Sunday, September 29, 2013

With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change by Fred Pearce

I read Pearce's When the Rivers Run Dry back in 2009 and named it one of the year's top ten out of the 101 books I read. That should have made this book an obvious purchase, but I did not buy it right away. Did I really want to read a book about global warming? I already know it's happening and it's probably our fault, so why get a book about it? That's largely why I didn't bother reading Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth when my wife bought it. Oddly enough, I went back and forth so many times on whether to get this book that I ended up buying it twice, paperback and hardcover, because I couldn't remember whether I'd bought it.

I decided to read the paperback because it includes a "new" preface, albeit now six years old. Pearce is a magazine reporter, and like When the Rivers Run Dry, this book sometimes reads more like a collection of articles than a cohesive narrative. I like this approach because it presents a broad survey of what's going on all over the world. The author takes us where the scientists are making observations, doing calculations, and creating models to predict the impact of countless factors on Earth's climate. Overall it is an incredibly complex system.

Pearce makes climate more intriguing than I ever expected, and I learned a heck of a lot from this book. Sometimes he writes with an urgent tone, but that's understandable because 1.) this is serious shit, and 2.) he's been writing about climate for decades, watching the situation become more dire—and our role in causing it more obvious—while many governments and industries do nothing to alter our course.

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