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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a reasonable voice in the climate debate, July 8, 2010
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This review is from: Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century (Kindle Edition)
After hearing and reading a great deal in the popular press about climate change caused by human activities, I became convinced that most of what one hears on this subject is highly biased and unreliable. The problem is that almost everyone who speaks out on this controversial subject has either an economic interest, a political interest, or a professional career interest to advance by taking a biased or extreme position. Seeking a balanced and unbiased presentation of this topic, I found it in this excellent and highly readable book by Burton Richter. As a Nobel Laureate in physics with extremely high intelligence and none of these special interests to influence him, he seems to be the ideal person to tell the straight story.

And tell it he does, in a very clear English that anyone can read. The few portions of the book that are even slightly technical are designated with a grey background so the reader can skip them if desired. He describes each problem and each possible solution in ways that show how large or small a contribution it makes to the big picture. The end result is a very balanced and reasonable overview of the entire global energy usage and greenhouse gas story.

In summary, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to look past the "smoke and mirrors" of the climate change and energy usage debate to discover the facts that should help guide us to a more sustainable energy future.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 11, 2010 12:40:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 11, 2010 1:12:52 PM PDT
ari180 says:
With one highly revelatory exception of which I'm aware, this is an excellent, sober review; wouldn't it be great if everyone engaged in the hysterics over the myriad of issues entailed in AGW ("anthropogenic global warming") could adopt such a calm and reasoned approach?
But the single exception alluded to, above, is indicative of why this is almost completely impossible, in the current climate (as it were) surrounding the research and its uses and misuses: the reviewer alludes to "the widely-publicized 'climategate' fraud." Ironically, the only "fraud" associated with the so-called "climategate" incident was that perpetrated by the original e-mail leakers and by the rightwing publicists who blew them up into an apparent indictment of some (actually, as far as they were concerned, all) of the climate scientists. No fewer than five (5) different independent investigations have completely cleared the researchers involved, unequivocally and unambiguously demonstrating that (much as with the equally debunked and discredited James O'Keefe videos purporting to show ACORN staffers telling a "pimp" and his "ho" how to operate their illegal & immoral "business"), when the apparently-incriminating e-mail selections were shown in their entirety, and in full context, there was no funny-business of any kind going on. Repeat: there was Kelvin-zero (ie, absolute zero) chicanery, fraud, misrepresentation, massaging of data, etc. The data that the AGW-deniers accused the researchers of hiding from public view and deleting, were all available, and all presented. The use in one or more e-mails of the apparently-sleazoid term "trick" (supposedly in reference to selective and dishonest manipulation of data) was demonstrated to be exactly what the researchers had said from the beginning: a term of art widely used in the fields of science, math, engineering, and, for that matter, plumbing, carpentry, and cooking, for entirely-appropriate problem-solving mechanisms.*
The reports of the various investigations clearing the researchers both of any wrongdoing, and of any intent at wrongdoing, were released as early as December of '09, and the last was published on July 7 '10, the day before the posting date of the review above -- yet the review makes no mention of any of them.
This is *not* at all to the discredit of the reviewer, whose temperate wording makes it clear that he is making an obvious effort to treat the work on this controversial subject with the seriousness it warrants. (This is also why I gave it a "helpful" vote despite everything I'm saying about the error involved.)
It is, instead, representative of the media environment in which Americans have had to operate for at least two or three decades now -- one in which made-up controversies, often funded & promoted by the political and corporate powers at stake, are given immense amounts of time and attention, always with highly inflammatory language; but the inevitable debunking and refutation (or should that be "refudiation"?) of the initial claims are found on page B21 of the same papers that front-paged the initial accusations... if they get any mention at all. As any systems analyst will concur: "garbage in, garbage out." It's not the reviewer's fault that the "climategate" accusations were top-of-the-hour, leading stories on every news program (all the "driveby," "dinosaur," "alphabet," "mess media," whatever you want to call them), not just Fox -- but that the debunking of same came and went with nary a squeak, if you weren't explicitly seeking such info.
My first line referred to the "one... exception *of which I'm aware*." I strongly suspect that everything I know to be true about the "climategate" scam is also true about the imputation of fraud to the IPCC report, and to the "hockey stick" graph and theory. On that one, however, I don't myself know what the current understanding is, nor whether the charges that the IPCC report includes fraudulent, or even just incorrect, uses of data, have been upheld, discredited, or what. Accordingly, I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

*for sources, google "climategate retraction" (about 340,000 hits) or "climategate debunked" (about 28,000 hits); in both cases, multitudes of sources will be found that can't be written off as run by, or "in the tank" for, liberals, tree-huggers, socialists, communists, Islamofascists, anti-colonialist Kenyans (or their offspring), or DFHs.
And remember what they said in the midst of Watergate: "follow the money." Who has more money riding on, and more to burn on, these things: a bunch of tinpot 3rd-world countries and envirocrazies, or ExxonMobil, hmm?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2010 5:18:01 PM PST
The ari180 comment on this review was extremely constructive and I highly recommend it as additional background reading. It refers to a paragraph of my original review that I later chose to delete because it used the unfortunate term "climategate fraud" to refer to an incident that called into question the science behind Figure 3.3 of Dr. Richter's book. I intended to show that Dr. Richter could not have known in advance that this figure would later become controversial, but in doing so I fell victim to the very polarization that I criticized in my review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2012 10:46:43 AM PST
Observer says:
Andrew Montford's Hockey Stick Illusion is a thoughtful and thorough examination of the Hockey Stick graph. The book was largely complete prior to the release of the UEA/CRU emails.
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