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on 19 May 2014
Brilliant book for many uses, I used it as my only revision guide for a climate change module at university level. Easy to read for interest reading, or finding clear specific facts for writing or whatever. Recommend.
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on 3 June 2017
I bought the audio version of the book to listen to in the car, and it is of the 2008 edition which is pretty out of date given how rapidly things have changed in the last decade. Books on this topic have to be updated every two or three years to be of much use.

Nonetheless, I did listen to a third of it, and I found the discussion of how the old "global cooling" idea came about pretty interesting. That was something I had never read about before.
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on 6 July 2005
It's very striking that at least three of Amazon's top 20 books on global warming represent only the sceptical / George W Bush view, which is supplied mostly by economists funded by oil companies rather than publicly-funded climate scientists as it happens. Are readers earnestly searching for a balanced view, or is it that we prefer to read books that confirm our hopes and allow us to go on with our lives reassured?
This little book makes two major contributions to the debate. First it conveys all the essential information about global warming in an accurate and accessible way, soundly based in the author's extensive experience in paleoclimatic studies. But at least as important is the way in which it engages with climate change scepticism, showing how it is based in real scientific argument as well as self-serving dismissal. The arguments of sceptics are fairly represented, with some points frankly conceded and other rebutted with the help of the latest scientific evidence. But as well as arguing the specific claims, the author shows how the debate reflects deeper divisions between participants regarding conceptions of nature and risk. So for example sceptics might view nature as basically resilient, even eternal, thus discounting environmental risks compared with environmentalists who view it as basically fragile and transient. In other words, as well as trying to resolve some of the arguments about global warming, he shows how some are effectively insoluble in purely scientific terms. If you're after real balance, rather than ideologically-motivated reassurance, you can find it here.
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on 12 November 2013
I am writing an essay for my global warming module and felt that i wanted something to explain the basics to me before I went into too much depth and this was perfect! The content was consistent with what I was learning on my course and was explained similarly to my lecture making it clear, concise and easy to understand and pick out info as a starting point. Read over one day picking out what i wanted - though to be honest I did read most of it!
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on 31 January 2010
+
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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on 27 July 2014
This should be required reading for global warming deniers, not least because it thoroughly and scientifically rubbishes the arguments of naysayers. The future prospects are not good and I doubt that there is enough political will anywhere at present. No doubt it will come, too late.
It should be read in concert with the VSI on "Ice Ages".
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on 17 October 2009
I believe everyone should read this book.

It is a great little introduction to the current issues of global warming, examining a lot of factors contributing to our knowledge about the science behind our climate and the earth, as well as looking into the arguments of the skeptics.

He quotes a lot of different writers, and there is a comprehensive list of books at the end of the book, which includes other great books like Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist.

This book makes it very clear what things matter, how things work, what can be done, and what should be done. He especially highlights the importance of arriving at a new, better protocol that will help us out of the mess we've gotten ourselves in, by taking drastic measures against further exploitation and pollution of our planet (we only have one). This is the protocol that will be decided in December in Copenhagen, which is why we must make sure to put pressure to our governments to stop talking and start acting - there really isn't much time.

A great little book, and -just like the other books of the series- it provides a very comprehensive insight at a very complicated issue, and does so in an enjoyable and engaging manner.
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on 21 May 2008
The Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press has a good reputation for presenting challenging subjects in an easily accessible manner. Mark Maslin's "Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction" is a timely addition to the series, tackling what is arguably the dominant issue of our age.

After providing an overview of the history of the global warming debate in science and the media, Maslin examines the underlying psychology behind different popularly-held views of our climate, arguing whether we see Nature as, for example, resilient or fragile is conditioned by our world-view (individualist or collectivist; fatalist or optimist). While this is an interesting diversion, and adds a new spin on the debate, it is presented in a confusing manner and threatens to put the reader off before the book has even properly begun. This would be a shame, however, for Maslin provides an excellent analysis of the evidence for global warming, examining the methods - past and present - used in gathering climate data (balloons, boreholes, satellites etc) and how these are collated to create a coherent picture of our global climate.

More than simply a presentation of the case that global warming exists, however, Maslin provides an insight which is both fair and balanced, highlighting some of the more contentious issues, while skilfully discrediting the main arguments posed by sceptics. At the same time, though, he is careful to concede that there are some areas which climate change science has not yet taken into consideration. One such concerns the effects of galactic cosmic rays in stimulating the formation of clouds - the effects of which on warming or cooling the planet are still not fully understood themselves. Maslin also points out areas in which there is still a large degree of uncertainty - such as the exact magnitude of future temperature increases and sea-level rises - as well as the limitations of current climate models in projecting the future.

Climate change is seen throughout the book as a gradual, linear process, and it is only late on that the author discusses in depth possible 'surprises' - abrupt events which could have a sudden and catastrophic effect on our climate, such as the potential shutdown of the global oceanic conveyor, or the release of gas hydrates into the atmosphere. Much research has gone into these subjects, and one feels that just 15 pages - only 2 on gas hydrates - is insufficient to cover them properly. Indeed climate change research in general has moved on apace since the book's first publication in 2004; the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released early in 2007, thus superseding much of the information - provided by AR3 in 2001 - on which this book is based.

The text is supplemented by no less than 38 illustrations and diagrams, serving for the most part to elucidate the themes presented, although some may be difficult for the lay reader to interpret. Disappointing is the list of suggested further reading, which includes only 18 titles and makes it difficult to use this book as a springboard for finding out more. As an alternative introduction to the subject, however, I can highly recommend Robert Henson's "The Rough Guide to Climate Change", the second, revised edition of which was published early in 2008 and which does incorporate the new findings from IPCC AR4. Even more compelling than either Maslin or Henson, however, is Bill McGuire's "Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction", the first half of which directly concerns anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change, and illustrates through the impacts global warming is likely to have exactly why this is an issue we should be deeply concerned about.

Everything considered, "Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction" is - a few minor shortcomings aside - a rigorous and convincing primer on what is a challenging and often contentious subject.
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on 9 August 2011
This is one of the better ' Very short introductions' being both readable and authoritative. The author covers the causes, effects and solutions to global warming, addressing sceptics' arguments. The prose is accessible, and generally explains technical arguments lucidly. One small gripe is that the graphs sometimes contain too much information and things like 'ppmv' are insufficiently explained. Nonetheless, does what it says on the tin very well, highly recommended.
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Professor Maslin has written a wide ranging, comprehensive and reasonably balanced review of global warming theory, despite declaring himself part of "the consensus" pretty early on. His 150 or so pages are an excellent summary, covering the greenhouse effect hypothesis, its history, evidence that warming is already happening, thoughts on how we might mitigate its effects, political problems and eventual solutions. Much of the material is from the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (so perhaps an update is on the way) although Maslin brings in other material as well. The most innovative of the chapters dips into the psychology of global warming acceptance/scepticism, and while this may not be a normal part of a geographer's repertoire it is thought provoking all the same. There is quite a lot on storms - this appears to be one of Maslin's own areas of research, and here he is more qualified about stating causative links. He also comments on press coverage, contrasting the Guardian (for which he was a contributor) with The Times, which was more sceptical.

Maslin puts the sceptics case fairly and courteously, although mainly to seek to disprove it or to seize on those elements of global warming theory that sceptics have conceded. While he names many of the consensus thinkers by name, however, he mentions few sceptics; while he does cover the theory of "Chilling Stars", for example, and even gives it an abbreviation (GCRs = Galactic Cosmic Rays), Henrik Svensburg is not mentioned in the text.

He has not, I am afraid, moved me much from my "don't know to moderately sceptical that warming is man-made" position. For example, he accepts the importance of water-vapour as a greenhouse gas, and goes on to accept that water-vapour and the mechanism for cloud formation is one of the least well understood processes. It seemed to me that the next step was to admit that this meant that there was a great deal less certainty in the climate models as they currently stand than some suggest. I was disappointed, too, (as it was one of my purposes in reading the book) that he does not explain any experimental basis quantitatively linking increased CO2 with increased temperature. The computer models (which he explains in concept, though not in individual detail) must have a formula (amongst many) to the effect that "additional 100 ppm CO2 = a temperature rise of x degrees C". You will be none the wiser as to how the (many different) values of "x" might have been calculated.

This was the first of OUP's "A Very Short Introductions" that I have read; there were 133 of them listed I this 2004 edition. I shall certainly read more, but would like to suggest to OUP that they print them in a slightly larger format - at 7" x 4.5" they are rather smaller than standard paperbacks these days and the print is unnecessarily small. While written by a scholar, the book does not give footnotes so it is not easy to establish exactly where a particular fact or argument originates.

That though, is a minor quibble. Overall, an excellent summary with a few original ideas of Maslin's own.
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