This is an engaging and extremely well-written look at the highly charged climate change debate.
Authors Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal attempt to find out what or who is to blame for the unprecedented climate change we're currently experiencing. Is it a direct result of human activity and our unfettered consumption of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution, as 'alarmists' argue - or is it part of the Earth's natural fluctuations in temperature, as the 'sceptics' claim? Is the the entire 'global warming' phenomenon simply a beat-up?
To find out what was actually going on with climate change, Morgan hired scientists from both camps to answer his questions. He and McCrystal have, in turn, distilled the information into a compelling and unexpectedly humorous book, which explains the complex scientific concepts in a way that even I (who ditched the sciences after School Certificate) could understand.
Providing a straight-forward guide to debate was always the authors' aim: Informing the public is the only way to protect them against the blandishments of slick, highly organised partisan lobby groups - and we could just as easily be talking about the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) here as about the marketing arm of any fossil-fuel-mongering evil empire.
Poles Apart kicks off by defining climate change - taking into account the respective cases of the alarmists and the sceptics. Then the book explains the science (and the difficulties) of recording the Earth's temperature, trawls through the anecdotal evidence, and finally comes to a conclusion based on all this research.
This is no mean feat, but on top of that, the pair also examine the global politics of the debate... The polarising effect of the climate change question is partly due to its tendency to appeal to forces massed along the borders of existing political territories, such as between laissez-faire (that is, dog-eat-dog) 'free marketeers' on one hand and interventionist, anti-consumerist Greenies on the other. Each side accused the other of using climate change as a Trojan horse for their own, ulterior agenda.
Basically, if you're confused by the endless contradictory information on this subject - and its potentially deleterious consequences for humanity, this is the book for you. My only criticism (and it's not a particularly valid one), is that during most of the book, Poles Apart is so scrupulously balanced - outlining the arguments and counter-arguments so carefully so that the reader couldn't possibly be misled in any way - I found myself longing for just one inflammatory statement or even a wild generalisation. However, the light-touch and subtle humour kept me hooked.
- Amy Todd