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Book reviews of Climate Change Denial

Posted on 12 May 2011 by John Cook

There have been several reviews of Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. My co-author Haydn Washington and I quite like our book but thought you'd probably prefer some third party opinion. The first book review was posted by Bryan Walker from the New Zealand blog Hot Topic:

The book is compact and well referenced. It carries an eloquent foreword from Naomi Oreskes. It is lucid and compelling in its discussions. It adds a weighty voice to the summons to face the physical and ethical reality of climate change, to have done with denial and to set about the still achievable task of repair.
Read full review...

Yes, we were quite chuffed that Naomi Oreskes, recently awarded 4C Climate Communicator of the Year, graciously agreed to write the foreword to our book. The second review was Handbook in Denialism by Rasmus Benestad from Real Climate:

It would not surprise me if the denialists would deny the existence of the new book by Haydn Washington and John Cook ( ‘Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand‘. Somehow, I don’t think they will read it – but they are not target group of this book either. Anyway, denialism is, according to the book, a common human trait – we should all know somebody who deny one thing thing or another.

‘Climate Change Denial’ is a useful book and resource for those with an open mind – for instance journalists. It reads easy and provides a fairly concise picture of the situation many of climate scientists have to live with.
Read full review...

Rasmus' review is very lengthy, pointing out all the things we failed to include in our book. But between Climate Change Denial and Rasmus' review, just about all bases are covered (we'll have to append his review to the second edition :-). Lastly, Robin from UK based Carbon Brief posted New book aims to reclaim scientific skepticism:

Perhaps the strongest part of the book deals with a categorization of the main climate sceptic/denier arguments - separating them into five types: conspiracy theories; fake experts; impossible expectations; misrepresentations and logical fallacies and cherry-picking.

The evidence behind nine of the main skeptic challenges to climate science are then examined - including that "climategate proves conspiracy" (=conspiracy), "climate models are unreliable" (=impossible expectations), "temperature measurements are unreliable" (=cherry-picking) or the reliable standby, "global warming stopped in 1998" (=the ultimate in cherry-picking).

This is Skeptical Science's bread and butter, and Cook and Hadyn's book makes clear the inconsistencies and flaws in these arguments very well. The explanations are accessible and make use of some great metaphors...

...the book has the virtue of thoughtful accessibility, and is an excellent primer for anyone getting interested in this area and looking for a good overview.
Read full review...

I'm loving Carbon Brief at the moment (not just because of the book review). They're the group that did research into Poptech's list of 900+ "skeptic" peer-reviewed papers and found 9 of the 10 most cited authors all had links to organisations funded by ExxonMobil. Digging deeper, they contacted some of the authors on the list who each complained that their climate studies have been misrepresented. Apparently, there is a third post in this series - looking forward to it! UPDATE: my mistake, part 3 has already been published, examining how 131 papers on the list come from the self-confessed politically motivated journal Energy & Environment.

Note for Aussies - an interview by Science Show host Robyn Williams with Haydn and I will air on ABC Radio on Saturday noon (for everyone else, there should be a podcast of the episode down the track). And for those in Sydney and Canberra, hope to meet you in our book launches on Sunday and Monday.

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Comments 1 to 11:

  1. hi, if you need some help for translation into German, tell me. I might like to translate one or the other chapter ...
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  2. ... and I forgot: I bought it two days ago ... together with the almost one hour youtube clip of Naomi Oreskes this is just gorgeous... congratulation for this book
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  3. Can you post the link to the ABC podcast when it is available?
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    Response: You can now listen online to Robyn William's Science Show interview with Haydn Washington & myself. It's actually quite good (coming from someone who cringes at the sound of his own voice) - Robyn Williams is a very good interviewer.
  4. Who is denying that there is some conflicting evidence? Or stated otherwise, that our understanding of global warming is not continuously being refined and improved? Generally, one side is behaving hysterically while the other relies on science. It is not difficult to see which is which.
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  5. mclamb6: you're absolutely right, it's not difficult to see which is which. That's why I come to sites like this one, or Real Climate, or Tamino's Open Mind, or many others (there's a great listing of links in the right column on Real Climate, for example). They're always eager to discuss the latest developments in the science, and many of them do it in a surprisingly accessible fashion for the non-climate scientists like myself. The Ville: The podcast will be available at The Science Show's website. It's a great radio program, I've been listening to it for many years (although I have to say I'm well behind in listening to the podcasts). It's also available on iTunes.
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  6. 'One side is behaving hysterically while the other relies on science' A generalisation which I think is true quite often. But there are plenty of exceptions. Or at least as long as I take relying on the science to cover those who make the attempt but fail. And I think by far the biggest problem with denialism is the fact that discussion on genuine uncertainties suffers. Initiating discussion on an uncertain topic is likely to be savagely attacked by the deniers, as such a topic is going to be the closest thing they have to a real argument. And so it takes confidence to raise such issues, and none are so confident as those who are certain of themselves, when no justification for this certainy exists.
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  7. Why do you keep deleting my posts? What are you scared of? Why won't you reply to my question as to why you chose to publish a book on warming that will create more carbon than it saves, and which could easily be put online, for the immediate benfeit of all? ( - Inflammatory snipped- )?
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    [DB] Your first comment was deleted due to being off-topic for the thread you posted it on.  The second comment was deleted due to violations of the Comments Policy (all-caps usage, inflammatory tone).

    If you cannot afford a copy why not ask your local library to stock one for you?

  8. marcusbondi: actually, if the book succeeds in opening a few eyes to the science, then it may end up saving far, far more carbon than it cost to print & ship a few thousand copies... Speaking of which: if I may ask, purely out of curiosity, what was the first edition print run?
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  9. Yippy my copy showed up today. I've read through chapter 2 and am impressed. Well written! Thoughtful and I'm looking forward to digging into the next chapter's deconstructing of the five types of denial arguments. It'll come in very handy. Very nice clean formatting, enough references to keep me reading from here to eternity. Thanks for all the effort you folks put into it.
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  10. Very worthy book. #3 The Five Types of CC Denial Arguments, #4 History of Denial did a wonderful job of summarizing the situation. For my purposes #5 Do We Let Denial Prosper may have been the most informative. Though I found myself wondering if the majority of American politicians and citizens are capable of the intellectual integrity to actually face down these problems. Rolling Back Denial - The Big Picture will be an eye opener to many. The list of things we can do on p129 was a bit heartbreaking considering that 11 of those 13 items, we should have been actively pursuing since, and as, good ‘ol President Carter was trying to explain to my nation way back in the 1970s. :-( The next chapter Rolling Back Denial - The Technological Solutions, summation of renewable energy was first class. I liked that you remained very skeptical of Nuclear Power - the section on Carbon Capture was an informative introduction for someone like me who hasn’t familiarized himself with those particular issues. I applauded your bravery and hope in the face of this ultimate of challenges humanity has created for itself. May it be read by millions.
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  11. What particularly warms me about this book is that in addition to its rigourous coverage of the science it goes further and suggests the broader social changes required to defeat the coming climate calamity. As demonstrated by these choice quotes, "A sustainable society will require fairness (equity) and justice locally and globally." – Climate Change Denial "Preventing the collapse of human civilizati­on requires nothing less than a wholesale transforma­tion of dominant consumer culture." – Climate Change Denial "We need to replace private consumption of goods with public consumption of services." – Climate Change Denial
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