Betting the Farm on a Drought by Seamus McGraw

Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate ChangeBetting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change by Seamus McGraw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The author is a journalist who has followed the public debate about climate change, or, if you prefer, the weather. That sums up the main message of the book – how a subject as mundane and apolitical as weather has turned into a political hot potato pitting liberals against conservatives. He argues that extremists on both sides, aided by the media, have politicized an important issue and and in effect stalled any attempts to address it.

The science isn’t in question. It’s getting hotter and the rate of rise is unprecedented not only in human history but in the history of the world. It coincides with the industrialization of the world using fossil fuels in unprecedented numbers. Global warming is real and it is caused by the increase in greenhouse gases. Just don’t call it global warming or even climate change. Those are buzz words pointy-headed liberals use. As one skeptic put it, “I didn’t know anything about the issue except Al Gore believed it so I didn’t believe it.” This theme was echoed a lot in the book, but the author also takes issue with the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from the extremists on the other side and the media, which he says presents only extremist views because those are the ones that draw the ratings. They fool themselves into thinking presenting both extremes is balanced reporting. It’s not, at least according to the author.

He makes a point to interview a lot of skeptics, conservative “climate deniers” if you will, like hunters, commercial fishermen, and farmers. Almost to a man they claim man-made climate change is a hoax or at least not proven. Yet they also agree that it is getting hotter and that it will continue to get even hotter. (Umm, fellas, that is climate change). The elk no longer come down from the high mountains to the valleys until after hunting season is over because it stays warm longer. The trees are dying, too, the hunters say. The whiting no longer come close to shore in the Maryland bay where the author grew up because it’s too warm. Fishermen have to go north long distances out to sea now. Cattle ranchers in Texas have moved their herds to Montana and North Dakota. Others who used to plant corn now plant cotton. They just call it drought or weather, not climate change, and they are taking reasonable actions to deal with it. The author’s point is that it is their very actions that are necessary (although not sufficient) to fight the phenomenon everyone agrees is real, even if they can’t agree on what to call it.

The book is a bit pedantic even though it is peppered with personal anecdotes. It probably isn’t going to change anyone’s mind because the issue is so polarizing now, but it has some good information for anyone wanting to educate themselves on the subject.

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