Saturday, November 29, 2014

Two Books on Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It (Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change) by George Marshall

We want to make sense of our world so sometimes we see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe – regardless of evidence to the contrary. Marshall advises nonprofits, governments, and businesses on how to better communicate on a subject people really don't want to hear about. He wanted to understand why some people do not believe in climate change and its human origin.

One could say this is a book about the psychology of belief in climate change. Even though we are experiencing more severe weather events, these are interpreted in light of prior assumptions and prejudices, confirmation bias and cognitive bias. Marshall notes the ineffective way climate change has been communicated. Timing is important. Concerns about climate change came on the heels of the fall of the U.S.S.R., lending itself as a target of conspiracy buffs. The anti-climate change people have done a good job in public relations, much better than those warning about climate change.

Marshall writes of climate change, “It is complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, invisible, and intergenerational.” (226) It is exceptionally multivalent, lending itself to many interpretations. We choose one that will help us manage our anxiety, one that we can best live with.

Climate change is a scientific fact,” Marshall writes. (231) A recent NOAA report informed us that October 2014 was the warmest on record, including the ocean's temperature.

Marshall's good book is a timely one, helping us understand why some people continue to deny climate change in the face of mounting evidence.

Bloomsbury USA, 272 pages.

Storm Surge (Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future), by Adam Sobel

Sobel studies extreme weather and climate. He also lives in New York City so it was with interest I read this book. He does a good job of detailing the day by day history of Sandy. He includes what the weather forecasters knew and predicted and how it was that the hurricane took an unprecedented turn to the west. Interwoven through the narrative of the storm's journey is a great deal of information on extreme weather, both in the past and the possibilities in the future.

I was surprised that 93% of the global warming is being absorbed by the ocean. It was interesting to read about the dynamics of hurricane formation and why a warmer ocean does not mean more hurricanes forming. He has an excellent section on ocean surge protection efforts, including that of the Dutch. I was surprised to find that the wobbling of the Jet Stream, allowing the frigid air of a Polar Vortex to descend into the U.S. midwest, is perhaps not caused by the decreased temperature differential between the arctic and the tropics.

I was impressed with the advances that have been made in long term weather forecasting. With more data gathered every day, the models are becoming more accurate. Sobel helped me understand the difficulty of preparing for extreme weather events – we just don't know what to expect until that warning is sounded mere days before. His book is a good wake up call to the potential weather extremes in our future.

HarperWave, 336 pages.

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