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Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet Hardcover – January 22, 2008
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—Lynas has gathered global-warming information from an array of authoritative scientists: geologists, glaciologists, oceanographers, climate scientists, and paleoclimatologists, as well as "major scientific projections" from computer modelers. He divides his findings into six main chapters representing the consequences of a one- to six-degree shift in temperature rise. More factual than hysterical and using accessible language, the author portrays a sobering, but broad and fascinating, view of the problem. He discusses not only the environmental consequences of melting icecaps, ocean warming, coral reef bleaching, CO2 emissions, deforestation, and severe weather, but also cultural and economic reverberations-the result of population shifts, animal migrations, and societal collapse. Through computer-modeling simulations he looks back into the past (the Pliocene, the Mayan civilization) and projects into the future for CO2 comparisons. His premise: the problem is now at global scale and will not just impact the disappearance of one group alone as it did the Maya. Claiming that solutions must be political, and that it is too late for quick fixes using renewable energy sources or technology, he concludes with some cautionary possible solutions: relocalization of goods and services, less consumption, global-scale carbon rationing, and a "2 degree increase target." Anyone studying climate change will find this a helpful reference as much current research has been precompiled and interpreted within one resource.—Jodi Mitchell, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Mark Lynas, a journalist, campaigner, and broadcast commentator on environmental issues, is the author of High Tide: News from a Warming World. He is a contributor to periodicals including New Statesman, Ecologist, Granta, and Geographical, and to the Guardian and Observer newspapers in the United Kingdom.
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It is an alarming overview of what lies in store for us collectively as we continue to live unsustainable lifestyles.
I felt like a patient who had been given a cancer diagnosis if I did not change my lifestyle.
Buy it for your friends or anyone you care about.
A very powerful and awakening read!!
I also recommend the DVD National geographic made to accompany this book. Same title.
A visual masterpiece that really shows the collaborative efforts of Nasa, NOAA, and scientists around the world attempting to address this issue of climate change.
Between the book and the DVD, you come to realize the challenges ahead; adding to your awareness and understanding of this global game changer.
It is reasonable to be concerned that if we change our planet's temperature it will respond very much like it did in the past. "Six Degrees" will make you understand why a mere degree or two difference in average global temperature is a very big problem, for all of us, for every living thing.
Since this book is already ten years old it's interesting to compare its predictions to what has actually happened since it was published. This book predicted that we would reach 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2 by year 2015. According to this website, 401.51 ppm was reached in 2015.
The 2008 worldwide recession reduced CO2 emissions, so I was hopeful that it may have delayed reaching the 400 ppm mark. These GRAPHS show that total emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere actually decreased in 2009. (This is one of the few good things about a recession.) But the resulting rate of increase to atmospheric CO2 concentrations as shown on this GRAPH is barely detectible.
This book indicates that if we're able to stop the rise in CO2 at 400 ppm we are still doomed to a probable increase in average world temperature rise of 2°C which will result in increased severity of to storms in the weather, increased pH in oceans that will cause bleaching of coral reefs, and moderate rise in ocean levels. These things are already happening.
However, if CO2 concentrations rise to 450 ppm (3°C average temperature increase) we will probably pass the threshold for carbon cycle feedback. Carbon cycle feedback refers to various biochemical reactions that respond to rising temperatures in a manner that causes still more increased CO2 discharge to the atmosphere.
If the CO2 concentrations continue to increase to 550 ppm it will probably result in an increase of 4°C to average world temperatures which will probably pass the threshold for Siberian methane feedback. Siberian methane feedback refers to the expected release of methane caused by thawing of the permafrost in the arctic regions which will allow initiation of the organic decomposition of organic material previously held in a frozen state. This causes organic carbon to be converted into atmospheric CO2. At some point the warming of ocean temperatures may cause the release of methane hydrate (a greenhouse gas) that is currently trapped at the bottom of the ocean under the load of high water pressure.
If the CO2 concentrations continue to increase to 650 ppm it will probably result in an increase of 5°C. It will be the first time the earth has been that warm since the Pliocene geologic period 5 to 3 million years ago. That's the era of when the hominid fossil "Lucy" was living. The oceans will have risen sufficiently in this world to dramatically change the shape of the exposed land mass.
If CO2 concentration reach 800 ppm the earth's temperature will reach the 6°C rise threshold which will be the highest temperatures since the Cretaceous geologic period 145 to 66 million years ago. This was the time when dinosaurs dominated, the only mammals were small creatures, and there were certainly no humans alive at the time.
This book suggests that humans are clever enough to probably survive in a world of 6°C rise, but the earth would almost certainly not be able to support today's population. Of course there are plenty of uncertainties in these predictions, and climate change deniers like to emphasize this point. But uncertainty could go the other way, and conditions could be worse than predicted. The reason climate change deniers can sound believable is because there is a long lag time in these changes. If CO2 concentrations stopped at today's levels the earth's temperatures would continue to rise and the ocean levels would continue to rise for 30 to 50 years.
Since this book was published ten years ago some of the predicted correlation between temperatures and CO2 may today be slightly different based on more advanced modeling. But it's my understanding that the general order of magnitude of expected changes are much the same.
Unfortunately, climate change has become a political issue with conservatives generally being skeptical of climate science and liberals being advocates of it. A NYT article (April 27, 2017) indicates that there is an organized effort underway to send an anti-climate change booklet to virtually every science educator in the USA. Unfortunately, a recent survey indicates that some science teachers show signs of being influenced by this misinformation. The following excerpt is taken from the NYT article.
"A survey of 1,500 American science teachers published last year in the journal Science found 30 percent of those surveyed said they emphasized in their classes that recent global warming “is likely due to natural causes.” Less than half also correctly identified the degree of consensus among climate scientists that human activities are the primary cause of global warming."
It's difficult to imagine any credentialed science teacher being influenced by this propaganda. All teachers I know would recognize it as politically motivated misinformation.