Thursday, October 30, 2008

Climate Wars, by Gwynne Dyer

Another book with a title that is a bit of a misnomer. Gwynne Dyer is a world renowned war historian and geo-political analyst. I’m a big fan of his books. He can write about controversial contemporary wars from a perspective that is refreshingly free of a left or right wing political bias. He has a good, muscular common sense that informs his work and enjoys a jolly sense of humour too. This always helps to make his writings a breath of fresh air in an area of endeavour that frequently takes itself very seriously.

I wasn’t as crazy though about Climate Wars as I have been about his other books. This one is really more of a look at the science of global warming, with which the author broadly agrees.

Dyer approaches this material as he would his political subjects. This is all good, as we are told the important and must-know information in a clear, lucid and intelligent way.

The bit I didn’t like about the book is how Dyer has tried to weave this into a war theme. What will the wars of the future look like? Will they be over food, or water, or oil? Of course this is all hypothesis. Dyer gives us many future ‘scenarios’ that are like something out of an American blockbuster movie.

I think if the author had shrunk back from this dire and pessimistic approach, the book would have been better. He could have pointed to future possible tensions over vital resources, and used his excellent knowledge and analytical skills to fully explore the ramifications of the subject, rather than fully fleshing out nightmare visions for the future.

I hate to write in this vein about a Gwynne Dyer book, because I really think he’s a brilliant author. If he’d scrubbed the future scenarios bits of the book and just concentrated on the science of climate change, and where it could be leading the world politically, then it would have been a more enjoyable book.

The reality is many an author has covered this subject. You get the impression that global warming has long been a ‘hobby subject’ for Gwynne Dyer, and he’s tried to weave it into his work as a war historian. The book has an unnaturally ‘welded together’ feel.

Make sure you read some of his other books first, for I think he's a very important writer, and save this one for last.

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