“Why We Disagree About Climate Change”, by Mike Hulme

An intensely promising read, unusual in assessing both “climate change” (Hulme’s typography for the physical reality (or otherwise)), and “Climate Change” (the idea of climate change, what it means to us individually and culturally). So it’s extremely cross-curricular (Hulme began as a climate scientist, but has studied economics, media, politics, psychology, religion, you name it) and beautifully written – the man’s a real stylist – clear and elegant sentences, accessible but never journalistic, formal but relaxed. This leads him into wordiness and repetition (sometimes you wish he’d get on with it), but it’s impressive nevertheless. As for Hulme’s argument, to summarise brutally something hugely complex, and laboriously teased out in his lengthy book, Hulme, in short, says:
1. The climate is warming up, and it’s extremely likely that this is at least partly anthropogenic.
2. But, for a number of reasons, humans can’t agree on what, if anything, to do about it.
3. We have therefore to learn to live with it, which in itself brings new, positive, opportunities for creative responses, both artistic and practical.
4. Er…
5. That’s it.
I do hope I’ve got him right: as we galloped together towards the end I was really hoping for something a little more meaty (and, dare I say, hopeful) than (3) above, but if he did mean more he never got round to saying it. What, however, is the book’s real strength is (2) above – a virtuosic analysis of why it’s so hard for our species to act, either collectively (e.g. Kyoto) or individually (climate change’s effects are still, for most of us, not immediate). I suppose we’ll just have to wait until the effects ARE more immediate.
It’s worth adding that the book is an excellent example of where a BOOK beats a WEBSITE: what the author is trying to say requires sustained linear attention rather than dipping into pools of hypertext.

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