Top critical review
58 people found this helpful
Cherry picking at its worst
on 9 January 2010
Having recently read Ben Goldacre's excellent analysis (Bad Science) of scientific misinformation, I have become wary of any 'extreme' analysis of what is considered a mainstream scientific belief which global warming quite clearly has become. Goldacre convincingly, in my view, shows how widespread the process of cherry picking can be in creating a dangerously convincing argument which cons the reader into assuming that it is true. Unfortunately, much of Air Con is just that - a cherry picking 'con'.
My intention in reading the book, and hence my biggest disappointment, was to gain, like most, a balanced appraisal of the evidence for and against global warming - if you wish balance then do not read this book! My suspicions were aroused early on but came to a head on pp98 when he argues that glaciers are, far from retreating, gaining ice in many areas of the world. He quoted a 2005 report from the New Zealand based NIWA which states that in 2004 NZ glaciers had gained much more than they had lost. However, he conveniently fails to mention that the same website has three more recent reports stating that NZ glaciers are actually shrinking - breathtaking and very dangerous for the uninformed reader. The World Glacial Monitoring Service website indicates that over 80% of world glaciers are in retreat! Similarly, his reference to the earlier opening up of the NorthWest Passage by the likes of Amundsen and others fails to mention how inordinately long it took compared to the ease by which a yacht can access the area and make the passage today in the Northern Hemisphere summer because of retreating sea ice. There are similar examples of cherry picking throughout the book. Wishart's structure and writing style also have the effect of limiting the effectiveness of his argument - the number of quotes, quick fire paragraphs and rambling approach clutter the reader rather than articulate an effective, convincing argument.
I also took the liberty of looking further into Wishart's background. Wishart is described on Wikipaedia as 'a conservative Christian who generally advocates right wing values......[and is} critical of the teaching of evolution'. He is also described in some - admittedly unfavouable reviews - as somewhat of a laughing stock in the NZ journalistic world. I would still have read the book even had I known that his starting points are somewhat suspect! The lack of an impartial, critical reviewer on the back cover also adds to cynicism of the overall quality of his judgements.
On the plus side, I do think he raises interesting points about the origin of increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere - if, as he states, car and aircraft emissions, for example, are less than 5% of the overall emissions then surely ordinary members of the public should not be 'caned' by rising taxes to combat this problem?
I am not an expert on the subject of global warming and will continue to search for more neutral analyses of the subject. I thank Wishart for opening up my search but would not recommend this as a starting point for stimulating a reasonable understanding of the subject.