Word Wednesday: ‘Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change’

Books Columns Reviews Word Wednesday

This Week’s Word Is “Climate.”

“Who is right on Climate Change? The world’s scientific experts? Or your cranky Uncle?”

So goes the back cover quote of Cranky Uncle Vs Climate Change. 

Why is Climate Change so difficult for some people to believe? Is the planet doing fine, as you cranky uncle insists? This book aims to explain the science behind Climate Change and better still aims to help readers, young and old, explain it to skeptics. Not only that, it discusses “science denial” in general, which in our COVID ravaged world feels more important than ever. 

When stuff like this happens (whilst I was writing this review) you can’t help but feel EVERYONE could do with taking a look at Cranky Uncle Vs Climate Change. 

What is Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change

It’s a book written by Dr. John Cook, founder of SkepticalScience.com a website devoted to debunking climate change skepticism. Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change is subtitled “How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science deniers.” It’s a book we’ve all felt we need at some point in our lives. 

The book itself is a chunky square softback, comprising 170 pages. It’s filled with engaging cartoon style explanations of the observable effects of Climate Change, the many arguments people use to call Climate Change a myth, and offers explanations and advice to help debunk those arguments.

The book contains 6 sections:

  1. How did climate change get so controversial?
  2. Denying Reality.
  3. Denying Responsibility.
  4. Denying Consequences.
  5. Denying Science.
  6. Responding to science denial.  

The book also describes the fallacies of science denial, coining the term “FLICC.”

Fake Experts.

Logical Fallacies.

Impossible Expectations.

Cherry Picking.

Conspiracy Theories. 

Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change takes one climate change fact at a time and looks at the myths used to counter it. On each double-page spread, it explains the science and debunks the myth. It’s a simple but effective formula. For example, CU v CC examines the myth that a cold-weather spell means that Climate Change isn’t happening, explains why humanity’s contribution to carbon dioxide emissions is significant, despite it being a fraction of the what is generated naturally, and explains that whilst warm weather might be nice, it’s very bad overall for the planet.  

Essentially, everything you ever wanted to know about the science of climate change is in this book, presented in clear easily understandable words and pictures. This is backed up with ways in which skeptics try to knock the science down, and shows how powerfully “sticky” facts can be used to overwhelm dodgy myths and misconceptions. 

The book aims to inoculate us against science denial by trying to increase our critical thinking skills. This will make it easier to resist weaker forms of misinformation, making it, in turn, harder for additional misinformation to take root. Every piece discredited is one less piece in a climate denier’s jigsaw.   

At the end of the book, there is an excellent Fact-Myth-Fallacy summary, organized around four main categories. “Global Warming is already happening,” “We’re causing Global Warming,” “Climate impacts are serious,” and “The scientific consensus is overwhelming and robust.” This summary lists key facts that come under each category heading, explains how deniers try to deny these facts, and shows where the denier’s fallacies lie. 

Why Read Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change?

There has perhaps never been a better time to read this book. Not only does it help with explaining climate science, but it also has a host of ideas and suggestions for boosting critical thinking in more general terms. I, personally, seem to be experiencing an awful lot of mask denial and anti-5G rhetoric at the moment. It’s exhausting, but reading Cranky Uncle has not only taught me the importance of not rolling over and letting conspiracy win out, but it has also armed me with tools to combat the nonsense. 

The book is filled with valuable information about how best to spot and debunk logical fallacies. It sets out how and why the conspiracies may have come about, and how you can best deal with a denier depending on why you think they may find a conspiracy theory credible. 

It does all of this with some great simple to understand illustrations and informative text. I consider myself an intelligent person, but sometimes it can be difficult to unpick climate (or COVID) deniers logic. At the baseline, there’s some credible and sophisticated deception going on. The material often comes with such righteous fervor it can be hard to find where best to start unpicking it. This book gives you those tools. Just knowing the book exists, that it offers the weight of scientific thought to support you, is comforting. 

Going forward into the 21st Century, one can’t help but think the most important thing for our children to learn is to think critically. Time and time again the news shows us that critical thinking is currently in woefully short supply. To make better-informed decisions, the ability to interpret information and recognize misinformation is going to be vital if we wish to maintain a stable and happy society. Books like Cranky Uncle Vs Climate Change can be the mainstay of educating the next generation of critical thinkers. 

If that wasn’t enough, there are two excellent web resources behind the book too; skepticalscience.com and crankyuncle.com, which have great articles on Climate Change, critical thinking, and science denial. Come the fall there will be a Cranky Uncle app too

You can pick up a copy of Climate Change vs Cranky Uncle, here in the US (affiliate link) and here, in the UK

If you enjoyed this book, do check out my other Word Wednesday reviews. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review. 

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