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Greenhouse Gas
MIT Technology Review ^ | May 2005 | Joseph Romm

Posted on 04/28/2005 10:34:36 AM PDT by cogitator

Michael Crichton has written that rarest of books, an ­intellectually dishonest novel. Crichton has made a fortune exploiting the public’s fears: Prey (fear of nanotechnology), Rising Sun (fear of Japanese technological supremacy), and Jurassic Park (fear of biotechnology). These books attack the hubris of those who use technology without wisdom. In Prey, he warns, “The total system we call the biosphere is so complicated that we cannot know in advance the consequences of anything that we do.” Given the author’s past, one might expect that a Crichton book on global warming would warn about the risk of catastrophic climate change—the unintended consequences of ­humanity’s reckless, irreversible experiment on the biosphere.

But State of Fear takes the reverse view. Crichton argues that the environmental and scientific communities have fabricated the threat. He wants readers to fear those who argue that climate change is real, caused by human technologies, and dangerous. In the novel, a mainstream environmental group plots to create extreme weather events that will cause the deaths of thousands of people in order to trick the public into accepting global warming as truth. They try to create a killer seismic tsunami timed to coincide with a conference on abrupt climate change. That’s a major mistake by Crichton: seismic tsunamis aren’t caused by global warming, as any climate scientist, even an evil one, knows.

Because the evidence for–and scientific consensus on–the human causes of climate change is now so strong, Crichton cannot make his case simply on the evidence. Instead, he must distort the facts and accuse the scientific community of bad faith in order to make his case. And he does so, repeatedly.

Crichton portrays environmentalists as uninformed, hypocritical, or simply evil. He creates a scientist-hero, John Kenner, to save the day. (For added credibility, Kenner is an MIT professor—though he sounds more like Rush Limbaugh than any MIT faculty member I’ve met.) Speaking through Kenner, Crichton makes a faulty case against the environmentalists. Kenner says, for instance, that a real NASA climatologist, James Hansen, has been discredited for overestimating the impact of global warming “by three hundred percent” during 1988 testimony in Congress. In fact, Hansen’s prediction was very close to accurate. The smear Crichton cites was created 10 years later, when global-warming skeptic Patrick Michaels misrepresented the testimony.

Crichton also strains to discredit global-warming fears by presenting them as faddish. He has one environmentalist say (incorrectly), “in the 1970s, all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.” Global warming did level off between 1940 and 1975. We now know that this was largely a result of dust and aerosols sent by humans into the atmosphere that temporarily overwhelmed the warming effect from greenhouse gases. In the 1970s, it was not yet clear whether the cooling effect from aerosols would be greater than the heating produced from greenhouse gases. Now we know: the heating wins. This episode, fairly explained, would give readers greater confidence in our understanding of climate science, not less.

The dissembling even leaks into the book’s bibliography, where Crichton mischaracterizes the landmark 2002 National Research Council report Abrupt Climate Change: “The text concludes that abrupt climate change might occur sometime in the future, triggered by mechanisms not yet understood.” The report actually concludes, “Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was being forced to change most rapidly. Thus, greenhouse warming...may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome ­regional or global climatic events.” State of Fear is riddled with such misinformation. For a thorough debunking, go to www.realclimate.org, a site that gives the lie to Crichton’s scurrilous claim that in climate science “open and frank discussion of the data, and of the issues, is being suppressed.” Sadly, Crichton smears the work of countless scientists who are trying to predict and prevent the unintended consequences of technological hubris.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: catastrophes; change; climate; climatechange; crichton; energy; environment; gases; global; greenhouse; oil; warming
I'd say Joseph Romm (author of this piece) has a vested interest in trying to debunk Crichton, wouldn't you?

Bio of Joseph Romm, Ph.D.

Dr. Joseph Romm is a leading expert on hydrogen, fuel cells, and advanced transportation technologies. He is author of the forthcoming primer, The Hype About Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate. Romm is the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation project, “Future Directions for Hydrogen Energy Research and Education.”

Romm was Acting Assistant Secretary at DOE's billion-dollar Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during 1997 and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from 1995 though 1998. In that capacity, he helped manage the largest program in the world for helping businesses develop and use advanced energy technologies and to begin the transition to a hydrogen economy.

The Office is the lead federal agency for developing technologies for hydrogen production and storage, PEM fuel cells, hybrid vehicles and other advanced transportation technologies, cogeneration, wind, photovoltaics, and other renewables. The Office is also the lead federal agency for accelerating the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles. Romm was in charge of technology and market analysis for the office. Romm helped lead formulation of the Administration's climate change technology strategy. Romm helped launch the program’s multi-million dollar efforts on stationary PEM fuel cell applications.

Romm is a principal with Capital E, a premier provider of strategic consulting, technology assessment, and sustainable design services for fuel cells and other clean energy technologies (www.cap-e.com). Romm is also executive director and founder of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions—a one‑stop shop helping businesses and states adopt high-leverage strategies for saving energy and cutting pollution (www.cool-companies.org).

Romm has co-authored some of the first energy and environmental analyses of fuel cells in buildings. He oversaw the first DOE analysis of the role PEM fuel cells could play in saving energy and reducing emissions in buildings. He co-authored one of the first peer-reviewed articles to compare fuel cells with other micro-cogeneration technologies in commercial buildings and one of the first articles to examine the energy savings from co-generating fuel cells in residential buildings. Romm performed the first environmental analysis of a system integrating cogenerating fuel cells, fly wheels, and power electronics aimed at achieving very high-availability power.

Romm consults with businesses such as IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Collins Pine, Nike, Timberland, Texaco, and Lockheed-Martin on energy technology and environmental strategy. He is author of the first book to benchmark corporate best practices for using advanced energy technologies including fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Cool Companies: How the Best Businesses Boost Profits and Productivity By Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Romm holds a Ph.D. in physics from M.I.T. He has written and lectured widely on advanced transportation technologies, hydrogen, fuel cells, distributed energy, business and environment issues, including articles in Technology Review, Forbes, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, Science magazine, and The Industry Standard. He is co-author with Charles Curtis of "MidEast Oil Forever," the cover story of the April 1996 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, which predicted that the major oil-exporting nations would regain pricing control of oil within the decade and discussed alternative energy strategies. Romm is widely quoted in the media on energy technology matters, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine, Time, Newsweek, Business Week, NBC Evening News, and NPR.

1 posted on 04/28/2005 10:34:40 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

Good catch about the author, Cog. I know you are one of the moderate voices about Global Warming here on FR, and your input is appreciated.


2 posted on 04/28/2005 10:40:22 AM PDT by Paradox ("It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it."- Robert E. Lee)
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To: cogitator

Typical liberal, when in the face of logic turn to a personal attack. Some of the facts that Crichton put out there was very damaging to their money making efforts.


3 posted on 04/28/2005 10:40:22 AM PDT by Abathar (Proudly catching hell for not reading the whole article since 1999)
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To: cogitator

A physicist points out that a novelist bent the truth in his FICTIONAL story line. Gasp! Say it isn't so. He needs to get over himself.


4 posted on 04/28/2005 10:43:35 AM PDT by contemplator
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To: cogitator

".. Jurassic Park (fear of biotechnology)."


I thought Jurassic Park was about the fear of being eaten by velociraptors?


5 posted on 04/28/2005 10:44:03 AM PDT by Blzbba ("Under every stone lurks a politician. " Aristophanes, 410 BC)
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To: cogitator

Romm is a Moron...what a waste of Oxygen.

Crichtons book was great, and More fact than fiction.

Enviromentalists..are Insane, arrogant, Retards...and Romm proves it.

It is a fact that they Lie, Cheat, skew, and everything else
to Brainwash the public into thinking the World is "Doomed!"

All to "Save Us from the Evil Industrialists"

I am Not the least Impressed with MIT or any Degreed Idiot
who comes from there. Degrees are not worth the Paper they are printed on today.

Universities today are P.C. strongholds of Crap.

Go to Hell Romm...We dont Believe you. go tell it to

Bill Mahar.


6 posted on 04/28/2005 10:53:30 AM PDT by LtKerst (Lt Kerst)
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To: LtKerst
I am Not the least Impressed with MIT or any Degreed Idiot who comes from there. Degrees are not worth the Paper they are printed on today.

all good thoughts, but this is definitely true. I am an electrical engineer and was lucky to graduate when courses were still rigorous and professors pushed their students to excel. PC is destroying everything. It is astounding what passes for education these days. Critical thinking skills are sorely lacking in many of our graduates. Sad.

7 posted on 04/28/2005 11:01:43 AM PDT by liberty2004
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To: cogitator
Global warming did level off between 1940 and 1975. We now know that this was largely a result of dust and aerosols sent by humans into the atmosphere that temporarily overwhelmed the warming effect from greenhouse gases.

I remember in the 60's and 70's that summer weather reports always included a statement on temperature inversions. The inversions kept the smog low to the earth. I used to see brown clouds floating at several hundred feet from the fossil fuel plants around Boston. That's all gone now. The air is clean, No more reports about temperature inversions.

Now that the sunlight gets through, the we should feel warmer. Maybe the global warming fanatics could change black rubber roofs to white. And, paint the roads white to boot. With our cleaner air, we have a greater need to reflect light back to the heavens. Either that or bring back light blocking sooty smog.

8 posted on 04/28/2005 11:14:03 AM PDT by LoneRangerMassachusetts (Some say what's good for others, the others make the goods; it's the meddlers against the peddlers)
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To: cogitator
I'd say Joseph Romm (author of this piece) has a vested interest in trying to debunk Crichton, wouldn't you?

I am not sure that it follows that Dr. Romm's comments regarding the alleged inaccuracies in Crichton's novel should be dismissed without consideration. He gives specific examples of incorrect information - if he is not accurate, deal with that, not his scientific orientation.

9 posted on 04/28/2005 11:29:15 AM PDT by Semper
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To: cogitator
Michael Crichton has written that rarest of books, an ­intellectually dishonest novel.

Say what? So far as I can tell, the only 'fact' modern novelists respect is that any difference between a .44 Magnum and a tac nuke can be overcome by handloading. There are a couple of authors (Ludlum, for one) who I no longer read because their plots are based on 'facts' so recklessly mangled that they insult the readers' intelligence.

10 posted on 04/28/2005 11:38:09 AM PDT by Grut
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To: cogitator
He has one environmentalist say (incorrectly), “in the 1970s, all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.”

Huh, well, most did. The statement is correct. I have a book published back then making that prediction. No one was talking about "Global Warming" at all.

In the 1970s, it was not yet clear whether the cooling effect from aerosols would be greater than the heating produced from greenhouse gases. Now we know: the heating wins. This episode, fairly explained, would give readers greater confidence in our understanding of climate science, not less.

What this means is that if the environmentalists didn't force us to "clean up" the air from the 1970's onward, we'd still be in a cooling state.

What I really think is that we've averted a likely restart of the ice age (which is the global "norm", actually), and I think kudo's should be given to every petroleum worker for their hard ward in saving the planet.

11 posted on 04/28/2005 11:38:41 AM PDT by narby
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To: cogitator

Obviously Dr. Romm has a substantial vested interest in keeping global warming hysteria alive. His living, his professional reputation, and his research funds depend on it.


12 posted on 04/28/2005 11:39:10 AM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: LoneRangerMassachusetts
I used to see brown clouds floating at several hundred feet from the fossil fuel plants around Boston. That's all gone now. The air is clean

One of the reasons the air is now clean is that legislation was passed requiring industrial enterprises to clean up their emissions. That legislation was opposed by many who did not want to accept the connection between human activity and environmental consequences.

13 posted on 04/28/2005 11:42:51 AM PDT by Semper
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To: Semper
He gives specific examples of incorrect information - if he is not accurate, deal with that, not his scientific orientation.

About 10 years ago some activists published a list of about 40 things that Rush Limbaugh had said that were on the surface "incorrect", and loudly proclaimed him a grand liar.

The fact is that Rush says a great many things, and the 40 or so inaccuracies were easily explained. Rush debunked all of them, most because he had quoted MSM articles that were themselves incorrect.

Similarly, Crichton has an entire book that contains hundreds, perhaps a thousand or more "facts" on the environmental situation. And if this is all they can find to critique, then Crichton did a great job fact checking his work.

Crichton isn't perfect. But he's still obviously correct.

14 posted on 04/28/2005 11:43:48 AM PDT by narby
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To: cogitator

"That’s a major mistake by Crichton: seismic tsunamis aren’t caused by global warming, as any climate scientist, even an evil one, knows."

That didn't stop one environmental pin-head from declaring EXACTLY that after the Tsunami of 12/04.

Asses.


15 posted on 04/28/2005 11:55:01 AM PDT by agooga (The Kyoto Protocol will lower global temperature by .07 degrees.)
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To: Cicero
Is it not possible that Dr. Romm is focusing on this particular area of science because his education led him to believe that there is a serious need to develop clean energy? He is not going to lose any opportunity because of Crichton's book - debunked or not. But whatever, he clearly has a great deal more expertise in this area than Crichton does and has every right to point out the errors.
16 posted on 04/28/2005 12:00:06 PM PDT by Semper
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To: Semper
I am not sure that it follows that Dr. Romm's comments regarding the alleged inaccuracies in Crichton's novel should be dismissed without consideration.

Kind of a "reverse ad hominem" argument? There are other sites (such as the one given at the end of the piece) that critically address State of Fear. My comment was directed at the tonality of the piece -- while it would be nice to have as unbiased an assessment of the book's premises as possible, I don't think Romm could address it without bias.

Crichton is well-known for stretching science around his novel's needs -- State of Fear is not an exception to the necessities of fiction. Crichton provides scientific background, but it's not surprising that it supports the viewpoint of the novel. If it didn't, the novel would be less compelling.

17 posted on 04/28/2005 12:01:16 PM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

"Global warming did level off between 1940 and 1975. We now know that this was largely a result of dust and aerosols sent by humans into the atmosphere that temporarily overwhelmed the warming effect from greenhouse gases. In the 1970s, it was not yet clear whether the cooling effect from aerosols would be greater than the heating produced from greenhouse gases. "

Whenever I hear someone talk about human activity "causing" global warming, I have to wonder if they've ever seen the eruption of Mount St. Helens which spewed thousands of tons of debris, noxious chemicals and gases into the atmosphere. Over time, mother nature managed to 'scrub' it all out of the air. These are the events which have an impact on climate change and they occur all over the world on a fairly regular basis.

The depth of ignorance of some people knows no limit.....


18 posted on 04/28/2005 12:02:04 PM PDT by TMD (Get Planned Parenthood out of our schools!)
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To: narby
The fact is that Rush says a great many things, and the 40 or so inaccuracies were easily explained.

I can't go to Rush for scientific accuracy. I heard him last year talking about atmospheric ozone, clearly based on his own understanding of it, and he was way off.

19 posted on 04/28/2005 12:03:53 PM PDT by cogitator
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To: TMD
Whenever I hear someone talk about human activity "causing" global warming, I have to wonder if they've ever seen the eruption of Mount St. Helens which spewed thousands of tons of debris, noxious chemicals and gases into the atmosphere.

Since I've always been interested in volcanoes, I have a decent layman's knowledge of them. Volcanoes actually produce very little carbon dioxide, which is most well-known greenhouse gas of concern. Volcanoes produce significantly more sulfur dioxide and ash (depending on the type of volcano; Hawaiian-type volcanoes don't produce much ash). The strength of the eruption will determine how much gets into the stratosphere and affects climate. The 1980 St. Helens blast was quite lateral and also not that big, so very little eruptive products made it to the upper atmosphere. For El Chichon in 1983 and Pinatubo in 1991, the eruptions were virtually vertical and powerful, and the atmospheric effects were prolonged (in the case of Pinatubo, for about two years). El Chichon also had the distinction of being one of the most sulfur-rich eruptions ever observed.

The ash doesn't stay in the atmosphere nearly as long, of course.

20 posted on 04/28/2005 12:17:32 PM PDT by cogitator
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To: narby
Crichton isn't perfect. But he's still obviously correct.

You got the first part right but missed on the second. Crichton has not devoted his life to the study of environmental science and there were several substantiated errors cited in his book. If Crichton and Rush are wrong, by the time that becomes obvious, it will be too late to correct it. If Dr. Romm is wrong, we will have a cleaner environment and be less dependent upon forign energy sources.

Regarding your "source" of Rush, he still has not accepted the fact that sucking tobacco smoke into your body (via cigar or whatever) will pollute your body sufficiently to cause health problems and premature death. Great source.

21 posted on 04/28/2005 12:19:32 PM PDT by Semper
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To: cogitator
Crichton is well-known for stretching science around his novel's needs ... Crichton provides scientific background, but it's not surprising that it supports the viewpoint of the novel.

The problem is that a great many more people will be reading Crichton's fiction than Dr. Romm's facts (biased as they may be). And too many readers of Crichton's fiction will take it as fact.

22 posted on 04/28/2005 12:28:49 PM PDT by Semper
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To: cogitator

23 posted on 04/28/2005 12:30:58 PM PDT by MaxMax (GOD BLESS AMERICA)
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To: cogitator
Romm consults with businesses such as IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Collins Pine, Nike, Timberland, Texaco, and Lockheed-Martin on energy technology and environmental strategy. He is author of the first book to benchmark corporate best practices for using advanced energy technologies including fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

It looks like Dr. Romm is being somewhat dishonest himself. A person holding a Ph.D. in physics almost certainly knows that 1) hydrogen does not naturally occur in a free state (on Earth, anyway)--it is always covalently bonded to other atoms; 2) it takes as much energy to break a bond (to free the hydrogen) as one gains by making a bond (how the fuel cell releases energy); 3) there is never 100% conversion of energy from one form to another--IIRC, the best one could hope for would be ~90%, in an ideal system. Hydrogen fuel cells MIGHT be clean (hmm, do they contain heavy metals?), but producing the energy to produce the hydrogen won't be any cleaner than any other production of energy.

Since Dr. Romm is himself dishonest, how can I trust his truthfulness in any criticism he could make of Crichton? Or that his depiction of what Crichton wrote is accurate?

24 posted on 04/28/2005 6:13:42 PM PDT by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: Semper
One of the reasons the air is now clean is that legislation was passed requiring industrial enterprises to clean up their emissions. That legislation was opposed by many who did not want to accept the connection between human activity and environmental consequences

The article states that global warming regressed from the 1940's to the 1970's. The irony of politics is that those who championed the cleaning of the air in the 60's revived the process of global warming. Those very same people could have gone a long way in cutting down on power plant emissions if they didn't kill the nuclear power industry. The environmentalist need to take a good look in the mirror on who is to blame.

25 posted on 04/28/2005 9:54:57 PM PDT by LoneRangerMassachusetts (Some say what's good for others, the others make the goods; it's the meddlers against the peddlers)
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To: LoneRangerMassachusetts
Those very same people could have gone a long way in cutting down on power plant emissions if they didn't kill the nuclear power industry. The environmentalist need to take a good look in the mirror on who is to blame.

I agree completely. Also, Nuclear power generation has no emissions under normal operation which can not be said for any other source of power generation. Nuclear waste can be managed safely.

26 posted on 05/01/2005 10:37:01 PM PDT by Semper
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