Stark, no-nonsense manifesto about global warming and its unstoppable effects.
In accessible prose and a tone of wistfulness about the state of our planet, environmental activist McKibben (Fight Global Warming Now, 2007, etc.) demonstrates how global warming has already occurred and is irreversible. He describes a new “Eaarth,” where the cumulative effects of the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have already changed the planet. If the average count of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 275 parts per million during the last 10,000 years, it is now already 390 parts per million, well over the 350 parts per million that McKibben says is the tipping point for permanent planetary transformation. The author provides sobering details about the accelerated melting of glaciers, which will eventually lead to a global water shortage as life-sustaining rivers lose their sources of water. He lucidly explains that increasingly erratic weather patterns result from hotter air that holds more water vapor, triggering higher rates of evaporation and desertification in some regions, and torrential downpours and floods in others. The reason that global warming is difficult to undo, writes the author, is because “we don’t know how to refreeze the Arctic or regrow a rainforest.” He bravely makes the difficult argument that we have already moved to a planet where natural catastrophes will soon be a way of life. At this point, installing wind and solar power as fossil-fuel substitutes is likely to be a futile effort, as the process to change energy sources is exceedingly slow and politically treacherous. Providing inspirational examples from his home state, Vermont, McKibben envisions a future in which humanity transitions from unfettered growth and a dependence on external markets for sustenance and fossil-fuel–driven energy, to smaller, self-contained communities, growing food locally and generating sustainable distributed electricity.
An absolute must-read.