February 16, 2009
Wired magazine founder and bestselling author Kevin Kelly agrees the science on global warming isn’t settled. The former publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review throws his support behind Probe’s efforts to give a voice to the skeptics in the following review.
About 99% of the scientists involved in climate studies, paleontology, atmospheric chemistry, and planetary ecology agree on the presence of human-caused global warming. We call that a scientific consensus. But in every science there are a few heretics who don’t agree on the consensus. That 1% dissent is what powers science forward. In fact, tolerating heretics is what makes science different from religion. The dissent is usually wrong, but every once in a while if you don’t kill it off, it corrects the consensus.
What should we do with the 1% who dissent about global warming? By logic, we should embrace them, but currently “deniers” of global warming have become demonized, which is a sign that global warming has become slightly religious. Which is a shame because many global warming skeptics are not crackpots or paid shills, but first-class prestigious scientists with a minority view.
Throughout its history, science usually advances from the edges. Heretics should be cherished for forcing edges to the center. The most respected scientific global warming heretics have been rounded up in this very readable book, The Deniers. Significantly, many of the eminent scientists included here don’t call themselves deniers at all. They say, “I believe global warming is evidenced in all these other fields; Except in the field that I am expert in, the evidence is totally bogus.” One by one the field-specific heretics make their case. And a number of them are rather persuasive. But at the moment there is no unified alternative theory of climate change, so the critique of global warming amounts to exposing holes in the current science. Any good scientific theory will have holes.
Until the heretics can change the consensus, we should proceed with the remedies that make sense no matter how climate change rolls out: getting off oil and coal, upping conservation, drastically increasing efficiency, expanding solar, wind, nuclear, and embracing cities while protecting wildlife habitat.
At the same time cherish your heretics. This is a solid, fairly evenhanded treatment of this particular heresy. It’s the best volume I’ve seen that presents the scientific case (such as it is) for skepticism of the standard claims of anthropogenic global warming. There might be something in these skepticisms, there might not. We should fund more of these heretics. That’s science at work.
Kevin Kelly is a founder and Senior Maverick at Wired magazine and the former publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review. He is currently editor and publisher of the Cool Tools website, which gets 1 million visitors per month. He also co-founded the ongoing Hackers’ Conference and authored the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy and the classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control.