Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change

Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change

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by Andrew T. Guzman

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Deniers of climate change sometimes quip that claims about global warming are more about political science than climate science. They are wrong on the science, but may be right with respect to its political implications. A hotter world, writes Andrew Guzman, will bring unprecedented migrations, famine, war, and disease. It will be a social and political disaster


Deniers of climate change sometimes quip that claims about global warming are more about political science than climate science. They are wrong on the science, but may be right with respect to its political implications. A hotter world, writes Andrew Guzman, will bring unprecedented migrations, famine, war, and disease. It will be a social and political disaster of the first order.

In Overheated, Guzman takes climate change out of the realm of scientific abstraction to explore its real-world consequences. He writes not as a scientist, but as an authority on international law and economics. He takes as his starting point a fairly optimistic outcome in the range predicted by scientists: a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures. Even this modest rise would lead to catastrophic environmental and social problems. Already we can see how it will work: The ten warmest years since 1880 have all occurred since 1998, and one estimate of the annual global death toll caused by climate change is now 300,000. That number might rise to 500,000 by 2030. He shows in vivid detail how climate change is already playing out in the real world. Rising seas will swamp island nations like Maldives; coastal food-producing regions in Bangladesh will be flooded; and millions will be forced to migrate into cities or possibly "climate-refugee camps." Even as seas rise, melting glaciers in the Andes and the Himalayas will deprive millions upon millions of people of fresh water, threatening major cities and further straining food production. Prolonged droughts in the Sahel region of Africa have already helped produce mass violence in Darfur.

Clear, cogent, and compelling, Overheated shifts the discussion on climate change toward its devastating impact on human societies. Two degrees Celsius seems such a minor change. Yet it will change everything.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Juliet Eilperin
Many authors have written about how global warming will damage some of the world's most treasured landscapes and beloved species. This book aims to lay out exactly how bad it will be for human beings…With lines like "The changing climate will create a world of people dying of thirst and hunger," Overheated can be a hard book to read. But its strength lies in its clear-eyed assessment of the costs involved in various policy responses to the issue.
Publishers Weekly
In his latest, UC Berkeley law professor Guzman (How International Law Works) illustrates the exact ways that climate change will harm humanity. To persuade naysayers, one section is addressed to skeptics and picks apart articles that diminish the imperative nature of the crisis, while citing environmental science to show just how the planet will continue to change if action isn't taken. The book is at its best in these moments, dealing directly with the effects higher temperatures have on specific communities. Californian farming, reliant on accumulated snow for watering plants, will suffer if weather systems continue to change; an indigenous Bolivian community (the Uru Chipaya) that thrives on glacial runoff will be forced to alter its livelihood as glaciers melt at an expedited rate; and the disaster in Darfur is linked to a drought that threw Sudanese coexistence into devastation. Guzman advocates global cooperation to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and prevent "the most severe effects of a warming world." Although the book falters with some less grounded examples regarding disease, Guzman's argument is thoroughly researched and will discourage doubters. Agent: Susan Schulman, Susan Schulman: A Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Guzman (law, Univ. of California, Berkeley; How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory) offers a clearly written explanation of the devastating effects of global climate change on human society. Even the optimistic prediction of a two-degree rise in temperature, he explains, will have profound negative effects on humans and the environment. Rising sea levels will cause the disappearance of some Pacific island nations, as well as losses of land along low-lying coastal nations such as Bangladesh. Salt-water seepage into fresh-water supplies will also affect agricultural production. Millions of hungry, thirsty, displaced refugees will destabilize already weak governments and menace others in what the author describes as climate wars. Guzman also scrutinizes the spread of infectious diseases and global pandemics likely to arise and be compounded by the warming climate. The final chapter explores solutions, which include resort to alternative energy sources and carbon taxes.
VERDICT This fact-filled, thought-provoking book will appeal to general readers and offers insight on a complex topic.—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Dire and detailed description of what tragedies are in the making for humanity as global warming continues its seemingly inexorable rise. Guzman (Law/Univ. of California; How International Law Works, 2010, etc.) writes that climate change is "perhaps the greatest international challenge of this century and beyond," yet "people have not come to accept how serious it is." By focusing on the human cost of global warming, his hope is that people will act. What will happen, Guzman asks, if the Earth's temperature rises--and this is a conservative estimate--a mere 2 degrees centigrade? Plenty, as it turns out, and none of it good. A series of well-researched and clearly written chapters outlines the consequences. Rising seas will cause some nations, such as the Maldives, to simply sink. In other poor, low-lying nations, flooding and increasingly violent storms and the subsequent social disruption may create untold millions of "climate refugees"--20 million in Bangladesh alone. As glaciers melt, ancient water-management systems will be disrupted as new patterns of flood and drought emerge. Fresh water will become scarcer, and perhaps more than 1 billion people will have access to far less water than they do now. As climate refugees huddle together in inevitably crowded camps, new diseases will emerge with fewer resources to treat and prevent them. The social and political costs will be enormous; governments will be overwhelmed by the failure of basic systems, from food production to sanitation. Those areas of the world--say, the Middle East or Pakistan and India--already dangerously enmeshed in enmity may explode into violence as the battle for resources, especially water, intensifies. Though exact scenarios are difficult to predict, such dangers, notes Guzman, are real. But global warming is not unmanageable if we can simply muster the political will to enact and enforce regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions. A disturbing yet realistic examinations of the consequences of a warmer world.
From the Publisher
"[I]ts strength lies in its clear-eyed assessment of the costs involved in various policy responses to the issue." - Washington Post

"A respected legal scholar, educator, and economist, Guzman is far from an environmental alarmist. His precise analyses and stirring conclusions are presented in unambiguous terms, and with compassion and concern for those most likely to be affected by a continued lack of action on the most critical issue of modern times." —-Booklist

"A disturbing yet realistic examination of the consequences of a warmer world." —Kirkus Reviews

"Overheated provides a lucid vision of the catastrophic consequences we will face if we fail to transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy. What gives the book power is the perspective it provides, of a legal scholar who initially viewed climate change as an interesting topic for academic research, to a passionate advocate for tackling the greatest threat human civilization has yet faced. If you care about the future of our planet, read this book."—Michael E. Mann, Director of Penn State Earth System Science Center and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

"Andrew Guzman offers a concise and useful overview of the kind of problems a heating world will encounter-indeed, already is encountering. There's nothing alarmist here-just straightforwardly realistic, and hence all the scarier."—Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"In Overheated, Andrew T. Guzman, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, compellingly lays out the specific shocks that these trends are likely to administer to human populations, their governments, and the bottom lines of their productive economies. " —Bookforum

Product Details

Oxford University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Andrew T. Guzman is Professor of Law and Associate Dean for International and Executive Education at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include How International Law Works and International Trade Law, among others.

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Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overheated paints a picture of real threats to our lives and the consequences for real families in the US and around world. Guzman brings the climate change debate and its consequences home. Overheated is aimed at the reader who wants to understand the consequence that humans face in the era of global warming. Humans will be displaced, food and water shortages will trigger conflicts or wars, famine, and humanitarian crisis. All these results are neither remote nor consequences only for countries far away from our sheltered homes. As an example, we can expect massive hurricanes and drought occurring in the U.S. Despite the book’s grim outlook on climate change, it encourages us to act and to demand political action from politicians and regulators. After presenting a series of chilling realities, Guzman explains in clear and simple terms what has to be done. Although, a warmer world is now inevitable, we still have the opportunity to act and make things better. Overheated is a truly inspiring and empowering book that provides a positive agenda in the face of climate change. Andrew Guzman has changed my perspective on climate change.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AKRogue More than 1 year ago
This books contains nothing but fraudulent data designed to sell books to the easily propagandized masses.