The Collapse of Western Civilization by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway
This is kind of a mini-book, under-sized and thin, a fast read. It is 100% totally and completely about climate change. It is a science fiction novel in that it tells the story of what happened in the couple of centuries when climate change really got going, in report form.
It is written in 2393, the 300-year anniversary of The Great Collapse. That was when the breaking up of a portion of Antarctica caused “mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order.” It covers a span of time of about 400 years but focuses mostly on our current century.
Report style is the only way this book would work and I actually like this strategy. It can get dry though. In its attempt to explain why humans didn’t act to curb climate change, it lists active denial, passive denial, and human adaptive optimism. As well as the 95 percent confidence limit that held scientists back from being certain.
And unless I’m wrong, they changed a little bit of history too since the book states that the Government Spending Accountability Act of 2012 restricted scientists’ ability to attend conferences to share information. In actuality, the bill only passed the House of Representatives. The book was published in 2014 but based on an essay published in 2013, so I guess it’s possible that the authors didn’t know the bill wouldn’t go on to become law when the original essay was written. Really, the authors wouldn’t have to adhere to reality at all since this is a science fiction book, but that’s not how this one works. In order to be hauntingly real it has to match the past and present reality, and it basically does as far as I can tell.
This is one of my favorite paragraphs:
Though ridiculed when first introduced, the Sea Level Rise Denial Bill would become the model for the U.S. National Stability Protection Act of 2025, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of more than three hundred scientists for “endangering the safety and well-being of the general public with unduly alarming threats.” By exaggerating the threat, it was argued, scientists were preventing the economic development essential for coping with climate change. When the scientists appealed, the convictions were upheld by the U.S Supreme Court under the Clear and Present Danger doctrine, which permitted the government to limit speech deemed to represent an imminent threat.
Scary! More on this book in the next post.