An intelligent primer on what experts know about global climate change, what they don’t know, and what the future could bring.
Written by scientists and journalists at Climate Central, a nonpartisan advocacy group, the book begins with what everyone, climate-change skeptic included, accepts: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat. While natural phenomena (volcanoes, fires, decay) produce carbon dioxide, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) has added so much extra that levels have reached record highs and continue to rise. The consequences include rising temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidity and shifting, unstable weather and rain patterns. Alarmist scenarios abound, but these scientists admit that it’s not clear what the future holds or how fast changes will occur because the Earth does not respond passively to increasing temperature. All agree, however, that burning fossil fuels is a bad idea. They explain that easy solutions (high-tech advances) are nowhere in sight, tolerable solutions (conservation, renewable energy) are only modestly effective, and powerful solutions (regulation and taxes) are painful. Not a call to action, the book is lucidly written and thoughtful, but skeptics likely won’t read it. Since fighting climate change requires government action, conservatives tend to dismiss it. President Obama, no skeptic, treats the topic as electoral poison and limits himself to uncontroversial actions such as urging international cooperation.
For students and the genuinely curious, this is an ideal introduction to the facts about global warming.