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Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming Hardcover – July 2, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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I am surprised by the moderate viewpoint. Since Mooney took the time to get to know William Gray, he has developed some appreciation for Gray's motivations and viewpoint, in my opinion. The result is a rare but real book that should be remembered, rather than a bestselling fabricated slant that is quickly disgarded.
Besides being a testimony to the puzzling relationship between hurricane intensity and global warming, the book is a case study on how scientific communities resolve conflict. One has to appreciate the way scientists have to compete for slim research dollars. Sometimes there is more than one good way to go about good science, and so conclusions can differ. Then there are journalists that want to sell scientific research to an unsuspecting audience in the form of a story, and to do so the journalist must market it as being incredible, glamorous, and positive. In other words they spin the story. Finally, politicians use the journalists' story (the words that have already been spun) to benefit their own power struggle. In the end researchers get to stick with the ivory towers, the news media moguls get rich, and politicians go back to roost in power. The truth becomes the victim, suffering in poor perspectives, bad quotations, fantasy conflict, and everything else contained under the heading of yellow journalism.
I'm not a skeptic, but the million dollar quotation comes from skeptic Chris Landsea, which elucidates dire reality with precision:
"They don't even have building codes in some of the unincorporated areas of Texas and Louisiana. So, much less getting ready for any potential scary changes [due to] global warming, we're not prepared for hurricanes as they are today."
Although Mooney keeps the pace moving along, by the time you finish this book, you may know more about hurricanes than you bargained for. At times, the book is almost too detailed for its own good, but if you know at least a little basic meteorology, you should be able to handle all the atmospheric science thrown into the book. Good book on a fascinating subject.
My only complaint is that I don't see Dallas, Texas on the author's book tour schedule.
For such a topic that is wrought with both political and emotional issues, I thought Chris Mooney did a wonderful job of presenting all the sides. There are never just one or two sides in any science. I saw that when I did research in HIV encephalitis in med school. It was amazing not only the good research that was done and reported but also the quacks that came out of the woodwork. They could have done reasonable and valid research prior to their introduction of mistaken theories and concepts, but boy, if you insisted they were wrong...even if it did turn out later they were wrong, they would cling to those theories like velcro. Not only did they cling to the theories, but if they couldn't get published in recognized peer reviewed journals, they started up their own journal!
This inability of both scientists and politicians to admit to mistakes about previously held beliefs is a real problem in science. Not just in meteorology, though I can see from Mooney's book that due to the attention that hurricanes brought to global warming, these guys who are often social inept were thrown into a maelstrom they didn't have the foggiest idea how to contend with (weather puns definitely intended).
I recommended this book to my students, and I don't do that often. I will continue to refer back to this book because it put very well the divides that not only exist in science, but even among communities and families concerning this issue (my husband is a wait-and-see guy, while I am one of those people who think we should do whatever we can possibly do to minimize our impact on climate).
Great book...great discussion.
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It presents a balanced review of both sides of the global warming ->
hurricanes issue while...Read more