Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Green book review - Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science by Dr. John J. Berger

Climate change is always a fascinating story, not just the way it changes our lives, but also the way it became a public debate and the role political and economic forces played to increase the uncertainty about it. 

The latter is also the subject of the book we're reviewing this:  

Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science by Dr. John J. Berger (publisher: Northbrae Books)

What this book is about?

Climate Myths describes the fossil fuel industries’ successful two-decade-long campaign to control the public debate over global climate change―with disastrous consequences. The book reveals how fossil fuel companies manufactured controversies about climate change, obscuring its true causes and effects.  Dangerous climate change has now become a reality for which the nation is unprepared: Federal climate policy has been stalemated, legislation has been stillborn, and international climate negotiations have been stymied.

Climate Myths exposes how the fossil fuel industry’s campaign was modeled on the cigarette companies’ campaign to convince Americans that tobacco was not a health hazard, and how it operated to sow doubt about climate change through a network of prominent proxy organizations.  The book provides insights into the campaign’s origins, motives, techniques, and main actors as it tracks the industry’s ever-changing and contradictory climate myths.  
Beyond merely describing the way we got to this tragic, perilous impasse, the book carefully dissects the fossil fuel industry’s main allegations about climate change―one-by-one―in language ordinary readers can understand. 

The book includes a preface and foreword by two eminent climate scientists, Dr. Kevin Trenberth and Dr. John Harte, and an introduction by John H. Adams, winner of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

About the author
Dr. John J. Berger is the author and editor of 11 books on climate, energy, and natural resources. He is a graduate of Stanford University and has a master’s in energy and natural resources from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in ecology from UC Davis.

Our review:
I read this book in its entirety. The actual reading and material was only 64 pages, which I really liked. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with information, which sometimes you get with the longer books. I do have very mixed thoughts about its content though. The book gives you loads of information, which you then need to try to take in and think about. It’s written in a way that most people will be able to understand and is then backed up with documentation. There are plenty of references and organizations in the index, which were very helpful. I was able to go and check out some of the issues and do research on my own which I actually enjoy. Plus with this type of issue, I believe people need to go out and do some of their own research in order to fully understand the problem. The index was a huge help and road map in being able to do just that. 

However, I found a lot of hypocrisy within its pages. I believe that we have a very real climate issue on our hands. This book, in my opinion, is part of the problem in getting people on board. For instance, in one section it states that 2,500 of the world’s leading scientist were in agreement with the climate issues. Yet, when you do a basic search of climate scientists there are well over 18,000-42,000 (give or take). So there is only a fraction of the climate scientists that actually agree on what is the cause of global warming. This is a huge problem. If the scientists can’t even agree, how do we expect the world too? I’m not even going to touch the tax section. 

There is also a section that goes on about how easy it is to make unfounded charges and raise misleading questions. It continues with how the skeptical try to make their case by going to the media and the students, on TV and on the radio and even to the online communities. Both of these examples can be said for both sides of the case. Both are able to make unfounded charges and raise misleading questions. Both sides are all over the media and on the tv and everywhere you look. My problem is that this book seems to be all about finger pointing and not the real issues, not the facts. It causes more questions instead of answering them. 

I understand this was a book on the campaign against climate science, but the blame game is not going to help. For the people already on board with the climate issues, I believe that this is a very good book and I believe will be well read. However, in my opinion, I don’t believe it will appeal to the conflicted, which is the very group climate science needs in order to make a difference. We have to appeal to them with facts and science, not with blame and finger pointing.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.com (both e-book and hardcover formats are available).


1 comment:

www.johnjberger.com said...

While I appreciate that the reviewer has tried to provide a fair and conscientious review of my book Climate Myths, I need to point out in response to the accusation of hypocrisy that the reviewer has misinterpreted the statement that "some 2,500 of the world's leading scientists with a deep knowledge of climate issues reached agreement on the causes of climate change and its impacts." Perhaps the reviewer failed to notice the next sentence which states, "Their work was conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a multinational, multidisciplinary research alliance operating under the auspices of the UN and the World Meteorological Organization." It should have been very clear from the context that I was not saying that these 2,500 scientists are all the climate scientists in the world. This was a team of leading scientists engaged on one very large scientific endeavor. To be sure, there are other climate scientists but as independent surveys have shown, the vast majority of them are also in agreement on the existence of, and causes of, global warming. For a source on this read Hayden Washington and John Cook's excellent book, The Climate of Denial. I also take exception to the reviewer's charge that the book places too much emphasis on blaming those who are spreading misinformation and not enough focus on the facts. The second half of the book is actually a detailed and factual refutation of the climate myths that have been circulated by climate science deniers. Now that the facts are in and the increasingly dire consequences of climate change have become clear, it is simply unconscionable to circulated false, misleading, and discredited information about climate change. People who knowingly do so for ulterior motives need to be held responsible in the court of public opinion for the harm they're doing. That is what I've tried to do in Climate Myths. At the same time, I recognize that there are people of good will who have been genuinely hornswoggled by the fossil fuel industry's disinformation and I don't impute any wrongful motives to them. I hope they, too, will read the authoritative factual arguments put forth in Climate Myths and join the rising tide of public opinion that action to protect the climate urgently needs to be taken.--John J. Berger, Ph.D.