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Earth: The Operators' Manual

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The book—companion to a PBS series—that proves humans are causing global warming and offers a path to the future.
Since the discovery of fire, humans have been energy users and always will be. And this is a good thing-our mastery of energy is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and has allowed us to be the dominant species on the planet. However, this mastery comes with a price: we are changing our environment in a profoundly ...

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Earth: The Operators' Manual

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The book—companion to a PBS series—that proves humans are causing global warming and offers a path to the future.
Since the discovery of fire, humans have been energy users and always will be. And this is a good thing-our mastery of energy is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and has allowed us to be the dominant species on the planet. However, this mastery comes with a price: we are changing our environment in a profoundly negative way by heating it up.
Using one engaging story after another, coupled with accessible scientific facts, world authority Richard B. Alley explores the fascinating history of energy use by humans over the centuries, gives a doubt-destroying proof that already-high levels of carbon dioxide are causing damaging global warming, and surveys the alternative energy options that are available to exploit right now. These new energy sources might well be the engines for economic growth in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this companion book to the PBS television series of the same name, Alley, a Penn State professor of geology who served as a member of the U.N. climate change committee, presents a primer on combatting global warming. The book begins with a history of how fuel—from trees, whale oil, and petroleum—has been instrumental to civilization and how we tend to exhaust our sources. He goes on to explain how scientists study climate change and why the evidence is convincing, and ends with a call to action and an overview of possible solutions. Laden with professorial jokes, unexpected similes (studying climate change is like watching kindergarten soccer; stabilizing the atmosphere is comparable to sewage treatment), photos of the author's daughters, and exhaustive responses that should demolish any and all misinformation about global warming circulating around the U.S., this optimistic book ought to convince even the most obstinate climate-change denier. (Apr.)
“Starred Review. Alley thoroughly explains the dynamics of global warming and its negative consequences, and parses the economic benefits of renewable energy. He also forthrightly addresses ‘Climategate,’ the politicization of science, and common misperceptions that stoke skepticism about what he convincingly demonstrates is the ‘solid science’ of global warming. Alley concludes with suggestions for a ‘measured transition’ to a combination of wind, solar, sea, and geothermal power. Alley’s lively and positive Earth ‘operating manual’ is the substantial companion book for a new PBS series that will air in April to mark Earth Day.”
Kirkus Reviews

Alley (Geology/Penn State Univ.) brings the history of energy to light in this companion volume to a forthcoming PBS two-part special.

The author has a noble agenda—the deployment of good science as it pertains to human-caused and natural climate change—and it's bracing when he freely admits that his expertise ("a geologist-turned-glaciologist-and-climatologist") has been the happy beneficiary of oil-company largesse. True to its origins as a TV investigatory series, Alley presents the big picture, but with lots of detail. His voice is avuncular and learned; the pace is leisurely, but each chapter's short segments are punchy with well-researched information. He follows the scientists at work—"after admiring a new idea for a few seconds, a scientist's job is to test it, to see if it is consistent with the basic laws of science and if it makes successful predictions not yet conducted"—and in that service he explores climate modeling; tracks historical climate change through sedimentary evidence, drifting continents and planetary orbit; and examines sun-spot cycles and temperature fluctuations. A firm believer in the greenhouse effect, he encourages us not to delay in activating energy alternatives, whether they are economic incentives to cut carbon-dioxide emissions or the panoply of offerings that include, sun, wind, plant, wave, geothermal, tide and hydroelectric. Today's technology makes these feasible, though their application will take time, so invest in them now, as a few generations down the road they will be crucial.

An engaging, energetic study of humans and how we use energy—and should use it in the future. Stay tuned for the PBS special.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393081091
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/18/2011
  • Pages: 479
  • Sales rank: 485,563
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard B. Alley is a professor of geology at Penn State
University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the UN climate change committee that was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Certainly another good book on climate change although the autho

    Certainly another good book on climate change although the author offers some comparisons to past events to explain why there is resistance to action that I do not agree with.
    Unlike his analogies, in which everyone knew they had a huge problem to solve, we have and large number of skeptics who do not admit to the science of human caused climate change.
    Until the big players like the United States come on board, the task of getting off of fossil fuels will be impossible to fix.
    Dr. Alley says that if we believe the problem cannot be fixed, then we are betting against a lot of smart people. I am afraid his ego has come into play here. I do bet on a lot of smart people such as Guy McPherson, who says we are doomed, because it is just to late in the game to repair the damage done and the damage coming. The facts are on his side.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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