From Publishers Weekly
Having witnessed Katrina's devastation of his mother's New Orleans house, science writer Mooney (The Republican War on Science
) became concerned that government policy still ignored worst-case scenarios in planning for the future, despite that unprecedented disaster. He set out to explore the question of whether global warming will strengthen or otherwise change hurricanes in general, even if it can't explain the absolute existence, attributes, or behavior of any single one of them. Since storm research's early 19th-century inception, Mooney found, there has been a split between those who believed the field should be rooted in the careful collection of data and observations (e.g., weathermen) and those who preferred theory-based deductions from the laws of physics (e.g., climatologists). Whirling around this longstanding antagonism is a mix of politics, personalities and the drama of these frightening storms. The urgency and difficulty of resolving the question of global warming's existence, and its relationship to storms, has only heated things up. Mooney turns this complicated stew into a page-turner, making the science accessible to the general reader, vividly portraying the scientists and relating new discoveries while scientists and politicians change sides—or stubbornly ignore new evidence. Mooney draws hope from some researchers' integration of both research methods and concludes that to be effective, scientists need to be clear communicators. (July)
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Mooney, whose The Republican War on Science (2005) offered a hard-hitting look at the political manipulation of scientific research, turns his attention to the hot topic of global warming. Does global warming cause increasingly vicious hurricanes? Is human arrogance and disregard for the environment responsible for Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans? Or is this whole idea a lot of hot air? Mooney looks carefully at all sides of the debate, weighing the evidence carefully, telling us not just what's being said but who's saying it and why. Of course, it's impossible to write a book like this without tackling the whole idea of global warming as myth, but Mooney doesn't get bogged down in the politics of that issue. He has different questions to answer: Are the increasingly intense hurricanes of recent years our fault, and if they are, what can we do to change the pattern before it's too late? His answers don't add to cheerful reading, but this is certainly one of the most thought-provoking and accessible accounts of climate change to appear since Katrina. Pitt, David