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Earth: The Operators' Manual

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393081091
ISBN-10: 0393081095
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this companion book to the PBS television series of the same name, Alley, a Penn State professor of geology who served as a member of the U.N. climate change committee, presents a primer on combatting global warming. The book begins with a history of how fuel-from trees, whale oil, and petroleum-has been instrumental to civilization and how we tend to exhaust our sources. He goes on to explain how scientists study climate change and why the evidence is convincing, and ends with a call to action and an overview of possible solutions. Laden with professorial jokes, unexpected similes (studying climate change is like watching kindergarten soccer; stabilizing the atmosphere is comparable to sewage treatment), photos of the author's daughters, and exhaustive responses that should demolish any and all misinformation about global warming circulating around the U.S., this optimistic book ought to convince even the most obstinate climate-change denier. (Apr.)
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Review

Starred Review. Alley thoroughly explains the dynamics of global warming and its negative consequences, and parses the economic benefits of renewable energy. He also forthrightly addresses ‘Climategate,’ the politicization of science, and common misperceptions that stoke skepticism about what he convincingly demonstrates is the ‘solid science’ of global warming. Alley concludes with suggestions for a ‘measured transition’ to a combination of wind, solar, sea, and geothermal power. Alley’s lively and positive Earth ‘operating manual’ is the substantial companion book for a new PBS series that will air in April to mark Earth Day. (Booklist)

This optimistic book ought to convince even the most obstinate climate-change denier. (Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Morris Ward on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Richard Alley combines in-depth technical expertise on climate change with a unique ability to connect with and speak with (and not merely to) a non-scientific audience. This book and the PBS series to which it is a companion is readily accessible to any person with a reasonable intellectual curiosity and, more importantly, an open mind. As a self-identified registered Republican and "right of center" political ideology, Alley is the perfect messenger for those ideologically predisposed to wanting not to believe the substantial body of peer-reviewed and thoroughly vetted climate science. His PBS three-part special and his new book should be must-reading for anyone wanting to stay conversant on energy and related climate issues. A winner.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David J Kent on August 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Alley is a climate scientist. While many may not have heard of him before, some will have seen him give a demonstration of the Earth's tilt (and its relationship to climate change) in a House hearing last year. Using his head, with his bald spot representing the North Pole, Alley schooled Republican Rep. Rohrabacher on historical climate science. Alley uses the same humor and adroitness of analogy in Earth: The Operators' Manual to give us an engaging look at our planet, the changes that are occurring, and options for moving forward.

The book is a companion to a PBS documentary, which I haven't seen but plan to do so after reading this book. The book is divided in to three parts totaling 24 chapters. The first part gives us a glimpse at how we have used energy over the millennia, how we have impacted the planet, and how we have moved from "peak trees" to "peak whale oil" to eventually (or even already), "peak fossil fuels." The second part gives us a dozen chapters that make it clear that human activity is changing our climate. The third part focuses on options for non-fossil fuel energy sources.

Throughout, Alley's whimsical side shows through, as does the ease at which he can communicate the science with apt analogies that all of us can understand. Who knew that climate was a bit like watching a kindergarten soccer game? With climate, many factors appear to be kicking around randomly but then, eventually, there seems to be an order to the chaos. As Alley takes us through the science it becomes undeniably clear that we are warming our planet.

While the first two sections may be the most entertaining, the final section is probably the most important part of the book.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Instead of actually reviewing the book, "M. Jones" simply recycles one of the most common Denialsphere screeds ... "the Earth's climate changed in the past and we know it wasn't caused by humans. Therefore, the current warming isn't caused by humans either."

The first sentence is true, while the second is false. You cannot infer the latter from the former. Yes, the Earth's climate has changed in the past due to natural forcings. This is well understood. However, it is also well understood that NONE of those natural forcings can explain all of the current warming. In fact, they explain only 10% of it! The other 90% is caused by us humans.

Dispute that? Then prove that 100% (shoot, go for even 50%) of the current warming is caused by natural forces ... if you can do so a Nobel Prize awaits you, along with the $1,000,000 prize money. Any takers? Didn't think so.

Kevin
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Qavvik on June 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Alley provides a sucinct and compelling overview of the current state of our knowledge of the Earth's climate. The book is non-idiological and th author utilizes discrete real-world examples to illustrate his points. This is a good book for a text for an undergraduate sustainability course, or for the genera public interested in a well balanced review of climate sciece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Fritz on December 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Alley is a brilliant scientist and a charismatic story-teller. He's engaging and honest, and makes no reservations about the fact that WE DO need energy, that fossil fuels have built an incredible modern world, but that we now have to figure out how to move forward sustainably. Alley explains climate change in a way that we can all understand -- he's thoughtful in his questions and answers as he guides us down the path of scientific reasoning as to why this is happening, and what we can do about it. I would absolutely recommend this book (and the associated PBS series) to anyone looking for honest climate answers from a real scientist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John W. Davenport on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Should be required reading for everyone. We will all be affected by the coming changes in our climate. Dr. Alley presents his case step by step using only documented facts and labeling any conjecture as such. He presents reasonable solutions not unrealistic hogwash. I dare anyone who reads this book to continue harboring doubts about climate change being real and an immediate problem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Wayne Dworsky on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Although there are currently 20 books in print that bear the title, Earth, Richard B. Alley tries to make a fresh point in his new book Earth. In addition to the many publications out there on the subject, Alley contributes nothing especially new. However, his wide spread knowledge and close connection to the documentaries on PBS makes it a must read. The book's comprehensive scope provides broad appeal for anyone pro or con in climate change. The book doesn't scold mankind for having languished in the midst of the petroleum era, but offers ways in which we can see the error of our ways and provide hope in stabilizing destructive elements from the past.

The reader is compensated for his quest to devour the conceptual language within the volume. While the text drifts in and out of anecdotal episodes to discuss and break down the complex of information that Alley puts forward, he does so in a realistic way, bringing the entire environment into the picture so that the reader can readily observe cause and effect and judge the state of affairs for him or herself. I particularly loved, Put It Where the Sun Doesn't Shine. It's good fall reading and keeps you up to date on cable TV's most popular arena.
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