Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2004 / 8 Teves, 5765
Crichton's latest is a valuable education in the guise of entertainment
Global warming is heavily politicized pseudo science like eugenics and
Lysenkoism, and potentially more dangerous. That's the message of Michael
Crichton's new techno-thriller, "State of Fear." He seems to have written
it chiefly to get this message to people who don't ordinarily think much
about the issue.
Based on Crichton's track record, he'll probably succeed. Crichton has
written 13 previous best sellers, most of which were made into movies. You
may remember "Jurassic Park" and "Rising Sun."
Crichton is an awfully smart guy. He wrote thrillers to earn money to put
himself through Harvard medical school, but when "The Andromeda Strain" took
off like a rocket, he became a full time writer. His medical training
wasn't wasted, though. He used it to create the hit television series
Crichton is always a good read. The action is fast paced, his characters
are well sketched. But what I like best about Crichton's stories is the
science education I get in the course of reading them.
In Crichton's earlier novels, the science was subordinate to telling a
crackerjack story. But in "State of Fear," the purpose of the story is to
present the science. Crichton explains it in terms laymen easily can
comprehend. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
The planet will warm probably by less than a degree Centigrade by
2100. This will have little effect on humans or most other forms of plant
and animal life, and such effects as it will have are likely, on net
balance, to be beneficial.
This warming almost entirely will be the result of natural processes. The
Earth is always getting either warmer or cooler. It has been both very much
warmer (there were once jungles in Siberia) and very much colder (glaciers
once covered most of North America) than it is today. All of this happened
before Henry Ford built the first Model T. Most of this happened before Man
first walked upright.
Crichton illustrates the preposterousness of the notion that man-made
emissions of carbon dioxide can have much effect on climate with this
analogy, put in the mouth of his character Jennifer Haynes:
"Imagine the composition of the Earth's atmosphere as a football field.
Most of the atmosphere is nitrogen. So, starting from the goal line,
nitrogen takes you all the way to the 78 yard line. And most of what's left
is oxygen. Oxygen takes you to the 99 yard line. Most of what remains is
the inert gas argon. Argon bring you within 3 1/2 inches of the goal line.
That's pretty much the thickness of the chalk stripe. And how much of the
remaining three inches is carbon dioxide? One inch.
"You are told carbon dioxide has increased in the last 50 years. Do you know
how much it has increased, on our football field? Three eighths of an inch
less than the thickness of a pencil. Yet you are asked to believe that
this tiny change has driven the entire planet into a dangerous warming
In between extricating his heroes from crevasses in the Antarctic, flash
floods in Arizona, and cannibals in New Guinea, Crichton explodes cherished
myths of environmentalists. Antarctica, which has 90 percent of the world's
ice, is getting colder, not warmer. Sea levels aren't rising.
Satellite measurements show negligible warming in the upper atmosphere,
where the "greenhouse effect" ought to be taking place. Increases in
surface temperatures are caused by urbanization. For instance, average
annual temperatures in New York City rose 5 degrees Fahrenheit between 1822
and 2000. But average temperatures in West Point, an hour away by car,
didn't rise at all, and average temperatures in Albany, three hours away,
Environmental groups are run by crackpots and con men, not scientists. On
the rare occasions when environmentalists tell the truth, they omit
important details. The glacier on Mt. Kilimanjaro is melting...but it's
been melting for 6,000 years. A computer model indicates the ice pack on
Greenland might melt...but not for 1,000 years.
In order to boost fund-raising, environmentalists allege a connection
between warming and hurricanes and tornadoes. (Few of us panic about what
may happen, gradually, 1,000 years from now.) But the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration says hurricane strikes in the U.S. are less than
a third the number of the 1940s.
"State of Fear" is a valuable education in the guise of entertainment. Do
yourself a favor and buy it. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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