Gore Milks Cash Cow, Sego May Run Again: What France Is Reading

Review by Jorg von Uthmann

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Climate-change skeptics are taking a beating these days even in France, where people long resisted the green creed.

Paris bookstores brim with guidebooks -- including one shaped like a toilet seat -- that tell readers how to help save our planet. Yet the dissidents refuse to shut up, even now that Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. government has agreed to negotiate a new global-warming treaty by 2009.

The most conspicuous doubter in France is Claude Allegre, a former education minister and a physicist by profession. His new book, ``Ma Verite Sur la Planete'' (``My Truth About the Planet''), doesn't mince words.

He calls Gore a ``crook'' presiding over an eco-business that pumps out cash. As for Gore's French followers, the author likens them to religious zealots who, far from saving humanity, are endangering it. Driven by a Judeo-Christian guilt complex, he says, French greens paint worst-case scenarios and attribute little-understood cycles to human misbehavior.

Allegre doesn't deny that the climate has changed or that extreme weather has become more common. He instead emphasizes the local character of these phenomena.

While the icecap of the North Pole is shrinking, the one covering Antarctica -- or 92 percent of the Earth's ice -- is not, he says. Nor have Scandinavian glaciers receded, he says. To play down these differences by basing forecasts on a global average makes no sense to Allegre.

He dismisses talk of renewable energies, such as wind or solar power, saying it would take a century for them to become a serious factor in meeting the world's energy demands.

Let Us Eat Cake

To his relief, France has taken another path: Almost 80 percent of its electricity comes from nuclear reactors. What's more, France has a talent for eating its cake and having it, too: Although it signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the country is nowhere near meeting the agreed targets.

``Ma Verite Sur la Planete'' is published by Plon/Fayard (240 pages, 18 euros).

Jean de Kervasdoue, a health expert, also stresses the benefits of nuclear power, noting that it emits only a small fraction of the greenhouse gas that comes from burning coal, oil or gas. His pet peeve, though, is genetically modified food.

In ``Les Precheurs de l'Apocalypse'' (``The Doomsday Preachers''), Kervasdoue decries how shrill and sometimes violent campaigners have prevented GM foods from gaining a foothold in Europe. They way they talk, he says, ``it sounds as if Martians are attacking the Earth.''

Insulin and Obesity

In fact, genetically modified organisms have proved highly beneficial to mankind, he argues, pointing to insulin, an artificially created hormone that has saved the lives of countless diabetes sufferers. A much greater danger to health and life expectancy, he says, is obesity -- even though the food that European fatsoes ingest is ``natural.''

Kervasdoue also has politically incorrect things to say about asbestos and Chernobyl. The motto of his book comes from Marcel Proust: ``Facts don't enter a world dominated by our beliefs.''

``Les Precheurs de l'Apocalypse'' is from Plon (254 pages, 19 euros).

Segolene Royal, the Socialist who lost the presidential election to Nicolas Sarkozy, would never utter such heresies. Her new book, ``Ma Plus Belle Histoire, C'est Vous'' (``My Most Beautiful Story Is You''), pays homage to the ``fight against global warming and the protection of our planet.''

Political Hodgepodge

Royal does own up to a few political mistakes, such as not paying enough attention to Socialist heavyweights during her campaign. Yet the main reason for her defeat, she insists, was the lukewarm support from her own party: ``How is it that the attacks came more from the left than from the right?''

She stands by her outlandish proposals, such as creating citizens' juries to oversee parliament and having the military deal with unruly juveniles. The political platform set forth in her book is the same hodgepodge of empty slogans that failed to convince a majority of French voters.

Yet Royal makes it clear that she's determined to run again. ``It's a solemn promise,'' she says. ``It's my way of telling you: With me, politics will never again be made without you.''

``Ma Plus Belle Histoire, C'est Vous'' is from Grasset (335 pages, 19.50 euros).

(Jorg von Uthmann is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this review: Jorg von Uthmann at uthmann@wanadoo.fr .