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The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 29, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing from research on polar melting and current climate studies, paleontologist and NASA astrobiologist Ward (Under a Green Sky) depicts grim scenarios of the future as the ice caps melt away. Ward imagines Canadian indigenous people waging guerrilla warfare in 2030 on a government poisoning their bodies and ancestral lands with tars sands mining; Miami in 2120 as a lawless island abandoned by a federal government overwhelmed with building dikes to protect less doomed cities; topsoil from a dried-out Midwest being shipped in 2515 to an Antarctic Freehold State, one of the few locations where crops could still be grown; Bangladeshi refugees, fleeing their flooded nation after a 24-foot sea rise in 3004, being gunned down by Indian Border Security Forces. Ward assures us that it doesn't have to be this way and attempts a feeble optimism. He recommends a combination of lifestyle changes and technical solutions, although he warns that the latter are fraught with unknown perils. This is indisputably important information, but Ward's conclusion that hope is perhaps itself a goal, makes for a depressing read. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“NASA astrobiologist [Peter] Ward describes the disastrous changes that can be expected as sea levels continue their accelerating rise due to global warming… a blunt, vivid warning.”
A beautifully written, thoroughly research and relentlessly terrifying work, and a must-read for anybody with an interest in the environment or the future of our planet.” 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465009492
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the more confusing aspects of the IPCC report was how far oceans will rise. The numbers in the report were not very worrisome, but many scientists said the seas could rise much further. Peter Ward tries to bring some clarity to the confusion. He says anything over 5 feet is beyond civilizations ability to deter and thus many places will be abandoned. Certain hot spots like Bangladesh, Holland, San Francisco, Venice, New Orleans and southern Florida make appearances as Ward envisions what they could look like in the future. His book is not a prediction. He offers instead scenarios that are within the realm of possibility because *they have happened before*. The geological record is chock full of evidence of rapidly rising seas. This is not debateable, it's as clear as a dinosaur bone (although some people deny dinosaurs existed). How exactly our future unfolds no one knows, Ward doesn't know either, but he looks at parallels between the past and present atmosphere and it's not pretty. One thing we are certain of however, as CO2 levels rise, so do the oceans.

25% of CO2 released by humans stays in the atmosphere for over 50,000 years, longer than the half-life of radiation. It's a permanent gift to the future and how it impacts sea level rise is significant - actions today will impact the future for a very long time. Oceans are currently rising 2mm a year, this is well documented. About 10,000 years ago they were rising at 2 inches per year, or 16 feet a century - again, well documented and not debated. The earth is very capable of doing it again.
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Format: Hardcover
Peter Ward's book opens a century from now with a Miami Beach being abandoned by the US government, as it evaluates what it can -- and can't -- defend against rising seas. Holdouts have lost water supplies (with swimming pools being used as reserve tanks for desalinated water) and any land connection to the mainland. Direct loss of land to rising seas represents only the tip of the (melted) iceberg due to rising seas. Lost water supplies (salt-water infiltration) will wreck havoc on agriculture and hability of coastal regions.

Ward brings to the table substantial scientific background and using earth's & humanity's history to illuminate the risks we face from rising seas in a warming world.

For those already concerned about climate change, reading Ward will heighten that concern. For those unconcerned, The Flooded Earth should change that position. And, for those unconcerned about learning from science and scientists, this isn't the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last week, a chunk of ice four times as large as Manhattan Island broke off the tongue of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland and went swimming in the sea. For me, immersed in The Flooded Earth: Our Future In a World Without Ice Caps, it was striking evidence of what Peter D. Ward writes about: the loss of the polar icecaps and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, caused by rising global temperatures. (At the same time, Russia was experiencing its worst drought and heat wave in recorded history, further evidence of the erratic weather created by warming.) Ward, a paleontologist who has studied the rise and retreat of ancient oceans and the mass extinctions related to ocean rise, knows what he's talking about, and his book is a full treatment (at least for the general reader) of the science behind his basic argument: that the oceans are rising and will continue to rise--unless humans reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

What I found most interesting about Ward's book (and perhaps most compelling, for many readers)are the dramatic fictionalizations of the impacts of greenhouse gases that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Chapter One opens in the drowning city of Miami, in 2120, with CO2 at 800 ppm--and Miami joining New Orleans and Galveston as abandoned cities. Chapter Three beings in Tunisia in 2060 CE, with carbon dioxide at 500 ppm--and features (I suspect) Ward himself, by this time an "old geologist" who studies evidence of mass extinctions. Food for the still-rising population is scarce, transportation fuel is not available for personal use, and the study of the past is a luxury that society can no longer afford.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As always, Peter Ward has written a book that combines all kinds of personal experience and interesting details from recent research with a strong theme that is carried through his book. In this case, he looks at the issue of sea level rise due to global warming. This is not his area of expertise, so he relies on the research of others. This is perhaps the one weaker area of the book that could be attacked by global warming deniers. In spite of this, he also manages to weave in evidence or perspectives gained from both his hobby of ocean diving and his profession as a geologist who has specialized in the study of past mass-extinction events. The result is a somewhat speculative book on the future sea level scenarios with colorful anecdotes and personal stories sprinkled in.

This books follows what seems to be a popular format for recent books like this. Each chapter starts out with one or two fictional future scenarios set anywhere from a few decades to a few millenia in the future that demonstrate one possible outcome of the issue he covers in that chapter. Major themes in the book are possible rates for ice loss, possible sea level rises from this and other events, the threats to coastal cities, low-lying agricultural land and aquifers, the potential for changes in ocean currents and chemistry that could threaten extinction events and the potential for technological and engineering solutions to mitigate the damage.

Most official global warming reports or models underestimate or fail to take into consideration some of the more recent research and ideas on ice loss and sea level rise.
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