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Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet

by Heidi Cullen

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-172688-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Fact-filled and entertaining yet disturbing depiction of our world as temperatures rise.

In recent years, such gloomy predictions have become a genre. Gwynne Dyer’s fine Climate Wars (2010) gave research priority over futurology. Veteran climatologist and TV guest expert Cullen reverses this order, emphasizing that global warming is not controversial. In the 19th century, scientists predicted it, and 20th-century researchers measured rising atmospheric, man-made carbon dioxide. In the 21st century, the Earth is already perceptibly warmer, writes the author. Humans react superbly to catastrophes, but only if they’re imminent. To encourage a sense of urgency, Cullen delivers vivid depictions of the world during the next four decades, recognizable but heating up. The author does not limit herself to famine, war and mass migration, but includes efforts to ameliorate the crises and—possibly too late—lower carbon emissions. In 2050, she envisions an immense array of solar cells across North Africa that will provide clean electricity to Europe and money to African nations whose marginal agriculture regions grow hotter and drier. Becoming a second Holland, Manhattan will build massive sea walls and reconstruct its infrastructure to fend off the rising ocean. Farmers will employ conservative techniques and new crops to deal with dwindling water and increasingly unpredictable weather. However, Cullen predicts that success will be spotty. Russia, Greenland and Canada will prosper as arctic ice disappears and land opens for exploitation, but this will only partly compensate for vanishing mountain snowpacks and the dwindling rivers that flow down to support agriculture in China, South Asia, South America and California.

A lively and troubling but not entirely doomsday scenario of our warmer future, which will hopefully persuade readers to pay greater attention. See Peter Ward’s upcoming The Flooded Earth for more information about rising sea levels.