S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery

Unstoppable Global Warming,
Every 1,500 Years

Rowman & Littlefield, 2007

A massive campaign must be launched to... de-develop the United States... De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation... Resources must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries... This effort must be largely political, especially with regard to our overexploitation of world resources, but the campaign should be strongly supplemented by legal and boycott action against polluters and others whose activities damage the environment. The need for de-development presents our economists with a major challenge. They must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth than in the present one. Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential, if a decent life is to be provided for every human being.

John P. Holdren, White House Office of Science and Technology Director, i.e. Obama Administration "Science Czar," September, 2010, in reference to Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions, with Paul and Anne H. Ehrlich, 1973, boldface added.

Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event... Children just aren't going to know what snow is.

Dr. David Viner, Climatic Research Unit (CRU), University of East Anglia, 2000 [the winter of 2010-2011 will be among the 20 coldest in the last 100 years; and, according to Britain's Meterological Office, December 2010 was "almost certain" to have been the coldest in Britain since 1910]

We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrialized civilization to collapse. Isn't it our responsibility to bring this about?

Maurice Strong, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, UN Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992

In 1988, [NASA laboratory head James Hansen] reportedly told Bob Reiss, author of yet another apocalyptic screed, "The Coming Storm," [2004] that in the next 20 years, "The West Side Highway [in Manhattan] will be under water" and, "There will be more police cars" in New York because "well, you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up."

Well, there are more cops and less crime, and the West Side is high and dry. One out of three isn't bad for baseball, but it is horrendous for science.

Patrich J. Michaels, "Science Unhinged: China-style dictatorship of climatologists -- NASA's Hansen prefers rule by decree to fight 'global warming'," The Washington Times, Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We have got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.

Senator Timothy Wirth (D-CO), U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Issues, UN Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992

No matter if the science of global warming is all phony... climate change [provides] the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.

Christine Steward, Canadian Minister of the Environment, 1998

One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is envirnomental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world's wealth...

Ottmar Edenhofer, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2010

The basic questions of the current climate change debate are sufficiently known and well structured:

  1. Do we live in an era of a statistically significant, nonaccidental and noncyclical climate change?
  2. If so, is it dominantly man-made?
  3. If so, should such a moderate temperature increase bother us more than many other pressing problems we face and should it receive our extraordinary attention?
  4. If we want to change the climate, can it be done? Are current attempts to do so the best allocation of our scare resources?

My answer to all these questions is NO, but with a difference in emphasis. I don't aspire to measure the global temperature, nor to estimate the importance of factors which make it. This is not the area of my comparative advantages. But to argue, as it's done by many contemporary environmentalists, that these questions have already been answered with a consensual "yes" and that there is an unchallenged scientific consensus about this is unjustified. It is also morally and intellectually deceptive.

Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, Wall Street Journal, 30 May 2008

Budding scientists must be taught technical skills, including statistics, and must be imbued with scepticism towards their own results and those of others.

The Economist, "Briefing: Unreliable Research -- Trouble at the lab," October 19th-25th 2013, p.30

The secretary [John Kerry] devoted much of his speech to venting spleen at those in the "Flat Earth Society" who dispute the 97% of climate scientists who believe in man-made global warming. "We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science [sic] and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact," he said. Once upon a time people understood that skepticism was essential to good science. Now Mr. Kerry is trying to invoke a specious democracy among scientists to shut down democratic debate for everyone else.

Bret Stephens, "Climate Prophets and Profiteers," The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, February 18, 2014, A11

In coming weeks a libel trial gets under way brought by Penn State's Michael Mann, author of the famed hockey stick [showing a stable climate for centuries until dramatic warming in the 1990's], against National Review, The Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer Rand Simberg and roving commentator Mark Steyn for making wisecracks about his climate work.

...the pleasure of climate warriorhood is sitting at your little blog and picturing yourself a moral hero whose opponents deserve to be silenced if not exterminated. In our time, climate activism has devolved into self-medication for the moderately mentally ill (and who's to say this is not a useful service). Anyone genuinely concerned about the climate future might do better to get an engineering or finance degree.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., "Personal Score-Settling Is the New Climate Agenda," The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday March 1-2, 2014, A13 [note that calling "Deniers" the equivalent of Nazis is apparently not thought to be libelous by activists]

We are unable to reproduce [Philip] Jones' results because he refused to disclose which stations he used and how he adjusted the data. On February 21st, 2005 in reponse to a request from Warwick Hughes, an Australian researcher who has long sought to verify the global temperature record, Jones wrote:

We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

Apparently Jones is not alone in the practice of non-disclosure or denial of access to climate data. Finally, we learned from Jones that the original data was lost. At least he acknowledged this was unacceptable.

Tim Ball, PhD, The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science, Stairway Press, Seattle, 2014, p.250

Philip Jones, the Director of the now infamous Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, has apparently never heard that the job and duty of a scientist is precisely to try and find "something wrong" with every theory and every kind of data or evidence. If theories and evidence are falsifiable, then that makes them part of science, and we do science by working to falsify them. If Jones' "results" cannot be reproduced, and he refuses to supply the basis on which he himself achieved them, then his theory fails as science and he himself fails as a scientist.

If this is the customary practice in his field, Climatology, then it has been corrupted into some kind dogma and is no longer an open and critical search for the truth. Since Jones elsewhere affirmed, "I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone" with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we learn all we need to know about his attitude towards scientific inquiry, namely that he doesn't believe in it.

Ἐγκλινοβάραγγος (Enklinobarangus)

Fortunately, someone at the festival had mentioned hearing that a diner just outside of Brunswick [Maine] served chili spicy enough to charbroil the tongue, and just a small cup of it turned out to be an antidote that had me feeling chipper enough to order some more. I had realized I was at the right diner even before I sat down: a sign on the door said "When you're hungry and out of work, eat an environmentalist."

Calvin Trillin, Alice, Let's Eat, 1975, 1978, Vintage Books, 1979, p.10; Maine restaurants have recently endured, or not, the tyranny of Wuhan Virus shutdowns.

Editorial Note, 2020:

A recent episode of the PBS science documentary show NOVA, called "Polar Extremes" [2020], featured Kirk Johnson, a geologist, paleobotanist, and Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This was a special two hour episode that indeed involved Johnson traveling from the Arctic to the Antarctic. A couple of things in the show struck me as particularly noteworthy.

First, near the beginning of the show, Johnson visits Ellesmere Island in the Arctic, whose northernmost point is also the northernmost point of Canada. The island is barren tundra now, and Johnson mentions that there isn't a tree within a thousand miles of where they are. However, he and his companions hike to a place where there are fossilized three stumps, of Sequoias, "Dawn Redwoods" -- wonderful trees named after the man who created an alphabet for the Cherokee language, and who had nothing to do with redwoods. Such trees now, of course, only survive in California, in the Coastal Ranges north of San Francisco, and in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They are among the oldest and tallest living things.

The fossilized trees were alive 50 million years ago, in the early Cenozoic, the Eocene Epoch. So Ellesmere Island was an Eocene Muir Woods. We might think that, at the time, Ellesmere Island was further south, in a temperate or tropical zone. However, the arrangement of the continents 50 million years ago was much as it is now. The Ellesmere redwoods were growing at the latitude where their fossils are now, even though it is dark much of the year. A few million years earlier, there were dinosaurs about, also at the same latitude.

Thus, the climate must have been different. And it was. Johnson explains that the Earth alternates between "icehouse" and "greenhouse" climates. In the "greenhouse" climates there often is no ice at the poles, and the center of North Amercan might be fully or partially submerged in a "transgression" of the oceans. The Ellesmere redwoods were growing in a "greenhouse" period, during what has been labelled the "Tejas" (i.e. "Texas") transgression. The transgressions did not produce the "Water World" we see in the silly 1995 movie, where the only land left is the peak of Mt. Everest. But Denver might have had beaches. Surf'n Colorado.

Why icehouse and greenhouse periods alternate, where in Phanerozoic time, i.e. since the Cambrian, there have been four greenhouses and four icehouses, is a good question. A number of factors, including the Earth's orbit, the mood of the Sun, and our place in the Galaxy, may figure in it. Johnson, however, only features one factor:  the amount of carbon dioxide or other "greenhouse gasses" in the atmosphere. More CO2, more heat. This is not correct. Johnson should know, but he does not mention, that the Ordovician icehouse in the Paleozoic seems to have had higher concentrations of CO2 than now. This was a period of extensive glaciers, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, whatever role CO2 may play, it is not necessarily dominant.

World leaders proclaim that climate change is our greatest problem, demonzing carbon dioxide. Yet atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have been vastly higher through most of Earth's history. Climates both warmer and colder than the present have coexisted with these higher levels.

Richard S. Lindzen, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences, MIT, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, "The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics," The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2015, A13

New carbon dioxide is injected into Earth's atmosphere by volcanoes. Beginning with this, Johnson lays out for us the "carbon cycle":  The CO2 in the air is dissolved in rain. The rain falls on mountains, flows into rivers, and the rivers flow into the sea. There it is taken up by sea creatures, combined with calcium, and put into their shells in the form of the mineral calcite, or calcium carbonate, CaCO3. The shells eventually fall to the sea floor, accumulate, and come to form limestone. The White Cliffs of Dover, and the walls of the road cuts on Interstate 10 in West Texas, are Cretaceous limestone.

This is the second thing that struck me as particularly noteworthy in the show. As Johnson describes rivers taking dissolved CO2 down to the sea, he is actually canoeing through rapids, with water splashing around him. However, he is ignoring something. Around him is a dense forest, right down to his river. He does not tell us that carbon dioxide in the air is metabolized directly out of the air by the trees, and indeed by all plants. Then we eat them. This goes into all the carbon compounds, all the organic chemistry, that makes up our bodies. So, with whatever happens to our bodies, we are part of the "carbon cycle." And so are all those trees, which Johnson ignores.

Why doesn't Kirk Johnson mention this? Well, it doesn't fit the political narrative. If carbon is the substance of living things, it makes it seem like CO2 would not be a "pollutant," which is the politically correct term for it. As I say in the next note, all life on Earth is a precipitate of carbon dioxide. It isn't just sea creatures that put CO2 into calcite. All living things take up CO2 into what they are. And people who run actual greenhouses, to grow things, know that more CO2 means more growth. This is visible now on the planet. But some people, of course, want death, and poverty. That is what they are working for. Whether they want this out of liberal guilt, lust for power, self-hatred, or Satanism, I don't know.

The Earth is in an "icehouse" period. Sooner or later that will naturally end, and there may again be redwoods on Ellesmere Island (if we plant saplings from California there). Whether the next greenhouse is happening now, and whether we have anything to do with it, are other questions. But when The Weather Channel says that Environmentalism works to "Save the Earth," this is absurd.

The Earth doesn't need saving, except perhaps from an asteroid impact, a supernova explosion, the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, or some other devastating natural events. But humans emiting carbon dioxide is fully as natural as volcanoes, or all animals, emiting carbon dioxide. That's how life works. When the sea levels rise, it will cost a lot of money and create a terrific mess and inconvenience. But even if there were no human beings on Earth -- which seems to be the goal of some Environmentalists -- sea levels are eventually going to rise anyway.

No one was driving an SUV 50 million years ago. The Ellesmere redwoods were not "pollution." Thus, while Kirk Johnson provides a lot of information, more than what we get from The Weather Channel, his pitch is still alarmist. For all his obvious enthusiasm for the Ellesmere redwoods, it looks like he doesn't want that climate to return, certainly not if we have anything to do with it.

Editorial Note, 2013:

All life on Earth is a precipitate of carbon dioxide (CO2). Nevertheless, the EPA (an agency of extra-Constitutional authority) has now ruled, and the Supreme Court has allowed them to rule, that carbon dioxide is a "pollutant." Perhaps this means that life, or at least human life (as some think), is a pollutant. A fair portion of the geologic crust of the Earth is also a precipitate of carbon dioxide, namely the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in limestone. This has left carbon dioxide as essentially a trace gas in the atmosphere. Its concentration by volume stands at 391 parts per million as of October 2012. This is up from about 280 parts per million in pre-industrial times. 391 parts per million means 391/1,000,000 or 0.000391 of the atmosphere, as opposed to the pre-industrial 0.000280. This is more conveniently stated as 0.039%, about four hundreths of one percent, of the atmosphere, as opposed to 78.09% for nitrogen, 20.95% for oxygen, and 0.93% for argon. No one believes that these concentrations of carbon dioxide have more than a marginal effect on the average temperature of the Earth. The question is about what small changes in temperature do to the major green-house gas of the atmosphere, which is water vapor. For the frightening scenarios of anthropogenic global warming (or "climate change"), it is expected that the effect of warming from carbon dioxide sets off significantly increased warming from water vapor. This is called "forcing." However, increased water vapor can easily result in increased low clouds, which reflect sunlight and result in cooling, not warming. Cloud formation is actually a very poorly understood part of atmospheric science, and global warming activists seem to be threatened by experiments showing that cloud formation is strongly influenced by cosmic rays, which fluctuate with cycles of the Sun's magnetic field.

This leads to the next point. Global warming alarmists now wish to discredit questions about global warming by comparing them or linking them to ill-informed questions about Evolution by Natural Selection. This may or may not have begun with Al Gore's book, The Assault on Reason [2008], but it has certainly become an established strategy. As such, it is completely dishonest and sophistical, for it simply evades scientific questions about climate for ad hominem arguments against those who ask them, on the unsupported and indeed preposterous grounds that objections against warming and against Evolution are epistemologically similar. The ad hominem attack can take other forms, such as that skeptics or "deniers" have been bought off by oil companies (while no climate scientist, of course, has been bought off by money from governments -- and oil companies have actually, in a fine example of corporate cowardice, rolled over and become warming enthusiasts), or that some climate skeptics are not climate scientists themselves (while, of course, Al Gore has published many peer-reviewed papers in atmospheric science(!)). It is most attractive, however, to smear skeptics as religious yahoos who think that the Earth is 10,000 years old or that God reached out of the Sky and dropped Adam and Eve down among the dinosaurs. Since there are political conservatives who are both global warming skeptics and Evolution skeptics, the association can easily be made -- if one ignores the nature of the objections offered or the questions asked. Not even political conservatives have suggested that God is miraculously preventing the Earth from warming.

Thus, if a skeptic points out that carbon dioxide is a trace gas, that it is steadily removed from the atmosphere by life and by inorganic chemistry, and that there is evidence from the geological past that the Earth was cooler when there were higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the response seems to be that this is all the equivalent of Aristotelian metaphysics, St. Thomas's proofs for the existence of God, or Biblical theme parks. But when Marc Morano (from Climate Depot) debated Bill Nye ("the Science Guy"), God had nothing to do with the refutation of Nye's assertions (e.g. that the "Medieval warming period and the Roman warming period, those are just in Europe"). Perhaps Morano is not a climatologist, but then neither is Nye. Al Gore has never agreed to debate anyone, even if they had degrees in atmospheric science and a history of peer-reviewed publications. Certaintly he would be out of his depth, but then he has always been out of his depth anyway. Meanwhile, the dishonesty and misconduct -- the moral, professional, and even legal misconduct -- of many scientists in the alarmist community is detailed by Andrew W. Montford in Hiding the Decline, A history of the Climategate affair [Anglosphere Books, 2012].

Editorial Note, 2012:

A new book, Don't Sell Your Coat, Surprising Truths About Climate Change, by Harold Ambler [Lansing International Books, 2011], brings the Global Warming debate close to up to date. Meanwhile the warm Winter of 2011-2012 in the United States must have warmed the hearts of Warmers, although meanwhile Alaska and Europe had some pretty bad experiences. In April, it has still been snowing in Anchorage, breaking a record that has stood since 1954-1955. Earlier, Nome was so badly iced in that it nearly ran out of fuel before the Coast Guard broke through with supplies. It snowed in Rome for the first time in 26 years. The northern Black Sea froze for the first time in 30 years. Such variability in conditions within and between North America and Europe is one of the reasons that Warmers now speak of "Climate Change" rather than "Global Warming."

A nice example of this was in the concluding editorial comments of James Cameron to his National Geographic special, "Titanic: The Final Word" [4/8/2012]. He claimed that "people making money out of the system" (we see images of oil drilling and the New York Stock Exchange) were preventing us from taking timely action about "Climate Change." The result is that "the rich" will not suffer but the poor, including the already starving masses of the world, will. Unfortunately, Cameron himself is one of "the rich" who represents all the money and powerful interests that are bent on destroying freedom and prosperity by promoting a command economy under the pretext of "green" energy and technology. Cameron seems to be thinking of "the rich" as those who are successful by supplying cheap energy.

The loss of that will hurt everyone, but especially the international poor (who actually are not starving except where political conflict or ideology prevents the distribution of food, as in the Sudan, Somalia, or North Korea). They are being asked by people like Cameron to forgo cheap energy and economic development and live in virtuous poverty, "ecotopia" (like Cuba), for the sake of the planet. As long as India and China are not buying into this "eco-imperialism," Cameron's pitch for the West to impoverish itself isn't going to make much difference. As the Obama Administration has cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline, to bring oil into the U.S. from Canada (now it will go to China), and the EPA has been issuing regulations that will prevent new coal-fired power plants from being built, and will close down old ones when they need to be recertified -- despite 50% of U.S. energy being generated from coal -- it is clear that the most powerful interest of all, the Leviathan State (and its cat's paw, the Democratic Party), is now intent on reducing the U.S. economy to wind farms (provided by General Electric, of course).

The effective fiction used by people like Cameron is to portray themselves as lone Davids fighting the Goliaths of corporate power (except for GE, Warren Buffet, etc.), when in fact they are willing tools of State Power, with the vast and growing police powers of Government and its legions of faceless bureaucrats backing them up. Rather than funding climate skeptics or "deniers," the oil companies themselves fund science and organizations in the pocket of the Global Warming industry -- simply illustrating the principle that "capital is a coward." It is the skeptics who are the Davids.

Editorial Note, 2009:

It now may have become reasonable to consider the proprosition that the theory of anthropogenic global warming is no longer a scientific theory. That is because, for a theory to be part of science, it must be possible for it to be falsified by observational evidence. It now looks like the theory of anthropogenic global warming, for its adherents, cannot be falsified.

It is not just that falsifying evidence is dismissed or explained away, something that often happens with scientific theories; but when any scientists produce or cite such evidence, they are smeared with personal attacks and attempts are made to discredit their bona fides as scientists and damage their professional standing. When I noted to a correspondent that Albert Einstein was never personally attacked or his seriousness questioned just because of his skepticism over the peculiarities of quantum mechanics, the response was of the form "this is different." How is it different? Well, the theory of anthropogenic global warming has become a political ideology, a quasi-religious crusade, where heresy cannot be tolerated and skeptics or "deniers" are bundled into the same category as neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers. This in itself serves to discredit the rhetoric and the case, if not the science, of the global warming alarmists.

If that were not enough, now we have "Climategate." E-mail correspondence from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia was recently leaked or hacked. The spectacle revealed in this material was not the practice of science, but the practice of politics. To any disinterested oberver, it is an ugly business, with implications of destroyed data, stonewalling on Freedom of Information Act disclosures, and attempts to suppress the publication of research and/or to discredit skeptical scientists. We already knew they were acting this way, but now we get it in their own words.

Published in 2009, but before the Climategate disclosures, is a fine brief book by Ralph B. Alexander, Global Warming False Alarm, the Bad Science Behind the United Nations' Assertion that Man-Made CO2 Causes Global Warming [Canterbury Publishing]. With a Ph.D. in physics, Alexander maintains a sharp focus on the scientific issues. The political issues are noted but not explored to any extent, while the science discussions stick to the essentials, without mind-numbing and irrelevant elaboration. He is concerned, however, about the integrity of science; and the alarmists come in for extended criticism for their practices that diverge from the proper and even the honest. It is a timely and satisfying treatment.

Editorial Note, 2008:

Singer and Avery's book, which I review below, has just come out in a new 2008 edition, "updated and expanded," as the subtitle says. It is also extensively rewritten and reorganized, to its great material improvement. I have also learned in the meantime something of the place of Fred Singer in the history of the global warming debate.

The original inspiration for Al Gore's involvement with the global warming issue was one of his professors at Harvard, Roger Revelle. In 1957 Revelle had published data showing increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In 1965 he helped attribute this increase to human burning of fossil fuels, and in 1982 he predicted that global warming could result from this increase. This made him "the father of the greenhouse effect." However, Revelle was not an alarmist and tended to recommend caution. In 1991, he coauthored an article with Fred Singer, saying, among other things, "Drastic, precipitous, and especially, unilateral steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective." This was not what Al Gore and his friends wanted to hear. In the 1992 Presidential campaign, claims were floated that Revelle had become senile before his death (of a heart attack, later in 1991). Singer was publicly accused by Justin Lancaster, who was a science advisor to Gore, of taking advantage of Revelle's mental incapacity and putting his name on the article without his consent. Singer sued. Lancaster settled, with a public retraction (which he has subsequently tried to take back, though all the details and evidence of the case are on the public record).

I learned of this ugly footnote to Gore's moral environmental crusade from The Deniers, The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud* (*And those who are too fearful to do so), by Lawrence Solomon [Richard Vigilante Books, 2008]. Solomon is a Canadian environmentalist who got interested and began writing newspaper articles about global warming "deniers," curious if the claims of Gore et al. were true that such people were marginal crackpots, unqualified, or tools of Big Oil. It didn't look like any of these charges were true; and Solomon became concerned that Gore's "scientific consensus" on climate was fraudulent. Of course, after such a discovery, it is unlikely that Solomon (like Bjorn Lomborg) would any longer be described as an "environmentalist" by the community of politically active environmentalists. Such heresy in itself discredits one's environmental bona fides.

But Canadians have done yeoman work in this area (perhaps because they wouldn't mind a bit of warming up there). Solomon's own first case features the Canadians Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. They discredited the infamous "hockey stick" graph of temperatures created by Michael Mann, which showed that 1998 had been the hottest year of the millennium, after a few years of alarming and unprecedented temperature increases. It seems that Mann had, intentionally or unintentionally, misused his statistical methods. His graph could have been generated with noise. McIntyre now has his own website, Climate Audit, and McKitrick has his own book, Taken By Storm, The Troubled Science, Policy, and Politics of Global Warming [with Christopher Essex, Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, 2002, 2007]. This is one of the most impressive examinations ever of both the science and politics of global warming. Meanwhile, Bjorn Lomborg has his own relevant book, Cool It, The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming [Knopf, 2008]. Of course, being a "Skeptic" on climate is now becoming a Thought Crime, and we will all end up at Al Gore's version of the Nuremberg Trials.

In the two years [2007] since the publication of Michael Crichton's State of Fear [2005], reviewed below, it has received little public notice and the drumbeat of propaganda about global warming not only continued but increased. Al Gore turned his PowerPoint presentation on the issue into a movie, An Inconvenient Truth [2006], which did reasonably well at the box office. U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe have written an open letter to Exxon-Mobil threatening some kind of action because the oil company has been funding some anti-warming research at a think tank. They apparently think that free speech has now been suspended and that denying global warming should have the same legal prohibition as Holocaust denial in France. Joseph Kennedy II has called global warming skeptics "bastards" -- something I have never noticed anyone calling Albert Einstein because of his skepticism over quantum mechanics. They also seem to think that the source of research funding always determines the results that are to be expected -- a principle that also discredits, of course, research funded by the federal government, which uniformly serves the interests of the federal government in implying that it, including Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe, should have more power. Unfortunately for Al Gore, the convenient nature of his truth, which is for unlimited government and command economics, meaning money and power for him and his friends, emerged in the 2006 campaign for Proposition 87 in California. This was to tax oil companies to fund research into "alternative energy." Gore was to endure two levels of humiliation in the campaign:  (1) that his own campaign ad for the proposition was pulled to run a series of ads featuring only Bill Clinton; and (2) that the proposition went down to decisive defeat. As it happened, a week after the election The Economist mentioned that about 10% of venture capital is already going into research on alternative fuels and energy. However, since there has been steady research in such things since the 70's, with limited results, how much more is to be expected any time soon is a good question.

With very little in the way of skeptical comment from the media bandwagon for Gore, et al., Unstoppable Global Warming, Every 1,500 Years, by S. Fred Singer (1924-2020) and Dennis T. Avery finally is a bit of fresh air. They are not as skeptical as Crichton about warming as such, but they go after the thesis that it has anything to do with human activities and is something that we should, or can, do something about. One aspect of their approach involves the natural rhythms of warming and cooling in Earth's history. Another is the role of carbon dioxide in relation to a greenhouse effect of warming. With both, some eye opening information comes from an article published by the Geological Society of America in the GSA Today of July 2003 [Vol.13, No.7], "Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?" by Nir J. Shaviv, of Hebrew University, and Ján Veizer of the University of Ottawa and the Ruhr Universität. The whole article is available in text or pdf format on line.

A key bit of data from Veizer and Shaviv's article I have added to the following chart, whose original form, showing the transgressions and regressions of the oceans, can be examined at "The Pulse of the Earth" webpage. The full chart in "Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?" can be seen in a footnote, along with some other climate history information. Here we can see North America, in brown and orange, standing dry during the regressions, and the ocean, in blue, lapping over the Transcontinental Arch during the transgressions. What I have added, also in blue, is an indication of when the earth has had polar caps. This is shown when blue bars extend at each end of the chart -- the "Icehouse" conditions for the Earth. In Phanerozoic time, i.e. geological history since the beginning of the Cambrian, something under the last 600 millions years, there have been four "Icehouses." In the Paleozoic Era, from the Cambrian to the Permian, this involved glaciation. Veizer and Shaviv note the presence of "ice rafted debris" and "glacial deposits" in the icehouse periods. During the Mesozoic, the time of the dinosaurs, from the Triassic to the Cretaceous, the icehouse is indicated with a different tint of blue because, as Veizer and Shaviv say, "true polar ice caps have not been documented for this time interval." There is some "ice rafted debris" but no evidence of glaciation. Finally, we are in an icehouse ourselves, which has persisted most of the Cenozoic Era, with glaciation since the Pleistocene and icecaps and many glaciers persisting. I have added a fifth icehouse before the Cambrian because this is now a popular theory about why life only became abundant and varied in the "Cambrian Revolution" -- before then we had a "snowball Earth," with all the oceans frozen and life limited by the darkness of unfrozen, subsurface water. Given the rhythm of the icehouses, it is reasonable that there should be a Precambrian episode anyway.

The temperature of the Earth over geological time follows the succession of icehouse and "greenhouses," i.e. the warmer intermediate periods. The highest temperatures of all were after the end of the Permian icehouse. This produces a cycle of about 135 million years. Veizer, a geologist, did not know what periodic event, if any, could account for this cycle. There have been four icehouses in Phanerozoic time and, for instance, six transgressions. The Tippecanoe and Absaroka transgressions center nicely in icehouses, but we do not otherwise get a match. The Zuñi transgression neatly straddles the Jurassic-Cretaceous icehouse and the following greenhouse. Then Veizer discovered that Shaviv, an astrophysicist, did know what could match the cycles. That was when the earth, in its orbit around the Milky Way Galaxy, passes through spiral arms of the galaxy -- right now we are in the Orion Arm of the Galaxy (home of M42, the Great Orion Nebula). Their article is mainly about the effect this could have on weather. It turns out that while in a spiral arm, the Earth receives more in the way of radiation from cosmic rays. This ionizes atoms in the air, which provide better nuclei for cloud formation. The icehouses are thus characterized by greater cloud cover, which increases the Earth's albedo and reflects more sunlight back into space. The Earth cools. A purely geophysical process would seem to be responsible for the transgressions, and the warming effect we might expect from water covering the continents is apparently offset by the cooling effect. The Jurassic-Cretaceous icehouse appears to be the exception, where the arrangement of the contingents, with open ocean at the poles, prevented glaciation and the formation, as Veizer and Shaviv say, of "true polar ice caps."

What the record of temperature, icehouses, and transgressions really doesn't match up with is the history of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Veizer and Shaviv cite three different studies on CO2 levels. The studies do not agree very well, but they do agree on two things:  (1) the rise and fall of CO2 is unrelated to the rise and fall of temperature, and (2) the concentration of CO2 right now is at a historic low. I had seen this mentioned a year or so ago on just one television documentary, on something like the Science Channel, but they had not given a reference and nothing else I have seen has mentioned anything of the sort. One study (the GEOCARB III, by Berner and Kothavala, 2001) actually shows very high CO2 levels in a couple of the coldest periods, during the Ordovician and near the Jurassic Cretaceous boundary. The effect of this, of course, is to show that CO2 levels don't have very much to do with the temperature of the Earth. This is bad news for global warming enthusiasts, who want a direct link between warming and the evils of automobiles, oil companies, and American consumerism.

Singer and Avery, of course, have a great deal more in their book than an examination of Veizer and Shaviv's information. I lead with the latter because it is so devastating, and because public discussions of global warming still usually fail to note that the Earth has been much warmer in the past than now, and that for much of Phanerozoic time the Earth had no glaciers or polar caps. The impression the public would get is that any warming will kill coral reefs and then the whole planet, so we better give up modern energy production right away. The title of Unstoppable Global Warming, Every 1,500 Years refers to cycles of warming and cooling on a much smaller scale than Phanerozoic time, indeed, just since the end of the last Glacial, about 10,000 years ago. For several thousand years after that, the Earth was relatively much warmer than it is now -- the Climatic Optimum, which Singer and Avery, unlike Al Gore, have no reason not to mention. Since then, the cycles of climate change are reasonably evident for about the last 2000 years. Thus, we go from the Roman Warming of the early years AD, to the Dark Ages Cooling, to the Mediaeval Warming -- the Little Climatic Optimum -- to the Little Ice Age, and finally to the warming trend that has continued since around 1850. Recent periods of cooling seem to involve droughts in key places, and the overall cooling since the Climatic Optimum has meant gradual desiccation, for instance, of the Sahara. The Dark Ages Cooling can have added to the problems of the Roman Empire and may even have knocked out Mayan Civilization, which was entirely dependant on rainfall for water. Similarly, the theory is that an earlier cooling led to a drought in Egypt, so that the evils of the First Intermediate Period are linked to climate -- the great Faiyum lake, later beloved of XII Dynasty Kings, appears to have dried up during this period.

Although they don't seem to discuss it in the book, the "1,500 years" in Singer and Avery's title may refer to a climate cycle that has been discerned in Pleistocene data, the "Bond Cycle," of between 1100 and 1500 years. Their thesis is apparently that the Bond Cycle has simply continued into post-glacial times. What drove or drives the Bond Cycle is a good question. It may be a cycle of solar activity, or other things may be involved. All we know is that it is a periodicity event in the sedimentary record.

Things like the Climatic Optimum and the Little Ice Age used to be non-controversial, but since they are not helpful for global warming scare-mongering, there are cases examined by Singer and Avery where attempts have been made to explain them away or manipulate the data. The most infamous of these may have been the "Hockey Stick" graph of Michael Mann, which eliminated most of the variations in temperature for the last 1000 years and posited a steep and unprecedented rise (the hockey stick blade) in temperatures in the 20th century [pp.68-69]. Other attempts to explain away historic variations involve claiming that the Mediaeval Warming or the Little Ice Age only occurred in Europe or nearby and were not global phenomena. Singer and Avery go over all the evidence, from all over the world, against these revisionist efforts.

Singer and Avery nicely sum up the "strongest allies" of the theory of human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming:

This list, of course, is short on science and evidence and long on politics, both that of activists with a moral axe to grind and that of politicians and bureaucrats whose rent-seeking interest is in their own power. Since the scare-mongering enthusiasts like to blame evils on the oil companies or the American consumer, targets they already seemed to dislike anyway, as part of the general agenda and ideology of the Left, they deserve at least as much in terms of ad hominem attacks as they dish out. But this is not a minor point. The public is constantly told that skepticism or counter-evidence against anthropogenic global-warming is simply part of disinformation from self-interested oil companies or related corporations, who are preventing us from using or developing the alternative energy sources that would Save the Earth and lead to "sustainable" growth. There are many who may sincerely believe this scenario, but with far too many activists it is a smoke-screen for an "agenda" (as they like to say) for something very different:  for a virtuous eco-poverty (as in Cuba) and a government that will make the "hard choices" of forcing people into that poverty (as in Cuba). They may know that "alterative energy" is not available (or is nuclear, which is also objectionable) and that the oil companies are simply truthfully doing their job. It is the job, cheap energy, that they don't like. Capitalism, freedom, prosperity, and America are the enemy, as they have been for many years. While press has done its best to ignore Michael Crichton on this, and will certainly ignore Singer and Avery (and Veizer and Shaviv), we also see that when the public realizes what the real agenda and consequences of the business are, as with Proposition 87, the likes of Al Gore come out on the short end. Even better, the developing world, including India and China, have little patience for wealthy westerners (which is what the ecological activists generally are) telling them they should remain in poverty. China will probably have the largest economy in the world by 2020; and even without democracy, the Chinese government is looking forward to the power that this will give their country. If the United States should hobble its own economy with energy restrictions, so much the better. It is instructive on the way the press works these days that the stories about global warming often contain emphasis that sea levels and droughts will affect poor Third World countries the most, without mentioning that suggested restrictions on energy production condemn the very same countries to continued poverty. Fortunately, the countries themselves, mainly African, know what the most immediately threat to their welfare is, and it is wealthy and comfortable Western do-gooding eco-activists, not global warming.

Michael Crichton, State of Fear, HarperCollins, 2004

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Unstoppable Global Warming, Note

The full chart in "Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?" can be seen at right. It is shrunk for this page, but a full sized version will popup by clicking on the chart. Similarly, a full sized version of the legend will popup with a click.

The most important features of this are (1) the dark black line on the lower part of the chart, which are the mean temperatures at 10/50 resolution, as explained in the legend, since the end of the Cambrian Period, and (2) the red, green, and blue lines at the top of the chart, which are different reconstructions (with spread of uncertainty for two of them) for concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Figure 2--Long-term trends in 20-year d18O ratios measured on the GISP2 Greenland ice core. A = Trend since start of Holocene, 10,000 b.p. Slope = -0.000024**. B = Trend since start of Christian era, 2000 b.p. Slope = -0.000196**. C = Trend since start of Little Ice Age, 700 b.p. Slope = -0.000067 NS. D = Trend since start of industrial revolution, 100 b.p. Slope = +0.003518 NS. Positive slope indicates rising temperatures. ** = highly significant (p=0.01), NS = not significant.
For the history of temperatures in more recent time, on a larger scale, we've got the chart at right, from John C. Davis and Geoffrey C. Bohling, referenced in Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change by L.C. Gerhard, W.E. Harrison, and B.M. Hanson [American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 2001] -- the legend from Gerhard, Harrison and Hanson is included with the table. With the present at the left, the upper table shows temperatures during the last Glacial (the Younger Dryas) and then since the beginning of the Holocene Epoch. On average, temperatures have declined by a small but steady amoung. In the lower table we have an enlargement of the most recent part of the upper table, the last two thousand years. The Roman Warming, Dark Ages Cooling, and Mediaeval Warming are evident, with the Little Ice Age in a different color (looks like violet). Since the end of the Little Ice Age, temperatures have increased significantly, but had not yet peaked even as high as it was at one point in the Little Ice Age.

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Michael Crichton,

State of Fear, a Novel

HarperCollins, 2004

Michael Crichton will probably be best known for his novel Jurassic Park [1990], which became a blockbuster movie, pioneering the use of digitally created characters. His novels The Andromeda Strain, Congo, and The Lost World also became movies. In all of these there has been an element of science fiction and science fact. With State of Fear we get just a little bit of science fiction, with mystery fiction, and a great deal of science fact, whose nature, however, is a matter of intense controversy and politicization. Indeed, the novel is as much about politics and political disputes mixed in with science as anything else. Thus, State of Fear is a most unusual novel in having footnotes and a bibliography, which the reader is warned are real and serious. At the end we also get an "Author's Message" and an appendix, "Why Politicizing Science Is Dangerous," which discusses historical cases of pseudo-scientific fads like eugenics and Lysenko's biology.

The political and scientific dispute in this case is over the theory and evidence for global warming. The general thrust of the novel we can gather from the circumstance that the story is about a conspiracy of eco-terrorists to generate several catastrophic events, which will include a large number of deaths, just to publicize an ecology conference on "abrupt climate change." In the course of it we also get a strong swipe at political activists in Hollywood. One such character, Ted Bradley, is said to have played the President in a long running television series. This would be a reference to Martin Sheen, a leftist activist who plays the President on The West Wing -- though the name and the personality of Ted Bradley both evoke Ted Baxter, the pompous and foolish news anchor on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show. Bradley ends up literally getting eaten by cannibals -- after heatedly affirming that cannibalism is a myth used to disparage Third World peoples. For harshness, this is in competition with the treatment of Hollywood activists in Team America, World Police (where they merely get their heads blown off or are consumed by flame). The eco-terrorists themselves are identified as the "Environmental Liberation Front," ELF, which is a very thinly disguised reference to the "Earth Liberation Front," also ELF, which has engaged in just the kinds of arson and vandalism initially described in the book. The real ELF, however, has so far avoided any loss of life in its acts (except for animals, ironically), while the ELF of the novel commits a murder within the first few pages and attempts many others thereafter.

As a story, State of Fear has some drawbacks. Although the investigation is in the hands of federal anti-terrorism agents, who have no difficulty getting the cooperation of local law enforcement, we never see more than two agents in on the operations, they move around by borrowing a corporate jet, and anti-terrorist strikes that reasonably would call for SWAT teams and military cooperation are carried out by just these two agents, with the help of a private millionaire, one of his lawyers, one of his staffers, and one of the agent's nieces. Failures and setbacks plague the operations, usually because the small team, with a majority of amateurs, are outnumbered, outgunned, and often outsmarted by the bad guys. Disaster is avoided mainly by good luck. This is ridiculous. Versions of such teams are common in stories where authorities don't believe in the bad guys, or are in league with them, and an oddball group of private individuals must save the day. In State of Fear, however, where the good guys are directed by federal agents, the oddball group approach doesn't make any sense. When the bad guys are driving around Arizona in large moving vans, plainly labeled, and the Arizona police are cooperating, it is incredible that the whole ELF team, with its equipment, could not have scooped up. Crichton really should have given all this a little more thought.

On the other hand, the story is just a framework on which to hang the scientific and political issues. This works rather better. The global warming debate involves several layers of questions. (1) Are average global temperatures rising? (2) Do human activities have anything to do with this? (3) Could such warming occur without any human involvement? (4) Does it matter? (5) Could such warming, if it is happening, be, on the whole, desirable? The short answers here are (1) perhaps, (2) perhaps, (3) yes, (4) perhaps not, and (5) possibly. In more detail:

  1. Crichton takes a pretty hard skeptical line about whether warming is occurring at all and gives a fair amount of detail about it in the book. Although anyone watching the news recently would be under the impression that glaciers are retreating everywhere, that the Antarctic icesheet is rapidly melting, that temperatures are rising everywhere, and that sea levels are rising rapidly and dangerously, all of these are flatly denied. The book begins with an Icelandic geologist battling his eco-activist sponsors. They want him to slant his data, or at least his interpretation, to support global warming, but his research happens to show that glaciers in Iceland are advancing, not retreating. The data for Antarctica is that, while parts of the continent are warming, the majority of it has actually become colder. All this is interesting and important, but it is also an empirical question. Political debate, novels, and philosophers are not going to settle whether the planet is generally warming up or not. What concerns Crichton most particularly are instances, as at the beginning of the book, where research results actually have been slanted and misstated, sometimes by bureaucrats without the knowledge of the scientists involved in the research. Since this has indeed happened, it gives the global issue an intrinsic political dimension that has nothing to do with science or, indeed, with climate.

  2. Human activities do generate carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. If the planet is getting warmer, it is perfectly conceivable and possible that this contributes to it. The political dimension of global warming involves a factual judgment that this cannot be allowed to happen because the effects would be catastrophic, and a moral judgment that the only reason we are tempting fate and generating all this carbon dioxide is because we are greedy, thoughtless, and selfish -- especially in the United States -- and follow a capitalistic mode of production rather than a socialism that would keep us in virtuous poverty, like in Cuba. Well, Crichton doesn't state the latter part in quite those terms, but that is the ideology involved, and in the book Crichton touches on most of its elements.

  3. The simple truth is that whatever we do, the Earth, in time, will get warmer and, in time, will get cooler. It has been much warmer and much cooler at different points in geological history. Indeed, the Earth usually has been much warmer than it is now. Ice caps at the poles are probably very unusual in the history of the planet and probably didn't exist at all during the entire Mesozoic Period, when the dinosaurs lived. Some research suggests that carbon dioxide levels much, much higher than now went along with the long stretches, hundreds of millions of years, when the planet was cooler. In recent history, since the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch, within the last two million years, the Earth has been unusually cool. Four times, glaciers have covered much of the northern hemisphere. Between the glaciations, inter-glacial periods have typically been rather warm. After the end of the last glaciation, the Earth was warmer than it is now. This was long called the "climatic optimum," a term now dropped just because it makes it sound like we would be better off with a warmer climate. One cannot argue that global warming would be bad if that were the case. Since the "climatic optimum," cooling has generally been the trend. Europe in the 13th century seems to have been warmer than it is now, and beginning in the 17th century there was the "Little Ice Age," which may have helped spark the French Revolution, thanks to crop failures. Temperatures have recovered since the beginning of the 19th century, and it looks like such warming has been the trend since. Whether or not this has recently been influenced by human activities, there is no doubt that something of the sort could well have been occurring anyway, and is bound to happen sooner or later.

    Why glaciation occurred in the distant Paleozoic and the recent Pleistocene is a matter of debate and conjecture (there is also theory that the entire planet was frozen just before the Cambrian Era). The shape and size of the Earth's orbit, the inclination of the Earth on its axis, and the sun's own cycles of energy output all may contribute. Most obviously, however, is the arrangement of the continents. In the Paleozoic, where evidence of glaciation is on the southern continents, the South Pole was covered and ringed with land. Land cools easily and prevents moderating ocean currents from approaching the pole. Today, a large continent covers the South Pole again, and the North Pole is almost entirely ringed by the northern continents, limiting ocean circulation. Large ice caps figure on northern and southern lands, and the North Pole itself is covered by sea ice. Over millions of years this arrangement of continents will be changed, and the Earth will again enter a period when open ocean is at the poles and ice caps don't exist.

    While a warmer Earth may indeed be something we might not desire to artificially produce, it is worth noting that the planet did just fine in its warmer periods and that there was nothing catastrophic or threatening to life about such climates. The idea that the Earth must be "saved" from warming, which would endanger life itself, is thus farcical.

  4. Whether any actual global warming would matter just depends. There used to be a lot more rain in the Sahara, which has steadily desiccated, as the Earth has cooled, for about 8000 years. A lot of poor countries would be better off with more of that rain. Certainly not everyone would benefit. During the Pleistocene, sea levels were both higher and lower than they are now. Lower levels meant more water in the ice caps; higher levels meant warmer periods. Higher levels now would doom New York and other coastal cities. This could and would happen eventually anyway, without human intervention. At the same time, most people fail to note that the entire cap of sea ice at the North Pole could melt without raising sea levels one inch. Anyone can conduct the experiment of putting an ice cube in a glass of water, noting the water level, and then seeing what happens when the ice melts. Nothing happens. For sea level to rise, huge areas of ice on land must melt. More than 90% of that means Antarctica, with Greenland coming in second. If the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets simply are not shrinking, as Crichton says, then the debate is over.

  5. As already noted, until recently a warmer Earth was usually regarded as a good thing. Historically it meant more rain in places that rather need it, and a longer growing season in higher latitudes. No one much enjoyed the Little Ice Age (and now there are theories that the Egyptian Old Kingdom and the whole of Mayan civilization collapsed because of droughts associated with colder periods). The issue, however, is now confused with new and dire predictions, like more severe weather, more and stronger hurricanes, etc. Crichton touches on this, and the predictions largely seem to be speculation with very little, if any, empirical foundation. Although 2004 was a noteworthy year for having four hurricanes hit Florida, the number of hurricanes had actually declined in recent decades, and even an unusual year like 2004 simply returned things closer to the average 50 years ago. If global warming had been a steady process, it looks like it has largely produced fewer hurricanes, not more.

If the evidence is against global warming, or ambiguous, or irrelevant, why has it become such an issue? The answer seems to be a moral and political one. We are trashing the planet with human civilization, foolishly wasting "natural resources," and hoarding wealth in the advanced countries that should be shared with the underdeveloped ones. This approach seems to be equal parts moralistic asceticism, that the virtuous embrace poverty, and the remnants of "lumpen Marxism" and the kind of half-baked socialism that is the best that the Left can do these days. The asceticism goes down well with the "chattering classes" of the press, politics, and academia, though few members of these groups practice any kind of asceticism themselves -- a point well illustrated by Crichton (the maids drive the hybrids). The socialism still sounds good in the same circles, even though all its forms are now so incoherent and discredited that they can withstand neither a moment of critical reflection nor the slightest comparison with historical experience. Nothing "trashes" the planet like even a small asteroid, or a large volcano, and human activities are pinpricks in comparison. Wealth, on the other hand, comes from human activity, not piles of "resources." Poor countries are poor, not because they lack natural resources (often they have an abundance, far more than the second largest economy on Earth, Japan), but because they lack capital, especially human capital. Human capital, indeed, consists of the kinds of skills, habits, and striving that are always bitterly resented when only ethnic minorities possess them -- minorities like the Chinese in Southeast Asia, Indians in East Africa, or Jews in Eastern Europe. They are then damned, while robbed or expelled, with all the bogus principles used to belabor capitalism -- leaving behind, of course, continuing poverty. Human capital, indeed, can generate wealth while beginning with very little of other kinds of capital. A Japan that was all but flattened by bombing, including atomic bombing, in World War II, rebuilt itself and surpassed all its former foes (except one) and allies in not much more than thirty years.

Crichton's attitude seems to have changed a bit since Jurassic Park. There we had a cautionary tale of human arrogance, with gems like, "Discovery is always a rape of the natural world," pronounced by the prophet mathematician Ian Malcolm, whose understanding of Chaos Theory seems to boil down principally to a restatement of Murphy's Law. The moral of the approach seems to be that, as Nature cannot be controlled, modern science is a fraud, a mistake, a sin, or something of the sort. Since Malcolm himself, however, says that mathematics "is just an arbitrary game," it is not clear why this, as he asserts, describes reality more fully than any other "arbitrary game." Since he doesn't advocate giving up civilization and going back to the Pleistocene (though he does seem to say that human life was just as good 30,000 years ago as now), the upshot is that we are not told what we should do instead -- and the Malcolm of the book dies, unlike the Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) of the movie. On the other hand, Malcolm also denies that the planet, or life in general, are in any kind of trouble from our activities. It is only ourselves, not the planet, that we endanger.

Although the popularity of Jurassic Park is probably due in great measure to the theme of human arrogance and "rape of the natural world" (with the irony that the embodiments of the sin, the revived dinosaurs, are as much the draw for the movie as they would have been for the fictional Jurassic Park), the Crichton of State of Fear seems to have taken the later insight, that the planet will do just fine, more to heart, to the cost of the former. At the same time, Malcolm was quite right that Nature cannot be controlled. The problem with that is just the ideology with which it is always coupled, i.e. that human beings can and should be controlled. No one complains about the human treatment of nature without wanting to stop it, to leave Nature alone, apparently because Nature is better off without us. We see the affinity of militant ecology to the Left in the desire to suppress freedom and control people, or at least people's economic activities (though the forced abortions in China are also popular in some circles). The very idea that Nature can be "preserved" is refuted by Crichton with a fine example, how Yellowstone National Park was intended, through all its history, to be a preserve of natural life, but instead was changed repeatedly by the very measures expected to preserve it. Withdrawing humans from wilderness and then believing that Nature will there simply continue unchanged is itself a form of control, one as unlikely to work as expected as any other intervention. Militant ecology indeed assumes the very principle it uses to belabor human arrogance, that human life is different and distinct from Nature. Human arrogance, of course, supposes that human life is better than Nature, while militant ecology supposes that human life is worse than Nature.

The truth is that neither Nature nor human life can or should be controlled. Human cultural, intellectual, and scientific evolution simply continues the process by which evolution produces life in the first place -- human civilization embodies more of the forms of spontaneous order that are embodied in the structures of matter, the universe, and life. Despite the popularity of ecological ideas and the moralistic condemnations in books like Jurassic Park, it is also noteworthy that political measures with significant economic costs (at least obvious ones) are commonly losers in politics. A good example of that was the "BTU" (British Thermal Unit) tax that was proposed by the Clinton Administration when it assumed office in 1993. The idea behind such a tax was to make all forms of energy more expensive, which would discourage energy use and promote the development of "alternative" sources of cheap energy. This had in particular been a campaign theme of Bill Clinton's Vice President, Al Gore, who published an eco-doomsday book for the campaign (Earth in the Balance). With solid majorities in Congress, there was nothing to stand in the way of such a proposal by the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the tax failed and was never revived (although other taxes were increased). Despite it being a constant theme of ecological complaint that gasoline in the United States is too cheap, and should be more like the $5 a gallon common in Europe, it does not escape notice that any serious rise in gasoline prices is greeted with howls of protest. The Democratic Party knew that it is better that such protests be directed at the oil companies and the market, rather than at a Democratic Congress.

A similar political dislocation occurred in 2004 with the movie The Day After Tomorrow. This was a heavy handed tale of ecological doom, based on the idea that Artic melting would lower the salinity of the North Atlantic, stop the Gulf Stream, and plunge Europe, at least (North America too, in the movie), into a new Ice Age. This is a real theory, and of some interest. Its catastrophism suffers from the difficulty that the Gulf Stream does not simply flow north and then sink (as heavy salt water) and return south at depth, but that the circulation on the surface is a clockwise pattern, driven by wind, all around the North Atlantic basin. Either way, the extrapolations in the movie are preposterous. What we see are several gigantic storms in the northern hemisphere that return the Pleistocene ice caps to their full size in the course of just a few days. Storms, however, require a lot of energy, and Arctic cold, however warmed from the past, cannot provide it. Hurricanes, or the moisture for a New England "Nor'easter" snowstorm, comes from the tropics. This impossible storm over North America then generates a huge storm surge that buries New York City in water. Unfortunately, storm surges are generated by storms at sea, which is where this storm isn't. The clincher, though, is that the giant storms draw down super cold air from the stratosphere into their centers, which flash freezes everything, including the water that is to reconstitute the Pleistocene glaciers. The producers, writers, or advisors to the movie, however, failed to recollect that storms form around low pressure centers and that in low pressure centers air is rising, not falling. High pressure, where air descends, commonly brings the coldest temperatures, with clear skies. A comparable problem occurs with the portrayal of an outbreak of tornadoes in Los Angeles. Now, small tornadoes have been spotted in the Los Angeles Basin, and waterspouts have been filmed off the coast, but outbreaks of tornadoes have rather more to do with geography than with anything else. Flat terrain between a dry continental north and the warm, humid Gulf of Mexico makes central North America the tornado capital of the world. Mountains, of whatever size, break up airflow and disrupt tornado formation. This is evident anywhere, but is particularly conspicuous in the genuinely mountainous environs of Los Angeles.

So it must be asked why the movie takes these liberties with the truth. First, it could simply be a traditional Hollywood "disaster" movie, where truth and science are suspended for purposes of entertainment. This is "poetic license." The movie succeeds on that basis and was very successful at the boxoffice. Second, however, the movie could be a dishonest bit of political propaganda. This is more what it looks like. The political dimension of the movie is obvious, first because it begins at an environmental conference, attended by the Vice President of the United States -- an obvious version of actual Vice President Dick Cheney. A nastier political edge runs through the film when we see that the Vice President is the one really in charge and that the President, a George Bush clone, is uninvolved and ineffectual. The President gets killed, and the Vice President, who has fled to the American Embassy in Mexico, finds eco-Religion, confessing his sins and undertaking to Save the Earth.

If the producers had reason to be encouraged by the performance of the movie for their political goals (like Michael Moore with his own dishonest "documentary" propaganda films), they cannot have been pleased with the political result, which was the reelection of George Bush. The movie as a political instrument thus failed badly, and a more astute propagandist (like Moore) might have told them that the war in Iraq, not the environment, would be the pivotal campaign issue -- though even that didn't quite do the trick. Perhaps it was a bad sign that The Passion of the Christ made more money in 2004 than The Day After Tomorrow and Fahrenheit 911 combined.

While State of Fear, like other Crichton books, would make a good or at least serviceable movie (we cannot say that Congo, for instance, was all that great), it remains to be seen whether it will appear as the counterpoint to The Day After Tomorrow. Indeed, we might see this as a test case of political bias in Hollywood, where political activists are pleased to deny political bias. The expository sections of the book are worked in quite nicely, and could survive to some extent in a movie, but there is also the fact that such things, however attenuated, are deadly for pace and plot. Previously the bane of science fiction, expository sections were brilliantly eliminated by George Lucas in Star Wars, in part because he realized that foreign movies he liked, like Japanese movies, worked even though the audience, lacking the cultural background, didn't always understand what was going on. So Lucas decided to treat science fiction as a kind of foreign language medium. This approach is not available for State of Fear, where the background is much of the point of the story. But if this problem could be successfully overcome in The Day After Tomorrow, it probably can be in State of Fear. The willingness of Hollywood money to back an enviro-skeptic film is what is in real doubt.

S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming, Every 1,500 Years, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007


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