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Customer Review

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb! A must read for those with a genuine interest in the debate and healthy skepticism, 20 April 2010
This review is from: Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Paperback)
This book is a must read regardless of your side on this debate, and highly recommended for healthy skeptics and those with a genuine interest in the climate change controversy and its related policies. Not surprisingly the book was included in The Economist list of Best Books of 2009.

Mike Hulme is a renowned climate scientist with a 30 year experience in the field who works at the University of East Anglia, and even was Director at the now famous CRU (though he was not involve in the Climategate scandal). Considering his honest view on this subject and his openness in the discussion of such contentious issue, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, right at the beginning of the book Mr. Hulme makes explicit his position regarding climate change: he believes the risks posed by climate change are tangible and serious, and require human intervention and management, and also that the global climate is influenced by an array of human activities. However, he does not believe that the way the UN FCCC and the Kyoto protocol are neither the only nor the most appropriate way to attack this problem. Also he "feels uncomfortable that climate change is widely reported through the language of catastrophe and imminent peril, as `the greatest problem facing humanity', which seeks to trump all others."

Mr. Hulme presents quite an innovative and insightful approach to the climate change discussion, by looking at it as a social phenomenon, as an "idea" interpreted differently by different cultures and by our different sets of believes, values, and concerns, and therefore, what it means to different people in different places. He explores the different dimensions of this "idea" in several political, economical, cultural and ethical contexts, and by identifying the different meanings of climate change he argues we can better understand why we disagree about climate change. Some of these meanings include climate change as a justification to fight globalization, as a desire to return to simpler times, while for others is a great opportunity to develop to technologies that will solve the problem, the desire of pride and control. He summarizes these views to what he calls four myths: Eden, Apocalypses, Babel, and Jubilee. Simply brilliant! He also looks at climate change as a wicked problem, and presents a very insightful analysis of the possibilities of elegant and clumsy solutions.

Despite the strong sociological and philosophical discourse, Mr. Hulme makes a very strong case for his view of the problem, and his main argument has been confirmed by two recent events, Climategate and the failure of the Copenhagen meeting. On a second thought, I think this book is also recommended for hard-die global warming advocates, so they can begin to understand why they movement is beginning to erode, and it is not because the science is a hoax, as the deniers camp has declared recently in light of Climategate.

PS: Some critics have said that Hulme's ideas are naive, or that he went loony. Well, if you are in doubt, read the the Hartwell Paper published in May 2010 by the London School of Economics (available for free in pdf format in the web, just google). In this publication Hulme and another 13 academics and energy advocates argued that the Kyoto Protocol has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years, and therefore, after the Copenhagen fiasco, Kyoto has crashed. They argued that this failure opens an opportunity to set climate policy free from Kyoto and they propose a controversial and piecemeal approach to decarbonization of the global economy which will be more pluralistic and much more effective than the policies based on Kyoto. Do not miss it.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jun 2010 16:04:55 BDT
You state that 'Mike Hulme is a renowned climate scientist', but this is not true in two respects. He is neither renowned, nor is he a scientist. I think that you will find that 'geographer turned political theorist' is closer to the mark.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2010 20:00:06 BDT
Emc2 says:
So why was he Director of the famous CRU at the University of East Anglia? If you actually read the book you will know who he is.
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