The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps

The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps

by Peter Ward
     
 

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Sea level rise will happen no matter what we do. Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the seas would rise one meter by 2050 and three meters by 2100. This—not drought, species extinction, or excessive heat waves—will be the most catastrophic effect of global warming. And it won’t simply redraw our coastlines—agriculture,

Overview

Sea level rise will happen no matter what we do. Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the seas would rise one meter by 2050 and three meters by 2100. This—not drought, species extinction, or excessive heat waves—will be the most catastrophic effect of global warming. And it won’t simply redraw our coastlines—agriculture, electrical and fiber optic systems, and shipping will be changed forever. As icebound regions melt, new sources of oil, gas, minerals, and arable land will be revealed, as will fierce geopolitical battles over who owns the rights to them.

In The Flooded Earth, species extinction expert Peter Ward describes in intricate detail what our world will look like in 2050, 2100, 2300, and beyond—a blueprint for a foreseeable future. Ward also explains what politicians and policymakers around the world should be doing now to head off the worst consequences of an inevitable transformation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing from research on polar melting and current climate studies, paleontologist and NASA astrobiologist Ward (Under a Green Sky) depicts grim scenarios of the future as the ice caps melt away. Ward imagines Canadian indigenous people waging guerrilla warfare in 2030 on a government poisoning their bodies and ancestral lands with tars sands mining; Miami in 2120 as a lawless island abandoned by a federal government overwhelmed with building dikes to protect less doomed cities; topsoil from a dried-out Midwest being shipped in 2515 to an Antarctic Freehold State, one of the few locations where crops could still be grown; Bangladeshi refugees, fleeing their flooded nation after a 24-foot sea rise in 3004, being gunned down by Indian Border Security Forces. Ward assures us that it doesn’t have to be this way and attempts a feeble optimism. He recommends a combination of lifestyle changes and technical solutions, although he warns that the latter are fraught with unknown perils. This is indisputably important information, but Ward’s conclusion that hope is “perhaps itself a goal,” makes for a depressing read. (July)
Library Journal
Ward (biology, Univ. of Washington; Rare Earth, Out of Thin Air) paints a nightmarish portrait of what is likely to happen when sea levels rise owing to melting ice caps. As Greenland and Antarctica become free of ice, this portends dire predictions for cities situated near water. More frightening are the societal implications that accompany the level of devastation that such a dramatic rise in sea level would engender. Countries would have to decide which cities they could afford to support and try to save; Ward speculates that the U.S. government would have to abandon some "island" cities, such as Miami and New Orleans, in favor of metropolises like New York. This, of course, is based upon the economic projections that would precede this level of catastrophe. Written in a readable prose style that is understandable to lay readers, these scenarios are chilling, yet ring with the possibility of actually coming true. Ward also outlines steps we should be taking now to mitigate the worst of the disasters that could likely result.Verdict Highly recommended for anyone interested in the potentially calamitous ramifications of global warming.—Gloria Maxwell, Metropolitan Community Coll.-Penn Valley, Kansas City, MO
Kirkus Reviews
More doom and gloom about rising sea levels. NASA astrobiologist Ward (Biology and Earth and Space Science/Univ. of Washington; Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future, 2007, etc.) describes the disastrous changes that can be expected as sea levels continue their accelerating rise due to global warming. Drawing on recent studies, the author writes that there will be massive flooding-far more than currently predicted-of world coastlines, home to more than 200 million people. In one of many scenarios, Ward predicts conditions in Miami in 2120, where a ten-foot rise in sea level has left behind a bankrupt island city without municipal freshwater, freeway and railroad ties or much of a middle class (most having fled to higher ground), its dying economy based mainly on illegal drugs. "All of the coastal cities can die by drowning," he writes, noting that flooding will destroy the infrastructure needed for survival. "If we do not act, none will be spared, even those that climb up hills onto steeper slopes, such as San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, and Vancouver." Ward examines each aspect of the havoc-making process: increasing greenhouse-gas emissions, rising temperatures, melting of the large ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica and a foreseeable sea-level rise of more than 200 feet over centuries. The biggest culprit behind rising seas, he writes, is overpopulation. Most vulnerable to drowning and economic calamity are coastal places at low sea levels in Holland, Bangladesh and more than 30 other countries, and the most likely to emerge as greater world powers are cold places like Russia and Canada. Ward writes that coastal cities have three choices: do little or nothing (and be inundated), build flood-control facilities and dikes or relocate populations to entirely new cities. More broadly, to avoid disastrous global warming, humans must not only reduce greenhouse gases; they must change behaviors (stop using coal, eliminate the suburbs and private vehicles) and engineer new climate-protecting techniques (artificial cloud cover, space reflectors, etc.). A blunt, vivid warning. Author tour to Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Los Angeles

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465009497
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
06/29/2010
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter D. Ward is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including the highly acclaimed Rare Earth with Donald Brownlee. He has appeared in the PBS documentary Shape of Life and as chief scientist in Animal Armageddon, a multipart series on species extinction on Animal Planet. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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