State of Fear
by Michael Crichton
603pp. HarperCollins, $27.95
It’s not often a novelist engages an audience at the American Enterprise Institute on any subject, let alone the most controversial scientific story of the moment. But in January, Michael Crichton, MD, discursed on the science of climate change to an enrapt audience. He wasn’t there to promote his new novel, State of Fear, but I will. It’s fun and a pretty good thriller, but what makes it extraordinary is that it is also extremely well-informed and provides lots of chuckles to policy insiders; I laughed out loud ten times at least.
Crichton, the founder of TV series ER, bestselling novelist and Oscar winner for Jurassic Park, may have written a novel, but his scientific interest in the subject matter has made him rather expert on the topic and this has spilled over into his writing. State of Fear is more than a story: it is a guide to environmental alarmism and how to expose its advocacy excesses.
His message is that global warming concerns are not supported by the evidence; he even goes as far as to claim there is only weak support for a significant warming trend. He further contends that the environmental movement promotes warming as its number one issue because it is profitable and having spent so much political capital on it they will look silly if they don’t maintain the dogma.
One of the heroes of the story (and I think somewhat like the good doctor Crichton himself ) is John Kenner, ‘MIT professor on special leave’. With full citations in footnotes, Dr Kenner, delivers several soliloquies (okay, more like science lectures) challenging some key totems of the Greens and exposing their practices: DDT is apparently safe enough to eat; if we’re to worry about climate change at all, methane-emitting termites are a better place to look; and lawyers are more important to modern green groups than scientists.
State of Fear starts with apparently unrelated events in Iceland, Malaysia, Japan, France and America. But as Crichton weaves unusual changes in location with his usual mix of pacy storytelling, it isn’t long before we come face to face with the eco-terrorist conspiracy of the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF), a fictitious environmental organization. The core of the narrative is that NERF’s upcoming conference on sudden climate change is punctuated by news of a series of catastrophic events culminating in a devastating tsunami striking LA, which graphically and tragically illustrate the impending danger that NERF is striving to avoid. That’s the plan anyway, but NERF’s secret plans to instigate these ‘natural’ disasters to coincide with its fundraising media event are foiled or undermined by Kenner and his intelligence network.
As you can imagine it’s a tight run thing but after surviving frostbite, lightning strikes, cannibals, and of course the inevitable carping--‘you must be in the pay of the oil industry to disagree with what all good scientists know to be true’--John Kenner and his motley band of heroes upset the dastardly plans of NERF and its James Bond-style villain, megalomaniacal leader, Nicholas Drake.
State of Fear will be a bestseller. Its detractors in the global warming elite and their allies, the media pundits who long ago claimed the world was going to hell courtesy of our emissions, say that it’s all fiction (including the 34 pages of bibliography, notes, an essay on the politicization of science, as well as the Kenner lectures in the text that make this ‘novel’ unique). But such dismissal is not only unjust, it shows how far from reality climate believers have drifted.
This book is simply the best introduction to climate science and politics there is. Read the novel, read the essay, read the footnotes, read every one of its 603 pages and you’ll have an excellent idea of what we know about climate science. Crichton is a graduate of Harvard medical school, he is a scientist, and therefore he does not dismiss the science, he just tells it as it is. His conclusion is that there is not enough evidence to claim man-made harm or real danger.
Crichton would have appealed to Napoleon for he is not only brilliant but very lucky--prior to 26 December 2004 who would have thought that a giant tsunami could cause such widespread devastation?
But here’s a thought: supposing it wasn’t luck. After all, perhaps Crichton is secretly an arch-eco-terrorist performing a media double bluff while setting off nuclear devices in the Indian Ocean. The climate alarmists have swallowed some tall stories before--maybe they’d buy that too.
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.