Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Weather Makers (copy)

We read about it in newspapers and magazines; we hear about it from our neighbors and colleagues; we watch nature shows that include it and a former vice president lent his time to a recent movie about it. What is IT?

It is global warming and it is becoming one hot topic. A topic so hot it literally smacks you in the face when you first step outside. That is, if you believe.

While brushing my teeth before bed, I overheard David Letterman say, "This day in 1909, Antarctica was a negative 38 degrees; today it is 82 and sunny." He had just finished his monolog and was sitting at his desk when this casual comment popped out. I laughed, but then I stopped. Is this really a joke or is he telling the truth?

The South has always experienced hot, sweltering summers. This summer’s drought, the same two summers ago as 30 years ago, is normal. Heck, every mid-south farmer remembers the summers of 1988 and 1993 when we were either bone-dry or sopping wet. Heat waves, like sweet tea and watermelon, are essential elements of summer. So, if we are a little skeptical about global warming, it is understandable.

Author and scientist, Tim Flannery, claims to be a skeptic by nature about nature. He believes, “skepticism has a particularly important role to play in science, for a theory is only valid for as long as it has not been disproved.”

This is the premise of his new book, The Weather Makers. In this intense, dense book, Flannery assembles all the latest and most respected works on the subject. He then breaks the theories into three parts: reasons for the phenomenon, current effects of the phenomenon and earth’s future.

As the jacket blurb would like you to believe, we are to read the chapters through cynic eyes and make our own decisions. Unfortunately, Flannery falls short of the skeptic role, and we, as readers, lack his questioning voice. We are spoon-fed these theories as fact and expected to agree with his conclusions.

Flannery breaks his promise, but this doesn’t diminish the book’s value. He may not go about breaking myths like Myth Busters, but he does provide important information to laymen. For example, one will gain an understanding of the different methods of gauging temperatures through time. I highly recommend this book to anyone straddling the fence on this issue. Flannery successfully knocked me off.

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