- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: National Geographic (October 7, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1426203853
- ISBN-13: 978-1426203855
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet Paperback – October 7, 2008
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
`Scientists predict that global temperatures will rise by between one and six degrees over the course of this century and Mark Lynas paints a chilling, degree-by-degree picture of the devastation likely to ensue unless we act nowâ ¦"Six Degrees" is a rousing and vivid plea to choose a different future.' Daily Mail 'Buy this book for everyone you know: if it makes them join the fight to stop the seemingly inexorable six degrees of warming and mass death, it might just save their lives.' New Statesman 'An apocalyptic primer of what to expect as the world heats upâ ¦it's sobering stuff and shaming too. Despite its sound scientific background, the book resembles one of those vivid medieval paintings depicting sinners getting their just desserts.' Financial Times 'The saga of how, in the world as imagined by thousands of computer-modelling studies, global warming kicks in degree by degree. "Six Degrees", I tell you now, is terrifying.' The Sunday Times 'A chilling read.' Socialist Review --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was torn between assigning this book four stars or five. While there's nothing about this book I don't like, I didn't want to be influenced by my own conviction of the overriding importance of this topic for all of us, and have tried to grade the book purely on the basis of my reaction to it as a book.
But the topic is urgent and important, and Mark Lynas has treated it effectively and with authority. His approach was to review all the published scientific literature he could find on climate modeling and paleoclimatology. His sources therefore consist exclusively of peer-reviewed scientific papers: no pop-science books, interviews, or mass-market magazine articles. He created a database of articles and organized them into categories according to the amount of warming they discussed: 1 degree Celsius, 2 degrees Celsius, and so on up to 6 degrees.
The book builds up a picture of the heating Earth, each chapter notching the average temperature one degree higher. At 1 degree, for example, Lynas discusses the likely desertification of the American West. The great plains ranging east of the Rockies north to Saskatchewan are actually an ancient dune-field covered with a thin layer of soil held in place by plants. Climate models show its likely reversion to a more drought-stricken regime that has also existed in the ancient past. The result will be the death of the plants, and blowing away of the topsoil--just as happened with the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma in the 1930s. This new Dust Bowl will be much larger and more enduring--and where will all the people go?
That's only one heading in the 1-degree chapter; there are nine more, including the slowing or stopping of the Gulf Stream, the melting of the Arctic icecap, and the die-off of coral reefs. Then it's on to chapter 2, with 11 headings of its own. The effects he looks at are diverse, sometimes smaller, such as the extinctions of individual species, but mostly much larger, such as the severe droughts and mass migrations we can expect when the world's mountain glaciers--source of much of our drinking-water--finally disappear, as they are rapidly doing right now.
By the time we get to 6 degrees, the point is abundantly clear: we must not let this happen. At that point our planet will be ice-free, largely desert, and whipped by "hypercanes" vastly more powerful than today's strongest storms. In Lynas's personal opinion, the human species will likely survive, but it will be a small remnant, and one of only a few survivors of this great extinction event.
Still relatively buried in the scientific literature are discussions of positive-feedback loops that may--indeed likely will--lie ahead: mechanisms that will accelerate warming beyond our ability to stop or control it. One such is the melting of tundra permafrost, which will likely release methane in large quantities, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. Another is the awesome storehouse of methane as hydrates on the continental shelves, which may be released as the oceans warm.
Based on his survey, Lynas finds that our window of opportunity to head off the worst of it is very small indeed. We have almost certainly already crossed the threshold of 2 degrees of global warming, so the first two chapters are a snapshot of how our world will look just a few years from now. Indeed, the current droughts in Atlanta, California, Portugal, Australia, and elsewhere are themselves the manifestation of the process unfolding.
Lynas sums up with a discussion of what's stopping us from acting more vigorously, as well a look at the magnitude of the task. It makes for mighty sobering reading.
His prose is vigorous, vivid, and confident. Lynas has studied the climate for years, and visited remote spots of the globe. To be sure, I found the message depressing. It's all the scarier because it's not hysterical--it's lifted right out of peer-reviewed papers. But it has woken me from my own torpor of denial. Whatever decisions we each make, we should be informed. And this book provides an especially crucial kind of information.
The disappearance of arctic summer ice, the eventual flooding of coastal communities from sea level rise, the prospects of widespread droughts including the western USA, are all exptremely disturbing ideas held by a majority of climatologists.
This is a good summary of where we are with climate science right now, as Lynas bases his book on up to date searching of the science literature. The only outdated thing I could find was his failure to mention the political defeat of the Howard government in Australia partly due to public concern there about drought caused by climate change. Climate science has advanced greatly in the past few years, so do not base your views on something five years old!
My only criticism of this book is that the structure Lynas imposes is barely able to handle the massive amount of material. But I still rate it a firm four stars because of the timeliness and breadth of coverage. Too many of us are ill informed on this topic in an election year that may determine our approach to the problem for the next eight years. Too many of us fail to accept the basic concept explored by Lynas- that climate change is cumulative. Too many of us murmur smugly that we are not going to devote any energy or money to a problem that will kick in mostly after we die of old age.
Do you plan to have grandkids? I do. Read this.