Sunday, 31 January 2010

'Global warming', by Mark Maslin

This pocket-sized book is from the extensive series of ‘very short introductions’ by Oxford University Press. It was very useful to read on trains. It is a solid reference book, with plenty of guides to further reading and study. It was perfect for my purpose – to become an informed amateur on the subject.

It explains the science and the politics of the science very fluently. It is calm and objective, but firmly putting down doubts and canards about whether global warming is actually happening and whether or not humans are a prime cause of the current phase of warming. The conclusions are clear, but still cast in an admirable Popperian humility and willingness to go on searching for truth and facing difficult facts.

Buried in it are some appallingly depressing facts. For instance, the worst case scenario of the IPCC for carbon dioxide emissions in the 21st Century is already being exceeded by a large margin and accelerating. The consensus modelled predictions for consequent temperature rise in by 2100 are around 6 degrees. The impacts of this scenario in terms of weather patterns, sea level, ocean acidity, fresh water scarcity, crop yields, disease, biodiversity and human population are so bad that the author simply writes ‘Don’t go there’ – having described the probable outcomes of lower temperature changes.

He tries to inject a positive note at the end by describing solutions and his personal vision of a new urban environment. But, frankly, these ideas seem like pissing in the wind, compared with the possible changes to our sustaining environment soberly examined in the book.

John Vernon

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