Discussing global climate patterns which are exacerbating weather changes worldwide, Elizabeth Kolbert explains how human-induced global will likely have dire consequences. In the Netherlands, Kolbert explains, construction is under way on buoyant roads and amphibious homes resembling toasters. In Alaska, as myopic politicans insist on drilling for more the last drop of oil, climate change is forcing people to leave their homes and, as Kolbert explains, their ways of life.
This will affect us all, as conflict over basic needs could soon turn the United States into a fully guarded zones, with security personnel staving off millions of migrants from flooded regions. Yet, as Kolbert also notes, the United States is the largest emitter of carbon in the world. Thus, the U.S. population has substantial responsibility for the migrations to come.
This book deserves serious attention, not only as a handbook of facts about climate and geography, but also for its keen interest in what real people are experiencing, right now.
Kolbert foresees widespread and dire consequences, yet interviews an expert who retains some hope that we could still avert utter disaster. In that sense, there's an element of activism to this book -- although Kolbert's sense of doom is quite clear by the book's conclusion. We're selfish, says this book, and it's killing us.
So what should our response be? Carbon emissions are more dangerous due to the increasing lack of forests, which we tear down for cities and rangeland. Methane is second to carbon dioxide in its warming potential; it accounts for 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with more than twenty times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. It's generated during cows' digestion processes, as well as by the consumption of oil and gas in animal processing.
As agribusiness is the prime culprit behind the loss of the forests needed to absorb greenhouse gas, we can do something today, literally, by changing to a plant-based cooking style. (I've co-authored a recent book, available elsewhere on this site, which can be of benefit in this way -- I derive no personal benefit from this non-profit project -- called Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine.) Truly, if its message is taken to heart, Kolbert's book should be sold together with a vegetarian cookbook.
Kolbert's work also suggests that China will overtake the U.S. as the carbon-emitting leader in just two decades. Yes, China should ensure future reliance on low-emission technology. But again, a big part of this is lifestyle. Ironically, the case of China presents a situation where ideas of western affluence are resulting in the heavy promotion of more and more animal products.
Readers are advised to put two and two together, and not wait for the commander-in-chief to see the light from a Texas ranch. As for global disaster, that would definitely "bring it on."