21 March 2010

Books: Tales from the climate-change crossroads

The international weekly science journal "Nature" has caught on to the anti-democratic sentiment discernible, post Copenhagen, in the environmental movement. In its latest issue (464, 18 March 2010:
pp. 352-3) it published an article by Roger Pielke, Jr., a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, titled "Tales from the climate-change crossroads", which reviews four recent books written by other environmentalists.

The article can be read free of charge here:


The relevant excerpts: "Two first-hand accounts by distinguished climate scientists who advocate action, James Hansen and Stephen Schneider, left me feeling that their convictions have pushed them towards simplistic, almost authoritarian visions of political decision-making. [...] Hansen and Schneider each provide a troubling inside view of the political battle over climate change in their respective books, Storms of My Grandchildren [subtitled "The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity"; Bloomsbury, December 2009] and Science as a Contact Sport [subtitled "Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate"; National Geographic Society, November 2009]. Hansen invokes religious terms, characterizing himself and Schneider as witness and preacher, respectively. Both are evangelists who hold science as an ascendant authority. [...] [B]oth books largely comprise strong ideological and political commentary based on an unstated assumption that science compels action on climate change. [...]

"Both scientists express a desire to influence political outcomes. [...] Schneider and Hansen relate how they have had considerable access to government decision-makers around the world, with whom they have shared their policy recommendations. [...] Hansen's complaint that leaders of sovereign countries have not acceded to his demands implies a criticism of democracy, also present in Schneider's book. If science leads inexorably to particular political outcomes, then it would seem to favour autocratic forms of governance. The middle man – the general public – is easily ignored if heads of state need only hear the expert voice of science. Schneider worries that democracy finds it hard to deal with complex issues: if only the public understood the real risks, he explains, they would be 'much more likely to send strong signals to their representatives'. He bemoans a public debate that includes the participation of 'special interests' and that is filtered through an inept media, a perspective echoed by Hansen."

Stephen H. Schneider is Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford and an expert on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here a link to his book:


James Hansen is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), based at Columbia University, where he is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Here a link to his book:


From another review: "After sounding the climate alarm in papers and conferences for two decades, here Hansen takes off the gloves, faulting 'the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash' for the failure to take the actions necessary to stabilize Earth's climate. [...] Unlike politicians, he writes, nature does not compromise. He dismisses key aspects of legislation now before Congress as well as the Kyoto approach to international climate treaty-making, arguing that setting goals for a gradual slowing down of emissions will not solve the problem. 'Ladies and gentlemen, your governments are lying through their teeth,' he writes." ("Kirkus Reviews")

We should take note of this anti-democratic trend in environmentalism whatever we may think of "climate change" and "global warming".

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