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With Speed and Violence [Paperback]

Fred Pearce
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 8.85 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 Mar 2008
Nature is fragile, environmentalists often tell us. But the lesson of this book is that it is not so. The truth is far more worrying. Nature is strong and packs a serious counterpunch . . . Global warming will very probably unleash unstoppable planetary forces. And they will not be gradual. The history of our planet's climate shows that it does not do gradual change. Under pressure, whether from sunspots or orbital wobbles or the depredations of humans, it lurches-virtually overnight. —from the Introduction

Fred Pearce has been writing about climate change for eighteen years, and the more he learns, the worse things look. Where once scientists were concerned about gradual climate change, now more and more of them fear we will soon be dealing with abrupt change resulting from triggering hidden tipping points. Even President Bush's top climate modeler, Jim Hansen, warned in 2005 that "we are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption."

As Pearce began working on this book, normally cautious scientists beat a path to his door to tell him about their fears and their latest findings. With Speed and Violence tells the stories of these scientists and their work-from the implications of melting permafrost in Siberia and the huge river systems of meltwater beneath the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica to the effects of the "ocean conveyor" and a rare molecule that runs virtually the entire cleanup system for the planet.

Above all, the scientists told him what they're now learning about the speed and violence of past natural climate change-and what it portends for our future. With Speed and Violence is the most up-to-date and readable book yet about the growing evidence for global warming and the large climatic effects it may unleash.

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With Speed and Violence + The Climate Files: The battle for the truth about global warming + When The Rivers Run Dry: What Happens When Our Water Runs Out?
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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1st Edition(PB) edition (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807085774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807085776
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 819,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I agree that this is a brilliant book and I admire Fred Pearce's writing enormously; but I was caught out by thinking that it was a new book by Fred Pearce when it is in fact the American edition of the book "The Last Generation" which I have already bought and which has been available in the UK in paperback for some months. The Amazon entry for this book does not make it clear that this is the case.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit scattered but makes significant points 6 Aug 2007
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The idea of a tipping point in climate change comes from chaos theory in which a system may change in a way that is not only not predictable, but brings about a situation very different than what existed before. A tipping point can be compared to a phase transition in physics in which, for example, liquid water becomes something strikingly different when heated to the boiling point, or lowered to the freezing point. Steam and ice are very different from liquid water in many important ways. So it might be with the earth's climate. If too much fresh water melts and pours into the North Atlantic to join the once warm water from the Gulf Stream, the composition of the water may have too little salt in it to prevent freezing and instead of sinking to return in convey belt fashion to the tropics, it may just sit there as ice. That will stop the great ocean conveyer and make much of Europe nearly as cold as Siberia.

A tipping point of great magnitude can be reached through a feedback mechanism. For example as the planet warms, ice melts. Ice is white and reflects light away from the planet. But if the ice is now darker water it will tend to absorb the radiation and heat the planet further. This will lead to more ice melting which will lead to more heat being absorbed which will lead to more ice melting, etc., which will lead to we know not where.

Science journalist Fred Pearce's intent in this book is to look at a number of these natural climate mechanisms to see if they are in danger of reaching some kind of tipping point, and what the consequences of reaching that point might be. One of the consequences may be a point of no return, such as a runaway greenhouse effect in which the worse case scenario is the earth gets as hot as Venus.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the pace 18 April 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Once, climate was seen like a sedate matron, ambling along at a measured pace. According to Fred Pearce, the climate is more like a drunk, lurching from one place to another in sporadic, unpredictable lunges. Rapid climate change was once considered a local phenomenon. Older, unprepared civilisations in one region staggered under shifts of weather, collapsing in the heat, but easily replaced by more efficient neighbours. Research has shown, argues Pearce, that the entire globe is interconnected through complex patterns. Even the starting points of climate changes are hidden in the mists of time. Until today. Now it's the byproducts of our society that are prompting the changes. How drastic these may be and where the changes will be most severe is the subject of this excellent, if very frightening account.

Fred Pearce has been in the climate investigation reporting business for nearly twenty years. He knows the players and he understands their work. His intimate knowledge of their views and the science behind those outlooks provide a sound foundation for his summation of how climate change is occurring. And it is occurring, he argues. It's happening so fast that he can confidently assert that this is "The Last Generation" that will enjoy anything like climate stability. That lurching drunk is more powerful and less predictable than previously imagined.

With his long experience to buttress his presentation, Pearce covers all the bases. Moving from polar ice through ocean currents to wind patterns, he provides a thorough examination of the issues and the people studying them. The eminent Wally Broecker, who proposed The Great Ocean Conveyor circulating polar water around the globe is carefully described. Pearce doesn't want to invoke Broecker's ire over a mis-statement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Interested in climate change for years, I found Pearce's book quite by chance. The Amazon package arrived two days ago, but I can hardly leave the book alone. As far as I am concerned, this is a page-turner par excellence. Informative, well-researched and written, and deeply disconcerting, it offers all the clues one now needs to start planning one's future beyond the next decade, as Kirkus Review praise states on the jacket. The book is a must.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars foolish doomsayer 24 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback
One expects some honesty from science journalists, but Mr Pearce disappoints in this quarter. Although he admits that sceptics of AGW are important for producing high quality science, he coolly forgets that they have been proven right by events since this book was published. Armageddon has not occurred, no nations have been lost under the waves, hurricanes have decreased in frequency and intensity and the world is now actually cooling. So why stoke the fires of hysteria? Probably because there is money to be made by alarming people, and in this case alarming them without cause. The book was published before the notorious emails exposed by Climategate, so he was unaware of the scandal over the misuse of statistics by Mann and Jones and others, to eliminate the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice age, both periods which are fully attested by the historical evidence. Out great cathedrals were built in the Medieval warm period, and the Vikings colonised Greenland, but Mann and Jones had a message to deliver and were willing to bias the proxy temperature data-sets to prove their point. Science? I doubt it very much. The history of science is littered with examples of charlatans trying to prove the impossible, from an earth-centric universe to eugenics and immobile continents. Galileo and Copernicus were outlawed and scorned by the consensus of their times, as was Wegener on continental drift. Eugenics had a much darker history, starting with Galton and Pearson, trying to show that the human species could be "improved|" by selection. The whole sad story gave impetus to the Holocaust, and ended only recently as so-celled advanced countries like Sweden and the USA halted their forced sterilization campaigns against the "mentally ill" or disabled people. Read more ›
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