The subtitle of this cleverly titled book is “The New Climate Science That Changes Everything.” Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger have done themselves proud with a book that should make climate change “Deniers” more comfortable (except, of course, that there are those who want to criminally prosecute them). Those who believe there is a pending climatic disaster will be less comfortable reading the book. The best way for me to begin this combination commentary and review is to quote from the back cover. “In Lukewarming, two environmental scientists explain the science and spin behind the headlines and come to a provocative conclusion: climate change is real, and partially man-made, but it is becoming obvious that more warming has been forecast than will occur, with some of the catastrophic impacts implausible or impossible. Global warming is more lukewarm than hot. This fresh analysis is an invaluable source for those looking to be more informed about global warming and the data behind it.”
There are several of the short chapters that are less than riveting for “non-nerds.” However, the summaries are readable, easy to understand, and often written with good humor. The authors get right to their primary point in the introduction about the fallibility of the models used to fuel the fear of global warming. “Nearly 30 years ago, it became obvious the models were predicting far too much warming in response to carbon dioxide changes. Lukewarmers believe the evidence of some human-caused climate change is compelling, but it is hardly the alarming amount predicted. The book refers to Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, Cat’s Cradle, a wonderful book about how government and science bring about the end of the world.” The introduction even ends with the frequent Vonnegut quote, “So it goes.”
The book explains how global warming warnings resulted in the mantra “The science is settled.” Then Senator Tim Wirth explained in 1988, “What we’ve got to do in energy conservation is to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, to have approached global warming as if it is real means energy conservation, so we are doing the right thing anyway. . . .” When should scientists have begun to be skeptical about the predictions of the models? By the 1990s analysis of temperature data showed that only surface thermometers, which can be influenced by urban heating, showed warming. Data from satellites and weather balloons didn’t. The authors point out that is when “Lukewarming had begun.” Data began to indicate the models might be overstating the problem. But that didn’t influence some scientists and members of the press who enjoyed writing about all the dire effects of global warming. Pope Francis and President Obama agreed that climate change is the most important issue of our time. One result was the Paris accord that doesn’t demand anything mandatory of participating nations with the exception of the United States and the European Union. The “green climate fund” is to have $100 billion per year by 2020 transferred from the U.S. and E.U. “. . .to compensate poorer nations. . . .” President Obama wrung out an agreement from China during his visit in 2014 that they intend to hold emissions constant somewhere around 2030 as the building of coal-fired power plants continues unabated. I hope the Chinese don’t suffer too much as the result of President Obama’s tough negotiating!
There is a quote beginning Chapter 5 that “Making a forecast is easy. Being right is the hard part.” The book is liberally sprinkled with examples where forecasts were not right. So why is it “The science is settled” is so readily accepted? Chapter 6 gives an explanation that I had to read a few times. A grand narrative is that global warming is responsible for “. . .war, poverty, disease, mental illness, cold winters, warm winters, sex, infertility. . .etc.” The only solution is to stop burning fossil fuels.
“Politicians, activists, and journalists have stimulated an ‘availability cascade’ to support alarm about human –caused climate change. An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation that triggers a self-perpetuating chain reaction: the more attention a particular danger receives, the more worried people become, which leads to more news coverage and increased alarm.” (Whew!) I think the quote from Mark Twain makes it easier to understand. “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”
I’m going to begin to “cherry pick” some (often contradictory) published claims of what global warming has or will cause:
- The origin of the civil war in Syria and the terrorism that has resulted can be traced to a drought caused by Global warming (“Lukewarmers are people who have a hard time believing that lukewarming causes beheadings.”)
- Hurricanes are worse (or are fewer in number) because of global warming
- Winter storms are stronger (or are weaker) because of global warming
- Crop yields are going down (or are going up) because of global warming
- Global warming makes mid-latitude winters warmer (or colder)
- Global warming increases (or decreases) mortality in urban heat waves
- “Large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden. . . .”
- “Entire nations will be wiped off the earth by the year 2000 by rising sea levels and crop failures will create an exodus of “eco-refugees”
- The warming trend over the North Pole “. . .is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.”
- Carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere will rise 25 percent by 2000. “This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit.”
There are more, but shouldn’t that short list cause people to wonder about the predictions?
There are also many wonderful nuggets. Some are:
- “In regard for a lasting solution to the climate crisis we must destroy Capitalism.”
- Eisenhower warned about the power of Federal money to influence science in his farewell address. Some scientists have learned that their ability to fly first class and gain tenure is contingent upon continued publication of papers about disasters or pending disasters caused by man-made climate change.
- Stories about positives created by increased amounts of carbon dioxide and slightly warmer temperatures (increased crop yields and life expectancy) aren’t welcome
Perhaps the most important parts of the book are discussions describing the “Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas-Induced Climate Change,” with the acronym MAGICC. The result of the U.S. reducing emissions of carbon dioxide emissions to zero will have virtually no effect on global temperature. O.K, there is a predicted effect. “The amount of temperature savings that results is 0.052 degree C by 2050 and 0.137 degree C by 2100.” Not a good enough result, in my humble opinion, to destroy our economy and allow our grandchildren and their children to freeze in the dark!
I’ll close with acknowledgement that disputing that “The science is settled” can be dangerous. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) proposed in the Washington Post on May 29, 2015 that those in the “climate denial network” be prosecuted using RICO-racketeering standards. “Lukewarmers, according to his analysis, this includes you.”
I challenge those who are convinced man-made global warming is real and a climate disaster will be the result to read this book and consider what is written. I’ll close by mentioning the book is filled with charts, graphs, and data that would appeal to people who enjoy science regardless of whether you are a denier or believer. Color me a Lukewarmer, which apparently means to some elected politicians that I should be prosecuted.