A strong but never strident document of the coming crisis, expressing some optimism on our chances of surviving it.

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FIXING CLIMATE

WHAT PAST CLIMATE CHANGES REVEAL ABOUT THE CURRENT THREAT--AND HOW TO COUNTER IT

A close-up look at how scientists arrived at the evidence for global warming.

Broecker (Environmental Sciences/Columbia Univ.) teams with science writer Kunzig (Mapping the Deep, 2000, etc.) to document decades of climate research, much of it conducted by Broecker himself. Broecker became a pioneer of radiocarbon dating, the discipline that transformed the geological time scale into a useful chronology. Measuring the proportions of two isotopes of carbon, scientists could date events in the remote past, particularly the ice ages during which glaciers covered much of Europe, Asia and North America. Other techniques, such as the study of mile-long cores taken from Greenland glaciers and of annual sediment layers on lake bottoms, gave a precise look at climate fluctuations over hundreds of thousands of years. The focus on carbon as a chronological measuring rod also led to awareness of the relative historic abundance of carbon dioxide, which had been known since the 1850s to retain the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. Between 1958 and 2004, Dave Keeling of the Scripps Oceanic Institute recorded a 20 percent increase in the atmospheric level of the gas linked to the burning of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Broecker formed a theory of the “conveyor belt,” a system of oceanic currents moderating the climate of Western Europe. Kunzig uses the theories of Broecker and others to show how the evidence for global warming accumulated, how it relates to the history of past ice ages and its likely effects over the next century. The book ends with looks at techniques that may mitigate the warming, from reduction of emissions—unlikely, say the authors, with India and China reaching for technological parity with the West—to wholesale scrubbing to get them out of the atmosphere.

A strong but never strident document of the coming crisis, expressing some optimism on our chances of surviving it.

Pub Date: April 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-4501-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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