Sunday, December 19, 2004

State of Fear

Snow returned to Cambridge, and that's a good opportunity for another article about the global warming.

Michael Crichton seems to be a rather impressive person. With his almost seven feet, he was a rising basketball star. More importantly, he graduated from Harvard University (his field was anthropology) and then he studied medicine, before he became a bestselling author of thrillers.

A couple of years ago, he believed that the global climate may be visibly influenced by human activity. He decided to study these questions in detail. The result is that he figured out that most of the global warming hysteria is based on shaky and politically flavored science.

The global warming science today is not really run by truly honest scientists, but more typically by "concerned scientists" who are so concerned that they prefer to present a particular type of results only because it makes the public think in a direction that is better for their funding and for the political power of their friends who are almost always left-wing. This "concerned", "improved" attitude to science is usually expressed by the Schneider doctrine:
  • We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.
This statement about the global climate science from the infamous Dr. Schneider was taken out of context, but let's hope that I am not the only one who thinks that for a scientist, it is unacceptable in any context.

Incidentally, I am always amazed that they use the name "concerned scientists" themselves because to me it sounds as a synonym of "biased scientist", "scientist with an agenda" or a "pseudo-scientist". But it may be just my personal feeling - a feeling of a person brought up in a socialist country - a country where the "best" scientists, artists, and people in general were supposed by the Communist Party to be "concerned" (for Czech speakers: I really mean the adjective "uvedomely").

If you want to create a movie or write a book about the weird catastrophic scenarios proposed by the global warming proponents, it's not so difficult. You shoot a scientific nonsense like The Day After Tomorrow with a lot of visual effects. It's fun to watch these scenes. Moreover, people with the scientific credibility comparable to Al Gore and his likes are always ready to say that your absurd movie is just a slightly exaggerated, but true portrait of reality - and they will thank you for pointing out what is going to happen.

On the other hand, the idea that the global warming theory is a result of poor science and the influence of sensational journalists does not seem to be a good starting point to write a catchy book. If the global warming theory is a bubble, there is nothing shocking or sensational that one can show in his book or movie, you might think.

Well, this is exactly where Crichton started, and his State of Fear is now the #4 (it was #2) on the's bestseller list. How can it be?
Of course that his story about the eco-terrorists is relatively unlikely to be viewed as the most exciting fiction written by Crichton. What helps Crichton is that his story resembles the real world a bit. Well, not quite. The eco-terrorists in Crichton's book take over by using high-tech know-how, deep-diving submarines, hypersonic cavity generators etc. which is yet to happen in the real world. ;-)

The main character is Michael Evans, a lawyer from L.A. He works for a millionaire and philantropist George Morton (note that he's not really called George Soros or anything like that) who financially supports NERF, an environmental group that sues the US on behalf of an island that was supposed to be damaged by the increased sea level.

Evans is being educated (or brainwashed) by both sides: by the dark side of the environmentalists paid by Morton, as well as by a truly positive character, Prof. John Kenner from MIT (although he could have been called Richard Lindzen, too). Hundreds of pages in the book include a very unusual type of story for a thriller: graphs related to the global climate.

Kenner (and Crichton) actually present a lot of very relevant information about the global warming. How many people know, for example, that Antarctica is cooling down? The Antarctic ice sheet is expected to grow in this century, too. You will never read about this in the newspapers; instead, you will be offered 496 articles about Joe the Arctic Polar Bear who may probably prefer if the average temperature were 1 degree lower in the next century, so it may be useful if the humans paid 4 trillion dollars to make Joe happier.


  1. Good stuff Luboš...

    It doesn't seem difficult to demolish most of the non-science associated with the global warming cult - but on the other hand, the earth could get a lot warmer, or a lot colder, in a very short period of time having nothing to do with humans and their SUVs.

    It could well happen that we could see a major climactic fluctuation, which popular culture would then blame on "global warming", totally by random chance.

  2. FYI:

    "RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science."