Tearing Michael Crichton a New One

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tearing Michael Crichton a New One

Courtesy of Professor Michael B. McElroy. A sample:

Crichton's main character, the ubiquitous Professor Kenner, singles out James E. Hansen, long-time director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), a scientist with many years of distinguished contributions to earth and planetary science, for particular attack. In testimony to Congress in 1988, Hansen offered projections of how global temperature might increase through the end of the twentieth century....

To project climate's future requires an assumption about future economic growth....Hansen considered three possible scenarios for future emissions (rapid growth, business as usual, and significant curtailment) and evaluated the consequences of each for future climate change. Crichton has Kenner focus exclusively on results from the high-growth model, concluding that Hansen's projections for future global climate change turned out to be "wrong by 300 percent." Had he opted to talk about the intermediate growth scenario, Crichton would have been forced to conclude that Hansen's projections were right on. But that would have spoiled the story. Why should a best-selling novelist and Hollywood personality (even with two Harvard degrees) be constrained by the usual requirements for fair play and accuracy?

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