Book Fest Exposes Climate Change Deniers and a World Without Fish


Environmental books on sale at the LA Times Festival of Books. Photos by RCruger.

Among the nonfiction panels at the recent LA Times' Festival of Books, it was encouraging to find three focused on environmental issues. They featured authors of compelling books, from Merchants of Doubt, about the hidden agenda of scientific climate change deniers, to Climatopolis, a economic guide to adapting to global warming. You can watch the panels on Inconvenient Truths and Boiling Point on C-Span Book Fest coverage. Here's the rundown: On the "Inconvenient Truths" panel, historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of Merchants of Doubt, out in paperback this month, revealed the political connections of a group of influential scientists who have intentionally misled the public about the facts on global warming to advance a political agenda that's funded by industry. The well-documented book, co-written with science writer Erik Conway, affiliated with CalTech, follows the group's campaigns from DDT and acid rain to the hole in the ozone and climate change.

Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at UC/San Diego, calls out Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz and S. Fred Singer of the Marshall Institute for denying scientific research without any evidence from their own studies. These are the same people who said cigarettes were 'safe,' while partnered with tobacco and chemical corporations.The book also questions journalists who repeat the unproven claims without looking at the credibility of their sources.


Seth Mnookin, Naomi Oreskes and Timothy Ferris sign books after LATimes book fest panel.

Other authors on the panel included Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear who spoke about vaccinations and autism, and Timothy Ferris who wrote, The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature for a lively discussion about ideology and absolute truths.

On the "Boiling Point: Climate, Population & Environment" panel, questions were directed by Margot Roosevelt who writes Greenspace in the LA Times and environmental writer Judith Lewis.


The Boiling Point panel discuss adapting to climate change.

Laurence C. Smith, a UCLA professor of Geography and author of The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future, spoke of his research and computer model projections, based on human population growth and migration, globalization, demand for control over natural resources from photosynthesis to bee pollination; and climate change. Smith's book describes how wildlife and plants are moving northward towards the warming arctic, how Northern countries will figure dominantly in the future, as well as native populations in these regions. The bad news is permafrost is a wild card.

Matthew E. Kahn, also a UCLA professor is with its Institute of the Environment, Department of Economics, and Department of Public Policy. The author of Climatopolis: How our cities will thrive in a hotter future, says there's no stopping climate change. The question now is how to adapt. Speaking from an economics perspective, he argues that rising temperatures will transform life in the future's cities, from New York to Mumbai.

Kahn entertained the audience with provocative arguments, like "If enough people are scared, demand will create supply." He's pragmatic, stating that we're just not reducing GHG sufficiently to curb global warming and supporting $10/gallon gas as an impetus to purchase alternative- fuel vehicles. If we see the iceberg ahead, he believes, we can prepare for it. Trouble is, of course, the icebergs are melting. For cynics, naysayers and those who claim green endeavors are bad for the economy, Kahn offers a strong rebuttal.

Also on the panel was Mark Kurlansky who just published A World Without Fish: How Kids Can Save the Oceans, a graphic novel that describes how tuna, salmon and swordfish could disappear within 50 years, leaving oceans teeming with jellyfish, as seabirds disappear, then reptiles and mammals. A proponent of regulating fisheries, he covers the effects of industrialized fishing and how bottom-dragging nets are turning the ocean floor into a desert.


Fagan, Flannery and Solomon on Essential Ecosystems panel

The third panel, "Essential Ecosystems," was scheduled at overlapping times, so I missed much of it. Featuring Tim Flannery, chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council and a professor at Sydney's Macquarie University, Brian Fagan author of The Great Warming, The Long Summer How Climate Changed Civilization, and Stephen Solomon who wrote Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, and considers water the new oil, which I wrote of previously in Treehugger with "Is Water Underpriced?"

For readers and book fans on the University of Southern California campus, Ben & Jerry's was on hand passing out new ice cream flavors, Volun-Tiramisu and Berry Voluntary. It's part of a summer initiative to foster local volunteerism. Scoop It Forward, matches volunteer opportunities in your local community for a free pint coupon.

More on green books:
Introducing BookHugger, The Green Book Club Powered by Island Press and Treehugger
7 Must-Read New Books for Sustainable Eating
Al Gore Launches Interactive Digital Book App About Climate Crisis (Interview)
Join BookHugger in Reading Hope Is an Imperative and Get 30% Off Cover Price

Tags: Books | Economics | Global Climate Change

Best of TreeHugger