Of the numerous books published about global warming there are
few that stray from the well-worn path about science and adaptation.
Those that do can often bring something different to the study
and if, as in this case, the author is a leading climate scientist
then there is definitely something worth reading about. Part
science, part personal reflection and part social/political
science analysis, Hulme puts forward an interesting case suggesting,
that after all these years, our inactivity may be due to something
other than the technical difficulties of the case.
one and two focus of the broad picture that is developed in
the rest of the text. We start with an exploration of the meaning
of climate and how different societies have envisioned it through
the ages from the fear of early sailors to a desire to 'conquer'
nature through to our modern understanding. This is followed
by a study of climate science over the last 150 years which
goes from the 'natural' systems with climate as a long term
trend to our more nuanced understanding of the impact that people
can have. At this stage we have a basic overview of the climate
issue and an idea of how people affect it. The next obvious
question would be to ask why people had done nothing about it.
There have been a range of explanations put forward but these
focus on the public's "inability" to see the science.
What Hulme argues is that the issue is not that simple: that
people have complex reasons for agreeing, or not, with climate
change. The first reason people disagree is that the notion
of science is seen differently by scientist and non-scientist.
Science proceeds through refutation of ideas and so if this
is all the public sees they interpret it as there being no agreement
i.e. global warming isn't happening. Chapter four takes another
argument - that of economics. It is perfectly possible to "solve"
global problems but the finance is finite and so there has to
be prioritisation (which is what economics studies anyway. So,
people disagree because they would rather spend money on famine
relief now than global warming impacts later on. Chapter five
takes another stance - religion. We disagree because we believe
different things. If we believe god will help then we are less
likely to seek a personal way to deal with the issue. Next there's
psychology and the production of risk. Seen as an increasingly
important element, fear and risk are key issues today. Those
more risk-averse might chose a different path over those less
concerned. You only have to listen to the morning talk-back
radio shows to see chapter seven's communication focus is going
to produce global warming. Messages (and motives) differ and
so its not surprising that our views are shaped by the media.
Chapter 8 looks at the argument via issues of development. Given
x amount of money what is the most effective use it can be put
to. Some would value the present over the future and the local
over the global whilst there is a spectrum of alternative opinions
. This is the focus taken by Lomborg
and others- we can do real good now by tackling world poverty
etc. or we can wait until later and tackle climate change. Simplistic
maybe, but it does highlight the source of disagreement. With
climate conference just round the corner, it's clear that
governance is going to be an issue - who pays, who does the
work and who gets (any) compensation? Finally, the author offers
a way forward - a suggestion we approach the topic from a more
holistic perspective noting clearly how and why we disagree
and seeking to find a way around the problem.
is a very unusual book. It deals with a current topic but in
a totally different way. It seeks not to gather converts to
global warming but to explain why we don't get people.As such
it is a very useful guide to discussing public opinions and
how/why they vary given common data. More a text for the educator
or those wanting to see why discourse is difficult, it offers
fundamental insight into the process.