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The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming Paperback – April 10, 2000
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From Library Journal
Michaels (climatology, Univ. of Virginia) and Balling (director, Laboratory of Climatology, Arizona State Univ., Tempe) examine the role played by politics, the media, and science in the creation of our present perceptions of humanity's effect on climate, particularly global warming. Their main thesis is that politicians and the media have blown this issue out of proportion, manipulating currently known information in order to fulfill their own objectives. The authors also assert that the current scientific paradigm accepts as fact both global warming and humankind's contributions to its acceleration. Scientists therefore tend to ignore contradictory data. Michaels and Balling present a good discussion of the climatological factors and theories of climate change and of the human activities that could be influencing climate. They counter each currently held theory with data and theory that support their own perspective. While they offer a well-thought-out overview in language that lay readers can understand, their conservative political agenda is also very apparent. Still, their book is recommended for public, academic, and high school environmental collections as a good balance to alarmist materials that present global warming as an imminent catastrophe.DBetty Galbraith, Owen Science & Engineering Lib., Washington State Univ., Pullman
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The book is written in an extremely dry, academic style that detracts from its message, which appears to be: The Climate Models Are Wrong. Because the climate models are wrong, this means that rising greenhouse gas levels will only warm the earth slightly, and the benefits will outweigh the harm done. Interesting theory, however, most of the climatologists in the world no longer hold to this theory. The authors do describe the mechanisms behind global warming adequately, and confirm that the earth is warming. They part ways with other scientists by using an interesting approach to predicting how much warming will occurr - essentially, they say that the slow warming of the last 100 years accurately predicts slow warming in the next 100 years.
The authors did not even mention climate tipping points presumably caused by rising greenhouse gases or other factors, which have occurred in the last 10,000 years, and could happen in the near future. The authors did go out of their way to criticize Al Gore no less than a dozen times. What is about Al Gore that gets climate change skeptics so fired up? It's not like he was the first person to say global warming is a problem.
I would recommend this book to skeptics and non-skeptics alike as a thoughtful, well-intentioned study on global warming and its lack of impact on the world. As always, I hope the skeptics are right, and I am wrong.
As good as this book is about the science of "global warming", the part I liked the best talks about the social mechanisms and political incentives that continually imagine and inflate crisis far beyond their true import.
The subject has been well treated before in the classic: "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles MacKay and in Julian Simon's: "The Ultimate Resource"
Remember the Luddites, Malthus, or the club of Rome (which predicted mass starvation for the 1980's), "global cooling", and innumerable other crises. Unsophisticated crackpots schedule the end of the world within their lifetimes, so their folly is revealed on that day.
It takes real "sophistication" and political motivation (what better example than the UN) to select a menace so difficult to disprove and so far in the future, that we can finally punish those evil greedy capitalists.
Meanwhile, Popocatapetl just erupted in Mexico and spewed forth probably more pollutants in one day than all of humanity can manage in 6 months.
The authors claim that hurricane wind speeds actually decreased as ocean temperature rose over the last century. This seems surprising, and bears checking out with other published numbers-based results. The CO2 portion of the book is quite well done, but the small part about toxicity levels can be safely ignored. On the other hand, the chapter "Greening the Planet" is well worth reading a second time. CO2, they remind us, is not a pollutant, but rather a gaseous fertilizer for plant life. It is possible, though, to argue that ANY chemical is a pollutant if present in great enough quantity, if one wishes to split hairs.
The last chapter, as with just about all climate change books, is not particularly strong. Most last-chapters are hand wringers, but Satanic Gases is at least not one of them. The authors advocate swapping the existing biased federal funding of research and development for private funding, and this is a forward thought. A minor observation: for some reason, critics keep badmouthing the authors' statement about ozone breaking down to the hydroxyl radical. Clearly, this criticism is mean-spirited, as technical people must know very well that the hydroxyl radical is tangled in the intermediate steps of the chemical change, although the authors did make a bad choice of prepositions. Their high school English teachers would be tsk-tsk'ing!
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