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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Book review

Obligatory disclaimer...

I had to push to finish this book today, as I have to return it to the library tomorrow. Well, I should've returned it today, but I'll just have to pay the late fee for one day. ;-) That's what I get for, you know, having a life. *L*

Today's review is for the book, The Politically Incorrect Guide (TM) to Global Warming and Environmentalism, by Christopher C. Horner, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

I'll start off with the things I didn't like about the book.

First off, the author has a rather sarcastic style of writing. Sarcasm has its place, I suppose. Used well, it can bring about a knowing chuckle, and he does use it well. After a while, though, it starts to get annoying. Kept up, it starts to feel pretentious. Depending on the chapter, he sometimes bounced back and forth between the line of annoying and pretentious. I have to admit, however, that I have little patience for sarcasm in the first place, so others would undoubtedly disagree with me.

I also found a couple perplexing errors in the book. Several times, for example, the author says that in AIT, Al Gore claims that polar bears can't swim. Considering he also brought up the computer generated animation of a swimming polar bear, unable to find any ice large enough to support it, I found that rather odd. Another example is an obvious typo that got missed - Arctic was used instead of Antarctic when discussing ice cores from Vostok. From the rest of the paragraph, it was obvious he was talking about the Antarctic and not confusing them.

The biggest problem I have with this book, however, is that the people who need to read it most, won't - or if they did, they wouldn't accept any of it. Horner and the CEI, you see, are on the black list of industry hacks in the pockets of Big Oil (that's if you believe the conspiracy claims). As such, we're not supposed to believe anything he says.

For those who are a bit closer to the fence, or even sitting on it, the book will be an eye opener. For those who have already done their homework and disagree with the alarmists (which does not, I want to make clear, mean denying that the Earth has warmed, or that humans are contributing more CO2 into the atmosphere), most of what's in the book is old news.

The author does a decent and thorough job of confronting the usual claims made by alarmists, and a few more that I was less familiar with. More importantly, the entire book is riddled with reference numbers. There are over 32 pages of references (that's after reducing the size of the font) backing up his claims, with each chapter having its own section.

Throughout the book are sidebars and text boxes with all sorts of extras. Some are charts and additional information. Others are quotes from articles or individuals. There's even a number of "books you're not supposed to read" titles. What really got my attention, though, were the quotes from various "green" organizations and their spokespeople. These quotes alone would be enough to call serious question the real motives of these people and organizations.

Where this book really sets itself apart, however, is the author's own perspective as an insider within the US political system. He's been at the meetings, he's read the reports (including the full IPCC reports, not just the Summaries for Policymakers), he's been part of the discussions - and he's seen the sorts of back room manipulations that are going on. His revelations are particularly devastating to the carefully contrived image of self sacrificing eco-heroism Al Gore tries to surround himself with.

The author also spends a fair amount of space exposing the hypocrisy of the EU governments, which he clearly dislikes, and in how the Bush administration is being vilified for doing things the Clinton government did. One of his points is a claim I've heard many times - that Bush has refused to sign the Kyoto agreement. I've heard it often enough that it was a bit of a surprise when he pointed out that Bush can't possibly sign the agreement. It's been already signed. By Clinton. It just hasn't been ratified by the US senate, which has already said it won't do. So Bush is now being admonished for doing that same thing Clinton did. Or should I say for not doing what Clinton didn't do. How's that for hypocrisy! *L*

There was another thing about the book that I slowly began to appreciate as I got farther into it, and it involves a peculiarity of US authors (though not unique to US authors; it's just where I see it the most). While it's perfectly normal for writers to write from the perspective of the country they're in, US authors (and the US media) tend to forget there are places outside the US, or if they do mention them, it tends to be from a viewpoint of superiority. Not so with Horner. One moment he'll be discussing events within the US government, the next he'll be talking about a similar event in Canada. He'll reference experts from around the world as easily as he'll reference experts from the US, with no difference in how he writes about them. Strange that it was the lack of disrespect that caught my eye. It actually wasn't until I noticed this that I realized how little I've been seeing that.

The book is a lot broader than the issues AGW and and anthropogenic climate change. He also covers other issues surrounding the green industry. He exposes just how much environmentalism has become big business, and the incredible amounts of money and effort they put forward to influence government to their advantage. They're doing the exact same thing they accuse Industry and Big Oil of doing, and for motives that are just as selfish.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend the book to people who have doubts and are looking for answers. It gives plenty of answers from an insider's perspective.

For those already convinced that AGW and anthropogenic climate change is going to be the disaster AGW proponents say it is, I'd still recommend it, but the book would probably just piss them off.


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