We HAVE Heard This Rhetoric Before

December 8, 2009 at 12:59 pm


I’ve just re-read Michael Crichton’s global-warming-doubting novel, State of Fear. Published in 2004, it contains an extensive annotated bibliography “to assist those readers who would like to review my thinking and arrive at their own conclusions.”

Regarding the Lowell Ponte book, The Cooling, Crichton says:

The most highly praised of the books from the 1970s that warned of an impending ice age. (The cover asks: ‘Has the next ice age already begun? Can we survive it?) Contains a chapter on how we might modify the global climate to prevent excessive cooling. A typical quote: ‘We cannot simply afford to gamble against this possibility by ignoring it. We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who say we are entering a period of climatic instability [i.e., unpredictability] are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored’ (p. 237). [bold added by me, above square brackets inserted by Crichton]

The similarity to contemporary global warming rhetoric is striking. Back in the groovy 1970s, we were being told that the evidence for dangerous cooling was so persuasive that we:

  • shouldn’t gamble with the future
  • shouldn’t ignore the evidence
  • mustn’t risk inaction
  • should view scientists with alternative points-of-view as irresponsible
  • should consider the evidence too strong to be ignored

Despite such highly-charged, eerily-familiar rhetoric, rather than descending into an ice age the globe promptly, we’re now told, began a 25-year-long warming period.

In other words, rhetoric about future calamity is one thing. Actual historical events are quite another. Whatever the nature of the apparent threat – cooling, warming, the Y2K bug, shark attacks, killer bees – it seems our ways of thinking – and talking – about such threats don’t change much.

Overwrought emotionalism tells us nothing. As this fabulous blog post, titled: The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ Fails Logic 101, points out: “Threats of doom are simply not proof of anything except excitability in the [sic] their authors.”

Amen to that.

..

P.S. Crichton’s bibliography (at the top of page 599 of the North American State of Fear hardcover edition), says the Powell book was published by Prentice-Hall in 1972. Amazon.com says it was published in 1976.

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Entry filed under: books, historical perspective, predictions that failed. Tags: , , , , , , .

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