

Basically, "global warming," as I understand its popular meaning, is really three different concepts:

1. The earth has, for some period of time, been getting warmer.

2. This past warming trend is not a random or cyclical phenomenon but is a trend that will continue into the future unless interrupted by human intervention.

3. The past trend and its continuation into the future are the results of specifically identifiable human activities, i.e., carbon emissions.

It is entirely possible to believe #1 without believing #2 and #3, or even to believe #1 and #2 without believing #3. Beware of anyone who tries to use evidence supporting just one of those propositions to convince you of all three.

Posted by: The Crank at December 10, 2004 04:53 PM

Apparently there's a large amount of skepticism about the human origins of global warming, except among one notable group: actual scientists.

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

Posted by: mike at December 10, 2004 06:22 PM

Good article. Clearly better informed on this issue than I am.

But, I will say, there has been broad consensus on things before - such as pre-invasion Iraqi stockpiles of WMD - that no longer appear to have been the case, despite concerning far less complex matters than the state of Earthís climate. It just seems to me that, before we go signing on to international protocols that see weakening the U.S. economy as a desirable side benefit, Americans should rigorously scrutinize the underlying science and not demonize scientists like Bjorn Lomborg who question conventional wisdom. Doing otherwise risks groupthink and public policy based on hysteria. The call for rigorous, skeptical and de-politicized study of the environment in Crichtonís speech seems like good advice for all concerned.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at December 10, 2004 08:22 PM

One of the most important predictions of global warming is that temperatures will rise fastest in the high latitudes. Now, temperatures have been rising in the Arctic in the last few decades (they had fallen from about 1940 to 1970, though), with some exceptions, such as eastern portions of Arctic Canada. But the opposite pattern is seen in the Antarctic, where the extent of ice cover is increasing as temperatures fall. What's happening in Antarctica is seldom discussed in the press, oddly enough, as is the extraordinarily short Arctic summer in 2004.

The truth is that no one knows whether global warming, to the extent it is a real phenomenon and not merely a function of "city" heat island effects (which are substantial even for fairly small towns) and other anomalies in the surface record (the satellite record shows much less warming per decade, but it only goes back to 1979) will continue, and how much of a problem it would if it did.

Posted by: John Salmon at December 11, 2004 02:04 AM

The most appropriate environmental policy is skepticism. I haven't seen dissected Crichton's latest, but I've got three link-filled posts on the topic over at No Oil for Pacifists.

Posted by: No Oil for Pacifists at December 11, 2004 03:32 AM

Bjorn Lomborg writes in the Sunday Telegraph (UK). He says global warming is both real and man-made (I think the jury out on the later point), but:

the climate models show we can do very little about the warming. Even if everyone (including the United States) did Kyoto and stuck to it throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming by just six years in 2100.

Likewise, the economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world: it could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education to every single person in the world. . .

So action on global warming is basically a very costly way of doing very little for much richer people far into the future. We need to ask ourselves if this indeed should be our first priority.

Posted by: No Oil for Pacifists at December 11, 2004 10:06 PM
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