The Real Global Warming Disaster

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The Real Global Warming Disaster
Real Global Warming Disaster book cover.jpg
Cover of the book
Author Christopher Booker
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Climate change
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Continuum
Publication date
17 October 2009
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 368 pages
ISBN 1-4411-1052-6

The Real Global Warming Disaster (Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to Be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History?) is a 2009 book by English journalist and author Christopher Booker which aims to show how scientists and politicians erroneously came to believe in anthropogenic global warming.

From a standpoint of environmental scepticism, Booker seeks to combine an analysis of the science of global warming with the consequences of political decisions to reduce CO
2
emissions and claims that, as governments prepare to make radical changes in energy policies, the scientific evidence for global warming is becoming increasingly challenged. He asserts that global warming is not supported by a significant number of climate scientists, and criticises how the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents evidence and data, in particular citing its reliance on potentially inaccurate global climate models to make temperature projections. Booker concludes, "it begins to look very possible that the nightmare vision of our planet being doomed"[1] may be imaginary, and that, if so, "it will turn out to be one of the most expensive, destructive, and foolish mistakes the human race has ever made".[1][2]

The book's claims were strongly criticised by science writer Philip Ball,[3] but the book was praised by several columnists. The book opens with an erroneous quotation,[4] which Booker subsequently acknowledged and promised to correct in future editions.[5]

The book was Amazon UK's fourth bestselling environment book of the decade 2000–10.[6]

Background[edit]

If one accepts the thesis that the planet faces a threat unprecedented in history, the implications are mind-boggling. But equally mind-boggling now are the implications of the price we are being asked to pay by our politicians to meet that threat. More than ever, it is a matter of the highest priority that we should know whether or not the assumptions on which the politicians base their proposals are founded on properly sound science".[7]

—Christopher Booker, 2009

Before the book's publication, Booker wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that the motivation behind it lay in a consideration of "the supposed menace of global warming—and the political response to it".[7] In the book's introduction, Booker also describes how The Real Global Warming Disaster became for him a necessary continuation of a brief analysis he had made of the anthropogenic global warming issue in his previous book, Scared to Death, and followed a similar theme he had explored there, i.e., that of the media overstating the danger of an issue facing the public, and governments overreacting to the issue by passing legislation entailing considerable economic cost.[8]

Synopsis[edit]

The book consists of three parts and an epilogue.

Part One: Forging the 'consensus': 1972–1997[edit]

James Hansen giving testimony before the United States Congress in 1988

Drawing from Fred Singer and Dennis Avery's Unstoppable Global Warming, Booker presents a graph[9] showing changes in temperature and carbon dioxide concentration over the last 11,000 years. In his analysis, rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the 1970s led scientists such as Paul Ehrlich to postulate that the earth, as a result of the greenhouse effect, may have been heating up or cooling down, either of which could have potentially disastrous consequences. Figures such as the environmental activist Maurice Strong and scientist Bert Bolin are then introduced, who would, according to Booker, "play a crucial role in what lay ahead" in influencing governmental policy and helping form the scientific basis for global warming.[10] Booker contends that 1988 was a key year in which the IPCC was set up and James Hansen appeared at the Senate Committee of Natural Resources in Washington, where he stated that he was "99 percent certain" that man's contribution to the greenhouse effect was the cause of global warming.[11] According to Booker, "on all sides 'global warming' became the cause of the moment"[12] after Hansen's appearance. He then describes how:

Booker writes that the SAR was criticised by Frederick Seitz, who alleged that "more than 15 sections in Chapter 8 of the report—the key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against a human influence over climate—were changed or deleted after the scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the supposedly final text".[15] Part one ends with an account of the signing of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the setting of new targets for reduced CO
2
emissions.

Northern hemisphere temperature reconstructions for the past 2,000 years

Part Two: The 'consensus' carries all before it: 1998–2007[edit]

Booker begins part two by asserting that the medieval warm period "contradicted the idea that late twentieth century temperatures had suddenly shot up to a level never known before in history",[16] and that this problem was dealt with by a 1999 graph depicting temperatures "suddenly shooting up in the twentieth century to a level that was quite unprecedented. Familiar features such as the Medieval Warm Period and the little ice age simply vanished".[17] Booker writes that the graph became the "supreme iconic image for all those engaged in the battle to save the world from global warming".[18] He then states that the IPCC's methods, and in particular the draft summary of its next report, came in for serious criticism from scientists such as Richard Lindzen.[19]

Booker then examines Davis Guggenheim's Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth and the subsequent questioning of many of its assertions, including retreating glaciers, drowning polar bears, use of the "hockey stick" graph, the melting of the ice caps and snows of Kilimanjaro and rising sea levels.[20]

Part Three: The 'consensus' begins to crumble: 2007–2009[edit]

Henrik Svensmark, who carried out research into a link between solar and temperature trends

Booker begins part three by quoting the statement of the then British Environment Secretary that the IPCC's fourth assessment report was "another nail in the coffin of the climate change deniers".[21] He then contrasts this assertion with what he sees as evidence emerging to the contrary: that the earth had in fact begun to cool, possibly as a result of solar variation, and that CO
2
may thus not be the only driver of climate change. However, the results of research into this theory by the scientists Knud Lassen, Eigil Friis-Christensen and Henrik Svensmark were dismissed by Bert Bolin as "scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible".[22] Booker then alleges that a "consensus" and "counter-consensus" had begun to form, and gives details of a 2007 report by the US Senator James Inhofe that claimed to list 400 scientists "now prepared to express their dissent, sometimes in the strongest terms, from the IPCC's 'consensus' view of global warming".[23] Booker then quotes the June 2007 International Energy Agency announcement that the cost of halving CO
2
emissions by 2050 (the US and UK governments were intending 80% cuts[24]) would be US$ 45 trillion—equivalent to "two thirds of the world's entire current annual economic output".[25]

Booker sums up the book's contents in a long epilogue, which quotes Theseus in A Midsummer's Night Dream:

In the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush supposed a bear

Booker contends that in this quote Shakespeare is identifying that "when we are not presented with enough information for our minds to resolve something into certainty, they may be teased into exaggerating it into something quite different from what it really is".[26]

Reception[edit]

The book received a mixed reception in the media.

In his review in The Observer, Philip Ball wrote that the book was "the definitive climate sceptics' manual" in that it makes an uncritical presentation of "just about every criticism ever made of the majority scientific view" on global warming. Though expressing "a queer kind of admiration for the skill and energy with which Booker has assembled his polemic", Ball called the claims made by the author "bunk". Ball also criticised Booker's tactic of introducing climate sceptics "with a little eulogy to their credentials, while their opponents receive only a perfunctory, if not disparaging, preamble".[3]

In The Spectator, Rodney Leach wrote that "the shelf of sceptical books keeps filling and Booker's belongs there with the best", remarking that Booker "narrates this story with the journalist's pace and eye for telling detail and the historian's forensic thoroughness which have made him a formidable opponent of humbug".[27] Columnist James Delingpole described the book as "another of those classics which any even vaguely intelligent person who wants to know what's really going on needs to read".[28]

Writing in The Herald, Brian Morton was largely sympathetic to the position taken by Booker in the book: "The question isn't whether climate is changing, but what is to blame. A crippling tithe of international political effort and social action is directed to the assumption that we are", and "the climate change debate—or enforced consensus—concerns the way science is done and perceived. As Booker says, 'consensus' is not a term in science but in politics".[29]

A positive review by Henry Kelly in The Irish Times, referring to the book as "meticulously researched, provocative and challenging",[30] was criticised by Irish environmental campaigner and climatechange.ie website founder John Gibbons, who said that the decision by The Irish Times to allow Kelly to review The Real Global Warming Disaster was part of a recent trend of "the media giving too much coverage to 'anti-science' climate change deniers and failing to convey the gravity of the threat, making readers and viewers apathetic".[31]

In The Scotsman, writer and environmentalist Sir John Lister-Kaye chose The Real Global Warming Disaster as one of his books of the year, writing that "though barely credible in places" this was an "important, brave book making and explaining many valid points".[32]

Houghton misquotation[edit]

The book opens with an incorrect quotation which wrongly attributes to John T. Houghton the words "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen".[4] The publishers apologised for this misquotation, confirmed that it would not be repeated, and agreed to place a corrigendum in any further copies of the book. In an article which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph on 20 February 2010, Booker wrote "we shall all in due course take steps to correct the record, as I shall do in the next edition of my book".[5] Houghton felt that Booker continued to misstate his position regarding the role of disasters in policy making, and he referred the matter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC Reference 101959), following whose involvement The Sunday Telegraph published on 15 August a letter of correction by Houghton stating his actual position, that adverse events shock people and thereby bring about change.[33] An article supportive of Houghton appeared in the New Scientist magazine.[34]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Booker, Christopher (2009). The Real Global Warming Disaster. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. ISBN 1-4411-1052-6. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Booker 2009, p. 342
  2. ^ Booker in particular refers to the cost of implementing the UK's Climate Change Act of 2008
  3. ^ a b Ball, Phillip (15 November 2009). "The Real Global Warming Disaster by Christopher Booker". The Observer. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Connor, Steve (10 February 2010). "Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist". The Independent. Retrieved 10 February 2010. The quotation has since become the iconic smoking gun of the climate sceptic community. The words are the very first to appear in the "manual" of climate denialism written by the journalist and arch-sceptic Christopher Booker. They get more than a 100,000 hits on Google, and are wheeled out almost every time a climate sceptic has a point to make [...] 
  5. ^ a b Booker, Christopher (20 February 2010). "What the weatherman never said". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Carrington, Damian (17 December 2010). "Bestselling green books of the decade". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Booker, Christopher (2 December 2009). "The real climate change catastrophe". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Booker 2009, p. 4
  9. ^ Booker 2009, p. 21
  10. ^ Booker 2009, p. 32
  11. ^ Booker 2009, p. 41
  12. ^ Booker 2009, p. 38
  13. ^ Booker 2009, p. 53
  14. ^ Booker 2009, p. 63
  15. ^ Booker 2009, p. 65
  16. ^ Booker 2009, p. 80
  17. ^ Booker 2009, p. 83
  18. ^ Booker 2009, p. 84
  19. ^ Booker 2009, p. 88
  20. ^ Booker 2009, pp. 144–150
  21. ^ Booker 2009, p. 173
  22. ^ Booker 2009, p. 180
  23. ^ Booker 2009, p. 208
  24. ^ Booker 2009, p. 255
  25. ^ Booker 2009, p. 233
  26. ^ Booker 2009, p. 341
  27. ^ Leach, Rodney (4 November 2009). "A wild goose chase". The Spectator. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  28. ^ Delingpole, James (28 October 2009). "You Know It Makes Sense". The Spectator. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  29. ^ Morton, Brian (3 November 2009). "Is a climate-change sceptic more like a flat-earther or a Holocaust denier, merely out of touch or mendacious and evil?". The Herald. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  30. ^ Kelly, Henry (19 November 2009). "Myths of global warming skilfully debunked". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  31. ^ Monaghan, Gabrielle (4 April 2010). "A little warming under the collar". The Times. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  32. ^ Lister-Kaye, John (5 December 2009). "Books of the year: Writers' choice". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 
  33. ^ "Letters". The Daily Telegraph. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  34. ^ Giles, Jim (15 May 2010). "Giving life to a lie". New Scientist. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]