Friday, April 13, 2007
Mark Lynas - Six Degrees
The February 2007 part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report made a number of stark predictions about climate change. In particular, it examined the science behind global warming and made a number of consensus predictions about the effects.
Mark Lynas's book looks at the consequences in great detail. The basic science is very simple, the world gets hotter and various changes start happening - ice starts to melt, deserts spread and so on. As the world gets hotter these changes increase, but more worryingly, a number of "feedback effects" kick in. In other words, the consequences of even quite small amounts of global warming are to make further climate change more likely.
Lynas looks at 6 scenarios, though really they aren't separate. He examines how the world will look as temperature increases by one, then two degrees, all the way up to six. A planet that is six degrees hotter will be one that is uninhabitable by the standards we set today. Lynas backs his arguments up by looking not just at computer models, though there are plenty of those, but also at historic times when the world was warmer by up to 6 degrees.
Lynas paints a frightening future, but as with many other writers he argues it isn't inevitable, we just need to change major aspects of our lives. In this section, the book is not as detailed or as clear as other works (in particular George Monbiot's Heat). However, to be fair to Lynas, this isn't the major point of his work either.
My one criticism, is that sometimes the book reads like the six degree world is entirely seperate from the one and two degree one. To get to sixth degree of temperature rise, the world will have to travel through a time when the horrors of the other times are inflicted.
This is important, because as the world gradually heats, the effects will be immediate and this will have horrific consequences for many people. It will also, however make it even more clear to millions of people that the environment is changing. Hopefully by then, it will not be to late to do something about it. in the meantime, this is a very readable book that will hopefully alert thousands to the dangers and get them to start campaigning now.
(*) Full title - Six Degrees, Our Future on a Hotter Planet
Flannery - The Weather Makers
Monbiot - Heat
Pearce - The Last Generation