Book Review: 'The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, And Driving Us Crazy' by Michael Mann and Tom Toles
Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here.
Review by Stephen Andrews
The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, And Driving Us Crazy
The cover of the book says it all. The Madhouse Effect lives up to its name as the primary author, paleo-climatologist Michael Mann, has about been driven to the brink more than once by the insatiable drive of fossil fuel interests and their political shills in pushing climate change denial.
This time, Mann teamed up with award-winning cartoonist Tom Toles. The Pulitzer Prize-winning artist added illustrations exhibiting the tedious and often unintentionally hilarious contortions forced on climate change deniers, as the empirical evidence for anthropogenic global warming has grown to the point that publicly rejecting it resembles a comedy sketch.
This book is an easy recommend. Read on to see why.
The book starts with what science is and is not, and moves on to why the ordinary citizen should give a damn about the science of climate change. It’s hard for me to judge how well presented those topics are because I’ve read the same background material over the years many times in other books and online. But the chapter titled The Stages of Denial was a pick up for anyone too well-versed in the basic issues, and the book became more and more fun to read from that point on.
By the time I got to Hypocrisy — Thy Name is Climate Change Denial, I was well engaged. Further along, in the chapter called Geoengineering, or “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?,” I was laughing out loud from time to time.
In that portion, the authors discuss with complete objectivity some of the more extreme solutions put forth by assorted scientists and cranks alike—like a giant darkened layer of translucent or reflective material between the Earth and sun, or many smaller ones. Trillions, to be inexact.
The book refers to this solution as Mirrors in Spaaaace …! Or how about we shoot gigatons of reflective garbage into our atmosphere hoping to take the edge off of the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface thereby reduce global warming? Then again, why shoot stuff up when we can just dump stuff down into the ocean and stimulate plant growth—plants that will oh-so conveniently allow the most profitable, most polluting companies on the planet to increase their pollutant output for the foreseeable future with no ill effects?
It’s not giving too much away to say the book concludes the easiest, least costly path to addressing climate change is by simply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Because there’s a lot that can go wrong if we don’t, or if we try any of these sci-fi solutions. I’ll leave the fallout details of each respective catastrophic solution to discover and enjoy on your own.
In short, the book is written for the layperson and it’s easy to read compared to some books on the same subject. The smallish paperback comes in at less than 150 pages of printed text, not counting references and other source material. Many of those 150 pages feature cartoons underscoring the points written below or to the side. It is well-structured, clearly the result of Mann’s career in academia and subsequent years in the spotlight explaining his field to the general public.
The book doesn’t preach or take itself too seriously, making the conflict between science and politics easier to digest—even though the subject matter is of the gravest importance to the future prosperity of our civilization. And it’s kind of funny, delightfully so in places, especially toward the end.
All of which made The Madhouse Effect a breeze for me to read, and an easy recommend for the amateur scientist or weekend environmental warrior in your life.