Checking Crichton’s footnotes

It must be the day for finding articles on the environmental debate. Here’s an interesting article from Boston Globe Ideas on Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. It appears that a number of scientists are none too happy about being used by Crichton in his footnotes.

Toward the end of the novel, Kenner lectures another character on the futility of the Kyoto Protocol, which requires participating nations to adopt binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. ”The effect of Kyoto would be to reduce warming by .04 degrees Celsius in the year 2100,” he says. ”Four hundredths of a degree.” When another character disputes this claim, Kenner promises, ”I can give you the references.”

Tom Wigley, author of a 1998 article Crichton cites to back up this point, has complained previously that others have misused his research to undermine Kyoto. While that paper did indeed find that the treaty would have a relatively small long-term effect, Wigley has subsequently warned that his analysis ”assumed that Kyoto was followed to 2010, and that there were no subsequent climate mitigation policies.” The point of the paper was not to bash Kyoto (which goes into effect internationally on February 16) but rather to demonstrate that it represents only a first step toward climate stabilization. ”Once we’ve done Kyoto we’re obviously going to do other things,” says Wigley.

Chris Mooney the author of the piece makes the very pertinent point that Crichton’s veneer of objectivity is a deceptive political ploy.

In Crichton’s defense, those seeking to counter
consensus scientific conclusions on climate change–and to use
published evidence to support their own views–face an uphill battle.
Naomi Oreskes, a science studies scholar at the University of
California, San Diego, recently analyzed more than 900 scientific
articles listed with the keywords ”global climate change,” and failed
to find a single study that explicitly disagreed with the consensus
view that humans are contributing to global warming. While such
literature may exist, it appears minimal.

That hasn’t stopped Crichton from expounding his views in recent
speeches, including a talk on ”Science Policy in the 21st Century”
held late last month at the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings
Institution’s Joint Center for Regulatory Studies in Washington, D.C.
In an appendix to ”State of Fear,” Crichton frets about ”Why
Politicized Science is Dangerous.” But he may himself have provided a
case study.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>