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The Inquisition of Climate Science Hardcover – August 30, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The most comprehensive, illuminating and searing account yet of the murky world of climate change denial and the charlatans who populate it." -- Irish Times

"Powell consistently brings the sharp insight of a knowledgeable insider melded with the skepticism of a critical outsider to the most important issues in science. In his latest book--his best yet--he shows us the path to understanding climate change."--Peter D. Ward , The University of Washington

"James Lawrence Powell's must-read book is a welcome addition to the growing literature debunking fossil fuel-funded, anti-science disinformation. As Powell makes clear, it is time for scientists to stand up and be counted."--Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress and senior fellow at American Progress

This book is a winner, written in an easy, logical style with thorough and fascinating discussions of major deniers.

(Orrin Pilkey, Duke University, coauthor of The Rising Sea 7/9/2011)

With the evidence for global warming so strong, why, Powell asks, does half the American public doubt it? His answer is a history of the campaign of denial, the most comprehensive and up-to-date history available. It is well written and well worth reading: this is the most important issue facing our generation.

(Spencer Weart, author of The Discovery of Global Warming )

This courageous and well-researched book exposes how ideologues and money combined to attack sound climate science.

(Richard Somerville, University of California, San Diego, author of The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, second edition )

… this is a highly authoritative and accessible book that should be read by everyone who has any doubts about the reality of climate change.

(Irish Times )

Book Description

The first book to comprehensively take on the Inquisition-like tactics of contemporary climate science deniers.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; F First Edition edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231157185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231157186
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on August 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book on the politics of climate change denial. It is now settled beyond doubt that the world is warming and that human release of carbons has a lot to do with it. (As an anthropologist working with climate change data for a lifetime, I am quite capable of evaluating the evidence on all sides, and have followed it for decades; I have no political axe to grind and was in fact a skeptic until the evidence was overwhelming.) There are now very few scientifically competent deniers except people funded by energy companies and a few long-retired, long-out-of-touch scientists.
Powell does a wonderful job with the person politics, but a few points need to be amplified. First, he mentions, but rather downplays, the fact that big oil--specifically, ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and a couple of smaller firms--are running the show. They provide essentially all the money and most of the verbiage. Worldwide, just to show that it isn't "capitalism" or "the right wing" here, the Chinese government and their huge energy-extracting, energy-wasting economic machine is the other big source of denial and political opposition to change. Second, a very scary phenomenon is the way that political extremists (and NOT so much the big oil companies in this case) have linked climate change denial with the longer-standing anti-science agendas in the United States: anti-evolution and racism. This is creating a witch's-brew environment in which people can seriously talk about shutting down the National Science Foundation, the US Dept of Education, and even public education in general. At least the Chinese are smarter than that; they know that the competition for global power in the 21st century will be won by the best educated, not the most gullible.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Openly polemical and occasionally repetitive, but full of useful description of the cynicism and financial secretiveness of organizations that oppose paying attention to climate change. He makes the obvious link to tactics used by the tobacco industry a few decades ago. He also summarizes the science that suggests human effects on the environment and the utter lack of science from those who claim it is not the result of fossil fuels.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent exposé of Climate Change denialist mythology. In this impressive, well-researched study, Powell chronicles the history of the science and the attack on it by vested interests (i.e., namely, the fossil fuel industry) with the aid of subservient politicians and, often, media dupes.

He examines the tactics--mainly knee-jerk denialism and repetition ad nauseam of long-discredited arguments that only aid in obfuscation which engenders doubt. And at the same time, they spew a relentless barrage of ad hominem attacks. Then he identifies the perps and the reasons for their success in swaying (read: misleading) public policy (so far!)

The result of their machinations is the tragedy that an issue that literally determines the fate of our hospitable Earth is relegated to time-wasting, mindless (and seemingly endless) political debate.

However, in this book Powell gives us more than ample ammunition with which to fight back. There is a wealth of information presented in an easy-to-read style with plenty of references to back up every point. I knew the basics of this issue but nowhere nearly enough of the details; this book helps a lot to fill in the gaps.

One thing I was surprised to learn is that among the reputable scientists working in climatology is a fairly even mix along the political spectrum. I would assume that those Republican members have been mostly silent due to not wanting to jeopardize their careers for not towing the party line.

That's why a book like this is so important; if enough fair-minded, free-thinking people can be exposed to the truth, we can overcome the merchants of doubt and, hopefully, get positive movement towards mitigating ('adapting' is the denialist buzz-word when all else fails since accountability is completely off of the table) the crisis before it's too late.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For several years now, I have been confused by the back and forth bantering and rhetoric on the anthropogenic global warming issue. With this issue, as in all issues I investigate, I try to keep an open mind and rein in any bias I may have developed on the matter. A Frontline investigation I watched on TV called "Climate of Doubt" really piqued my interest in pursuing the matter further. When I came across this book by James Powell, I knew I had to read it. I don't believe Powell has left a stone unturned in his investigation of the anti-global warming movement. The book is very comprehensive on the history of the efforts to thwart the public opinion on the science of global warming. We are introduced to all the key players over the years, what their credentials are, and why their reasoning is in error according to Powell.

The movement has the characteristics of Lysenkoism, referring to a Soviet biologist under Stalin who subverted science for political reasons in the field of genetics. The modus operandi of both seems quite similar. Note what some prominent deniers have said:

* That the "global warming scare" is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes, and decision making.
* That global warming is a political agenda designed to bring down our system of industrialization, development, and capitalism, in other words, to destroy the Western way of life.


Powell shows us that it is actually a political movement at heart. Denying climate science promotes its political goals. Interestingly, these goals are advocated by the movement's funders, which are a who's who list of fossil fuel industry and conservative, antiregulatory, libertarian philosophy advocates. Should we be worried about this?
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