The careful, conservative language of science provided the springboard for a powerful, multi-decade, anti-science public relations campaign promoting catastrophic humanly enhanced combustion
The title for this post is based on a discussion in Chapter 20 of Fire Weather (2023) by John Vaillant regarding how the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying organization founded by the fossil fuel industry, disavowed and undermined decades of previous scientific research about the relationship between the coal, oil, and gas industry and the reality of global warming.
The crucial point here is that scientists are trained to speak in a careful, conservative language. In this case, scientists for decades have spoken with great care, being conservative in their choice of words, that the evidence appeared pretty solid regarding the science of climate change. The opposing lobbying effort was based, however, on the counter argument that if there is the least bit of doubt about the evidence, then that level of doubt is quite enough to strongly and adamantly question what scientists worldwide have concluded.
And strongly questioned it has been; for many decades, carbon emissions into the atmosphere relentlessly continued with results now increasingly evident as Fire Weather documents in a manner that underlines the global spectacle now unfolding.
The author’s voice matters hugely
This post is concerned with an author’s voice. A writer seeking to reach a general audience for nonfiction is likely to include references to their own self as their narrative unfolds. Such a reference to self appears to be central to the voice adopted in many cases by the author of a book-length nonfiction text; such a voice is an inherent feature in many cases of an author’s persona.
John Vaillant, author of Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast (2023), exemplifies a form of authorial voicing that works really well, in my estimation as a reader. As a writer, Vaillant is at times speaking in a personal, self-referential voice. It must be added that the way of speaking which the author uses is employed in moderation. Such an approach to voicing works well. Knowing what the author is feeling and thinking, and what they are reminded of as the narrative unfolds, is helpful for the general reader. It’s a way to get the reader engaged. The task as I see it is to be engaging without the creation of a situation where the author’s personal take on things becomes obtrusive.
Powerful disinformation regarding climate change
Effective public relations efforts by the fossil fuels industry have over many decades provided powerful disinformation to the public regarding climate change. In Fire Weather we encounter a compelling and engaging, evidence-based, carefully-cited outline of how the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) aggressively disavowed and undermined previously widely promoted, solid and cumulative scientific research extending back many decades regarding the central and determinant role of fossil fuels in the genesis of global warming. That is what the title of the current post refers to. [1, 2, 3]
Vaillant succinctly lays out the facts regarding such a fossil fuels disinformation campaign. The outline proceeds in a manner which enables a general reader such as myself to follow the narrative with ease.
Once rare, fire tornadoes are now a regular occurrence worldwide
I have currently been reading (pp. 296-97) about the phenomenon of “pyrotornadogenesis,” which refers to tornadoes generated by wildfire. Such fire tornadoes are “mimicking tornadoes, previously Earth’s most rapid and powerful climate-change agents” (p. 297).
The author notes that such phenomena some years ago were sufficiently rare as to be remarkable for their novelty. Now, they are frequently observed in forest fires worldwide. Such phenomena are truly unprecedented, as Vaillant observes on frequent occasions. The CBC and the Tyee have helped to publicize this book. I’ve borrowed a copy from the Stratford Public Library and have been reading it with interest.