Chris Mooney – Storm World – Hurricanes, Politics and the Battle over Global Warming
August 16, 2012 Leave a comment
The debate among scientists over the link between global warming and hurricane strength reflects an old and sometimes bitter divide between empirical meteorologists, who look at hurricanes as they actually occur, and try to find patterns in the data, and theoretical meteorologists, who try to form models that can explain how hurricanes operate. The idea that global warming will increase hurricane strength, and maybe already has, has more support among theoretical meteorologists, and is met with more skepticism from the empiricists. But apart from the aging hurricane giant and climate skeptic William Gray, who’s been flying into hurricanes since the 1950s, meteorologists don’t debate global warming as such, but its effects. And during the 2005-2006 hurricane seasons, this difference of opinion was politicized and blown out of all proportions by journalists, activists and politicians, dragging hurricane scientists into a media game they were not prepared for.
Recommended: Strongly. I usually hate anecdote-driven science books, but this is a perfect example of how they can also be used to illuminate, by placing a confusing debate in a historical context. I agree entirely with the way Mooney balances the opposing viewpoints, and with his warning to those who want to mix politics and cutting edge science by hyping up the latest papers that confirm their view. Non-scientists should aim to make rational decisions based on uncertainty, and leave the scientific community in peace to reach conclusions at its own, infuriatingly slow pace.