Crichton on Global Warming

Published February 1, 2005

How much of the science in State of Fear is accurate, and how much is fiction? Here is a summary of the scientific claims about global warming that appear in the book.

  • most of the warming in the past century occurred before 1940, before CO2 emissions could have been a major factor (p. 84);
  • global temperatures fell between 1940 and 1970 even as CO2 levels increased (p. 86);
  • temperature readings from reporting stations outside the United States are poorly maintained and staffed and probably inaccurate; those in the United States, which are probably more accurate, show little or no warming trend (pp. 88-89);
  • “full professors from MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Virginia, Colorado, UC Berkeley, and other prestigious schools, … the former president of the National Academy of Sciences … will argue that global warming is at best unproven, and at worst pure fantasy” (p. 90);
  • temperature sensors on satellites report much less warming in the upper atmosphere (which the theory of global warming predicts should warm first) than is reported by temperature sensors on the ground (p. 99);
  • data from weather balloons agree with the satellites (p. 100);
  • Antarctica “as a whole is getting colder, and the ice is getting thicker” (p. 193, sources listed on p. 194);
  • the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is “a huge group of bureaucrats, and scientists under the thumb of bureaucrats,” and its 1995 report was revised “after the scientists themselves had gone home” (pp. 245-246);
  • James Hansen’s predictions of global warming during a Congressional committee hearing in 1988, which launched the global warming scare, were wrong by 300 percent (.35 degrees Celsius over the next 10 years versus the actual increase of .11 degrees); in 1998, Hansen said long-term predictions of climate are impossible (pp. 246-247);
  • there has been no increase in extreme weather events (such as floods, tornadoes, and droughts) over the past century or in the past 15 years; computer models used to forecast climate change do not predict more extreme weather (pp. 362, 425-426);
  • temperature readings taken by terrestrial reporting stations are rising because they are increasingly surrounded by roads and buildings which hold heat, the “urban heat island” effect (pp. 368-369); methods used to control for this effect have failed to reduce temperatures enough to offset it (pp. 369-376);
  • changes in land use and urbanization may contribute more to changes in the average ground temperature than “global warming” caused by human emissions (pp. 383, 388);
  • carbon dioxide has increased a mere 60 parts per million since 1957, a tiny change in the composition of the atmosphere (p. 387);
  • increased levels of CO2 act as a fertilizer, promoting plant growth and contributing to the shrinking of the Sahara desert (p. 421);
  • sea levels have been rising at the rate of 10 to 20 centimeters (four to eight inches) per hundred years for the past 6,000 years (p. 424);
  • the Kyoto Protocol, if successful, would reduce temperatures by only 0.04 degrees Celsius in the year 2100 (p. 478);
  • change, not stability, is the defining characteristic of the global climate, with naturally occurring events (e.g.,such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis) much more likely to affect climate than anything humans do (p. 563); and
  • computer simulations are not real-world data and cannot be relied on to produce reliable forecasts (p. 566).

Crichton backs up many of these assertions by presenting the scientific data and/or by providing Web links and references to the scientific journals that document the facts.

As one character in State of Fear summarizes, “The threat of global warming is essentially nonexistent. Even if it were a real phenomenon, it would probably result in a net benefit to most of the world” (p. 407).

— Joseph L. Bast