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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately we must accept climate change
Too much social discourse is directed at magnifying disagreement and disparaging the motives and intellect of others (for more evidence on this point read the disagreeable review by Joseph Bast). In this fine book, Mike Hulme takes the position that reasonable people can and do disagree; he then sets off to examine the disagreements and the reasons.

Hulme...
Published on January 13, 2010 by David Ribar

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19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 365 Pages of Postmodern, Cultural Studies Wiffle-Waffle
Mike Hulme has written a book about climate change that stands for nothing, and in doing so has played straight into the hands of global corporate and political vested interests who have been working for years to portray this most important of issues to the public as being 'nothing'. In 365 pages of postmodernist waffle, Hulme laboriously constructs a hypothesis where the...
Published on March 27, 2012 by Mimaranda


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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately we must accept climate change, January 13, 2010
By 
David Ribar (Greensboro, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Too much social discourse is directed at magnifying disagreement and disparaging the motives and intellect of others (for more evidence on this point read the disagreeable review by Joseph Bast). In this fine book, Mike Hulme takes the position that reasonable people can and do disagree; he then sets off to examine the disagreements and the reasons.

Hulme explores numerous areas of disagreement and organizes his chapters around specific areas. He begins with three mostly (though not entirely) science-oriented sources of disagreement, which involve our conceptualization of climates and climate change, the development of scientific thought regarding climate change, and what science can and cannot tell us. From there, he moves onto disagreements regarding economics, religion, fears, communication strategies, development, and government action. The book ends with a provocative chapter about rethinking climate change.

My own nerdy biases initially drew me into the first chapters, especially the history of scientific thought regarding climate change. Hulme points out that scientific acceptance of the notion that climates change is relatively recent, dating only to the 19th century. Widespread scientific acceptance of the theory of anthropogenic climate change on human time scales is newer still. Although components of the theory, such as the greenhouse effect, were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it wasn't until the last quarter of the century that broad elements of the scientific began to broadly accept anthropogenic global warming.

However, accepting the likelihood of anthropogenic global warming is only a scientific preliminary. For effective public policy, we need to know much more, including how strong the link between human activities and climate change is, when and how fast systemic changes are likely to occur, how the effects will be distributed, and what the possibilities are for catastrophic changes. As we move into these important areas, the scientific disagreements become larger, and the opportunities for other sources of disagreement to influence scientific discourse also grow.

At a first reading, I was initially disappointed with most of the follow-on, non-scientific "disagreement" chapters. The chapters work well enough in listing and explaining many ways that people can disagree about things. However, they do not explain which disagreements really matter and whether there are fundamental and connecting sources to the disagreements. There are interesting arguments and insights along the way, but much of the material reads like a middle-of-the-road undergraduate term paper--"it could be this (source A), it could be that (source B)," and so on.

Different readers will nonetheless appreciate different things in these chapters. As an economist, I enjoyed an outsider's take on my profession's disagreements. The discussion of development challenges was also very good, especially in reminding us of how many times smart, careful, and concerned people from Malthus to the Club of Rome have predicted doom only to discover that humans have innovated, adapted, and prospered within the then-existing environmental constraints.

The deeper rationale behind these chapters, though, became clearer after reading the final chapter. A central point of that chapter and ultimately of the book is that climate change is here, and the notion of climate change can't be undone. Climate has changed and will change, and humans, to some extent, are affecting this change. Once we accept this, we cannot "unknow" anthropogenic climate change.

Another crucial point in the chapter is that we are unlikely to "solve" the climate change "problem" in any conventional sense in our lifetimes. "Solving a problem" implies meeting a particular objective; in the case, of climate change, what would that be? Suppose that science could give us the magic key to setting the planet's climate--where would we set it? Do we want a pre-industrial climate, a 20th century climate, something warmer, something cooler. Also, (and this is the part where the non-science chapters come in) which objectives do we adopt?

Hulme instead advocates for the more sensible position of living with climate change. To be clear, he does not mean this in a fatalistic sense or as a call for a "do nothing approach." Hulme does mean that we must accept that human activities affect the global climate and that those activities have consequences that impede other objectives. He reminds us that our behavior and policy setting should focus on those objectives rather than the fact of climate change.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb! A must read for those with a genuine interest in the debate and healthy skepticism, April 19, 2010
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Emc2 (Tropical Ecotopia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
This book is a must read regardless of your side on this debate, and highly recommended for healthy skeptics and those with a genuine interest in the climate change controversy and related policymaking. Not surprisingly the book was included in The Economist list of Best Books of 2009.

Mike Hulme is a renowned climate scientist with a 30 year experience in the field who works at the University of East Anglia, and even was Director at the now famous CRU (though he was not involved in the Climategate scandal). Considering his honest view on this subject and his openness in the discussion of such contentious issue, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, right at the beginning of the book Mr. Hulme makes explicit his position regarding climate change: he believes the risks posed by climate change are tangible and serious, and require human intervention and management, and also that the global climate is influenced by an array of human activities. However, he does not believe that the way the UN FCCC and the Kyoto protocol are neither the only nor the most appropriate way to attack this problem. Also he "feels uncomfortable that climate change is widely reported through the language of catastrophe and imminent peril, as `the greatest problem facing humanity', which seeks to trump all others."

Mr. Hulme presents quite an innovative and insightful approach to the climate change discussion, by looking at it as a social phenomenon, as an "idea" interpreted differently by different cultures and by our different sets of believes, values, and concerns, and therefore, what it means to different people in different places. He explores the different dimensions of this "idea" in several political, economical, cultural and ethical contexts, and by identifying the different meanings of climate change he argues we can better understand why we disagree about climate change. Some of these meanings include climate change as a justification to fight globalization, as a desire to return to simpler times, while for others is a great opportunity to develop to technologies that will solve the problem, the desire of pride and control. He summarizes these views to what he calls four myths: Eden, Apocalypses, Babel, and Jubilee. Simply brilliant! He also looks at climate change as a wicked problem, and presents a very insightful analysis of the possibilities of elegant and clumsy solutions.

Despite the strong sociological and philosophical discourse, Mr. Hulme makes a very strong case for his view of the problem, and his main argument has been confirmed by two recent events, Climategate and the failure of the Copenhagen meeting. On a second thought, I think this book is also recommended for hard-die global warming advocates, so they can begin to understand why their cause is beginning to erode, and it is not because the science is a hoax, as the deniers camp has declared recently in light of Climategate.

For more on Hulme's approach to climate change as a wicked problem read Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World: Governance, Politics and Plural Perceptions (Global Issues), which tackles other wicked problems of social nature. Academic, but a must read!

PS: Some critics have said that Hulme's ideas are naive. Well, if you are in doubt, read the Hartwell Paper published in May 2010 (available for free in pdf format in the web, just google). In this publication Hulme and another 13 academics and energy advocates argued that the Kyoto Protocol has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years, and therefore, after the Copenhagen fiasco, Kyoto has crashed. They argued that this failure opens an opportunity to set climate policy free from Kyoto and they propose a controversial and piecemeal approach to decarbonization of the global economy which will be more pluralistic and much more effective than the policies based on Kyoto. The Hartwell paper strategic approach is partially based on Holme's book regarding wicked problems and clumsy solutions, as well as taken proper consideration of the different views and interpretations of climate change around the world. There is now one more reason to read Why We Disagree About Climate Change. Do not miss it.
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40 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A path-breaking book, October 28, 2009
By 
Steven Schwarze "SteveS" (Missoula, MT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
I'm afraid the one-star reviews are missing the point of Hulme's book. His observations about the disagreements that arise in regard to climate change do a great service in revealing the complexity of this issue. Each of his chapters shows how the *idea* of climate change has become embedded in disputes that are inherent to the human condition--what we value, how we perceive risk, how we should govern--so that disagreement about how to address climate change is likely to persist. For Hulme, the upshot is not that climate change is *merely* a political issue, but that it will never be solved once and for all precisely because it is so embedded in these enduring disputes.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climate is so multi-dimensional, January 12, 2012
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
This book analyses very thoroughly the multi-dimensional nature of climate issues. Because international agreement is required, the extent to which it is dependent on political and economic issues is well summarised by Hulme. It is a key aspect in this often vitriolic field, that Hulme writes as an insider to the system, and one who is concerned about anthropogenic global warming.
It is an excellent analysis of the whole field.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very fine book, the product of immersion in the issues ..., September 10, 2014
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This is a very fine book, the product of immersion in the issues professionally for many years. It is more inventive and insightful than many its counterparts which have heated up this and related topics. It is determined to constructive without bring Polyannaish. It is probably as good as you'll get today.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting into the Mind of Climate Change Denial, December 31, 2012
By 
Eleanor K. Sommer (Gainesville, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Beautifully written. Hulme gets to the heart of the controversy in an effort to explain why a certain percentage of people are unwilling to accept climate change as a reality. Also using this book for my thesis. Hulme is a gentle philosopher while making his points clear.
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19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 365 Pages of Postmodern, Cultural Studies Wiffle-Waffle, March 27, 2012
This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Mike Hulme has written a book about climate change that stands for nothing, and in doing so has played straight into the hands of global corporate and political vested interests who have been working for years to portray this most important of issues to the public as being 'nothing'. In 365 pages of postmodernist waffle, Hulme laboriously constructs a hypothesis where the hard science of climate change, as published by thousands of climate scientists around the world in peer-reviewed literature for decades, is reduced to nothing more substantial than an 'idea'. Hulme tells us in the preface that he spent 17 years working as a scientist with climate data and climate models. But you wouldn't know that from reading this book. He barely discusses the actual climate science, and instead tries to write about why viewpoints on climate change vary in terms of an academic framework called Cultural Theory. Would that this tedious book discussed the areas of Hulme's training and experience in the realm of climate data and modelling. It may then have actually shed some light on the situation facing humanity, and the earth, if we continue on our current path of exponentially emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Unfortunately what we get from Hulme, writing from his Cultural Theory-skewed perspective, is a wishy-washy free for all, where every message, opinion, and audience is accorded equal value, regardless of scientific facts or the ethics of passing on a trashed, overheated planet to future generations.

I can't recommended this book, but I can recommend many others if you are interested in learning more about climate change science and its likely effects on the planet and people. For science, read the summary of the fourth IPCC report for a conservative, middle-of-the-road perspective, or Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen (ex NASA climate scientist) for a rather more scary perspective. For eye-opening histories of how big oil companies have managed to derail the climate issue in America and the world, read Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and The Climate Cover Up by James Hoggan. And for a book that goes straight to the strategies and solutions for the big climatic, economic, and political changes that are inevitably coming, I highly recommend The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding.

Happy reading!

**Update** I recently saw Mike Hulme on an Australian documentary about climate change, where he explained his point of view much more clearly in person. He is basically advocating for find areas of common ground so we can move forward with solutions rather than getting gridlocked in polarized debate. This is something I can heartily agree with. However, while Mike seems like a nice guy doing his best to move the climate 'debate' forward, I still stand by my original review. Cultural studies is way too muddy a format to use as a base for communication about climate change or any serious scientific or environmental issue. There is so much misinformation out there about climate science, it's really important that scientists stand behind the scientific process. We need to educate the community that the opinion of Jo Bloggs on the street is NOT of equal weight with the opinion of a qualified, experienced, practicing scientist. Not on scientific issues. On issues pertaining to the best football team or brand of beer sure, by all means have a free for all. But please don't make a free for all of science and the scientific process. Meeting lies and misinformation half way still leaves you with lies and misinformation. That doesn't mean that science is perfect or that scientists are always right. But, like democracy, it's the best system we've got, so let's stand up for it, and protect it, because right now it's being attacked by a lot of people who don't seem to value it. There endeth the sermon!
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33 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but we are weary of climate change, July 12, 2009
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Here it the last sentence of "A question of balance" by William Nordhaus: "Slow, steady, universal, predictable and boring --- these are probably the secrets for successful policies to combat global warming." A key word here is "boring". This book by Mike Hulme is not boring, it is excellent for what it is trying to achieve, but in 2009 the issue is boring. A reader of this book --- a true reader, a reader that makes it to page 364 --- will likely already be knowledgeable of global warming, in particular the little stub of CO2 radiative forcing (among others), with its small error bars, that we see in the familiar IPCC bar chart. The science about that stub is solid, and yes we recognize a little bit more uncertainty in the feedbacks the bring about the temperature rise associated with that radiative forcing, and more uncertainty in regional impacts, but that has all been analyzed. With the US climate bill now pledging a 17% reduction in US CO2 emissions by 2020, Nordhaus's conjecture is now reality. The climate activist can perhaps take a break, as the public has, and let global warming go the way of social security reform.

A 17% reduction in US CO2 emission will be rather painless, and, of course, ineffectual. But the people have spoken and global warming has been appropriately "combated". For the reader browsing this book off the shelf in a bookstore, I recommend turning to page 330, where we find a section 10.2 titled "Why Climate Change Will Not Be Solved". (This is a five star book, save for the "climate change" keyword). On page 336 we read:

"This global solution-structure also begs a fundamental question which is rarely addressed in the respective fora where these debates and disagreements surface: What is the ultimate performance metric for the human species, what is it that we are seeking to optimise?"

And on the bottom of the penultimate page: "But so too will the idea of climate change keep changing as we find ways of using it to meet our needs. We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects."

And at the finish line: "But let us at least recognise that the source of our disagreement about climate change lie deep within us, in our values and in our sense of identity and purpose. They do not reside 'out there', a result of our inability to grasp knowingly some ultimate physical reality."

The book is masterfully convincing in supporting those above two sentences. For those aiming to show their class the latest palaeoclimatological evidence in support of the assessment of albedo feedback, or the latest satellite measurements that quantify water vapor feedback, you probably already know that this book will not be helpful for that. But if you want to reflect upon how disseminating such knowledge to a class fits into the grand scheme of things, and how your students might incorporate such knowledge into their own personal climate change narrative, this book is worthwhile reading.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Conceptions of Science and Nature, October 26, 2010
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Hulme's book asks an important question regarding our understanding of 'climate change,' namely: how do different cultures, religions, and histories come to regard the subject in such multifarious ways? Philologically, it is important to understand the histories of words like 'nature,' 'natural,' 'society,' and 'culture' before understanding how these histories came to shape our current ideas re: the science and inform policy decisions. Moreover, disparities in opinion must understand culture ethics, religion, prioritization of outcomes (in this issue and others), and economization, among other data. Climate change will not act as an issue to be solved, but rather, will serve as an impetus to reassess our place in the world and the prioritzation of issues.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, January 11, 2010
By 
Osvaldo Caninas (Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
Professor Hulme has a disturbing view on the topic. Very interesting especially due to the monochordial point of view of most of the press. He challenges the accepted courses of action. I definitely recommend.
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Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity
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