This week’s Science has a lengthy review of a long list of recent books by and about climatologists. If you’re interested in doing some not-so-light reading this summer (in a year predicted to be the warmest on record), the review, which Science has made freely available, should steer you in the right direction. The reviewer, Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher, covers a lot of territory. He puts it all in perspective by pointing out that while many of the books try to convince readers of the simple truth of climate change, the sad truth is that:

Even if American public opinion were reformed overnight, so that virtually all citizens were convinced that anthropogenic global warming is likely to raise the average temperature of the planet by at least 2°C, that would be only the beginning….

In countries that have long taken anthropogenic climate change as a settled question, agreeing on the expected consequences and the appropriate response has not proved easy. American discussions are likely to be haunted by the long denial, so that suspicions about alarmism linger. As psychologists have repeatedly discovered, those who are misinformed and later corrected often lapse into versions of their original error.

Still, what are you going to do? Give up?

Comments

  1. #1 Erasmussimo
    May 29, 2010

    Still, what are you going to do? Give up?

    I really hate to admit this, but I think that have to start looking seriously at some of the ameliorative strategies. I acknowledge the risk involved in attempting to correct one perturbation with another, and the likelihood that we will thereby create new problems. Nevertheless, the dangers imposed by climate change and the inevitability of a significant rise in temperature convince me that we must at least develop these ideas enough to permit a solid evaluation of their risks and benefits.

  2. #2 MikeB
    May 31, 2010

    Thanks for the link, which is a good discussion both of the books themselves and of the issues they cover.
    I’m personally looking forward to reading the Oreskes & Conway book, and the Friel book as well (in fact I want the BBC science editors to all read this before they even think of inviting Lomborg anywhere near a microphone again).

    On the other hand, anyone who is willing to pay £45 to read the usual bloodless non-defence of Mike Hulme’s own life work should have their head examined. If you want to know why climate scientists (certainly in the UK) have been so bad at getting their view accepted by the media and much of the general public, just listen to or read anything by Hulme…and then give up.

    PS – Erasmussimo – I often wonder if the ‘ameliorative strategies’ suggested in the media are not simply displacement activities for just not really doing anything. It would be interesting to see how much the various schemes cost to plan( plus the cost of that recent conference on them), and how much ancient rainforest could have been saved from destruction for the same amount. In suspect that the better deal might be doing something now, rather than later.

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