Most of us have heard some of the big stats: 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have come since the year 2000. This past week’s CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa at 415 parts per million is the highest such reading in at least 800,000 years (and possibly as much as 3 million years). An article in National Geographic described the Greenland ice melt, noting “between 2002 and 2016, Greenland lost approximately 280 billion tons of ice per year. This average annual ice melt is enough to cover the entire states of Florida and New York hip deep in meltwater, as well as drowning Washington, D.C. and one or two other small states.” And of course there’s far more ice in Antarctica than Greenland – and it’s starting to melt rapidly too. But as grim as the sea level rise numbers are, David Wallace-Wells points out that what climate change will bring “…is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, “500-year” storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually. This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century. In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await–food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.” This is not a lengthy or technical book, but it is emotionally difficult to read. Despite that, I believe this is an incredibly important book that should be widely read. I’m glad I did.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell
I enjoy a good horror novel but I’m not afraid to admit that some books are a bit too scary for me. Which brings me to The Water Will Come. I do not think I have ever read a more frightening book, and this one is not fiction. The publisher’s description sums it up: :”What if Atlantis wasn’t a myth, but an early precursor to a new age of great flooding? Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth’s thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster. By century’s end, hundreds of millions of people will be retreating from the world’s shores as our coasts become inundated and our landscapes transformed. From island nations to the world’s major cities, coastal regions will disappear. Engineering projects to hold back the water are bold and may buy some time. Yet despite international efforts and tireless research, there is no permanent solution-no barriers to erect or walls to build-that will protect us in the end from the drowning of the world as we know it. The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. As he travels across twelve countries and reports from the front lines, acclaimed journalist Jeff Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.”
From the foreword: “Sometimes, when a concept or institution reaches its logical conclusion, the world looks at the results and cries: “Never again.” For really bad ideas – from totalitarianism to fossil fuel dependence – saying “never again” isn’t enough. Humanity needs other, better ideas to take their place. That’s where we are today. We know we can’t avoid the cataclysmic impacts of global warming by only focusing on achieving net zero carbon emissions; we must also rapidly re-sequester carbon. Drawdown – by identifying and researching dynamic, innovative solutions – creates the playbook for this urgent goal.” Drawdown presents one hundred techniques and practices, many of which already exist, are economically viable and are being used by a variety of communities throughout the world. Climate change is an overwhelming problem and it’s all too easy to despair. Drawdown is a powerfully hopeful book, full of things that individuals can act on. Just looking at it for this blog post has made me feel better and inspired to do something!