Summary and Info
I'll start this review by an admission: I am a global warming skeptic. To be a skeptic does not mean that I am unwilling to be persuaded by good arguments and well presented facts. To the contrary, as a scientist I am trained to be skeptical all the time and yet be willing to go out of my way to see all sides to a reasonable argument and if proven wrong to accept what the arguments establish. With that attitude in mind I have approached this little book as well: so far I have not been persuaded with most arguments on behalf of global warming proponents, and the recent spate of scandals that revealed some big holes in their arguments has only reinforced my skepticism. Nonetheless, I wanted to see what the experts in the field have to say about global warming, and I figured out this book would be as good of a starting point as they come. And if this is indeed a definitive introduction to the subject, then I am afraid that my previous skepticism will remain largely intact.
The very opening of the book is extremely unpromising. The author in no uncertain terms says in the preface what Global Warming in his opinion is all about: redistribution of wealth and resources from the wealthy western industrial powers to the underdeveloped third world countries. I have never seen as a tendentious opening of a book about what really should be a scientific topic. It puts most of the scientific consideration herein in question.
It takes 40 pages before we even get to the science behind global warming, which is almost a quarter of the entire book. This part of the book is actually the most interesting and certainly worth reading. It presents some interesting science behind climate and how it has changed over time. It describes the state-of-the art measuring and theoretical work that is ongoing in the field of climatology. Any science buff out there will certainly appreciate these chapters. Even so, there are several sleights of hand that had been utilized to skip over some more contentious topics. For instance, the evidence that in the past increase of CO2 in the atmosphere preceded the increases of global temperature is anything but watertight. And speaking of water, it is also well known that water vapor is the single most potent greenhouse gas, and yet it is hardly mentioned in this book. At the few places where it is mentioned it is dismissed by saying that the effects of the increased water vapor in the atmosphere are "poorly understood." This in itself raises a red flag in my eyes.
There are a few other sentences that trouble me to say the least:
In discussing satellite date the author says "The final problem with satellite data is that 20 years is just too short a time period to find a temperature trend with any confidence." And yet, throughout this book 20 year (and shorter) trends have been used as definitive proofs of certain aspects of global warming.
In dismissing the critics' suggestion that a lot of global warming predictions are very imprecise, the author suggests that we don't expect much precision from other walks of life, like from predicting which horse will win the race or which football team will win the match. I personally cannot imagine any serious scientist who would be willing to dismiss criticism of their work by comparing it to horse races or football matches.
The worst parts of the book are the ones that deal with social, political and economic issues. The author is completely out of his depth when it comes to these topics. In fact, many of his statements about economic considerations make me wonder if he even understands such elementary concepts as supply and demand, or if he does if he really cares about them and considers them relevant.
As some other reviewers have remarked, this book is not likely to win over the skeptics. And if there is any merit to the direst predictions of the global warming researchers, that is a crying shame to say the least. If the sky really is about to fall, it would serve us all to have a measured, succinct and to the point book that presents all the best science and evidence without devolving in all sorts of tangential directions.
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