Why This Global Warming Book is Different: A Review of Dire Predictions

More books on global warming have been published in the last couple of years than anyone in their right mind (or even, anyone in the field) would want to read. Many of them are very good: Australian biologist Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers tells the story from an evolutionist's point of view with great passion — and impeccable science.

But global warming — which many scientists prefer to call climate change, knowing that the warming will not be uniform around the planet, and its effects will not be predictable — is arguably a story best presented not in words but with data. Keeping that in mind, this year two eminent scientists from Pennsylvania State University, Michael Mann and Lee Kump, published a different kind of global warming book.

Working with the "information architects" at the innovative DK Publishing, they brought out Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming (large file).

This could be described as a book written by two particularly thoughtful experts for National Geographic. Not only does the slim volume of 207 pages rely mostly on brilliantly executed visuals to get its ideas across, but the prose is simple and honest.

Let me give you an example that deals with a point often raised by those who question global warming. Skeptics often point out that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere do not always precede rising temperatures and ask: How can there be a cause and effect relationship between CO2 levels and global temperatures? Mann and Kump reply:

Data from ice cores demonstrated that fluctuations in CO2 and temperature have gone hand in hand for at least the last 400,000 years. Feedback loops in the carbon cycle make the question of whether CO2 is driving climate changes or vice versa virtually impossible to answer [but] computer models only simulate the observed cooling when input with low atmospheric CO2 levels.

This kind of honesty makes the book trustworthy. The authors don't try to skew the data, but dig into the details. At the same time, they take a sane, no-nonsense approach particularly well-suited to educators, insisting we need to change, and not just to reduce energy consumption, but also to save life-giving resources, such as water. They call for "no-regrets" changes in dealing with water management, such as replenishing ground-water supplies, increasing storage capacity, and expanding rainwater storage — music to the ears of my pals at TreePeople.

Here's an example of a page from the book. Highly recommended.


Add yours ↓
  1. Lilian Nattel

    Is there really any argument against climate change still? I think now the issue is about what we’re going to do and when. The difficulty is that we need to do a lot right now and there isn’t the will. I was listening to Thomas Homer-Dixon on TVO (Big Ideas) and we can’t wait.

    December 24, 2008
  2. Kit Stolz

    I’ve raised this point myself, when it comes to scientists working on studies specifically to convince the likes of sceptics such as Fred Singer that global warming is a reality. Seems like a waste of time, doesn’t it?

    But in the classroom, I think it’s important that teachers field these questions, and I think this book will help teachers and students alike face the issue squarely (and visually), without requiring the reading of massive tomes.

    It’s also a fact that if we start to see signs of abrupt climate change (which some scientists are already reporting) we may have to start thinking about geoengineering. This is not a road most scientists want to go down, but one has to have an understanding of the fundamentals to understand why that is…and why despite the huge costs and substantial risks it might be necessary.
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    December 28, 2008