Archive for May, 2013

The Age of Global Warming: a History

May 26, 2013



The Age of Global Warming, a History

442 pages

Quartet, 2013

ISBN 978 0 7043 7299 3

1. Intro

This is the book every politician and historian should read. Here you will not find endless tables of climate data and no avalanche of graphs (there are just two in the 442 pages book). No equations, no mathematics, no formulas, and nevertheless this is one of the best books I read on the subject. Rupert Darwall is an economist and historian, and his writing style is fluid and easy to read. His knowledge of history, politics and economy is broad, and every citation is clearly referenced. The book is a journey through the Western mind embracing the concepts or ideologies of environmentalism,  sustainable development and anthropogenic climate change.

The author constantly goes back to first principles of Science, as laid out by Francis Bacon and Karl Popper when it comes to decide if a theory has scientific merit.
If you are allergic to numeral over-kill but like clear logic, good writing style and a treasure of carefully researched information, this should be your book. I was so enthralled that I read it twice in a row, and it was time well spent.

2. Environmentalism and the meme of global warming

GW (here GW always means AGW, anthropogenic global warming) is a child of Western environmentalism. It is the best-liked of its children, bringing into the lime light the virtues of ecological behavior and ending in a state where it is more important for governments to be seen doing something to “save the planet” than assessing the likely consequences of these policies. The “Global Warming Policy Paradox” is that the therapy causes the malady it was designed to avert. Global therapeutics like biofuels create problems (like foot shortage) at a scale that a possible warming would not be able to produce.
The environmental and sustainability angst of the 20th century have two mothers: US citizen Rachel Carson with her book “Silent Spring” (1962), and British Barbara Ward with her “Spaceship Earth” paper (1966). Both writers touch a sensitive Western soul: living in relative prosperity calls for feelings of guilt, and the search to alleviate that guilt by sacrifices : sin, punishment,redemption! (see  Serge Salam:  Global Warming, the sacrificial temptation ).

That people and politicians care about the environment and nature is not new: President Teddy Roosevelt was the creator of US National parks, and even the über-capitalist Ronald Reagon forbade the construction of a Trans-Sierra highway and created the National Redwood Park.
Environmentalism is environmental care mutating into a religion. It works best when societies are affluent, what explains its relatively low stand in the Third World countries. The environmental wave started around 1962, reached its crest in 1972 and crashed the following year as the Yom Kippur war lead to the first big oil crisis. Than, during the “roaring eighties” it resumed, this time not riding the “limited resources” meme but that of man-made catastrophic global warming. As R. Darwall writes “with global warming environmentalism has found its killer app”.

3. Not a science

Throughout the book there are numerous examples that “modern” climatology has abandoned the fundamentals of what is “the scientific method”. To be scientific a theory must be falsifiable. Having only examples that agree with the theory is not enough; if by design it can not be falsified, it is not a scientific theory (the author does not write about the “post-modern sciences”, which negate the findings from Francis Bacon to Karl Popper that demonstrate why science was such a success-story since the 16th century).
The global warming theory in the sense that the concentration of atmospheric green house gases (notably CO2) will cause a warming that is proportional to their concentration is not falsifiable. Sure, there are observations where rising CO2 levels coincide with warming (1980 to 1998) and others where this is not the case (the last 15 years). Neither of these observations makes the theory scientific, as the “official” climatologist always will find an explanation why even opposite behavior is consistent with their theory.
R. Darwall writes that the politicization of climate science did it inflate it in such a manner that it became “too big to fail”. This is a situation akin to the speculation bubble which burst in the recent past. Will the global warming bubble also burst in a near future, swallowing scientific reputation, political power, media influence and many NGO’s which sold their soul to the impeding climate catastrophe, which might well have a only a virtual life in the climate models but none in the real world?

4. Citations

Let me conclude with a couple of citations from the book. There are so many, that the book will be an invaluable aid in preparing an expose.

p. 6:   “it would be more accurate to describe global warming as a speculation or a conjecture”

p.62: “a persistent failure of the environmentalist position is to ignore economic history and fail to ask how or why industrial societies had escaped the Malthusian trap in the past”

p.81: “the energy crisis was created by governments, not geology”

p. 107: “the more a theory forbids, the better it is”

p. 246: “just as with the British government’s assessment of weapons of mass destruction, Nordhaus suggested the Stern Review should be read primarily as a document that is political in nature and has advocacy as its purpose”

p. 350: “in believing scientists and politicians can solve the problems of a far distant future, the tangible needs of the present are neglected”


An exceptional book, not to be missed!