Reviewed 11/20/2007

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, by Christopher Horner

Access to this book courtesy of the
Santa Clara, CA City Public Library
Christopher Horner
Washington, DC: Regnery, 2007




ISBN-10 0-8070-8572-3 350pp. SC/GSI $19.95

This book is very much a mixed bag. Horner scores some superficial points when he gets into the scientific aspects of global warming. (More about those below.) But though "global warming" is the most prominent phrase on his book's cover, his real target is environmentalism — or more specifically environmentalists. Horner, a lawyer by training and a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regards them as the enemy.

This is apparent in his Preface or, indeed, in the book's Table of Contents. Horner has lined up oodles of ammunition in the form of pejorative adjectives and ad-hominem attacks, and in his first three chapters he lets fly with them in the manner of someone firing a Gatling Gun. The net effect is to overwhelm the casual reader with distortion and innuendo. Ann Coulter operates in similar fashion. But, to give Horner credit where due, he avoids the expletives Coulter uses. And his citations are accurate.

In a nutshell, here is how Horner views environmentalists: They don't believe the alarmist claptrap they spout; that's just to instill fear in the populace. They are only in it for the money. At the same time, they pursue an anti-capitalist agenda. They are in league with foreign governments, especially in Europe, to increase governmental power and reduce individual liberty.

As Horner puts it at the beginning of Chapter 2:

Whether you call it interventionalist, socialist, or worse, there is little doubt that environmentalists throughout modern history have instilled fear over one looming "crisis" or another with the aim of increasing government control over things big and small. They see state control as a good thing in itself and pursue it aggressively and by any means necessary, because individual liberty is inherently dangerous in their eyes.

– Page 25

Unfortunately, his approach resembles that of the most strident global-warming deniers: Demonizing opponents and distorting the science. He cherry-picks outrageous quotations and presents them in sidebars scattered throughout his pages. (Note how many times he quotes Jacques Chirac about "global governance.") He has a roster of "usual suspects", notably Al Gore and Paul Ehrlich, whom he ridicules frequently. And he has his heroes, including "Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Crichton, author of the novel State of Fear.1

When he gets to the scientific arguments, which he does on page 65, he attains at points a superficial plausibility. Unfortunately, his arguments do not bear up under close examination. But then, he's not about the science; for the game he's playing, superficial is good enough. He's following the Denier playbook: Throw out enough strawman arguments in a row, and you'll overwhelm anyone trying to dig deep. Therefore I'm not going to refute his arguments one by one here. But I think my sidebar will provide some insights.

Finally, consider this from the book's conclusion:

As the curtain descends on the remnants of scientific inquiry into and free speech about "environmental" {sic} and other such issues of controversy, we confront a circumstance in which a naturally driven climate is seized upon to cow a population with fear by governments seeking to expand their powers and businesses itching to profit from Man's gullibility. But it isn't over, yet.

– Page 303

About Horner's conclusion, I can only say this: If Horner truly believes that global warming advocates have corrupted the spirit of scientific inquiry, he must make his arguments against them with all the scientific rigor and solid evidence he can muster. Why then does this book present little more than superficial arguments and unsupported charges that environmentalists are engaged in some nefarious power grab? Why does it repeat long-discredited objections, such as that the Hockey Stick Graph is bogus? Because ending the controversy is not what he's after; obfuscation and delay are what he wants. Discovering the reason he wants these things is left as an exercise for the reader.

I do not say that Horner is never correct. His point about Greens rejecting nuclear power is a good one.2 He's probably right that Al Gore is not the paragon some claim. His general observation that there is no imminent global warming crisis is certainly valid.3 In light of this, and because his book is reasonably well written, I'm giving it a rating of 3.0. It is worth reading for these points, but mainly for insights into how the controversy looks from the wrong side.

1 In Crichton's novel, a group of environmentalists really does try to trump up a global warming crisis where there is none in fact. Like the evil Dr. Wu and Dr. Schneider of Our Man Flint, they've mastered the art of controlling earthquakes and use this ability to further their dastardly plans.
2 On the other hand, existing nuclear plants should be phased out as early as possible. These, I suspect, are what Horner has in mind when he touts nuclear power; the real promise of nuclear power, however, is in the so-called Gen-IV designs, which still need substantial development.
3 Of course, no one claims the crisis is imminent. Rather, our claim is that action is needed now to avoid a crisis decades in the future. So here Horner is cutting down a strawman of his own creation.
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