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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of the world? Not if, but when.
This book is very nice: well written and concise - ideal for the beginner who wants a broad coverage of a fascinating topic. This is certainly one of the better 'short introductions' on the market.

The introductory chapter serves as a good overview for the rest of the book, while the proceeding chapters about global warming and the possibility of an ice age are...
Published on 9 May 2008 by GoatHorns

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars IMPORTANT BUT NARROW
Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future (Inside Technology Series) The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome

As far as natural catastrophes not caused in part by human action are concerned, this is an important book well presenting complex issues in ways understandable to the non-professional. But when moving into catastrophes...
Published on 6 Mar 2012 by Yehezkel Dror


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars IMPORTANT BUT NARROW, 6 Mar 2012
By 
Yehezkel Dror (Jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future (Inside Technology Series) The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome

As far as natural catastrophes not caused in part by human action are concerned, this is an important book well presenting complex issues in ways understandable to the non-professional. But when moving into catastrophes caused, at least in part by human action, the book misses a lot.
There are also some oversimplifications and exaggerations. Thus, on pages 38-39 the author states "all the great reefs will be dead and gone within 50 years...obliterated by warmer seas just so that some of us can continue to live, or strive for, lives of conspicuous consumption." With due appreciation for the great reefs, it is hard to regard their disappearance as a "catastrophe" in line with those discussed in the book. And to explain the warmer seas in terms of conspicuous consumption is a gross oversimplification, to put it delicately.
As the author takes up humanity-caused global warming and its repercussions, some of which may indeed by catastrophic as rightly pointed out in the book, then other anthropogenic (caused by human action) possible and in part likely catastrophes should have been extensively discussed, such as resulting from biotechnology, robotics and nano-technologies. But these are not taken up, though their probability is much higher than that of a large comet hitting earth which is discussed. This reduces the comprehensiveness of the book.
Also missing is serious discussion of the socio-political requirements of effective counter-measures. Given the overall mood of the book, with which I largely identify, sudden unwarranted optimism came to me as a surprise. On page 41 very naïve trust in rather worthless efforts to reduce emission of green-house gases reveals lack of understanding by the author of the power and interest dimensions of the issue. Instead, he should have taken up the need for essential decisive globally imposed measures - which are unlikely before catastrophes strike, but should be thought through in advance.
Still this is an important book as far as it goes, which should be on the reading list of all decision makers.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of the world? Not if, but when., 9 May 2008
By 
GoatHorns (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This book is very nice: well written and concise - ideal for the beginner who wants a broad coverage of a fascinating topic. This is certainly one of the better 'short introductions' on the market.

The introductory chapter serves as a good overview for the rest of the book, while the proceeding chapters about global warming and the possibility of an ice age are both good. The text is fact-heavy but still flows nicely, telling a clear story. While the authors own views are certainly evident, he also mentions the ideas of other scientists (some contraversial and some downright mad).

The book goes on to discuss the threat and possible consequences of geological events such as super-volcanic eruptions, mega-tsunami's and city-destroying earthquakes. He not only considers the Earth sceince behind these phenomena, but the economic impact is also covered, albeit superficially. I found the chapter about the 'Threat from Space' particularly interesting (and disturbing).

I give the book 4 stars and not 5 because, i my opinion, it lacked scientific depth. I believe, even in a book so small and introductory, that the author could have given a little more explanation of the science. Perhpas he neglected to do this in the fear of scaring off potential readers who don't want too much of an intellectual challenge, or perhaps he was concerned with making the book too long for the format of the series (though he does repeat himself several times, so cutting down the words would not have been too difficult). A bit more technical science would have been welcome.

Overall, a very nice read with a pessimistic (but probably realistic) outlook.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, 31 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
A short book that is thoroughly readable, though ultimately it doesn't teach you anything essential and as such there isn't much to take away from it, nor is it particularly memorable. Still, it passed the time on a long train journey.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, hard-hitting and compelling - a brilliant introduction, 3 April 2008
This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press has a good reputation for presenting challenging subjects in an easily accessible manner. "Global Catastrophes" by Bill McGuire is one of its very best examples. Originally published in 2002 as "A Guide to the End of the World", it has since been updated to include events as recent as 2005, with a new preface as well as a fully revised text and bibliography.

The book deals exclusively with environmental phenomena rather than man-made, technological disasters. In each chapter McGuire explores the evidence for - as well as the likely effects of - different catastrophes that could, in the near future, put an end to human civilisation, namely global warming, a new ice age, supervolanoes and other tectonic hazards, and lastly asteroidal impact. His mastery of the material is clear, and at every stage he is careful to back up his arguments with facts and figures drawn from scientific studies and computer models. At the same time his style is conversational and makes on the whole for easy reading, although occasionally the analogies he chooses tend to confuse rather than illuminate.

The opening chapter on global warming is the book's tour de force - as well as probably the most relevant for the reader today - providing a succinct summary of the main issues and sources of contention. McGuire pulls no punches, making it clear just how unprecedented is the effect that human industrial activity is having on the global climate, and how our planet is hotter now than it has been for 90% of its history. For any sceptics of climate change, or of its future implications for our civilisation, this will be a potent wake-up call. In complete contrast, the next chapter explores the counter-intuitive (yet nevertheless scientifically plausible) theory that rising global temperatures could in fact trigger a rapid freeze and a return to Ice Age conditions. But regardless of whether we are set for global warming or global cooling, McGuire demonstrates why this is an especially bad period in geological time for us to be experimenting with our atmosphere and climate.

The third chapter - on supervolcanoes and other tectonic events - is similarly well-argued, as one might expect from a Professor of Vulcanology at University College London. One disappointment, however, is the short treatment afforded to the topic of flood basalt eruptions, in particular the Deccan Trap event, which is now thought to have been a contributing factor in the decline and extinction of the dinosaurs. A significant amount of research is now being conducted into these events, which could have been explored further. Finally, McGuire's discussion of potential extinction-level asteroidal impact is both balanced and considered, stressing the catastrophic effect this would have while also underlining the unlikelihood of such an event occurring in the near future.

The book includes 20 images and diagrams, serving to illustrate and reinforce McGuire's points, as well as 2 appendices, summarising the relative frequency of the various threats and plotting the most significant on a geological timescale. The bibliography is thorough, divided according to the relevant chapters, and runs to no less than 65 titles, making this book an excellent platform for exploring the subject further.

All in all, "Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction" is an excellent overview of what is a difficult, unsettling and sometimes contentious subject, and a book that I can highly recommend.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You never knew planet Earth was in so much danger..., 18 May 2009
This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Bill McGuire, in this introduction, confronts us with pessimistic yet fascinating events which will end or seriously disrupt life on earth, namely global warming; the opposite extreme, an ice age (which he proves is possible); super-volcanoes; tsunamis; earthquakes; and finally external threats from space: comets and asteroids.

This book is written very well and with the enthusiasm of someone interested in their subject. McGuire always adds a multitude of facts to give what he is saying authority and meaning, whilst not making it mundane. He doesn't write too academically, whilst managing at the same time to avoid the standard of poorly presented geophysical hazards that usually occur from the media; the right balance seems to be struck in the book.

The book is justified by the explanation of processes with facts and figures, to convince the reader of the inherent dangers concerning Earth.
I think everyone should read this book, not necessarily because they care about processes that are rare and sporadic, but if anything because people should have an obligation to be concerned about major disasters that are happening at the present.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Have Nightmares..., 4 July 2006
By 
J. Hamston "Mr Book" (South London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I've always been a bit of a fan of these Very Short Introductions - as someone who likes to be a know-it-all but has an increasingly short attention span they're perfect. Well this is one of the best I've read - highly informative, readable, packed with facts. A different version of the end of the world is contemplated on almost every page - and by placing the human race in its true timescale, as a negligible speck on the history of the planet, this is guaranteed to make you feel very small indeed. McGuire makes it clear that with most of the catastrophes he discusses, from the obvious global warming to the alarming super-volcanoes, it's a question of when, not if. And he dispenses with the hubristic notion that there's much we can do about it except prepare for the aftermath.

Frankly, makes me want to become an astronaut.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 18 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Delivery was nice and quick. The book was really useful for my university studies and also provides a nice read. I would highly recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fab!, 12 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
A superb overview of the various types of catastrophes that can and maybe will happen to the earth written by a professional who really knows his subject. It is written in an easily accessible manner so that the ordinary reader with less specialised knowledge can understand what the author is saying. Quite frankly, it was unputdownable, with each chapter and each page unfolding yet more horrors that have occurred in the past and will probably occur in the future. Hair-raising.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Catastrophe averted, 11 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
McGuire is a new breed of ivory tower academic, who seems to ignore the truth even when presented to him on a plate. This small book exaggerates and spins up natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanos and hurricanes etc like no-one else. He selects a few examples from the long past of the earth to conjure up a doom-laden future which bears little relation to the concrete reality. The UK is in no more danger today than yesterday from such disasters, and the areas of the world where they do occur and recur are well known by now both to the inhabitants and the insurers. He is at his most mendacious when pontificating about AGW, the theory that global warming is occurring and that it is man-made. He calls any scientists among the large and growing band of scientists who dare question the theory as "maverick" or in the pay of large oil companies, but yet they are proving to be correct in their assessment of the real situation. This missionary zeal from a geologist ill becomes him, especially now after the Climategate scandal, and the many revelations of the dirty tricks waged by a small group of activists such as Michael Mann and Phil Jones. He refers to the infamous hockey stick graph of Mann despite the fact that this graph was spun by manipulating the evidence to eliminate the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice age from the record, and despite the solid historic evidence for both periods. Who does he think he is kidding? The earth is now in a cooling phase and few if any of the IPCC dire predictions have occurred. Hurricanes have neither increased in frequency or intensity in the last decades, for example, and the sea level has risen little if at all over the same timescale. McGuire has done a great disservice to popular science writing with this biased and fantastic diatribe. If any reader wants to read unbiased and neutral accounts of climate science, then they could do no better than the book by Robert Carter Climate: the Counter-consensus (Independent Minds) or the detailed analysis by Ian Plimer Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science.
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