It's difficult to read this book without concluding that McKibben yearns to scamper back to Eden - to a mythical, undefiled, natural landscape that existed before humans turned up and spoiled everything.
The book says a number of things which, with 20 years of hindsight, look a little foolish. One is especially noteworthy. It concerns what the world will be like "in a few more decades" if we don't heed the author's apocalyptic warnings.
Because this book was published in 1989, much of it was researched and written in 1988 or even earlier. That's 21+ years prior to where we are now. That's before tens of billions of dollars had been spent studying global warming. That's before the very first report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) appeared in 1990. (There have been three since then, the last one completed in 2007).
McKibben felt no need to wait for the results of all that scientific research. He didn't choose to be cautious in his pronouncements prior to an alleged "scientific consensus" being developed and articulated by the IPCC process.
Back in 1989 his mind was already made up. He'd not only identified the problem, he'd divined the solution. Put simply: traditional energy sources were the root of all evil and must be abandoned.
On page 124 of the book he declares:
We must act, and in every possible way, and immediately. We must substitute, conserve, plant trees, perhaps even swallow our concerns over safety and build some nuclear plants. We stand at the end of an era - the hundred years' binge on oil, gas, and coal...The choice of doing nothing - of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal - is not a choice, in other words. It will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature. [bold added]Four pages onward, he adds: "a few more decades of ungoverned fossil-fuel use and we burn up, to put it bluntly." [bold added]
Somewhat later, on page 184, he asks:
And if what I fear indeed happens? If the next twenty years sees us pump ever more gas into the sky...what solace then? [bold added]Well, Bill, a full two decades have passed since then. Considering the absence of large scale, viable alternatives, I expect you'd be the first to agree that we've continued our "ungoverned fossil-fuel use" and that the steady stream of emissions has continued.
But guess what? We aren't living in hell, or even in a place with a similar temperature. Indeed, as Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit (and a central player in the IPCC consensus-science process) confirmed to the BBC two days ago, "there has been no statistically-significant global warming" since the year 1995.
This is worth repeating. In 1995, six years after McKibben's book appeared, the world stopped warming - even though we did none of things he said were absolutely necessary to avoid disaster. This means his prediction was wholly and utterly B - O - G - U - S.
As I've discussed elsewhere, there appears to be no penalty for making false predictions. No one holds you accountable. Despite the apparent lack of connection between his predictions and the real world, McKibben is currently an influential personage in the green movement. (In the product description for this book, he's described as a "climate-change guru".)
Yesterday, he even authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post in which he continued to repeat his shopworn, 20-year-old message:
...the weird and disruptive weather patterns around the world are pretty much exactly what you'd expect as the planet warms...Despite global warming...the chances of what are technically called "big honking dumps" have increased...It's almost like a test...Can you sit in a snowstorm and imagine a warming world?...If the answer is no, then we're really in a world of trouble.Yes, well, I've heard that one before. And now I'm changing the channel.
>> Bill McKibben: extravagant emotional excess
>> Climate psychics: 10-year-old snow prediction fails miserably
>> The big picture: the Y2K lesson
>> Global disaster is so 1976