Greenland's ice cap is in no imminent danger of melting away. It is well established scientifically that average temperatures in Greenland and Iceland have been falling at the rather steep rate of 2.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1987. As for temperatures in most of Antarctica, they have been falling for nearly 50 years, and ice there has been accumulating rather than melting. And those sea levels? Nils-Axel Mörner, a professor of geodynamics at Stockholm University, has been studying the low-lying atolls of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. He has found "a total absence of any recent sea level rise" and has instead found evidence of a fall in sea level in the past 20 years -- a fact that Mr. Crichton has the good instinct to report in the course of pushing his plot forward.
And what about the trend in actual global average temperatures, a question central to the debate in "State of Fear"? According to satellite data, since 1978 the planet has been warming up at a rate, per decade, of 0.08 degrees Celsius. Simple arithmetic reveals that, if the rate continues, the planet will warm by 0.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. That compares with an increase of 0.6 degrees Celsius during the 20th century. No catastrophe there.
None of this is news to anyone who has been following this issue of the last few years. Bjorn Lomborg, who was recently named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine, has been busting the myths of the environmental movement for quite a while now, by marshalling the same facts available to and used by the greens, but demonstrating how they have been consistently misinterpreting and misrepresenting it. I first read Lomborg when I came across his brilliant essay for the Economist, “The truth about the environment”. His logic was impeccable, and the facts behind them were easily verifiable, and in the public domain. I urge you to read the piece.
When his first book, The Skeptical Environmentalist came out, it created a storm of protest from environmentalists, who questioned his credentials, launched vicious personal attacks, but could not answer any of his impressive arguments. The Washington Post summed it up by writing: “The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in 1962. It's a magnificent achievement.”
In the next few weeks there’s a going to be a fair amount of, ahem, global warming against Crichton’s book. Environmentalists will label him as a right-wing nut, scientists will question his credentials, and rhetoric will flood the air. But Crichton doesn’t matter.The facts in his books do, as do the facts in Lomborg’s book, because those facts affect us deeply. As Lomborg never tires of pointing out, there are other pressing problems the world needs to deal with urgently, like getting safe drinking water to the millions of people in third-world coutries who do not have them, like AIDS, like malnutrition. Recently Lomborg got together with a bunch of eminent scientists to debate a host of pressing issues that the world needed to spend its limited resources on solving, in an initiative called The Copenhagen Consensus. Global warming was at the bottom of the list of subjects that deserved priority. The conclusions are impressive, read them here (PDF file). And buy the book here.
For more on the subject, also read Ronald Bailey’s Global Warming and Other Eco Myths. Ronald Glassman has an excellent essay on this subject in Tech Central Station (“Global Warming Extremists on the Run”), and Mark Steyn’s take in the Daily Telegraph is also worth a read.