by Judith Curry
Over the last few months, I’ve received copies of several books on the topic of climate:
- Adaptive Governance and Climate Change, by Ron Brunner and Amanda Lynch
- The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming, by Roger Pielke Jr
- Coming Climate Crisis? Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix, Claire Parkinson
- The Weather of the Future, by Heidi Cullen
- Computer Modeling in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, by Peter Muller and Hans Von Storch
- The Climate Files: The Battle for Truth About Global Warming, by Fred Pearce
- The Hockey Stick Illusion, by Andrew Montford
A brief summary of each of these books is presented. I tend to rely on journal articles, assessment reports and the blogosphere for information related to climate, more so than books. I tend to buy a book if I think it would be valuable as a reference (i.e. something I will come back to often for reference); I read a climate book when someone sends me a copy (typically the author or publisher). I would be interested in hearing about others opinions on the relative value of books as a source of information on climate. I would also like to hear about other books that people have been reading.
And dare we try again to have a civil discussion of the Hockey Stick Illusion?
This book provides a perspective on the failure of international and national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to open the established climate change regime to additional approaches to science, policy, and decision making. In contrast to the scientific management approach (e.g. UNFCC emissions targets), adaptive governance is a bottom-up approach with a focus that is more local/regional and is focused advancing the common interests on contested issues. I read this book twice, taking notes the second time around. This book has definitely changed the way I look at the policy challenge. Brunner’s ppt presentation on this is here.
I haven’t finished reading this yet (its hot off the press), but so far I like it, a lot. The blurb from Publishers Weekly: “Pielke (The Honest Broker) presents a smart and hard-nosed analysis of the politics and science of climate change and proposes a commonsense approach to climate policy. According to Pielke, the iron law of climate policy dictates that whenever environmental and economic objectives are placed in opposition to each other, economics always wins. Climate policies must be made compatible with economic growth as a precondition for their success, he writes, and because the world will need more energy in the future, an oblique approach supporting causes, such as developing affordable alternative energy sources rather than consequences, such as controversial schemes like cap-and-trade, is more likely to succeed. Although some may protest on principle the suggestion that we accept the inevitability of energy growth, Pielke’s focus on adaptation to climate change refreshingly sidesteps the unending debate over the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and opens up the possibility for effective action that places human dignity and democratic ideals at the center of climate policies.” Quotes on the back jacket cover include statements from John Marburger, James Baker, and Neal Lane, who are all major figures in national science policy.
This could be the most balanced book on the topic that is written by a credentialed climate researcher, although the presentation is a bit uneven. From the Library Express Reviews: “In this examination of the global warming debate, Parkinson, a NASA climatologist, notes that our planet’s climate made many transitions, some abrupt, before civilization emerged, so that could happen again. Human activities are likely partly responsible for the present warming trend. The author points out that the ‘earth system’ is extremely complex, still beyond our ability to model completely, so climate scientists can’t make accurate predictions. Although there is a scientific consensus on global warming, it could be overturned by new evidence. Parkinson’s main concern is that large-scale geoengineering projects will be tried with unknown consequences. An example would be fertilizing the Southern Ocean with iron to encourage phytoplankton growth and reduce carbon dioxide. She does laud many initiatives to reduce emissions and believes we should put a price on carbon, as well as reduce air travel. Verdict: This measured approach will appeal to readers who sense alarmism on the topic.” If someone who is new to contemplating the subject of climate change asked me to recommend an overview book with a balanced treatment, I don’t think I could come up with a better recommendation than this book.
This book addresses the weather and climate of the future, 40 years hence and considers the impacts in some of the most vulnerable regions. Part I is about the climate science and weather extremes, and how these are predicted; fairly routine material. The more interesting material IMO is in Part II, which includes place based chapters that address the regional consequences of climate change in the context of the region’s broader vulnerabilities and cultural values. The selected places are: the Sahel, the Great Barrier Reef, Central Valley California, Northern Canada, Greenland, Bangladesh, and New York City. These chapters are very well written and put a human face on climate change.
This book is rapidly becoming one of my primary professional reference sources. The authors have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of modeling as well as the atmosphere and ocean scientific domains. What is of greatest value, IMO, is the perspective they bring on the value and limitations of complex system models. The book is technical, suitable for people who have some background in computer simulations. From amazon.com’s Product Description: “This textbook is about quasi-realistic models in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Understanding the basis and limitations of these models is important since far reaching decisions about the environment are based on these models. It is novel in that it goes beyond a technical discussion of these quasi-realistic models and emphasizes their role and utility in generating new useful knowledge about the system. The book is written in a generally understandable way, with technical details relegated to a set of comprehensive appendices. The line of reasoning is illustrated by numerous examples, from both applied and fundamental research. It is a source of information for graduate students and scientists alike working in the field of environmental sciences. The bad news is the price tag of $179, but IMO well worth the price. Also check out the reader’s digest version published in WIRE.
From the amazon.com Product Description: “One of the world’s leading writers on climate change tells the inside story of the events leading up to the much-publicized theft of climate-change related emails. He explores the personalities involved, the feuds and disagreements at the heart of climate science, and the implications the scandal has for the future. . . Although the scandal caused a media frenzy, the fact is that just about everything the public heard and read about the University of East Anglia emails is wrong. They are not, as some have claimed, the smoking gun for a great global warming hoax, nor do they reveal a sinister conspiracy by scientists to fabricate global warming data. They do, however, raise deeply disturbing questions about the way climate science is conducted, about researchers’ preparedness to block access to climate data and downplay flaws in their data, and about the siege mentality and scientific tribalism at the heart of the most important international issue of the age.” This is a thoughtful book. Pearce has a long and deep perspective on the public debate over climate change, and he has done his homework in terms of spending time actually reading the emails. I found his historical perspective on the climate change debate to be quite good.
From amazon.com’s product description: “For anybody who wants to understand the scientific and psychological background to Climategate, there is no better read than Andrew Montford’s new book, The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science. The Hockey Stick Illusion leaves no doubt about Mr. Montford’s reporting abilities. He tells a gripping detective story in which the star gumshoe is semi-retired Canadian mining consultant Steve McIntyre. Mr. McIntyre, unfortunately for his opponents, happens to combine mathematical genius with a Terminator-like relentlessness. He also found a brilliant partner in Ross McKitrick, an economics professor at the University of Guelph. Their story is one of intellectual determination in the face of Kafkaesque peer review and Orwellian freedom of information.” The controversy surrounding the book is summarized by the Wikipedia. For a blogospheric take on the controversy, go to google blogs and search for Curry Montford; I made a suggestion on Realclimate that people should read Montford’s book, which quickly went viral in the blogosphere. The value of the book is this: it is a well documented and well written book on the subject of the “hockey wars.” It is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the blogosphere climate skeptics and particularly the climate auditors; it is needed reading for anyone confusing Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick with merchants of doubt. The book is not a rant, but presents a well reasoned and well documented argument. The book has been referenced in at least two scholarly (refereed journal) publications that I am aware of. Apparently the book was completed before 11/19/2009 (the unauthorized release of the CRU emails); a chapter was tagged on at the end related to the emails, and the title was changed. I suspect that if the the title didn’t include “Climategate and the Corruption of Science” that the book wouldn’t have encountered such controversy.