The Crichtonian Green

In 2004 author Michael Crichton published “State of Fear,” a novel that he uses as a platform to attempt to debunk global warming alarm. Whether or not one finds Crichton’s arguments compelling generally governs how someone might characterize his views on environmentalists and environmentalism. But Crichton, in his own way, is himself an environmentalist. Having obtained a transcript of a recent speech by Crichton on environmentalism, what follows is our synopsis of some of the key points he makes:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”


“Second hand smoke is not a health hazard and never was.”

“The evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.”

“There is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 21st century.”

“The percentage of U.S. land that is taken for urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.”

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State of Fear)
by Michael Crichton

This is a lot of fairly contrarian stuff, but Crichton is correct about DDT, and assessing DDT – along with second hand smoke – rests on basic toxicology. Properly applied, DDT is a fantastic solution to malaria, and banning it instead of properly regulating its use has been a tragic mistake. Obviously second hand smoke with extreme exposure is harmful, but Crichton is saying the criteria being used to justify smoking regulations are far below genuinely harmful levels.

Our commitment to publishing skeptical analyses relating to global warming and global warming policies is well documented, but Crichton’s statement regarding low levels of urbanization is another area where we add conviction to principle. There is plenty of land in the United States, definitely including California. Declaring “open space” to be endangered is ridiculous. This fatally flawed argument – now buttressed if not guaranteed by the trump card argument of supposedly stopping global warming – is the justification to force people into ultra-dense, punishingly regulated and taxed urban bantustans inside the “green line,” or the “urban service boundary.” It is dangerous nonsense. Here’s one more of Crichton’s contrarian zingers:

“The Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing.”

We are constantly trying to get good information on this and it is astonishingly difficult, given how fundamental these two observations are towards assessing global climate change. But there is strong evidence supporting Crichton’s claim that the total ice mass of Antarctica is increasing. There is data indicating increasing or at least stable rates of snowfall in the interior, as well as data that the total surface area of the icecap is increasing. Furthermore, other than in limited areas where there is rising geothermal heat, or the waters around the relatively insignificant Antarctic Peninsula, most of the ocean around Antarctica is getting colder. In all cases this information is hard to find and often conflicting. Read our Climate page for much more.

Yet through all this, Crichton is an environmentalist – a Crichtonian environmentalist – but nonetheless someone with environmentalist sentiments. Consider this:

“It is incumbant on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved.”

Environmentalism, according to Crichton, has gone well beyond this invocation, and has become a movement that cannot admit to past or present mistakes or excesses. He believes environmentalism has fulfilled an innate urge that urban atheists find fulfilling as an alternative to religion. This may be a bit much at least insofar as environmentalists, including Crichton himself, come from an infinite diversity of faiths and personal perspectives. But Crichton is on to something when he questions the reactions he elicits from many environmentalists to, for example, his observations regarding DDT, second hand smoke, global warming, urbanization, the Sahara or the Antarctic. Why is debate closed on these issues when they can be challenged on a factual basis? Why can’t the facts speak for themselves? The intense reactions environmentalists have displayed towards Crichton are unfounded unless something more powerful than reason is involved – belief, ideology, passion, a primal inner need for meaning and mission.

Crichton’s opening remarks included compelling reminders that humanity has always adapted and humanity has relentlessly improved the collective well being, and this is continuing. In his closing remarks he warns how politicized and entrenched environmental organizations have become, stating “what more and more groups are doing is putting out lies, pure and simple, Falsehoods that they know to be false.”

Of course everything Crichton says is not true, just as everything the current environmentalist establishment maintains is not false, or unhelpful, but in his final remarks, here, he also described his state of fear, and mine – and to paraphrase Czech President Vaclav Klaus – what is at stake, our global climate or our freedom? Or according to Crichton,

In the end, science offers us a way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”


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