Corrections and Comments



Given that Eyes Wide Open urges questioning assumptions and looking critically at claims, some readers have found its coverage of climate one-sided. I declare that fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change and focus much attention on the campaign to deny this. Is this partisan rather than unprejudiced?

My response: Being open-minded doesn't mean giving all views equal respect. Rather, it means giving all a fair hearing by applying to all the same high standard. Only those that pass the test have earned our respect.

Consider textbooks that praise Copernicus and Galileo for their theory of a sun-centered solar system without giving equal time to the Catholic Church's rebuttal. Those books aren't charged with being close-minded. Why? Because we've decided that there's only one respectable side in this argument.  When the evidence is overwhelming we reach consensus (if not 100% uniformity) and the debate dries up. The same is true with debates that turn on morality--evident in the lack of coverage of racist viewpoints when the Civil Rights movement is described in textbooks. We've arrived at the same stage with climate: the scientific evidence is overwhelming, with scientists reaching consensus decades ago. My writing reflects this. So why is the debate still going on? Not because of viable science, alas, but because fossil fuel interests are keeping it alive with money and junk science via a well-documented effort that's similarly beyond doubt. (For more on this, see my blog post Fallacy Watch: "The Science Isn't Settled.") Where no overpowering consensus exists--on the use of GMOs and nuclear power, for instance--I presented those issues as open. That's likewise why I closed the book with an overview of fixes and issues to watch but gave no numbered to-do list. How best to move forward is an open question.

It's unfortunate that an allegiance to science strongly aligns a writer with one of our political parties and not the other. I wish this weren't so. I avoided "Republican" and "Democratic" as much as possible and in general favored the view from high above. Books on chemistry or astronomy aren't seen as red or blue and a few decades earlier a book like mine wouldn't have been either. The need to cut greenhouse gases was once widely held by both major parties. Over the past thirty years that view has been the target of a determined campaign by fossil fuel interests. Pumping life into a dead debate has been central to that campaign. They've been successful in altering public opinion, but that doesn't change the scientific consensus that underlies Eyes Wide Open. It's rock solid--unless and until proven otherwise--and deserves to be written about and taught that way.



The correct URL for the Big Here Quiz is http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/957.


This organization is now defunct according to SourceWatch.


This station seemed to buckle under popular and corporate pressure to avoid talking about climate change, cancelling Forecast Earth in 2008, its sole program on the topic.  Maybe the prolonged drought in Georgia, where the station is headquartered, has caused a change of heart.  The station's website now contains a statement affirming that climate change is real, dangerous, and that the majority of the past century's warming is due to the burning of fossil fuels.


2014 additions: New York banned fracking.  Minnesota required investor-owned utilities to offer reduced rates to those charging electric vehicles overnight.  California banned single-use plastic bags.  Illinois banned microbeads in personal care products.


I recommended Jared Diamond's description in his book Collapse of Easter Island's environmental demise, a seemingly classic case of a population outgrowing finite resources. But Robert Krulwich--half of the team behind the top-notch radio show Radiolab‑‑reports on an entirely new theory about Easter Island in this post on his blog Krulwich Wonders, a theory in which the island's trees weren't felled by humans after all. Check it out for a view of constantly evolving science in action.


Australia, like the United States, has often alternated between leaders with opposing views on climate.  Australia's ambitious tax on the CO2 released by the country's 500 largest emitters was vehemently opposed by business and lost favor when electricity prices rose.  Tony Abbott, elected Prime Minister in 2013, ran on an "ax the tax" platform, a promise carried out when the tax was repealed in 2014.

Page 128: CHINDIA

Readers have wondered if I coined this term. I didn't. It's been around for a few years.

Pages 134 and 185: CAP AND TRADE

The definition on pp. 134 and 185 erroneously stated that emitters can pay to exceed their caps.  Not so.  Caps are typically gradually lowered by governments, as are the free permits to pollute that they issue.  This causes polluters to have to buy more permits to make up the difference or to figure out ways to emit less.  The New York Times published an excellent explanation with helpful graphics here.

Page 160, note to p. 13: AMERICAN SHALE OIL

Shale oil--found in huge quantities in the Green River formation in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado--isn't discussed in the Rachel Nuwer article listed.  See Robert Rapier, "U.S. Might Have More Oil Resources Than Saudi Arabia, but..." Forbes, March 29, 2012.  Like oil from tar sands, this type of oil is cooked out of mined material and has the same extremely high energy costs and water needs--so high that U.S. shale oil isn't currently being extracted.  Though unconventional oil in North Dakota and Texas is found in shale, it's fracked and drilled rather than mined and requires less energy to process.  Confusingly, the term "shale oil" is often applied to both.


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