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Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate

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  • Posted August 9, 2011


    In Science As A Contact Sport the late Stephen Schneider blends autobiography with an insider's historical account of the machinations of the international politics of climate change. Short on science and long on personalities, the book gives a blow-by-blow account of many, many top-level climate-policy meetings. What emerges from this torrent of details is an impression of petty battles fought by third-string players on the international policy-making scene, all apparently for naught. There is little sense of what role scientists played in deliberations and why no-one apparently paid them any attention. What happened to the people who signed the Montreal Protocol?
    Schneider's tale also provides a good object lesson in the pitfalls of serious scientists involved with the media minefield. On the one hand, Schneider explains how in 1977 he made himself persona non grata with Johnny Carson by innocently deviating from his expected script. More significantly, Schneider's faux pas during a 1989 interview with Discover magazine, while unjustifiably exploited by the denial community, had the pointed effect of undermining his credibility on the political stage. Though he repeatedly tries to gloss over the impact of that event, methinks he protested too much - he was seduced into making the mistake by media attention and he would have done better to either admit to that or ignore the whole thing.
    Despite these shortcomings the book does provide a unique inside glimpse of what goes on at these international meetings - a view essentially missing from other climate-change texts.
    Richard Pardi - William Paterson University of New Jersey

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    Media, Politics, Controversy and some Science of Global Warming

    Stephen H. Schneider has written or co-authored over 450 scientific papers on the atmosphere, climate change and global warming. He had a background in plasma physics and modeling systems and is a professor at Stanford University. He has been a frequent consultant for congressional hearings and administrative hearings on global warming.

    This book is basically a three part essay. The first section is an autobiography, more or less how did Dr. Schneider get into the field of climate studies. The second section is a more interesting look at some of the science of climate change, the political history and reactions to research on climate change, the media reaction or what Dr. Schneider calls "mediaology", and much (perhaps too much) information on the IPCC mechanism of assesments. The last section is more or less a "what you can do about global warming" section.

    I have read about a dozen books on this subject and would not rate this in the top half. It is readable and interesting but I thought did not have what I and many readers I know are looking for in a book like this. I know there are a few other new books out there that I haven't read yet like The Long Thaw that may have more of the science on climate change than this book had. What I and others would like to see is a presentation on a summary of what are the most significant recent scientific findings that seem persuasive of the evidence of global warming as well as any scientific evidence that seems to not support it. Discuss the science, it's complexity, it's ability to forecast any possible climate change.

    This is an interesting read and I often found it hard to put down but after reading it I would like to have had more of a reflection on all of the science that has been done and how recent observations support, do not support or are not significant regarding these findings. Previous books such as Spencer Weart's "The Discovery of Global Warming" and John Houghton's "Global Warming, the Complete Briefing" are more in line with what most readers would appreciate for a review of the science.

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