Michael Crichton’s new novel, State of Fear, has created a whirlwind of controversy as global warming alarmists try frantically to discredit the author’s tenacious assault on global warming theory.
Before State of Fear, the left-leaning editorial hierarchy of major national media outlets successfully weeded out the scientific skepticism toward alarmist global warming theory before television and newspaper stories reached the general public. Crichton’s end-run around censorship has created a maelstrom of wrath and fury from alarmists, who realize the millions of citizens reading his novel will likely translate into millions of newly converted skeptics of global warming alarmism.
Crichton gains credibility among previously uninformed readers by citing, either in footnotes or through the dialogue of State of Fear‘s main characters, scientific publications that cast significant doubt on alarmist global warming theory. His readers, therefore, can look up the science themselves if they wish. To fight this, alarmists are disparaging Crichton and the science cited in the novel.
Personal Attacks Proliferate
The science behind Crichton’s book, however, is disparaged more by character assassination than scientific evidence. For example, on Slate magazine’s MSNBC-run Web site, columnist Bryan Curtis slams Crichton for being a “right-leaning contrarian.” Curtis attacks the “600 page tirade about global warming” by asserting, “the journal citations begin to seem indistinguishable from those contained in the latest study from the Brookings Institution or the American Enterprise Institute.”
Curtis snidely conjures up an image of “Crichton leafing through obscure journals and textbooks to find scientific underpinnings for his outlandish premises.” Not once, however, does Curtis dispute with facts or scientific evidence the science presented by Crichton.
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times made an even more condescending and personal attack on Crichton. In the “ludicrous plot,” according to Kakutani, of “Crichton’s ham-handed novel, the dangers of global warming are nothing but a lot of hype: scare scenarios, promoted by shameless environmentalists eager to use bad science to raise money and draw attention to their cause.”
Referring to State of Fear as a “shrill, preposterous right-wing answer” to the box office flop The Day After Tomorrow, Kakutani derides the “footnotes, charts,” and “authorial manifesto” that Crichton includes in the book to provide scientific documentation of his global warming skepticism.
Like Slate‘s Curtis, however, Kakutani fails to back up his disparagement of Crichton’s argument with a single scientific fact.
Facts Withstand Scrutiny
Unlike the alarmists, who routinely fail to scientifically document such claims as “the polar ice caps are melting,” “sea levels are rising,” or “hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events are becoming more frequent,” Crichton cites specific scientific studies to back up each indictment of alarmist global warming theory presented in State of Fear.
The credibility of the novel’s underlying argument, therefore, largely depends on the credibility of the science cited in the novel. Conveniently for those seeking in-depth knowledge of global warming science, Crichton’s assertions are easy to verify or disprove.
Some of Crichton’s most scientifically significant assertions are summarized in italics below, along with an analysis of the science.
Much (roughly half) of the 20th century’s approximately 1 degree Celsius warming as measured at ground-based temperature stations occurred prior to 1940, before CO2 could have been much of a factor.
This assertion is easy to verify, as Crichton reproduces data published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Half of the observed increase in global temperatures occurred prior to 1940, even though global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels by 1940 had risen only slightly from pre-industrial levels. Global warming alarmists do not dispute this fact.
CO2 levels cannot be assumed to be linked to global temperatures, as global temperatures fell between 1940 and 1970, even though CO2 levels were rising.
This statement is just as easy to verify, as Crichton once again reproduces data published by NASA. Although atmospheric CO2 levels rose during this time period due to increasing global industrialization, global temperatures fell significantly–enough to raise fears that we were entering a new global ice age. Global warming alarmists do not dispute this fact.
The “overwhelming consensus” of scientists does not support alarmist global warming theory, as professors from MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Virginia, Colorado, Cal Berkeley, and other prestigious schools as well as the former president of the National Academy of Sciences and several Nobel Prize winners have concluded there is a lack of probative evidence for alarmist global warming theory.
Crichton’s assertion is true. More than 17,000 scientists have signed a petition stating, in part, “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The petition was written by a past president of the National Academy of Sciences.
Alarmist global warming theory predicts that the upper atmosphere will warm before the surface. But since satellites began measuring the temperature of the upper atmosphere in 1979, there has been much less warming than predicted by alarmist global warming theory.
Crichton is right. Satellite measurements of the upper atmosphere show very little, if any, discernible warming since 1979. The data can be found online at http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.1 and on page 7 of this issue of Environment & Climate News.
Despite claims that Antarctica is warming and its ice cap is melting, Antarctica as a whole is cooling, and its ice is actually getting thicker.
This is true, as documented by a landmark National Science Foundation Longterm Ecological Research study published January 14, 2002 by Nature magazine and summarized at http://www.scientific-alliance.org/news_archives/climate/scientistsmeasure.htm.
What is particularly troubling to alarmists is that they have long considered Antarctica’s dry, cold interior–the very part of the continent that is cooling the most–to be a bellwether of climate change.
The expansion of cities surrounding ground-based temperature reading stations known as the urban heat island effect is largely responsible for the rise in “global temperatures” indicated by ground-based temperature stations.
Crichton’s assertion is true. Ground-based temperature readings are typically taken at urban airports and downtown stations in urban metropolitan areas. Recent studies have shown that urbanization artificially raises temperatures in large cities such as Atlanta and Houston by an average of 10 degrees on hot summer days. Scientists have documented that urban heat islands form in towns as small as 1,000 people.
The Kyoto Protocol would have almost no effect on global temperatures, and would forestall little projected warming.
Crichton is right. The October 2003 issue of Nature magazine reports that by 2050, Kyoto will mitigate only 0.02 to 0.15 degrees Celsius of planetary warming. Global warming alarmists freely proclaim Kyoto alone will have little impact on climate and is only a small “first step” along their desired path of energy suppression.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
For more information …
The Heartland Institute offers a feature on its Web site dedicated to following the debate over the science in State of Fear. It collects some of the many reviews, op-eds, and letters that the book has generated and also links to research on environmental issues and the environmental movement. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org and click on the Crichton Is Right! graphic.