Climate science book suggestions
February 14, 2010 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Help me counter-snark my climate-change-denying uncle.

I just completed my B.S. degree in Environmental Science, and as a gift my uncle sent me a copy of Michael Crichton's "State of Fear." I'd like to send him something in return, but I haven't read anything in the climate science realm since The Weather Makers. What book do you think best explains the current state of the science with regard to climate change? Keep in mind that he is decidedly a non-expert, so something with a popular focus – perhaps even one aimed at stubborn deniers – would be ideal. Thanks!
posted by dondiego87 to Science & Nature (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Even if you were to find a book that serves as the perfect counterpoint to the one he sent you, do you honestly think he'll read it? I'd politely thank him for the book and forget about it, in the interest of keeping family drama levels at a manageable level.
posted by scarykarrey at 6:27 PM on February 14, 2010

If he's not conservative politically, try sending him An Inconvenient Truth . I think this will probably be your best shot for something that's easily accessible and for non-experts.
posted by astapasta24 at 6:30 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

At first I was going to say that you should just ignore him because you have to be a willful contrarian to be a climate change skeptic, but this article mentions some books on the theme "why do smart people believe stupid things?" so you might want to give it a look!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 6:33 PM on February 14, 2010

Unless it was accompanied by a jocular note referencing an inside joke the two of yo share, his "gift" to you was really just two words rhyming with "duck shoe". I'd send him the same or just ignore it.
posted by DU at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

the current state of the science

Folks on your uncle's side created/believe/perpetuate the myth that the scientific community is divided on climate change, or at least that a substantial minority of legitimate scientific researchers have findings that counter the evidence for climate change. Political beliefs drive them to question/oppose the idea of climate change, so they assume/accuse the other side of having political motives, rather than scientific data, for promoting the idea.

You could take a different approach: send him a novel you like, and inscribe it "Here's another entertaining work of fiction."
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [8 favorites]

Re the book: I'd say "Thanks, that was hilarious."

In general: for most of the USA this month, you could just start every conversation with "So how's this perfectly typical weather treating you?"
posted by rokusan at 6:44 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I dunno that it's worth giving a shit about; to me, such a gift would say "Wow, not only is my uncle wrong on this topic, but he's an asshole. Glad I found out before I had to deal with him in person."

Congrats on your degree.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:44 PM on February 14, 2010

I'd leave this one alone. I don't know the man, but just consider the fact that he may actually think you'd enjoy the book. Not as some thought-provoking work, but just an interesting potboiler. Maybe he's not very good at the gift-giving thing.

"Hey, he's really into that environment stuff. Here's a paperback thriller with an environmental theme. It's by that guy that wrote Jurassic Park, and everyone liked that movie, so..."

In other words, he might not be saying "screw you," and instead be thinking, "here's something you might think is fun."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:46 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't think you are required to avoid reading books you don't personally agree with. Reading contrary views is sometimes seen as evidence of a well-rounded world view, and if you really are vehemently for or against something, it's best to know your enemy.

Is it even remotely possible that your uncle thought this book would simply be interesting to you on some level, and he's not trying to make a political statement?
posted by sageleaf at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Send him a copy of "Jurassic Park" or "Sphere" and write in the inside cover, "This isn't science either, Love. Your Beloved Niece"
posted by inturnaround at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Didn't Colbert have something to say this week? Something to the effect of "It's dark at night, must be proof the sun exploded." Maybe that might set you on a course.
posted by nevercalm at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2010

First, read Crichton's book. Otherwise, you're being as closed minded as you think your uncle is.
posted by iconjack at 7:57 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have not read this book but have had it recommended to me when I've asked friends much your same question... Global Warming: The Complete Briefing.

(Also, I'd remind others upthread that the OP is not asking whether or not he should send his uncle a book but is asking for suggestions about what specifically to send.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:58 PM on February 14, 2010

Oh, and while this is not exactly what you're looking for, the first comment in this Reddit thread might be interesting for you to peruse for ideas as well.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2010

I think a more appropriate if juvenile response would be to find a book that attacks your uncle's profession or trade and send him that -- if possible, an obviously stupid and misguided one by a crank.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:24 PM on February 14, 2010

I hope it's OK to post a link to reddit but this was just posted today and got a huge response:

At the very least there seem to be a lot of linked primary sources.
posted by laptolain at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2010

Dang, hapax beat me to it.
posted by laptolain at 9:00 PM on February 14, 2010

Say thanks. Even if you don't like, need, or want the gift, you should thank the giver. Its appropriate to suggest a book if you've read the one he gave you, otherwise let him be. If he's a raving loony, you can just ignore him. People have a right to believe what they want, but don't have a right to foist it on others (whatever the issue).
posted by shinyshiny at 9:05 PM on February 14, 2010

Let it go. Unless you know his motive was to fuck with you, it may be perfectly innocent.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:12 PM on February 14, 2010

If you're looking for something about climate science in the popular fiction realm you might try 40 Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's the first in a trilogy and not my favorite Robinson book by any means, but it might fit your bill.
posted by brookeb at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2010

How about you read and annotate 'State of Fear' and send it back?
posted by Jakey at 1:26 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cambridge University Press has quite a few titles that might qualify. I can't vouch for the quality of any of them but Cambridge typically does not publish tripe.
posted by JJ86 at 6:00 AM on February 15, 2010

How about sending him a copy of Plato's Allegory of the Cave
posted by kaizen at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2010

Field notes from a catastophe by Elizabeth Colbert was a good read, but I read it from an educated and scientific point of view.
posted by stinker at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2010

Seconding Elizabeth Kolbert. Her pieces in the New Yorker a few years back were quite moving. I've never forgotten her quoting a scientist who said that climate change should really be thought of as "global weirding," since climate change would, more than anything, entail more dramatic weather - more violent storms, rainier rainy seasons, more bitterly cold winters, drier dry spells and such - rather than just warmer temperatures across the board. A very easy read as well.
posted by pocket_of_droplets at 1:28 PM on February 15, 2010

Ha! I received "State of Fear" from my anthropogenic-climate-change-denying father for Christmas a few years back in his effort to re-educate me (I'm like you in that I have an Environmental Science/ Engineering background, and worked in air quality for several years). For a long time, I would argue back, but I've given up because I'm not changing anyone's mind at this point. Decide which is more important: your relationship with your uncle, or keeping score. Good luck.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 10:05 PM on February 16, 2010

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