Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled the Climate Crisis—and What We Can Do to Avert Disaster. By Ross Gelbspan. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
The author of this book, journalist Ross Gelbspan, sounds the alarm on what he contends is the most critical challenge facing the world today, global warming. He contends that those who are denying the reality of global warming, and thereby delaying any response to it, are precipitating a “crime against humanity.” He lays this “crime” firmly at the feet of the fossil fuel industry, which he contends co-opted the administration of George W. Bush—admittedly that might not have required much effort since oil entrepreneurs were everywhere in the administration—but he also gives an assist to the media and environmental activists whom Gelbspan believes are at best not reporting accurately on the crisis.
The situation is dire, as Gelbspan makes clear; climate is changing at an accelerating rate, polar ice caps that have been in place for millennia are melting, and evidence of more catastrophic weather events ranging from severe hurricane and tsunamis to droughts to ocean and atmospheric patterns changing in ways that wreak havoc on whole populations are everywhere about us. All the while scientists document the manner in which the average temperature of the planet is rising. At the same time, in something out of Roman history with Nero fiddling as Rome burned, the forces of the status quo—especially corporations in the coal and gas industry—fund think tank studies and public relations campaigns to sow seeds of doubt in the public mind about the nature of the crisis in an effort to ensure that nothing happens to change the current regulatory/economics regime. Politicians beholden to corporate campaign contributions, furthermore, use their positions to forestall actions that might seek to curb this crisis. Perhaps they honestly believe there is no crisis, Gelbspan admits, but if so they have failed to come to grips with the reality that science has been analyzing and making clear for more than two decades.
After documenting the nature of what is happening in a breezy, journalistic manner, Boiling Point offers a passionate call for action. Gelbspan insists that life on this planet is on the verge of major changes because of this drastic climate change. He does not mince words and does not try to offer anything that might be considered scholarly detachment, or even journalistic balance. He is arguing a case. He makes no apology for doing so; the other side in his mind does not give equal time to those arguing that global warming is at a critical stage and he sees no reason to do so as well.
This is a powerful, evocative, and frightening book about this current issue, perhaps the most important one, in modern society. It is a bit out of date now, written as it was in 2004, but since then the situation has only gotten worse. Regardless, Boiling Point is still an important work and well worth reading and pondering.