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CO2 Rising: The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262220835
ISBN-10: 0262220830
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Incessant flow of carbon dioxide and its fluid transformation becomes our own personal story in this wise and accessible narrative of the reality of accelerating climate change. Volk's beautifully illustrated description of this vast problem and his approach to potential solutions for our future life, growth, and energy supplies should interest everyone."--Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

(Lynn Margulis)

"Here's the most important math of our time on earth. Straightforward, simple, powerful--Tyler Volk lays out the numbers to show why we need a far more urgent and dramatic response to global warming than we've attempted to date."--Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature, and founder, 350.org

(Bill McKibben)

"Tyler Volk is a wonderful expositor who tells it like it is. In CO2 Rising he has some feisty carbon atoms take us along on their vividly and clearly described romp through the bio and geosphere. A journey we most certainly affect." -- Roald Hoffmann, Department of Chemistry, Cornell University, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

(Roald Hoffmann)

"If I had the power, I would assign C02 Rising to every college freshman in America. It is that good. It is that accessible. It is that important." -- Mitchell Thomashow, President, Unity College

(Mitchell Thomashow)

"[T]his book is an excellent introduction for undergraduate students and the general public with a keen interest in knowing more about climate change. It is equally informative for scientists and professionals specializing in different fields who would like to have an interdisciplinary view of the wonderful carbon cycle." -- Ning Zeng, T he American Meteorological Society Bulletin



"A clear and compelling picture of both the nature and scale of the global climate and energy challenge and what will be necessary to address it." -- Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute



"Carbon atoms with personality. That is the interesting literary device biochemist Tyler Volk uses to illustrate the fantastic convolutions that define the many and varied pathways of the carbon cycle... The public hears a lot about climate change but too little about just why too much CO2 -- a natural part of our atmosphere -- is bad news. Volk does an impressive job of illustrating, in engaging prose, the dangers to humanity of pushing the carbon cycle too hard and too fast." Barry Brook The Quarterly Review of Biology



"Here's the most important math of our time on Earth. Straightforward, simple, powerful Tyler Volk lays out the numbers to show why we need a far more urgent and dramatic response to global warming than we've attempted to date." Bill McKibben , author of The End of Nature and founder of 350.org



"I confess to initial doubts regarding a narrative about an anthropomorphized carbon atom... But this skeptic got caught up in the story and was impressed by the effectiveness with which Volk conveys complex concepts, the time scales involved, and some illuminating statistics." (For the full review, visit http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/September-October%202009/Books-so09.html) Gregg Marland Environment Magazine



"If I had the power, I would assign CO2 Rising to every college freshman in America. It is that good. It is that accessible. It is that important." Mitchell Thomashow , President, Unity College



"Incessant flow of carbon dioxide and its fluid transformation becomes our own personal story in this wise and accessible narrative of the reality of accelerating climate change. Volk's beautifully illustrated description of this vast problem and his approach to potential solutions for our future life, growth, and energy supplies should interest everyone." -- Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst



"... the book is well written and engaging... Volk clearly and fairly communicates complex and sometimes difficult concepts. CO2 Rising provides the basic information about the global carbon cycle that is needed to understand the scope, challenges, and options for dealing with climate change. This understanding should be part of everyone's scientific literacy." (For the full review, visit http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2009/117-2/newbooks.html.) -- Kristie L. Ebi, Environmental Health Perspectives



"The MIT Press has released CO2 Rising-The World's Greatest Environmental Challenge by Tyler Volk. This is the ultimate guide to the subject. A basic understanding of the carbon, CO2, and its cycle is necessary in order to understand what is driving global warming. This engaging and compelling book provides everything you need to know. It is jargon-free and easy to follow."(For the full review, visit http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art61998.asp) -- Connie Krochmal, BellaOnLine: The Voice of Women



"Tyler Volk is a wonderful expositor who tells is like it is. In CO2 Rising he has some feisty carbon atoms take us along on their vividly and clearly described romp through the bio and geosphere. A journey we most certainly affect." -- Roald Hoffmann, Department of Chemistry, Cornell University, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry



"Tyler Volk takes the reader on a journey of the carbon cycle from the viewpoint of individual carbon atoms. He then compares the natural release of carbon into the biosphere to that released by our use of fossil fuels. Both serve to bring the science of the carbon cycle to the reader in understandable terms." -- Wildlife Activist Magazine



"Tyler Volk's CO2 Rising is a finely crafted introduction to the greenhouse problem, taking as its protagonist a little carbon atom called Dave.... If there is one book on climate change that President-elect Barack Obama should read, it might well be Tyler Volk's CO2 Rising. Its clear, simple exposition of atmospheric chemistry is so well-written that it might even convince past-presidents." (For the full review, visit http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0812/full/climate.2008.123.html.) -- Euan Nisbet, Nature Reports: Climate Change



"... Volk introduces readers to Oiliver, Coaleen, and Methaniel, who unlike Dave were purposively extracted from the earth and have been in the biosphere for a much shorter period... more than competent tour guides to the complexities of the carbon cycle." (For the full review, visit http://www.chemheritage.org/pubs/magazine/review_volk.html) -- Zoe Marquardt, Chemical Heritage Newsmagazine



"... what sets CO2 Rising apart from other climate change books are its clear, concise and concrete explanations of how Earth's carbon cycle works... Dave and his fellow carbon atoms will give readers a new appreciation of how connected the world is -- at least through the carbon we all share." -- Erin Wayman, Earth Magazine

About the Author

Tyler Volk is Science Director of Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at New York University. He is the author of Gaia's Body: Toward a Physiology of the Earth (MIT Press, 2003), Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind, and other books.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262220830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262220835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. D. Mayor on May 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, a little about my credentials: I have a PhD in atmospheric & oceanic sciences. While my expertise is not in climate, I certainly have a significant interest in the subject and am often asked by friends, family, and acquaintances about the physics of CO2 and global warming. Even with my familiarity of a lot of the scientific basis for climate change, I must say this book made a huge contribution to my understanding of the concepts involved.

Summary: this is one excellent little book. I found it to be really enjoyable reading about an extremely important topic. The author has made a very complex subject understandable to the non-scientific reader. If you are wondering how the global carbon cycle works, how carbon is related to carbon dioxide, and projections on energy usage and CO2 emissions in the future, I highly recommend it. I thought the few charts and graphs were excellent and appropriate.
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Format: Hardcover
CO2 Rising accompanied me on my Amtrak ride to Chicago for the holidays and I really enjoyed it! Although I learned a lot of new things, it was also a great refresher of the basics of physics and chemistry that many of us may have forgotten. I really appreciated the explanations of the varying phenomena that build up to a complete understanding of the C02 picture. Like when Volk describes how William Herschel first inferred the existence of infrared rays using a prism. These building block vignettes paint a clearer picture of all of the different elements that come together to create an understanding of greenhouse gases.

Very impressed with the imagery in the book; it is a really unique gift to be both scientist and artist and some of the descriptions [and connections] in CO2 Rising really attest to that combination. Especially Volk's Michener-esque descriptions of carbon cycling through time, making the weathering of limestone a beautiful experience with which to bookend his story.

Volk employs a really great writing device by naming the individual carbon atoms that appear in the book as "characters". It really highlights the difference between carbon sources and mixing, and the difference between molecules and atoms that would have been so much more confusing otherwise. It was also more fun to read about these characters' journeys through time in this way.

Volk reminds us all that there is not likely going to be a single development that frees us from the problem of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to understand the carbon cycle or communicate to a skeptic about why co2 is a growing problem, this is the book. The scope, breadth, & depth of Volk's knowledge and research are impressive. But to tell a captivating story, he invents carbon atom characters: Dave (for David Keeling, who first recorded the 'Keeling curve' of rising co2); and some carbon atoms newly released by burning fossil fuels, Coaleen, Oiliver and Methaniel; and Icille, long-trapped in a frozen air bubble. Volk describes their travels through the biosphere, correlating them with geological time, human cultural history, and current energy strategies.

The story-telling analogies are helpful in making complex systems clear and understandable. Volk goes on to explain potential individual and governmental responses to growing co2 levels. The book doesn't advocate any one technical fix, other than clear thinking and immediate large-scale action. The intent is that an informed public understanding of natural systems and balances could go a long way toward better policy and consumer decisions.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is really a 'don't miss' book about CO2 in Earth's atmosphere, oceans & crust. Clear evidence is given for the NEED to limit burning fossil fuels, but the author has little hope for any real progress on that in the USA or elsewhere. Consequently, his projections for continued rise in atmospheric CO2 are based on current trends (used more intelligently here than usual) & he mostly leaves it to the Reader to draw appropriate conclusions. At first that's a little frustrating, but (for me, at least) it led to more alert study of his text & a wholesome engagement of my own brain & judgement that moved me 'ahead' faster than passive acceptance could. The paperback isn't expensive (e.g. Amazon) & is packed with useful data & the judgments of a real expert. Even the playful use of carbon atoms with names effectively promotes one's grasp of the message, especially in the last pages, where the reader suddenly realizes that these atoms are immortal, but humanity not only isn't, but may be throwing away what future it might still have....
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Good presentation of the complex interactions that make up the carbon cycle on our planet, concise and scientifically accurate. Discusses in detail the simplification that 57% of amount put into air each year stays there, rest mostly uptake by ocean.

Some other points:

(p. 176) Gives details of a projection to 2050, "Central Trend" leading to about 500 ppm and 2.5 degree C rise, frozen 2010 technology (540 ppm, 2.9 degrees) and no fossil fuel growth (480 ppm, 2.2 degrees up). In 2050 compared to 2005, central trend has GWP going up 4 times, GWP/person 3 times (average person in world would have same level as Europe and Japan now), energy use 2.5 times, emissions twice. Has assumed that increased efficiency, alternative energy and increase in service sector make it possible to have twice as much GWP per carbon. (Energy used to emissions improves by factor only 1.25.) Does NOT assume or discuss possible major technological breakthroughs, except as in factors above

(p. 30+) Discusses Keeling's results in detail. Seasonal variation north, not south, shows CO2 disperses in about a year over planet, but same average rise is seen everywhere (7 places).

(p. 62) Figure shows amount of carbon released into atm since 1850 by natural sources (lowest), coal, oil and natural gas.

Chap 6 displays results from ice cores going WAY back. Shows variation due to ice ages (190 to 300 ppm). Was 260 ppm when ag invented (-10,000), then 280 ppm very steady from 1-1850 CE.

(p. 155) From 1850 to 2005, gain of 100 ppm; model suggests another 100 ppm by 2050.

(p. 126) "To throw support behind a slower growth rate...means to approve a vision of the future in which billions of people remain in poverty."

(p.
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