and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
March #3

Novel mixes fiction with truth about global warming
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Monday, March 21, 2005

I wasn't going to write this column because it's all about a secret.

But with spring having arrived Sunday after an unusually intense winter, the subject of global warming is timely; and besides, the secret is getting out anyhow.

Ideally, people wouldn't know the true theme of Michael Crichton's new book until they'd read it themselves and learned what the author meant for them to learn. But this would require keeping the secret until the book is available in paperback for mass readership this coming November, and already the radical environmentalists are up in arms about it.

"State of Fear" was published in 2004 in time for holiday gift-giving. I don't often buy hardcover novels because I prefer to wait for the cheaper paperback, if not the used paperback at the book swap. But the chunky "State of Fear" was my Christmas present to myself.

I discovered Michael Crichton in 1969 when his first novel was published. "The Andromeda Strain" was the prototype for the now-popular techno-thriller, and was one of the books responsible for my son's love of reading. Not because he read it, at age 5, but because he knew that I was doing something fun when I refused to put it down.

Lance often heard, "Go find your own book and a snack, Honey, Mommy is reading ..." in his formative years.

Later, we'd share "Jurassic Park" and other exciting Crichton novels. We liked not only the page-turning plots, but the reams of scientific information that filled the pages in between the chase scenes. Biological weapons; dinosaur DNA; undersea, jungle and space exploration; time travel; genetic engineering: Read for enjoyment, but beware the future!

So I'm sure Crichton's plan was: Promote a book generically as another "exciting and provocative techno-thriller," and let readers learn something controversial when they are too caught up in the action to stop.

The central character is Peter Evans, a young, enthusiastic attorney for George Morton, a millionaire philanthropist focused on environmental causes. Part of their joint agenda is to promote concern about global warming; they are working on an upcoming Abrupt Climate Change Conference. The wealthy benefactor disappears shortly after connecting with one John Kenner, a professor of geoenvironmental engineering, an expert in risk analysis at MIT, and a government consultant on environmental and defense issues.

Peter and Morton's assistant, Sarah, are caught up in an international intrigue, ranging from "the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanoes of Antarctica ... the Arizona desert to the deadly jungles of the Solomon Islands." The first scientific footnote is on Page 43; there are lots of them on Page 193. But by then, you want to know what is going to happen so you read on to the end as Kenner shows Peter and Sarah the truth about global warming and the government-inspired, media-encouraged "state of fear."

In an appendix at the end of the book, Crichton explains, in clear and simple language, "why politicized science is dangerous." He methodically, and with copious Appendix II footnotes, debunks the pseudo-science behind the theory of unnatural climate change. He quotes philosopher Alston Chase: "When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power."

Global warming has become a basic premise upon which cases for action are built. Few question the premise. Most news stories begin with a description of related problems as in "global warming threatens to ... drown the seacoast, intensify air pollution, heat or chill the ocean currents."

But Crichton points out, among other things, that "satellite data and ground stations show slight cooling over the last 20 years ... Antarctic ice has increased since 1979," and while some places on earth are getting warmer, other places are getting cooler. The facts cited throughout the book are interesting, but the best section is the discussion about who benefits from the threat of global warming, and why.

"Fear," Kenner explains to Evans. "The fall of the Berlin Wall created a vacuum of fear," and international terrorists had not yet stepped forward to fill it.

Once activist groups and politicians are raising money from a threat, they resist any attempts to disavow it. So even with the issue of terrorism stealing public attention, they forge on. Hence, a recent report predicting parts of the Boston area under water by 2100.

It's interesting that some of the same politicians who think it's too early to worry about a Social Security shortfall in 2042 are eager to address a water problem half a century later. Personally, I think it's good to study the impact of human beings on the Earth and its climate, but only in the spirit of genuine scientific inquiry.

Thanks to the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere, our part of the globe will be warming for the next six months anyway.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.