Reviewed 5/04/2007

Hell and High Water, by Joseph J. Romm

Global Warming—the Solution and the Politics—and What We Should Do
Joseph J. Romm
New York: William Morrow, December 2006




ISBN-13 978-0-06-117212-0
ISBN 0-06-117212-X 292pp. HC/GSI $24.95

Trained in physics at MIT, Dr. Romm is the founder and executive director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions. During the Clinton administration, he headed the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. His previous book was The Hype about Hydrogen. These credentials make him well qualified to write on the subject of global warming, and here he presents a lot of good information. It could be argued that he couches it in excessively alarmist tones, and that this is because his current position gives him a strong incentive to make the situation look as dire as possible. However, after finishing the book I conclude that the only people making such an argument would be those with a vested interest in the status quo — that is to say, in taking no action to mitigate global warming.

Dr. Romm wastes no time in making it clear that such inaction, and why it is wrong-headed, is the point of this book.

The widespread confusion about our climate crisis is no accident. For more than a decade, those who deny that climate change is an urgent problem have sought to delay action on global warming by running a brilliant rhetorical campaign and spreading multiple myths that misinform debate. As a result, many people still believe global warming is nothing more than a natural climate cycle that humans cannot influence, or that it might even have positive benefits for this nation. Neither is true. The science is crystal clear: We humans are the primary cause of global warming, and we face a bleak future if we fail to act quickly.

– Page 2

The book is divided into two parts. In the first, Dr. Romm sets forth the scientific basis for his warnings. The evidence for global warming is not easy to understand, depending as it does on many decades of research in varied scientific disciplines. Dr. Romm does a commendably lucid job of describing the changing situation and its possible outcomes. He also prescribes a possible solution.

But it is the second part where he makes his greatest contribution. In it, he dissects the rhetorical techniques used by those he calls the Denyers and Delayers. He cites sources, quotes speeches and memos, enumerates payments, and best of all, he names names. These final six chapters cut to the heart of our current impasse on global warming, showing clearly how it has been artificially prolonged far past the point where sufficient evidence had accumulated to justify the beginning of action. I think it is fair to say he cuts out the heart of the Denyers' arguments. Part Two of this book should be required reading for anyone who remains unconvinced that global warming is a real problem.

There are many books about global warming. If you can read just one of them, Hell and High Water would be an excellent choice. It is a clear and readable primer on the problem. It also has enough information to serve as a sourcebook for anyone wishing to marshall his own arguments. Full endnotes and a good index are provided. And it is remarkably free of defects. (But I did find a few for my usual errata page.) I recommend it highly.

Valid CSS! Valid HTML 4.01 Strict To contact Chris Winter, send email to this address.
Copyright © 2007-2016 Christopher P. Winter. All rights reserved.
This page was last modified on 23 August 2016.