Yes, the issue is difficult. In fact, it's next to impossible for non-scientists -- including failed presidential candidate Al Gore -- to completely understand the technical facts. Deciphering truth from the jillions of units of misinformation being churned out -- often from computers that can't actually distinguish a climate crisis from a dating website -- is futile for a lay person.
Also, the contradictions are legion. Writer A: Last year was the hottest on record! The polar bears are going extinct! A full 97 percent of the world's scientists are in consensus that global warming is destroying the planet! Writer B: There has been a steady decline in global temperature for 16 straight years! There are more polar bears than Mother Nature can feed properly! Science is about reliable testing and retesting; consensus is for opinions and politicians!
Who do we trust? A good place to start might be the eminent scientists, climatologists and other Ph.D.s who make the soundest arguments, those found in Mark Steyn's latest book, A Disgrace to the Profession: The World's Scientists -- in their own words -- on Michael Mann, His Hockey Stick, and their Damage to Science, Volume I. Steyn, who compiled and edited the chapters, is a well-known author (of four previous books), journalist and defender of free speech.
It is important to mention the professional relationship between Steyn and Mann, in case you aren't aware of it. The latter is suing the former and several others in the District of Columbia Superior Court for defamation. Steyn et al allegedly libeled Mann by allegedly calling the Hockey Stick graph allegedly -- I am being abundantly careful -- fraudulent. Steyn regularly updates readers of his blog on how the case, started in 2012, is dragging on interminably.
Michael Mann needs no introduction. He is the Yale-and-Berkley-educated physicist and mathematician, now a climatologist at Penn State University. He is also the inventor/creator/discoverer of the (in)famous hockey stick graph, what Steyn calls "the single most influential graph in climate science. It leapt from the pages of a scientific journal to the posters and slides of the transnational summits, to official government pamphlets selling the Kyoto Protocol, to a starring role on the big screen in an Oscar winning movie [An Inconvenient Truth], to the classrooms of every schoolhouse in the western world." Also, a version of the hockey stick featured prominently in the influential United Nation's 2001 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The hockey stick graph purports to demonstrate that, for about 900 years -- represented by the long handle lying flat -- the world experienced almost no climate variation. Then, the blade of the stick shoots straight up for about 120 years, from the start of the industrial revolution. The blade also signifies a coinciding increase in atmospheric CO2 -- that would be the critical plant food we exhale with every breath -- which is also ostensibly threatening the planet's existence. (Despite what some alarmists say, CO2 is not pollution.)
Their message: Industrialization -- that magnificent, massive engine of change that has done more to uplift humankind out of the virtual stone age than the wheel and the electric nail polish drier combined -- is killing us by releasing too much CO2, which is heating the atmosphere, and causing MMGW. The only problem is, the hockey stick has been almost completely discredited, which is the fundamental point of Steyn's book.
To educate readers, Steyn quotes about 150 Ph.D. scientists from every corner of the earth. He even uses the statements of a few liberal scientists who actually believe in MMGW, but who have no trouble denouncing the hockey stick.
Unfortunately, Steyn quotes fired controversial University of Ottawa physics professor Dr. Denis Rancourt, who was sanctioned for, among other misadventures, awarding every student in his class of 23 an A+ after one semester. But the rest of the scientists in the book are obviously exceptional scholars, with so much integrity they are barely known outside professional circles.
The 12 chapters are each organized into ten or so bite-sized sections, which highlight an individual scientist's criticism of the hockey stick. Steyn's helpful and often hilarious insights and comments are peppered throughout.
Steyn at one point complains that writing out the credentials of each contributor was cumbersome. It is easy to see why. Almost every name is followed by a full 100-word paragraph of accreditation. Here is one, of average length: The late Dr. Jerry D. Mahlman: "Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton. Senior Research Associate at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Pioneer in the use of computational models top examine the interaction between atmospheric chemistry and physics and one of the first scientists to raise concerns about ozone depletion. Recipient of the Rossby Research Medal of the American Meteorology Society, the US Government's Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive and Gold Medal of the US Department of Commerce."
Several of the hockey stick's most obvious problems are easy to grasp. The 900-year long handle completely ignores two indisputable eras, the Medieval Warm Period, from about 950 to 1250 A.D. and the later Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850. For proxy measures, Mann and his team used only a few trees, including one California bristlecone pine, which is certainly old, but whose rings cannot determine climate. As stated by Dr. Jeffrey Foss, author of the 2009 book Beyond Environmentalism: A philosophy of Nature: "tree rings are not a reliable proxy for temperature." After more critical analysis, Foss concluded, succinctly: "wrong tree, wrong proxy, wrong location, wrong method."
You will love the 12 chapter titles, written in Steyn's proverbial acerbic inflection, among them: "Mann is an island," "Mann of the hour," "Mann o'war," "Mann overboard," and my personal favorite, "Mann boobs."
Ever so briefly, my next book review is of Climate Change: The Facts. It was put together by members of Australia's Institute of Public Affairs and edited by Alan Moran, an official in the royally-named Victorian Department of Minerals and Energy. Promoted constantly, along with A Disgrace, by Steyn on his website, Climate Change comprises 22 essays on the science, politics and economics of MMGW. As one of the contributing writers, Steyn says he is "honored to be alongside some of the most eminent scientists and some of the most rollicking commentators."
Others include climate change denier blogger Anthony Watts, author and expert on the IPCC Donna Laframboise, English columnist and novelist James Dellingpole, and Cato Institute director of the study of science Patrick Michaels.
The sixth chapter called "Forecasting Rain" has a particularly interesting take on the why it's so hard to make the international paradigm shift to "no MMGW." The writers -- Queensland University researchers John Abbot and Jennifer Marhohasy -- first point out MMGW's lack of practical utility yet its tremendous political value. They continue: MMGW "is a theory that accords with the mood of our time, the zeitgeist, which assumes that man's greed is despoiling the earth and that political action based on scientific consensus can save the planet.... This is why credible scientific rebuttals fail to achieve its overthrow."
Unlike A Disgrace, this book includes full essays and comprises three major sections -- the science of climate change; the economics and politics of climate change; and the climate change movement -- in 20 chapters. Though overly complicated in some places, the book appears, in general, to leave no fossil unturned on the thorny topic of MMGW. If you finish this book and still believe in the alarmists' absurdity -- that the climate is changing rapidly and dangerously -- then you may not see the light on this issue until Greenland is finally forced to change its name.
Even more briefly, two older but excellent books might as well be mentioned here. I read them a few years ago and they both struck me as reliable, intellectually consistent and full of common sense. One is Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam, by Brian Sussman, a former science reporter and a well known television-turned-radio personality in uber-liberal San Francisco. Reportedly he enjoys irritating the sophisticated elites in that city, and is wildly successful as a result.
Published in 2010 by WorldNetDaily in Washington, D.C., the 224-page book is as satisfying as it is coherent, entertaining and informative. Climategate offers up a simple, compelling theory: MMGW is a deception of the highest order, and all those high profile advocates are just in it for their own advantage. They want to re-engineer society according to their own vision and become extremely wealthy in the process. Sussman reveals that it was his simmering anger at this chicanery that prompted him to write the book. Yes, he names names.
Besides covering all the MMGW topics, he also holds lowly misunderstood coal up to the light. He praises the raw material -- still a major source of power for some 48 percent of homes worldwide -- saying it is now an abundant, clean and cheap energy source. He says, "coal should have a bright future in North America" since "soot, sulfur and nitrogen oxides are no longer problems" in coal's production and use in the U.S. In his characteristic upbeat tone, Sussman explains, with certainty, that even coal-related fly ash is not a health concern to humans.
One final book I recommend is: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, by Christopher Horner, a Washington lawyer, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and an outspoken critic of the science of MMGW. Almost 350 pages, and quite humorous throughout, The Guide deals with just about everything on MMGW. But Horner takes particularly harsh aim at the leading alarmists, who are almost invariably on the left. He exposes radical environmentalists' manipulative methods for getting their way, their way being a complete stranglehold on society. If driving your car is causing global warming and air problems in Africa and Europe, then only world government can save us all. Indeed, MMGW is the eternal justification for endless government growth. It's a liberal's greatest aspiration come true.
The indomitable Mark Steyn writes about my above reviews and the ensuing ferocious debate on his blog. You can read his column by clicking the link below.
Thanks Mark! And thank to all my followers too!
As with most books on Lynne Like's, you can get these on Amazon.ca.