Just in time for summer, a slew of new books about climate change are hot off the press. These new works by some of the leading climate change reporters and thinkers are not what you’d call beach reading–if the worst that these authors fear comes to pass, our present day beaches will be submerged by the end of the century.
The most anticipated of the climate change books is Bill McKibben’s Eaarth. No, that’s not a typo–it’s a deliberate misspelling that symbolizes human transformation of Earth into a “tough new planet.” (McKibben even has advice on how to pronounce Eaarth–imagine how a certain Austrian weight-lifting Governator would). McKibben has written cogently and prolifically about the environment for years but, in the past few, has become a tireless climate change activist, founding 350.org among other achievements. In Eaarth, McKibben seems to be hanging on to his customary optimism by a thread. He shows that severe climate change is inevitable, no matter what efforts we make in the years ahead to stop it. What we must do now, McKibben pleads, is mitigate and adapt–keep trying like crazy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare to live on a hotter, stormier, economically localized, politically decentralized planet. In other words, hope (and take action!) for the best, and prepare for the worst.
Joe Romm, author of Straight Up, writes Climate Progress, one of the most widely-read climate blogs in the world. His new book is a collection of articles that have appeared on his blog. One of the themes that Romm repeatedly returns to is his insistence that, with the little time we have left to avert climate chaos, we must devote most of our resources to deploying existing technologies like solar, wind and geothermal that we know can bring atmospheric carbon back down down to safe levels. (In this respect, Romm parts ways with McKibben who seems to think it’s already too late). Romm is critical of government spending on fantasy technologies like hydrogen and fusion that, even if could be made to work, would take 25-50 years to scale up. We at Sungevity couldn’t agree more–solar has been around for fifty years, is on the verge of grid parity with fossil fuels and relies on natural resources like sun and sand that aren’t going to run out anytime soon. Thank you Joe Romm, for relentelessly driving home this crucial point.
Last but not least are Field Notes from a Catastrophe by New Yorker reporter Elizabeth Kolbert and The Weather Makersby Australian paleontologist Tim Flannery. An air of fatalism hangs over both of these books–careful study of the issue has led both authors to believe that civilization is unlikely to withstand the temperatures that seem likely before the end of the century. Kolbert notes that the planet is already hotter than it has been for the past 2000 years and, if current trends continue, the planet in 2100 will be hotter than it has been for the past two million years. Flannery, meanwhile, queries, “What size climatic wave can wipe out a city?” and contemplates the collapse of the Gulf Stream (which, to make a long story short, largely controls the weather in most of the northern hemisphere). Good and important reads, but not for the faint of heart.