Book Review – Storm World by Chris Mooney

Joanna Schroeder

“There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fearmongers.”
Michael Crichton, author’s message at the end of State of Fear

book review 1In 2004, Michael Crichton wrote in his novel, State of Fear, “From the beginning, the movement had had to fight apathy in the broader society. Human beings didn’t think in the long term. They didn’t see the slow degradation of the environment. It had always been an uphill battle to rouse the public to do what was really in its own best interest…that fight was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning.” The book’s premise is that an organization fakes environmental disasters to raise awareness of global warming and ultimately money to “educate consumers.” It could be argued that it was ahead of its time. Or maybe not since the theory of global climate change is still under intense debate.

Which brings us to REAL environmental disasters — hurricanes — which science is arguing whether the increased number and intensity of hurricanes is in fact being caused by global climate change. Storm World, by Chris Mooney, sets out to debate this very issue. The book reminds me of college when during a graduate meteorology class we learned about the possible effects of a warming planet (which no one seemed to really buy into at the time) on the weather. Mooney points out that these predictions began as early as the 1900s. I find it interesting that Americans “rediscover” issues every few decades and then try to play it off as a new crisis. Anyway, I digress.

Climatologists and meteorologists, with some heated arguments thrown in by journalists, have been debating global climate change more intensely at scientific conferences and on the Internet the past few years. Two leading sites and Prometheus take opposing views. Mooney does a good job of laying out both sides of the arguments in an interesting way. He demonstrates this through taking the reader through many recent hurricanes, including hurricane Katrina (which he predicted would be devastating because New Orleans didn’t have proper measures in place well before the actual hurricane). He also uses a lot of scientific data, which at times is a bit much for the average Joe. However, in the end it’s both interesting and educational. His big takeaway, “there’s no doubt about it: global warming – which is already happening — will change hurricanes.” So humans, we best shape up or ship off the coasts as more devastating hurricanes are on the way.

Joanna SchroederAs an aside, a few years ago, I was at an environmental trade show in Washington D.C. and I received a t-shirt from the booth promoting desmogblog. I checked it out and then forgot about it until I read this book. I still didn’t make the connection between the blog and the writer (btw – the blog has come a long way in the past few years) until writing this post. Check it out. Like the book, it’s an entertaining read. We’re not it the midst of hurricane season today, but believe me, after reading this book, I’ll pay more attention to the paths of destruction of them since reading this book. And, if you want to try your hand as a storm chaser, check out Dr. Jeff Master’s blog as well.

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