Expanding her three-part New Yorker series, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert examines the immediate and far-reaching consequences of global warming, drawing on history and cutting-edge science and discussing the contentious political debate surrounding the issue. Anyone familiar with Kolbert's work knows how thoughtful and engagingly accessible her writing is. In this blend of hard science, impeccable research, and superb storytelling, she advances her arguments in powerful, persuasive prose -- leading us to the inescapable conclusion that we will pay dearly, even fatally, if we do not take drastic measures now to save our planet from this imminent, pervasive threat.
On the burgeoning shelf of cautionary but occasionally alarmist books warning about the consequences of dramatic climate change, Kolbert's calmly persuasive reporting stands out for its sobering clarity. Expanding on a three-part series for the New Yorker, Kolbert (The Prophet of Love) lets facts rather than polemics tell the story: in essence, it's that Earth is now nearly as warm as it has been at any time in the last 420,000 years and is on the precipice of an unprecedented "climate regime, one with which modern humans have had no prior experience." An inexorable increase in the world's average temperature means that butterflies, which typically restrict themselves to well-defined climate zones, are now flitting where they've never been found before; that nearly every major glacier in the world is melting rapidly; and that the prescient Dutch are already preparing to let rising oceans reclaim some of their land. In her most pointed chapter, Kolbert chides the U.S. for refusing to sign on to the Kyoto Accord. In her most upbeat chapter, Kolbert singles out Burlington, Vt., for its impressive energy-saving campaign, which ought to be a model for the rest of the nation-just as this unbiased overview is a model for writing about an urgent environmental crisis. (Mar. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
New Yorker staff writer Kolbert (The Prophet of Love, 2004) reports from the frontlines of global warming. Based on a three-part series that appeared in the magazine, this slim volume conveys through telling detail the changes already being wrought by human-induced global warming. For most Americans, this issue is not yet "close to home," Kolbert writes; the early effects are found nearer the poles. In the Alaskan village of Shishmaref, early spring thaws and storm surges may force residents to relocate from their centuries-old home. The same fate threatens permafrost expert Vladimir Romanovsky; huge sinkholes are opening up practically on his doorstep. Kolbert's excursion to Swiss Camp, a research station in Greenland, ends with her finding a large puddle in her tent. Later she bids a fond farewell to one of the rapidly shrinking glaciers in Iceland. The island nation has had glaciers for the past two million years; one day they may all be gone. When the ice melts and the oceans warm, sea levels go up. Determined to keep their homes, the Dutch are well underway with plans to accommodate the rising waters, including buying out low-lying farms to hold projected floodwater and building floating houses. Vignettes also describe instances of warming-induced migration (butterflies moving their ranges northward) and disappearance (the golden toad, which had nowhere to go from its mountaintop). Although lighter on science than most books covering climate change, Kolbert's narrative does provide enough history to orient readers. A visit to David Rind at the GISS Climate Impacts Group reveals that, ironically, while flooding may occur on some parts of the planet, the continental U.S. may facesevere drought. Obligatory chapters on politics and the Kyoto Protocol are followed by stories of grassroots efforts by local governments-but will they be enough?Good storytelling humanizes an often abstract subject.
“Among the few irreplaceable volumes yet written about climate change.” Bill McKibben, Boston Globe
“If you have time this year for just one book on science, nature, or the environment, this should be it.” San Diego Union-Tribune
“A perfect primer on global warming. It might be the most important book you read this year.” Cleveland Plain Dealer