Monday 20 February 2012

The Climate War
Climate is changing. This is like an obvious conclusion if you are old enough to remember how it was only 20 or 30 years ago. Non c'è più la mezza stagione” (“There are no more middle seasons” which is the Italian equivalent of “Things are not what they used to be”) is one of the most used expression when travelling on the train in Italy, like a mantra used to start any conversation.

Less commonly accepted among the general public is that the cause of this change towards a warmer climate is CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) we humans release into the atmosphere. It is not uncommon to hear people say this is not true. Many, not only in the USA, think that “the left-wing political agenda is behind the global warming (GW) hoax”. What is quite surprising is that among scientists there is not such a controversy. All climatologists (but a few outliers…) agree on the fact that anthropogenic gases are responsible for the GW. So, how is it possible that we have such a schizophrenic society in which scientists and the general public have different opinions on scientific issues? If the public do not base their opinion about science on what scientists say, where do those opinions come from?

Well, there is now a very interesting book on sale that explains it all. The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, by Michael Mann. Mann is a climatologist who has been involved, for the last 10 years, in the big battle that is being fought between scientists, on one side, and conservative journalists, politicians and corporations on the other side. I really enjoyed reading it for several reasons: you get quite a good understanding of how Science works; you end up learning a lot about climatology and you get a thorough historical reconstruction that provides you with a fair answer to the questions above. If you have sufficient economic means, you can take one of the basic principles of science (nothing is “true”, everything is under scrutiny) and sell it to the public as “they don’t know what they are talking about”.

I strongly recommend the book. If you are a scientist or you already know enough about climate science, this book can offer you a valuable historical reconstruction of one of the saddest examples of what happens when Science falls under political intimidation. If you belong to those who still do not have a clear idea about what is going on with the so called “climategate”, or who call themselves “sceptical”, this book can give you a precise idea of what the “climategate” actually is and will make you far less “sceptical”. On the other hand, if you believe that GW is a liberal hoax, don’t buy the book. Science is not for “believers”. Science is for the real sceptical, who can change idea once enough evidence is provided.


The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann

Mann, M., Bradley, R., & Hughes, M. (1998). Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries Nature, 392 (6678), 779-787 DOI: 10.1038/33859

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