‘An Inconvenient Book’ Review

By | April 3, 2008

Carter Book Review


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A main function of the news media is to inform the public about local and world affairs. Another main function, of course, is to make money for the owners and shareholders. From time to time, like every day, these two functions conflict.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the way that the press deals with the reporting (“mis-reporting” would be more accurate) of environmental matters. That some Arcadian glen in the Appalachian mountains remains in its natural state is generally deemed unworthy of public comment, unless perhaps a 5-star, Jacuzzi-bearing, luxury lodge there should number amongst a paper’s advertisers. On the other hand, that a sewage discharge pipe has ruptured adjacent to a scenic bay or population centre is bound to be headline news – for such alarmist headlines are proven to swell circulation figures.

Additionally, the pathology of political correctness also colours all environmental commentary, for who wants to be seen to be against stemming sewage leaks or saving baby seals, or to appear careless of the state of the planet that they will bequeath to their grandchildren? Certainly not the senior businessmen, politicians and public celebrities who have flocked lemming-like to the completely irrational, indeed ridiculous, cause of “stopping climate change”.

It requires a particular brand of fearlessness and strength to tackle these forces of environmental and social rectitude head on, qualities which are on abundant display in Glenn Beck’s riotous “An Inconvenient Book”. From the title to the last page, the author’s trademark whimsy is on delicious display, and, as symptomatic also of his radio and TV shows, no cow is too sacred to escape an ironical pasting from Mr. Beck.

Of course, modern society presents a bewildering range of targets for a marksman of such a high calibre. It is surprising, therefore, that this book runs to only 295 pages. That fact presumably represents commercial reality rather than indicating a lack of more to say, and we can surely anticipate that there will be successor volumes. Less surprising, perhaps, is that the very first chapter in the book concerns climate change, a topic ripe for satire if ever there was one.

The very phrase “climate change”, in itself, is an abuse of the English language, for when a reporter uses it he or she is not referring to the changeable natural process that you and I experience each year as weather, and over 30 years (for so the scientists define it) as climate. Rather, the term is used as code for the proposition of “dangerous, human-caused global warming”, which is a very weak scientific hypothesis, now turned religion, for which no substantive evidence exists. Mr. Beck is of course on to this like a flash, and therefore suitably entitles his chapter “Global warming, storming, and conforming” – thereby signaling right at the outset that he understands this problem to now be as much about human psychology as it is about science.

Laying about with a scimitar, Mr. Beck in quick succession dispatches idiocies such as that the flooding of Florida is imminent; that carbon dioxide increases have caused major episodes of past climate change (as judged from ice-core evidence); that changing solar activity has no role to play in explaining climate change; that replacing tungsten by compact fluorescent light bulbs, or buying a Toyota Prius, makes any environmental sense; that computer models can make meaningful predictions of future climate; that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina; that alternative energy sources are a practical solution (to what is anyway a non-problem); and oh, of course, those iconic symbols worshipped by the warmaholics, Al Gore’s movie and the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr. Beck understands well that ridicule is the most powerful weapon available to those who wish to contradict the conventional wisdom of the great and good. He therefore deploys that weapon with relish as he discusses the views of such as Heidi Cullen, Ellen Goodman, David Roberts, Robert Kennedy Jr., Al Gore, Stephen Schneider, Dave Forman, Paul Crutzen, Andrew Watson, Paul Erlich, Prince Philip, George Monbiot, Helen Caldicott, Michael Oppenheimer – quite a list of crazies, that. If only these persons were to read and think carefully about Mr. Beck’s comments they might realize how very silly their alarmist views actually are. But don’t hold your breath waiting.

At the end, Mr. Beck sums it up well: “In spite of what we want to believe, the earth is not a Lexus that we can climb into, turn the climate control to a comfortable 70 degrees, and leave it there until the end of time. The real climate has millions of variables, and there is still way too much that we don’t know”. Precisely, and the increasingly popular idea which follows from this Lexus-view of the planet – that the introduction of carbon trading or taxation systems will modify future climate in a beneficial way, rather than cause distress to the poor and corrupt enrichment of the rich – is collective political insanity of a high order. And do feel free to write to your member of Congress or Senator about this issue, for it is in those great democratic bodies that the battle against the forces of irrational state regulation is now being waged.

Read this book, for you will laugh a lot and learn a lot. You will discover from a professional insider that not only global warming but most media scares are indeed just that, and perhaps, just perhaps, you will be stimulated also to adopt for yourself Mr. Beck’s healthily sceptical approach to these matters.

For scepticism underpins all good science. And the application of rational, scientific knowledge to the governance of societies – a great gift bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment – is all that stands between us and the ecosalvationist barbarians at the gate. Hats off to Mr. Glen Beck for manning the barricades in defense of such a vital principle.