- Hardcover: 280 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 4, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199933871
- ISBN-13: 978-0199933877
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change 1st Edition
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Q&A with Andrew Guzman, author of Overheated
Q. Though most scientists now agree that climate change is a reality, the political debate continues. Why do you think this is?
A. The debate on the science of climate change is one of the great public relations successes of our time. Well-organized and well-heeled interest groups that benefit from continuing to emit greenhouse gases without limit have conducted an organized and intentional campaign to persuade the public that there is no threat here. It seems, however, that this campaign is finally failing in the face of overwhelming evidence and opinion that makes the reality of climate change irrefutable. It is essential that the debate move on to the far more important questions of how climate change will affect us and what we can and should do about it.
Q. What will the greatest human costs be from a 2° Celsius increase in average global temperature?
A. The costs will be large and varied and the greatest cost is perhaps the one that affects you and your family. But one constant across a large share of the problems that will emerge is water. Rising seas will flood some land and make other territory less valuable for agriculture as salt leeches into the soil. Melting glaciers, meanwhile, will increase flooding during rainy seasons and drought during dry seasons; a reality that will bring water crises to perhaps half of the world's population. At the same time, changing precipitation patterns will toy with our established pattern of habitation and agriculture. In short, humans need water everyday and for everything we do, and climate change will disrupt virtually all of our existing water systems.
Q. How active of a role should the Unites States play in mitigating climate change, both domestically and abroad?
A. The United States is the essential climate change country. It is the world’s second largest emitted of climate change and it is impossible to imagine a workable solution without American cooperation and, more importantly, leadership. We have been foot-draggers on the topic so far, but it is critical that we recognize the threat and take on a leadership role internationally. China, Europe, India, and Brazil can plausibly build a global coalition sufficient to make a real difference in how the planet warms.
Despite the myopic denial and caustic skepticism of pundits and political hacks who would have the world believe otherwise, climate change is, in fact, a condition that has been definitively established and recognized, both within the community of climate scientists and beyond. Rather than limit his discussion to a scientific debate with those within the media and government who continue to perpetrate disinformation while the globe warms, Guzman examines the wide-ranging perils that ignoring climate change will wreak, from obliteration of entire nations to war-provoking imbalances in food and water supplies. Using worst-case scenarios as his baseline, Guzman describes the pandemic devastation likely to occur within mere decades if this global disaster continues to go unchecked. A respected legal scholar, educator, and economist, Guzman is far from an environmental alarmist. His precise analyses and stirring conclusions are presented in unambiguous terms, and with compassion and concern for those most likely to be affected by a continued lack of action on the most critical issue of modern times. --Carol Haggas
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While Guzman does not have a degree in the science field, I think his background in law is quite helpful when presenting his ideas. The way in which he supports his claims and evidence comes across very credible and reliable. Guzman knows the importance of facts and carries this theme throughout the book.
For those unfamiliar with the evidence supporting changes in climate, this book may be a bit difficult to follow. Guzman does a good job refreshing us with what is taking place but this book is definitely not an introduction to climate change.
It is written from the perspective of: An attorney learns the science and considers the sociological implications of climate change. The most important supporting idea in developing the thesis is that the author intentionally errs mild of center on the temperature rise estimate; and he tries to walk the reader through the ideas behind scientific and mathematical uncertainty. That is: Guzman takes a meta-perspective of teaching the lay person how to understand the central problem with climate change: We know how to make accurate predictions but not with the precision with which we can predict something relatively simple like the trajectory of Jupiter. The earth as a system is too complicated and we don't have a lot of the fine structure worked out.
Having dispensed with a reasonable approach to 'how do we understand this issue?' the author continues into a second meta-question: Suppose his slightly on the mild side of center hypothetical is wrong and things get a degree or two hotter. Then his point is: It doesn't get 'a little bit worse'. It gets much much worse. And therein is the rub: If it's not too bad then it is very bad indeed; and if it is bad then it is much much worse. So now it would be a good idea to think about how insurance works.
Finally I'd like to commend the author for going into local-scale impacts. He talks about Bangladesh at length, for example; where we expect to see some of the first big collisions between sea level and dense populations.
I hope to see this type of evaluation flourishing. In my experience the environmental scientists are working very hard on the physical implications and do not have a lot of headroom left over for the human impact. So here we have a good start on that. And thankfully there is only a small amount of dispensing with the red herring of 'is this really happening?' I very much appreciate this new approach of: Don't debate with people who are not interested in debating (with thanks to Bill Nye anyway); rather let's just move on and deal with the situation and they can catch up or not as they are able.
I hesitated for several months to purchase this book. That's because I'm aware of the fact that climate scientists don't predict a 2º C rise as the expected result by 2100. Instead 2ºC increase is a higher-bound prediction if we get on a more aggressive mitigation path than we're currently following .
The 2014 IPCC's "business-as-usual" prediction (RCP8.5), which is our current path, reports an expected rise of 3.7º C with a range of 2.6º C to 4.8º C .
So why read this book if it covers the implications of a less probable, and more benign outcome? Amazon reader comments in David R. Cassatt's review convinced me that Guzman was on sufficient-enough ground using a modest prediction rather than the expected future result. That's because a 2º C increase still results in catastrophic results that are confidently held in the climate science community; so the warnings should be well heeded even at 2º C.
While I think this book was well worth my time given there are few resources that collectively report the implications of climate change, this effort is deeply flawed. Mr. Guzman is not a scientist where he's in dire need of scientific collaboration from two aspects. One would be to report more scientific findings on the implications of a 2º C rise and secondly, to guarantee the overall presentation is up to scientific standards in terms of precisely framed communications.
Mr. Guzman speculates far too much, using his common sense to tie past afflictions to his own predictions of the climate change threat. For example, disparate populations being condensed into close proximity during WWI led to mass deaths via the spread of contagious diseases. The currently observed (Syria) and predicted loss of water resources in poor, populated regions will result in mass migrations. These conditions at least increases the probability of future mass epidemics.
I'm confident this general threat assessment is probably accurate, but I'd appreciate far less coverage of past tragic events with mere speculation about the future and instead, far more reportage on predictions by scientists publishing on this topic.
Perhaps we have the technology now to mitigate this sort of contagion threat. That's doubtful, but I wouldn't assume the past would repeat itself since not all conditions are similar, particularly given our technological advancements. I think it would have been far better to more fully report the prediction of scientific assessments on epidemics and edit out the common sense assessments by our layman author.
I also found the coverage on predicted changes to the ocean life and food chains in general far too lightly analyzed. This argues that the reader of this book should complement this book with Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which focuses on the mass extinction threat humans have introduced via anthropogenic global warming.
Overheated also needs a science-centric editor to eradicate all the sloppy language and thinking. We're confronted with Guzman's non-scientific rhetoric that is gut-cringing to science literate readers reading about a science-centric topic. Terms like, "felts", "knows", and the misuse of other terms; e.g., "believers" and "skeptics". For the latter, `skeptics' is his term for those instead behaving like standard-issue denialists, green-washers, or cranks/contrarians. There's also a lack of citations for provocative factual assertions and a misleading dice analogy .
Guzman did shine on reporting the risks of fresh water shortages. Especially vivid were observations and predicted shortages in Guzman's own backyard of California. I also enjoyed his reporting on agricultural threats in Africa. Too bad other threats weren't reported to these levels of excellence.
The book does inform its readers, so it's worth the read. It's just frustrating to see so few efforts on a topic of paramount concern where here the author is an amateur. If no one person is fully qualified to present a sufficient overview of the implications of global warming, then please, lets see collaborative efforts.
1] Scenario RCP4.5 according to the IPCC's 2014 Summary for Policymakers report
2] Ibid, Table SPM.2
3] Page 2 of the Kindle version of Overheated: Temperature predictions are not discrete possibilities as Guzman asserts but instead a continuum of possibilities like I report above from the IPCC report. Guzman does recover a couple of [Kindle] pages later.