Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear” is a thriller, telling the story of eco-terrorists artificially creating extreme weather events in order to convince the world of the non-existent threat known to the rest of us as “anthropogenic (human caused) climate change”. The hero of the story, an MIT professor and special agent by the name of John Kenner, follows the terrorists around the world trying to stop them, and in his free time, educates some lost souls about the truth behind climate change.
The characters in the book are very clearly divided. On the one hand, we have scientists, who know that climate change is a scam. On the other hand, we have rich celebrities, shoddy environmentalists, and lawyers, advocating the reality of climate change, because they’re naïve, lacking in knowledge, or just plain evil.
It’s clear from the start, if only by the way Crichton chooses to represent and frame the issue, that this isn’t an attempt to objectively and honestly examine the issue of climate change. And despite his declaration in the “Author’s Message” at the end of the book – “Everybody has an agenda. Except me” – it’s quite clear that Crichton has his agenda, which is articulated throughout the book and which he presents in this same appendix.
I suggest taking Crichton’s advice when attempting to assess his novel, as he stated in one of his speeches:
“The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda…” (Environmentalism as religion, 2003)
Crichton attempts to present his book as scientifically based, complete with footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. In truth, it’s a work of fiction, in which information is manipulated in order to promote a specific agenda. I have selected three examples demonstrating Crichton’s willful misrepresentation of facts.
I. Selective use of arguments
Throughout the book, Crichton attempts to undermine the theory of global warming by presenting records of local areas and cities that don’t follow the supposed warming trend. For Crichton, local variations prove that global warming isn’t happening. However, the fact that we’re talking about global warming definitely does not imply that climate will now be exactly the same in the whole world. Global warming is the rise of the global mean surface temperature. This does not imply that the whole globe is warming uniformly.
Crichton knows this, and even uses this exact same argument when it serves his purposes. During a visit to Antarctica, where the eco-terrorists are trying to break-off icebergs by the use of explosives, Kenner tells us of a huge iceberg that broke off two years prior to their visit. When global warming proponents claim that this is due to global warming, Kenner replies-
“Actually, [global warming] wasn’t responsible. It was caused by local conditions…There’s nothing wrong with the idea of local conditions. This is a continent. It would be surprising if it didn’t have it’s own distinctive weather patterns, irrespective of global trends…” (p. 245)
So local conditions can apparently explain the phenomena that side with global warming, but not the ones that don’t…
II. Misuse of research
Crichton supports the United States’ decision not to ratify the Kyoto protocol since it will make no real contribution to halting climate change. He claims that the effect of the steps agreed upon in the treaty would be to reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by only 0.04 degrees Celsius.
In a footnote, Crichton supports this point by mentioning an article by Tom Wigley (p. 569). Crichton states that all “footnotes are real”. That’s why Chris Mooney of the Boston Globe took upon himself to check the footnotes and the opinions of the scientists cited. Regarding this point, he found-
“Tom Wigley… 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… 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, Checking Crichton’s footnotes)
As it were, Crichton took the Kyoto treaty that expires in 2012 and extended it to 2100, conveniently assuming that no other measures would be undertaken in the future.
III. Tampering with data
One of the main issues in the book, returned to again and again, is criticism of climate scientists and their use of computer models to make predictions. Prediction is claimed to be impossible, and all past predictions to have been wrong.
For example, Crichton criticizes Jim Hansen’s testimony regarding climate change to congress in 1988: “His 1988 prediction was wrong by three hundred percent.” (p.294)
In fact, Hansen presented a spectrum of results – three different model simulations for different scenarios. In his testimony, Hansen stated clearly that scenario B, the more modest business-as-usual assumption, was the most probable scenario. The temperature change for the decade under this scenario was very close to the actual change observed, so the model did a reasonable job. The “300 percent” error claim comes from deleting the bottom two curves and leaving only the top one which assumed exponentially increasing CO2, in order to give the impression that the models were unreliable.
In conclusion, it is clear that Crichton did not attempt to scientifically and objectively examine the issue of climate change, but rather chose to represent the information in a selective and manipulative manner. Once again, no one says it better than Crichton himself: “This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.” (Aliens cause Global Warming, 2003)
Our guest reviewer, Leora Resnick, is a Jerusalemite, who participated in the “Tevel be’Tzedek” study and volunteer program in Nepal, and then returned to the program again as part of the staff. She says “In between I studied for a year at the Arava Institute for Environmental studies (and as a part of the class there on climate change I wrote a review paper on “state of fear”, from which this short version was adapted). Now I’m living in Klil (in the Galil), working on a joint project of Klil and Tevel be’Tzedek – developing a sustainability model site that involves environmental education and co-existence.”