- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

In his latest best seller, “State of Fear,” novelist MichaelCrichton once again takes a stand to warn against a horrible fate.

After the mysterious lethal microbes from outer space in “The Andromeda Strain,” the swarm of nanorobots programmed as predators in “Prey” and the resurrected dinosaurs run amok in “Jurassic Park,” the bad guys this time are a bunch of scaremongering environmentalists with a terrorist bent.

Some environmentalists are crying foul.

“The story — environmentalists changing the weather to affect their campaigns on global warming — might make a good fiction but it can’t be further from the truth,” said Kert Davies, Greenpeace USA’s research director and climate specialist.

Mr. Crichton said environmentalism is a multibillion-dollar industry funded by government research grants and radical philanthropists and has jumped on the global warming bandwagon because that is where the money is. He argues that environmentalists have become dependent on fear-mongering to keep the money coming.

In “State of Fear,” the leaders of the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF) become so anxious with the poor results of their global-warming fund-raising campaign that they decide to surreptitiously trigger a series of natural disasters — including the collapse of a giant Antarctic ice shelf, a supersize hurricane that would generate flash floods in Arizona and a killer tsunami that would hit California with 60-foot waves.

These man-made disasters are scheduled to coincide with NERF’s big press conference, to dramatize what the group considers a real danger.

The 600-page novel — complete with footnotes, graphics, an appendix with sources for the data he provides and an annotated bibliography — presents in dramatic form the arguments of those skeptical of global warming theories.

“Based on scientific information, I don’t think global warming is a problem,” said S. Fred Singer, president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project.

Mr. Crichton’s novel “will make the public aware that there are many scientists who think that global warming is not a problem and it tells them in the book why that is so,” Mr. Singer said.

But scientists who consider global warming a genuine danger say Mr. Crichton plays fast and loose with the facts.

“The book is a pillar of selective citations of the scientific literature. In other words, he basically picked out only the scientific studies that fit in his general theme,” said William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University.

Critics also accuse Mr. Crichton of portraying genuine scientific consensus as a “herd mentality.”

“[Mr.] Crichton basically argues that because there is a consensus in the scientific community, therefore the scientific community is probably wrong,” said Dan Schrag, director of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography at Harvard University. “On the same logic we would have to throw out evolution, we would have to throw out Einstein’s theory of relativity. … The whole thing is absurd.”

Mr. Schrag added: “To be told that we are not believable because we have a herd instinct I think is incredibly insulting.”

Yet Mr. Crichton and his supporters say that the predictions of global warming theorists — that man-made pollution will cause the Earth’s climate to warm by 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century — are more about politics than science.

“I suspect that Michael Crichton is motivated by the same anger of many of us who don’t want to see science misused for political purposes or just to gain grants from governments and foundations,” Mr. Singer said.

But Mr. Davies said the author “has a very inaccurate and incomplete knowledge of the subject of climate change.”

Concern is legitimate, Mr. Davies said, because “there is a lot to fear in climate change: The scientists every day, every week, as they study these problems, are saying it’s worse than we thought and it’s raising the bell of urgency even more.”

Mr. Crichton seldom grants press interviews, and his representatives turned down The Washington Times when it requested an interview. Yet “State of Fear” is unique among Mr. Crichton’s novels because, in an “author’s message” at the end of the book, he provides his personal view of the issue:

• “Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century.”

• “I don’t think we have to worry about” [how people will live in 2100].

• “The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism.”

As to what influence the novel might have on public opinion, Mr. Singer said, Mr. Crichton’s book can have “an important effect on informing people that there is no consensus among the scientists and that there is good reason to believe that the global warming scare is just a scare and not a problem.”

But Mr. Schlesinger said he hopes the effect of “State of Fear” is “minimal.”

“There are a lot of people that are either undecided about climate change or hopeful that the scientific community is wrong, and they would pounce on this kind of things, as a hopeful message — and I think that would be unfortunate,” he said.

“The best thing that could come from this book is increase attention to global warming,” Mr. Davies said. “The worst thing that could happen is some portion of the public believes what he says and believes that environmentalists are willing to kill people.”

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