This time, thanks to well-known author Michael Crichton, the Harvard- and Salk Institute-trained M.D. who, instead of practicing medicine and gobbling up grant money to study stuff in petri dishes, chose to write science-heavy bestsellers (mostly) and make films.

This past Wednesday, at the Asia Society and Museum in New York, Crichton, along with MIT professor Richard Lindzen and British biogeographer Philip Stott, debated three other highly-credentialed scientists on this statement: Global Warming is Not a Crisis.

Crichton’s money quote early in the debate:

Does it really matter if we have a crisis at all? I mean, haven‘t we actually raised temperatures so much that we, as stewards of the planet, have to act? These are the questions that friends of mine ask as they are getting on board their private jets to fly to their second and third homes.

And I think, well, you know, maybe they have the right idea. Maybe all that we have to do is mouth a few platitudes, show a good, you know, expression of concern on our faces, buy a Prius, drive it around for a while and give it to the maid, attend a few fundraisers and you‘re done. Because, actually, all anybody really wants to do is talk about it.

Everyday 30,000 people on this planet die of the diseases of poverty. There are, a third of the planet doesn‘t have electricity. We have a billion people with no clean water, we have half a billion people going to bed hungry every night. Do we care about this? It seems that we don‘t. It seems that we would rather look a hundred years into the future than pay attention to what‘s going on now. I think that’s unacceptable. I think that‘s really a disgrace.

Prior to the debate, its organizers polled roughly 57% to nearly 30% that Global Warming is indeed a crisis. Afterward, they weren’t so sure, polling nearly 46% to 42% against it. The debate’s showcard is here. Complete transcript is here and requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

I’ve liked Crichton’s work since I was 10 years old. That’s when my mom and I went to see The Andromeda Strain as the second half of a double-bill at the old Uptown Theater in the Highlands. The first half was an interminable snoozer (for a 10-year-old, at least) called Anne of the Thousand Days. I’d probably appreciate it more now that I have more than 30 years and two degrees in English behind me.

Still, I loved Strain as a film because of all the computerized gee-gaws and the knuckle-gnawing climax (the woman’s voice calmly annoucing “There are now two minutes to self destruct,” while sirens blared and bounced all over the metal walls as the guy with the key to stopping the big blow-up staggers around a catwalk, doped with a low-level tranquilizer that was shot into him from a laser) – an underground complex that wasn’t the headquarters of some meglomaniac wanting to wreak world havoc like in the James Bond films, but was probably the coolest science lab ever. And it was TOP SECRET.

A couple years later, my sister bought the novel for me, and I appreciated it more as a biology lesson sandwiched between a scientific crisis and the cool underground HQ, TOP SECRET, wrong-person-reads-this-file-and-disappears clandestant stuff, still clueless as to the chilling scenarios it outlined.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read nearly all of Crichton’s later stuff, including the Big MahMoo of scientific crisis novels. Saw the movie, though.

I never really found Crichton’s work to be at all alarmist. At their core, his novels (the scientific ones, that is) posit a scienfitic problem and show the consequences. Yes, the consequences involve lots of mayhem. But that’s Crichton’s fiction. It’s a necessary dramatic element. Otherwise, his one book would have been thee hundred pages of, “Oooo, look at the dinosaurs. Wow! Dinosaurs. Hey, that’s one big-ass dinosaur.”

My beloved has a Live Journal entry with a link to another piece by Crichton that took a forked stick to the shrill Global Warming/Climate Change noise. For him, other peoples’ survival now takes precedent over the planet’s alleged doom that others are shrieking about. A doom that is based on somebody’s pet science project.

(h/t: PJs)