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What We Know About Climate Change (Boston Review Books) Hardcover – August 31, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0262050890 ISBN-10: 0262050897 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Boston Review Books
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (August 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262050897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262050890
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

At just 128 pages, Emanuel's book clearly and succinctly explains the current state of the science of climate change. —Coral Davenport --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


"Emanuel"s words are measured and authoritative. His book should help reduce the huge gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is known by the people who need to know, the public and policymakers."James Hansen , NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

"Kerry Emanuel's book What We Know About Climate Change is one of the best [books on climate change] and is certainly the shortest. In less time than it takes to eat dinner, the respected atmospheric scientist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor filters out the noise and presents clearly the essence of the issues that surround global warming." The Plain Dealer

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and an easy read.
This very short book explains the science of climate in simple and concise terms so that nearly anyone can understand it.
I recommend that everyone read this "pamphlet" to better understand the science behind the issue.
S. L. Jacobs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steven Stoft on January 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read many books on climate change when I was researching my own. This is the best I've found on the essential science of climate change. Dr. Kerry Emanuel is a first-rate (MIT) climate scientist who is properly skeptical of his own field. He writes clearly and concisely, and this is an extremely short book. Here are some hints of what is in the chapters and what's new in this edition.

Chp. 1. The myth of natural stability: The earth's climate has been extremely variable - "snowball earth" and "giant trees near the North Pole." The greenhouse effect explains a lot about this.

Chp. 2. Greenhouse physics: Without the greenhouse effect, the earth would be about 0 degrees, not 60. Without air currents, it would be about 85 degrees.

Chp. 3. Why the climate problem is difficult: Clouds. Also, natural variation is so large that it takes about 30 years to detect the human contribution. "The lack of appreciable global warming over the first decade of the current millennium is, ... entirely consistent with ... warming" [this is new].

Chp. 4. Determining humanity's influence: There are two ways, the actual temperature record and computer models. A good explanation of the problems of models, and why they're likely good enough. (Too bad the graph still only goes up to 2000.)

Chp. 5. The consequences: Yes, there are benefits. The negatives: (1) Three to 7 degrees warming and more over land, (2) sea level rise, (3) more frequent strong hurricanes, (4) more flooding and drought, (5) ocean already 30% more acidic [new and important].

Chp. 6. Communicating science: Some IPCC findings and a critique of how, "In their quest to publish the drama of competing dogmas, the media largely ignore mainstream scientists."

Chp. 7.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ken on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Emanuel does a superb job of separating the wheat from the chaff in this little gem. It's virtually impossible for the average layman to separate conspiracy theory nonsense from fear-mongering reading most books and popular press articles on global warming. But Emanuel presents a sound authoritative analysis of what we really do and don't know.
Unlike many other books on global warming, which bury the reader with a plethora of out-of-context quotes, tables of data, and cherry-picked charts, Emanuel presents just enough solid data for the reader to understand the whole issue.
He covers the philosophic underpinnings of different views, the history of global warming, the science, and finally the politics. When put together in this fashion, readers will educate themselves properly.
Before reading this book, I spent months and months reading peer reviewed scientific journal articles, web-site after web-site, and many popular press articles. Had I read Dr. Emanuel's book sooner I could have obtained the same final position with much less work and time invested.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. Fiedler on October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Be forewarned this is a very small book: 82 pages of text, one B&W figure and no references. On a typical page I counted 120 words. I spotted no typos. I found only one sentence where I thought the physical explanation was muddled. The text could provide an excellent narration to a video documentary. A typical citizen needing to get wise about the physics of global warming might be better served by something more than a book without graphics.

Nevertheless, the book is a very quick read and professionals in this field may still enjoy scouring the pages of this book to find out where Professor Emanuel stands on certain issues. I got my money's worth on page 67 where we can read: "Scientists are most effective when they provide sound, impartial advice, but their reputation for impartiality is severely compromised by the shocking lack of political diversity among American academics, who suffer from the kind of group-think that develops in cloistered cultures. Until this profound and well-documented intellectual homogeneity changes, scientists will be suspected of constituting a leftist think tank."

15 of the 82 pages are not Prof. Emanuel's words, but is an "Afterword" provided by other authors. These words carry less authority. For example, the Afterword attributes the melting of the snows of Kilimanjaro to global warming, but some recent scientific research implicates land use changes around Kilimanjaro.

The Afterword also lays out a plan to save us from global warming, with a claim that "addressing global warming could be relatively painless". Here is the plan: "the United States and other industrial economies reduce their emissions by three percent per year between now and mid-century" which will ultimately "reduce global emissions by 75 percent or more". Some of the means to do this provide a chuckle: "driving less aggressively". No account is made for global population growth and global ambitions for prosperity.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Junkie on July 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Emanuel has written an outstanding survey of the difficulty and methodology of doing climate change science. One comes away convinced that something needs to be done, although Emanuel doesn't prescribe solutions. The afterward, by Judith A. Layzer and William R. Moomaw, is a pallid letdown after the concise and perceptive work of Emanuel. The backgrounds of Layzer and Moomaw are omitted, unforgivable in the context of the discussion. (Layzer is is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and Moomaw is Professor of International Environmental Policy and Director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts). They are guilty of the academic bias that Emanuel talks of and contribute nothing to the issue. What a shame to sully an otherwise useful book with such irrelevance! Five stars for Emanuel's work. One star, at best, for the afterward. I worked as an experimental physicist before retirement and have been appalled by the lack of scientific acumen exhibited by politicians, the public, and some of the scientific community. I'll give this book to friends with a disclaimer about the afterward.
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