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The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps

The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps [Kindle Edition]

Peter D. Ward
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


'(t)he core of this book is excellent - a trusty primer in the possible futures of our seas.'

-- Geographical

"As the Earth warms, so its surface ice melts into the sea: true in the past, and true in the future. How far, and how fast, the melting goes will affect millions who live in low-lying cities or rely on crops from coastal plains. Peter Ward, prolific writer on Earth history, is a sure-footed guide to the state of play...he convinces us that it would be foolhardy to risk a global meltdown."
--The New Scientist

'The Flooded Earth is worth reading and recommending to others, especially those you know who have expressed sentiments such as `global warming might be real but we can just adapt'. ... We would do well to heed Ward's warning and act quickly to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels soon - before all the ice on the planet is gone and `Water World' becomes a grim reality.'

--The Times Higher Education Supplement

Product Description

Sea level rise will happen no matter what we do. Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the seas would rise one meter by 2050 and three meters by 2100. This—not drought, species extinction, or excessive heat waves—will be the most catastrophic effect of global warming. And it won’t simply redraw our coastlines—agriculture, electrical and fiber optic systems, and shipping will be changed forever. As icebound regions melt, new sources of oil, gas, minerals, and arable land will be revealed, as will fierce geopolitical battles over who owns the rights to them.

In The Flooded Earth, species extinction expert Peter Ward describes in intricate detail what our world will look like in 2050, 2100, 2300, and beyond—a blueprint for a foreseeable future. Ward also explains what politicians and policymakers around the world should be doing now to head off the worst consequences of an inevitable transformation.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 722 KB
  • Print Length: 275 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465009492
  • Publisher: Basic Books (29 Jun 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P9XDQ6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #631,074 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is an extremely well written and interesting book. However I believe that it gives exaggerated estimates for sea level rise without consideration of the Milankovitch cycles. I suggest that readers also study an alternative book 'The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from abrupt climate change', edited by Philip Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker, and George Denton, MIT Press, Massachusetts, 2011. Within a time horizon of 1,000 years, the North Atlantic Conveyor may slow down with a sharp decline in north European temperatures, and trigger the ending of the interglacial period during the Fourth Millennium. Perhaps Peter Ward should get together with these other authors to try to iron out some very real differences.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Flooded Earth 8 July 2010
By Stephen Balbach - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the more confusing aspects of the IPCC report was how far oceans will rise. The numbers in the report were not very worrisome, but many scientists said the seas could rise much further. Peter Ward tries to bring some clarity to the confusion. He says anything over 5 feet is beyond civilizations ability to deter and thus many places will be abandoned. Certain hot spots like Bangladesh, Holland, San Francisco, Venice, New Orleans and southern Florida make appearances as Ward envisions what they could look like in the future. His book is not a prediction. He offers instead scenarios that are within the realm of possibility because *they have happened before*. The geological record is chock full of evidence of rapidly rising seas. This is not debateable, it's as clear as a dinosaur bone (although some people deny dinosaurs existed). How exactly our future unfolds no one knows, Ward doesn't know either, but he looks at parallels between the past and present atmosphere and it's not pretty. One thing we are certain of however, as CO2 levels rise, so do the oceans.

25% of CO2 released by humans stays in the atmosphere for over 50,000 years, longer than the half-life of radiation. It's a permanent gift to the future and how it impacts sea level rise is significant - actions today will impact the future for a very long time. Oceans are currently rising 2mm a year, this is well documented. About 10,000 years ago they were rising at 2 inches per year, or 16 feet a century - again, well documented and not debated. The earth is very capable of doing it again. No one is saying 16' in a century *will* happen, in fact it's very unlikely, but oceans have risen and fallen very often in the past and this process is tied to CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which is expected to be at levels way beyond anything seen in millions of years. Could seas rise that far or fast? They already have. This is ultimately the message by Ward - he makes no *prediction* that it *will* happen, he offers scenarios informed by what has happened, and suggests there are enough parallels with those events in the past with the present to be concerned. Anyone who denies that position is either intellectually dishonest or not operating in good faith.

My quibbles with the book is it written breathlessly, parts repeat, it could have used better editing to enhance the killer points. I read it on a Kindle and was surprised when it was over at 70% - the remaining 30% is notes, bibliography and index [one of the disadvantages of a scroll-like kindle, versus a codex-like book, is its hard to find where a book proper ends, it sneaks up on you]. Overall a quick and sometimes entertaining read about a serious subject. It will no doubt bring out the deniers who will misrepresent it, but if you're at all interested in what the possibilities of sea level rise are, this is a good book to look at.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science based work gives reason for heightened concern 28 Jun 2010
By A. Siegel - Published on
Peter Ward's book opens a century from now with a Miami Beach being abandoned by the US government, as it evaluates what it can -- and can't -- defend against rising seas. Holdouts have lost water supplies (with swimming pools being used as reserve tanks for desalinated water) and any land connection to the mainland. Direct loss of land to rising seas represents only the tip of the (melted) iceberg due to rising seas. Lost water supplies (salt-water infiltration) will wreck havoc on agriculture and hability of coastal regions.

Ward brings to the table substantial scientific background and using earth's & humanity's history to illuminate the risks we face from rising seas in a warming world.

For those already concerned about climate change, reading Ward will heighten that concern. For those unconcerned, The Flooded Earth should change that position. And, for those unconcerned about learning from science and scientists, this isn't the book for you.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why the Seas will Rise 11 Jan 2011
By W. ANDERSON - Published on
The Flooded Earth considers the problem of global warming in the context of sea level rise, mainly forecasting a 3-6 foot rise in the next hundred years. The effects of such a rise are considered in detail, which are indeed dire, due to the large areas of land that would be flooded and the inability to defend against such a rise over large areas of coastline. Professor Ward also considers higher sea level rises in his book, up to 240 feet if we lose all land bound glaciers, but these higher sea level rises are viewed as possibility happening several hundred years in the future. I found the book both fascinating and frightening at the same time, I recommend it, and view it as a companion volume to "Storms of My Grandchildren" by James Hansen. While "Storms" is harder hitting and I liked the writing style better, "Flooded" is equally frightening and troubling. Each book also puts forward a scientifically plausible doomsday theory that in the end could kill all or nearly all, life on earth. The problem with "Flooded" is that Professor Ward is unaware that at the end of the last Ice Age, there was a chain reaction of glacial surging that flooded the world which I cover in the book "Solving the Mystery of the Biblical Flood" which occurred in a matter of days. If a large section of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet in the near future were to surge into the sea, it could raise the sea level by enough to trigger the surging of other glaciers and ice sheets into the sea, resulting in a run away chain reaction of flooding and surging. This could in theory result in a 240 foot sea level rise in a matter of days, and is why I will never move to Florida. Knowing of this possibility did cause me to view "Flooded" as being very timid in its predictions and time scales. Professor Ward repeatedly stated that he felt that the 3' to 6' prediction by 2100 was far less than what will probably occur, but he largely remained confined to the limits set by current scientific opinion, while as the evidence he presents in the book, as he also acknowledges, points to far larger rises occurring sooner. As I was reading the book, I kept wishing that Professor Ward would break free and lay out his worse case, but he remained safely within the confines of orthodox scientific thinking. On the other hand, while he may have been overly conservative in his predictions of the future, that conservativeness adds a chilling certainty to his modest prediction coming to pass.

If this book has a second printing, I would highly recommend a fold out color map section with detailed maps of the world showing the new coastlines at different elevations, such as +6, +25, +40, +110, +240, along with detailed maps of the areas described in the book with the level of flooding referred to in color, or at least a web reference to such.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrifying Message 18 Aug 2010
By Susan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Last week, a chunk of ice four times as large as Manhattan Island broke off the tongue of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland and went swimming in the sea. For me, immersed in The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps, it was striking evidence of what Peter D. Ward writes about: the loss of the polar icecaps and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, caused by rising global temperatures. (At the same time, Russia was experiencing its worst drought and heat wave in recorded history, further evidence of the erratic weather created by warming.) Ward, a paleontologist who has studied the rise and retreat of ancient oceans and the mass extinctions related to ocean rise, knows what he's talking about, and his book is a full treatment (at least for the general reader) of the science behind his basic argument: that the oceans are rising and will continue to rise--unless humans reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

What I found most interesting about Ward's book (and perhaps most compelling, for many readers)are the dramatic fictionalizations of the impacts of greenhouse gases that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Chapter One opens in the drowning city of Miami, in 2120, with CO2 at 800 ppm--and Miami joining New Orleans and Galveston as abandoned cities. Chapter Three beings in Tunisia in 2060 CE, with carbon dioxide at 500 ppm--and features (I suspect) Ward himself, by this time an "old geologist" who studies evidence of mass extinctions. Food for the still-rising population is scarce, transportation fuel is not available for personal use, and the study of the past is a luxury that society can no longer afford. Chapter Four is set in the Sacramento Valley in 2135, with CO2 at 800 ppm, the rivers dried up by drought, the ocean invading the valleys and salt polluting the land and aquifers, agricultural land ruined. These dramatizations illustrate the arguments made in the chapter and allow Ward to say "Listen up, learn, take action--or this is our future."

Ward acknowledges that he and all the other scientists who are bringing this hugely important issue to our attention are considered Cassndras. "I am not sure what a Cassandra is," he adds. "But I know what I indeed am: scared."

The message of this book: If you're not scared, too, you should be--scared enough to join those who are attempting to reduce CO2 to 350 ppm. Ward himself is not optimistic "about the prospect of forestalling calamity," but outlines some climate-protecting strategies and technologies that might help, if they are implemented very soon. His conclusion isn't hopeful--but realism is what we need now, not glib answers or false hopes. This book delivers that terrifying message better than anything else I've yet to read
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and multifacted 19 Sep 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As always, Peter Ward has written a book that combines all kinds of personal experience and interesting details from recent research with a strong theme that is carried through his book. In this case, he looks at the issue of sea level rise due to global warming. This is not his area of expertise, so he relies on the research of others. This is perhaps the one weaker area of the book that could be attacked by global warming deniers. In spite of this, he also manages to weave in evidence or perspectives gained from both his hobby of ocean diving and his profession as a geologist who has specialized in the study of past mass-extinction events. The result is a somewhat speculative book on the future sea level scenarios with colorful anecdotes and personal stories sprinkled in.

This books follows what seems to be a popular format for recent books like this. Each chapter starts out with one or two fictional future scenarios set anywhere from a few decades to a few millenia in the future that demonstrate one possible outcome of the issue he covers in that chapter. Major themes in the book are possible rates for ice loss, possible sea level rises from this and other events, the threats to coastal cities, low-lying agricultural land and aquifers, the potential for changes in ocean currents and chemistry that could threaten extinction events and the potential for technological and engineering solutions to mitigate the damage.

Most official global warming reports or models underestimate or fail to take into consideration some of the more recent research and ideas on ice loss and sea level rise. Perhaps because he is a geologist and not a climate modeler, Ward eschews the typical conservative caveat-laced approach that many climatologists take when dealing with these issues and presents some of the more bleak scenarios that other authors on this topic on seem to suggest in their subtext. The result is the stark possibility that polar ice caps may melt much more quickly than generally thought and sea level may rise more than official predictions suggest. Ward combines not only evidence from his field, namely the distant geological past, but also recent evidence suggesting these shorter possible timetables.

This is an excellent and engaging book that covers some of the same territory as the growing list of books on global warming, but does in it Ward's unique way that manages to make the reader think about things in ways that may not be apparent by reading other books on this topic. This book will probably be most popular among fans of science who accept scientific conclusions on global warming. Those who deny global warming will almost certainly find the book to be a bit alarmist and based on shaky presumptions. For the rest of us, it's a sobering and honest look at some real obstacles the world may potentially face in the next few generations.
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