Friday, May 16, 2008

Acid Reign: At 155 Years Old The Economist Reviews Some Global Warming Books (Tartly)

Remembering that The Economist is old (see 1843 prospectus* below) helps one understand the tone:

A lot of hot air
Books about climate change are often flawed—some more so than others

"ONE of the most troubling aspects of climate change is the feedback loop. As the world warms, so frozen earth begins to melt, which releases greenhouse gases, which warms the world up further. Something similar seems to be happening with the literature of climate change. As people write books on global warming, so they generate interest in the subject, which increases demand, which leads to the writing of even more books. Both these cycles result in a lot of hot air...."

"...Sir David's is the layman's handbook. It will not be regarded as an important step in the field of climate-change literature. It is a competent summary of where the subject has got to, in terms of science, government policy and business, and will be quite handy for those who need to mug up on sustainability for tomorrow's board meeting. Anybody looking for anything that engages the imagination, however, need not trouble themselves with it."

"Mr Krupp's book is the businessman's guide. It starts from a promising point; if cap-and-trade is widely adopted, cleaner energy technologies will be in demand, so those who develop them will be the next energy billionaires."

"The book explains those technologies through the people trying to bring them to market. Some of the details are nice, such as the work of scientists trying to create enzymes to do the difficult job of breaking cellulose down to make ethanol. They go round collecting “extremophiles”—bacteria that can do tough jobs in difficult circumstances—from volcanoes and deep-sea vents. But the book is a tiring list with no narrative or analytical structure. And it is not helped by the silly title: “Earth: The Sequel”...."

"...Nigel Lawson is another important person. Margaret Thatcher famously called him her “brilliant chancellor” shortly before a painful recession that was caused in part by his monetary policy. Lord Lawson's offering is the refusenik's book. He is one of the few remaining serious people who argue against the current consensus on global warming. The resulting slim volume, produced without the aid of a co-writer, is clear, analytical and compelling: it has all the virtues of a book written by a very clever, very cross man.
It does, however, have shortcomings...."

"...Wallace Broecker is not as important as the other authors, but he is well-known in the surprisingly gripping field of palaeoclimatology. He has spent his career investigating the climate in prehistoric times and, in particular, the role that the oceans have played in the way it changed.

His book is the oddest, and the nicest, of the bunch. He is clearly a rather delightful man, with a penchant for practical jokes; through his life-story, the book explains how scientists have come to understand the history of the world's climate....

Buy this one. Forget the rest. "



Aug 5th 1843
From The Economist print edition

And now we beg to submit the following detail of the plans which we have thoroughly organised to carry into effect these objects of our ardent desires, in the following


of a weekly paper, to be published every Saturday, and to be called


which will contain—

First.—ORIGINAL LEADING ARTICLES, in which free-trade principles will be most rigidly applied to all the important questions of the day—political events—and parliamentary discussions; and particularly to all such as relate immediately to revenue, commerce, and agriculture; or otherwise affect the material interests of the country....