Why We Disagree About Climate Change

I’ve just finished reading Mike Hulme’s Why We Disagree About Climate Change (update: you can listen to Hulme discuss some of the book’s topics here. Thanks Jon!) and felt I had to recommend it to anybody that is interested in this issue. What a marvelous, thought-provoking book.

It was not an easy read. I don’t mean it because the prose is obscure (though it could be better), but because it demanded from me some mental strength to break out of my own perspective, again and again, to try and see the world as others see it. It required patience and a cool head.

But the rewards are significant. Hulme explains the many reasons why humanity disagrees about climate change: why we have different ideas about the role of Nature, about scientific knowledge and technology, about economics, ethics, religion, culture, and politics. Through reading it I came to see why my solutions to climate change turn off or are perceived as problems for others, what could the role of society and government be in addressing the problem, and why some people just don’t seem to care. I also came to understand my own views on environmentalism and on our place in the world far better than I used to.

This is a complex book, and a strange one –it covers the hairy mess of disciplines and fields of study that converge in climate change. Among many other things it talks about science and myth, about carbon markets and eco-anarchism. It does it all lucidly and convincingly. It’s unique, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read.

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
This entry was posted in Activism, Books, Recommendations. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why We Disagree About Climate Change

  1. jon pipitone says:

    Hey Jorge, don’t forget to include the link to the recent All in the Mind broadcast with Hulme found here: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2009/2746165.htm

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  3. Bob says:

    I don’t think that many people would disagree that the earth’s climate experiences cycles.

    I think the argument begins when the two statements are made that 1) the current climatic cycle is going to produce catastrophic global consequences, and 2) that human activity is the major cause of the climatic cycle.

    The earth must experience climatic cycles, even if humans were not present, due to solar activity, the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun, the “wobble” in the earth’s spin and other factors. How important is CO2 in the face of all the other factors that affect the climate? If the atmosphere were $1000, the CO2 component would be 38 cents.

    The idea that warming (if the climate is indeed warming) will cause a global catastrophe is not supported by the fact that the earth just came out of an ice age and life forms, including humans thrived as a result.

    So, while I would agree that the earth experiences climatic cycles I do not see evidence that the current climatic cycle will absolutely lead to global catastrophe and I do not see evidence that human activities are the primary contributing factor.

    Now, if you want to talk about switching the developed world’s industry from a petro chemical base to an organic base that is a separate issue that I wholeheartedly agree with but not because I am worried about the impending global catastrophe.

    • Jorge says:

      Bob, perhaps you don’t see the evidence, but practically every expert in the world agrees it’s there. If you want to correct their science you’ll need much more than talking points.

      Still, Hulme’s book gets at some of these issues, and you might enjoy it.

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