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on 16 March 2017
Fascinating book. Delivered promptly
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HALL OF FAMEon 30 January 2006
"Not another book on climate change!", you lament. Readers may feel surfeited by the rash of books on "global warming" appearing in the past few years. The feeling is understandable. The situation should be considered an indication of how serious the problem is for all humanity. In this case, the author introduces a little-considered aspect. Tim Flannery, whose keen eye and bountiful wit always offers something new presented in a easily readable way, will not leave you jaded nor have your head nodding in ennui. Although Flannery does address some questions dealt with elsewhere, he adds the most significant topic of all - the future of life.
As a zoologist, Flannery has extensive field experience in the forests of New Guinea and elsewhere. He's written of human impact on large animals in North America and Australia. Here, he writes of human impact on all life. Instead of hunting animals to extinction, humans are modifying the entire biosphere through pollutants and gases. This indirect imposition has already killed off at least one species, he demonstrates. In explaining how the Golden Toad went extinct, Flannery sets the scene expansively. The Toad wasn't just a local phenomenon, but died out due to wide-ranging changes in ocean temperature, air mass movements and changes in rainfall. This combination of influences resulted in what appeared to us as a minimal change in habitat. To the Golden Toad, that "minimal change" proved catastrophic. The object lesson is clear. How much change will the species humans rely on for survival tolerate? Flannery, citing James Lovelock's "Gaia" hypothesis of the biosphere as a tightly woven "system", argues that the tolerance for change is meagre. And human-induced change is squeezing the tolerance downward. Up to 30% of all major species are under threat of extinction during this century.
Flannery notes how much needs to be learnt about our impact on the biosphere. Only a generation ago we had identified half of the "greenhouse gases" and scientists still contested whether their influence would warm or cool the planet. Now, he stresses, the warming effect is clearly dominant. The result of that warming is unfolding before us right now. More significantly, the consequences of today's conditions will not be fully realised for a generation. When they become apparent they will be far too severe to reverse. The time to take preventive action is now, not in a decade or more. The reason for prompt action refutes the "climate sceptics" who argue that climate change is "natural" and requires adaptability, not severe crisis-preventing action. Flannery explains how this view is mistaken and misleading. The rate of change today far exceeds any past natural process, and its effects may last many millennia. All examples of past climate change show cascading processes, where one small change induces later, more complex or far-reaching results. With today's rate of change so rapid, Flannery argues, the cumulative effects are unpredictable. But they won't be pleasant.
Flannery's presentation is that of the convinced scientist and caring individual. His abilities as a science writer provide us with clearly spelled out conditions and solutions. He is an ardent supporter of personal steps to be taken to reduce that rate of change underway around us. He also shows how industries and governments can contribute to slowing the threat to our biosphere and thus, our children's future. In fact, just about the only negative thing that can be said about this book is its chaotic "References" section. There is a logic in there somewhere, but in this reviewer's opinion, it's to make you go back to the text to cross-check and relearn the point. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 12 March 2006
This book clearly sets out the facts and science of climate change and is easy and enjoyable to read.
Climate change has the potential to have a major impact on each of our lives either as individuals, consumers, business men/women, investors etc.
This book gives you a clear picture of what is actually happening through examples and clearly taking you through the science behind it. It gives the different possible outcomes and gives you an idea of what to expect and how soon to expect it.
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on 3 March 2006
If you want to know the latest facts, and the full history about climate change, it's all here in this book.
Tim Flannery leaves no hiding place for those with doubts, or 'clever' responses based on spurious science.
If I can quote one set of facts from the book which should chill every reader, it is this:
In 1800 CO2 was about 280 parts-per-million in the atmosphere, and had been around that figure - or below - for 55 million years.
The Keeling Curve - based on Charles Keeling's measurements on thr summit of Mt Mauna Loa, Hawaii - shows an inexorable rise from 1959 to the present, from around 315 ppm to around 380 ppm in 2005.
Tim Flannery spells it out: at 280 ppm there is about 586 gigatonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere. Today the figure is about 790 gigatonnes, increasing by about 13.3 gigatonnes per year.
The aim should be to set a ceiling - a budget - of 6 gigatonnes per year.
That's less than half current emissions.
Keep those figures in mind and you will have the yardstick by which to judge politicians - like Energy minister Malcolm Wickes - who said only the other day:
" ... the world is going to be burning lots of carbon, particularly loads and loads of coal, for 100, 200 years to come. The environmentalists may not like that but tough, it's going to happen"
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The author carefully discusses the various potential futures for the planet, looking at the different scenarios in a scientific reasoned way. He looks at the changes likely for a wide range of habitats and species, showing that most parts of the Earth will be badly affected by even low rises in average temperature.
He then looks at the causes - and there are some horror stories of political lobbying by the various Carbon Power businesses (rather like the tobacco industry's attempts to thwart scientific investigation of the links to cancer in the pursuit of profit at the expense of human life).
Finally he looks at the ways that we, or rather, (unfortunately) our politicians, can do something about it. Individually we can make a small change, but it needs consistent, combined efforts by our governments to save the planet from a new "Dark Age" brought on by extreme weather conditions.
A well written, balanced view of the Earth's future. If only all politicians of all nations would read this, then the planet would have a chance.
The alternative is to go and live in a small-holding in the North of England, grow your own food, and have your own wind and solar power generators. Unfortunately, as most of us live packed into cities, this will only be available for a few - and the rest of the population will no doubt turn to anarchy...
Ah well, we've had a good run for our money - the 60's and 70's were probably the final golden age of civilisation on the planet. Now, unless a miracle happens and the Power Lobby and the Car Manufacturers get a radical change of heart, we are heading inexorably towards the new Dark Ages.
So, in the words of the great Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish..."
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on 21 November 2005
This book is a brilliant examination of this very broad subject. Not only is it filled with useful facts, but it is simple to read with Flannery’s friendly, down-to-earth style aimed at the general reader.
Predictions of the impacts of climate change are often stark, and Flannery doesn’t shy away from that potential reality. Indeed, he paints a picture of those frightening predictions to support his argument for mitigating emissions and to motivate action.
But he is also optimistic about how we, as individuals and societies, can make the changes necessary to prevent a scale of climate change which civilisation cannot adapt to, and he outlines a future which shares that optimism. For example:
“The best evidence indicates that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 70 per cent by 2050. If you own a four-wheel-drive and replace it with a hybrid fuel car, you can achieve a cut of that magnitude in a day rather than half a century.”
If anything will motivate climate change action, this book will.
And if you're a non-believer in climate change science, either this book will convince you of the reality, or nothing will!
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on 18 August 2008
We Are the Weather Makers: The Story of Global Warming

This is an interesting little book which will keep you reading right to the end. Tim Flannery takes a global look at climate change issues and global warming and although he doesn't quite get it all right all the time (he says Iceland was the country allowed to exceed its 1990 CO2 levels by the greatest amount (10%) but he was unaware that Ireland was allowed to exceed 1990 levels by 13% (and despite these extremely favourable conditions, has managed to mess up and exceed quota by almost three times that amount - SHAME on my selfish and corrupt Government, FDI and countrymen and women!!) Fast paced, Flannery skips from issue to issue to issue. When will we, as a nation and as a world realise that in order for our children and their children to have a future, we MUST act now and QUIT behaving like the self indulgent prats which abound in every town and city in Ireland and across much of the so-called 'developed' world? Is it worth despairing or are we homo sapiens deserving of the future which will befall us (and most other creatures who have the misfortune to share our planet) for our stupidity and greed? Anyway, this book is worth a read. Just wish I could shove it down the throats of those who need to read it too.
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on 30 November 2005
Every single person on this planet needs to read this book. It is one of the most passionate accounts of climate change I have ever read. It is informing and has opened my eyes to the problems the human race is causing to our planet. I have not been able to put it down. This book will change the way you live your life.
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on 9 January 2006
I must admit, I didn't enjoy Flannery's style. It seemed to me that he often tries to shock rather than sift through the pros and cons while patiently explaining why it can be so difficult to make exact predictions.
Flannery is an impatient main on a crusade.
On top of that his pet topic - "Gaia", the world as one living organism that keeps (and sometimes fails to keep) the environment at an optimum for itself - keeps popping up in his book. Gaia is quiet controversial, but Flannery doesn't really bother to argue his case much. After an example or two F. just sort of says it's OK if you don't believe in it, but keeps quoting Gaia throughout his book none the less.
It seems to be more of a book for the converted rather than reaching out to the undecided or the merely curious.
I was looking for a book which would summarize the latest developments in climate research. F. does that - as well. This was the reason why I did give 3 stars.
However the emphasis in this book is not on science but on the need for action, now.
F. writes like a barrister using everything he can to bolster his case.
I do believe mankind is responsible for global warming. I also believe we have to act. Still, I did not take to F.'s proselytising.
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on 7 April 2008
Superbly written, easy to understand (even for non-science people like me) and well laid out with facts and details cleaerly defined for the reader to make their own conclusions. Everyone should read this book as we all have a stake in the future of this planet, and Tim proves that there are things that can be done so simply if we, the individuals just get off our butts and stop being complacent. For the sake of our children, and our childrens children, I truly hope his message gets across.
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