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on 17 January 2015
gave it as a gift
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 August 2017
I read this book summarised in the Sunday Times when it was published in 2007 and have now read the full horror story. Lynas is a journalist who has lived on a few different continents and now lives in UK, so he is better at communicating the science than many pure scientists. He collected the papers and charts about what would progress if the world warmed as it was set to do, and presented the evidence of the effects per each degree upwards. He largely succeeds in being unbiased, except to add that he would like the planet to survive in its current form and it would be lonely without all the major species such as Siberian tigers.

We're now nearly at two degrees already, and this after the global economic meltdown of 2008 onwards. Partly of course, we know that the carbon already output is still present, cosily insulating the Earth and damaging ecosystems like coral reefs and burning forests. And partly we can see evidence of increasingly filthier oil being produced and transported using increasingly more power.

The really scary part is that we can see the feedback cycles mentioned in the book, and we're advised that from three degrees, the next cycle is kicked into action, which brings us inexorably to four degrees and the next cycle etc. right the way to the author warning us that six degrees may prove a distressing read. Each degree is more powerful and destructive, from hurricanes becoming super-hurricanes to multiple species extinction to desertification of cropland to belches of methane from frozen subsea strata to hydrogen sulphide, already seen off Namibia, being released in a silent murderous planetary devastation.... sorry, it got away with me there.

And for each degree we are not just looking at one computer model, but looking at hard evidence from past aeons. Whatever is being described has all happened before and left fossil evidence. The layer of burned earth, the layer of mud rich with fossils followed by a layer of mud empty of the remains of life, the evidence of massive landslides which indicate huge tsunamis, the desertification following overgrazing and deforestation causing societal collapse. Coming soon to a supermarket near you.

Some suggestions to stave off ultimate destruction are mooted at the end of the book. We need seven or more wedges of change to improve; planting more trees, using less coal and more gas, driving less, ceasing to fell and burn rainforests, etc. But the main drive is to reduce fossil fuel use and gain power from other sources instead, not as well as oil and coal.

I've been a naturalist and careful consumer and secondhand user and recycler and energy saver and environmentalist all my life. Please do the same. It matters. We've only got one more generation to keep Earth under three degrees of warming, and after that, it seems to me that nothing can stop the increase.

Notes are P281 - 333 and index 335 - 345. I found eleven names in the index which I could be sure were female. The notes and sources however cite scientific references by last name and initial.
This is an unbiased review of a library book.
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on 16 December 2013
I've just finished reading the book and think it should be required reading for all politicians worldwide (some hope!)

The author has scoured scientific research to find out what may happen if the world warms by an average of 1°C, or 2°C, etc up to 6°C, beyond which there's apparently no scientific opinions. The scenarios are often based on geological evidence of events many thousands of years ago, so nothing is a guaranteed outcome, but it makes scary and compelling reading.
Opinions vary as to whether it's possible for us (as a species) to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions sufficiently to save ourselves from the more extreme temperature rises although I would agree that it does seem doubtful, and it seems to boil down to whether major disruption on human societies will happen within our lifetime, or that of our children's (it seems that it will be noticeable before our grandchildren's).

The scary thing is not only thinking that, as an individual, I many not be able to do much more to reduce my own carbon footprint, but that when the disruption starts, I will have no control over what happens with my environment. Imagine a Hurricane Haiyan happening every week, for example -- international aid would soon dry up, and people would have to relocate, putting more pressure on countries and food production etc where the people migrated to. And flooding and desertification could create so many migrants that even people in "safe" areas come under threat from the societal changes as a result of large refugee influxes.

Think I'm painting a depressing picture? Check it out and see what YOU can do to prevent these scenarios from becoming reality. It's as much a commentary on human society as it is on environmental change, and that's what I find is the really scary part! Nothing is certain, except that some warming will happen and we are causing it. It's a riveting read.
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on 18 July 2016
I almost wish I hadn't read this as it is so bleak and depressing, but then again, it was very interesting and informative at first. The apocalyptic scenarios were entertaining/ fascinating (if I can call them that) for the first 3 degrees, but as the temperature rose to the final 6 degrees, I can only say that I was left feeling a lot less 'fascinated' and detached, and instead felt utterly miserable and hopeless. So, be prepared for that if you are thinking of reading this book to the end. It is devastating.
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on 3 October 2010
Although the book is two years old as I write this review, it is still current and worth reading. Most books on climate change describe the dangers of warming in a more general way, focusing on the human contribution, implications of technology, or visions of a low carbon future. Six Degrees is different: it devotes itself purely to the implications for the planet of each degree of warming. You need not believe warming is man-made, nor that global warming will accelerate during this century, to find this interesting.

Lynas pulls together evidence from many sciences, from climate studies to archaeology, to describe the likely impact of each degree of warming on different aspects of life on earth, and this synthesis of perspectives is probably one of the greatest strengths of his book. He also provides some guide to the level of uncertaintly around various aspects of the science, indicating what is still under debate, which theories are still very new, and what has been known for a long time. His book concludes with a thick Notes section which gives the reader the references to the scientific literature he has drawn on for his analysis.

The speed of change is a matter of debate as Lynas acknowledges. He explicitly makes very little effort to predict when the earth would go through different levels of average warming, acknowledging that this will depend on levels of CO2 - which might accelerate or decline depending on both human and other changes - and on the delaying effect of the oceans. Lynas therefore confines himself to describing the types of change we might expect, from anoxic seas (i.e. with no oxygen to support life) to flooding to desertification. He links these changes to changes in prehistoric levels of CO2 and average temperature.

I find a few small flaws in the book. Firstly, Lynas does a poor job of explaining why exactly it is that six degrees of warming, which sounds like a holiday, in fact results in a world where life could flourish in Antarctica and much of the current inhabited zone would become desert. He alludes to the reasons for this, and backs it up with the evidence of prehistory, which should be enough to persuade most people. However this is a highly counter-intuitive point and he would do well to spend more time explaining how it could be the case that average warming of 6 degrees also means extreme warming far beyond this level.

The second failing in my view - and this is down to personal preference - is one of style. Lynas has a tendency to descend into poetic descriptions to set the scene for his visions of earth today and in the future. For some readers, these evocative scenes will help them visualise the changes Lynas describes; for me, they were a distraction from the more serious scientific discussion.

Because it focuses on one thing - the environmental impact of each degree of warming - and does it well, I believe this book remains well worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand why scientists and politicians get so worked up by the thought of exceeding 2 degrees of warming. Given the lack of political and public will to prevent this change, it is also a useful guide for those who want to know what coming generations should to prepare for.
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on 16 December 2009
I was given this by a friend who accidently purchased two copies with her Amazon 'one click'! I took it on holiday to Brasil with me (!) and loved it. I thought it was a well written book that presented some otherwise impossible to understand data in an entertaining and enjoyable way (if reading about how the end of the human race might look like can be called enjoyable). It is meant to be an emotive book as the author does want you to get off your behind and do something about it - and to do it NOW. So I guess he has picked and chosen research to back up his beliefs. I don't have a problem with this and thought the author was honest about the fact that no one really knows what is going to happen and the models aren't predictions but are just possible scenarios. The information I found most interesting was about when/how oil was formed (and how this cooled the earth all those years ago) and how by burning it we are basically reheating the planet. If anything this book made me feel less guilty about forgetting to recyle every scrap of cardboard or taking a long haul flight for a holiday, and made me more aware that if governments through-out the world keep putting economic growth first on their agenda then quite frankly it's not looking good.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2008
Yes, it's a book that forecasts apocalypse if we don't change our profligate ways, and we will all be consigned to an environmental hell for not taking our responsibilities as stewards of this planet seriously- and don't 'say that Mark Lynas did not warn you!!
Yeh, and if you would like to hide in the security blanket that this is just another 'green rant' then sorry folks - the issue itself will not go away, so give this book a read.
Why?
For start he bases his arguments by devoting a separate chapter to various scenarios, i.e. One Degree Warmer, Two Degrees and up to Six.
I would suggest to even the most casual of readers that by the time you get to 'Two Degrees' you will at least be thinking 'Oh dear' (and either become very worried or so annoyed that you start thinking up arguments as to why he is wrong- you hope).
That aside, it is a very gripping read as one travels from very worrying One Degree warmer to the Fearful Six Degrees.
And a very clear and concise account for the ordinary reader.
OK Mr Lynas is not 'qualified' but he has produced a very detailed work with a good amount of commentary based on the Earth's history. Yes, some might be hyperbole because the writer wants to get his point across. But that is not the issue...
This is....
Even if just one-quarter of what Mr Lynas asserts is true then we had better pay attention to how each of us is treating this planet and its resources. He has convinced me!!
One niggle I must agree with - the cover. A scorched desert bone strewn desert might have been more accurate.
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on 31 December 2009
The 2007 IPCC AR4 report predicts a potential increase in global mean temperature before 2100 of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees C.

That's a broad range...? Why the uncertainty? What do these numbers actually mean? Surely 6 degrees is not such a big deal - we have that kind of difference every week, right?

Popular science writer Mark Lynas has done a Herculean job of sorting through all the reports, scientific papers, climate model predictions etc, and breaking down what these mean in terms of one degree C increments, in terms that everyone can understand.

The book is primarily six chapters, starting at "One Degree" and building up to a truly terrifying "Six Degrees". There is also a brief introduction, conclusion, and more than 50 pages of notes and references...

The conclusion, entitled "Choosing our Future" is particularly well done. Poignant and impassioned, yet measured, pragmatic and very cautiously optimistic... It avoids the pithy platitudes that you often find in such books.

Lynas has done his homework, and he's a good writer. If you want to understand what the science really means to you and your children then add this one to your cart.
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on 26 May 2010
Everybody should read this book, as it shows what has happened and why, what is happening now, and what WILL happen IF we dont do something about the problem now, all Americans should read it, as most are still living in the dark ages over there, most likely because of all the fossil fueled smog that have to endure
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on 10 June 2008
Here we are confused and scared about what is to happen next. Each side picks what they believe to be key evidence which points to what will happen in the future. But here's the rub we don't know! Historical evidence is useful showing us what could happen within the natural cycle. But are we within a natural cycle? Has the planet ever had a species which over hundreds of years has released stored carbon and methane (as well as other "thermally opaque" gases) into the atmosphere over such a relatively short time?

What do we do?

First, we need to know what could happen then allocate sufficient resources to make sure we are secure against the unacceptable. This book sets these possible levels of that "unacceptable" change.

It allows us to understand that doing nothing is actually an action; doing nothing means "Business as Usual" which means the continued emissions of Giga Tonnes of global warming gases into the atmosphere.

Anyone for Russian roulette?
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