Customer Reviews: The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth
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HALL OF FAMEon February 12, 2006
"Not another book on climate change!", you lament. Readers may feel surfeited by the rash of books on "global warming" appearing in the past few years. The feeling is understandable. The situation should be considered an indication of how serious the problem is for all humanity. In this case, the author introduces a little-considered aspect. Tim Flannery, whose keen eye and bountiful wit always offers something new presented in a easily readable way, will not leave you jaded nor have your head nodding in ennui. Although Flannery does address some questions dealt with elsewhere, he adds the most significant topic of all - the future of life.

As a zoologist, Flannery has extensive field experience in the forests of New Guinea and elsewhere. He's written of human impact on large animals in North America and Australia. Here, he writes of human impact on all life. Instead of hunting animals to extinction, humans are modifying the entire biosphere through pollutants and gases. This indirect imposition has already killed off at least one species, he demonstrates. In explaining how the Golden Toad went extinct, Flannery sets the scene expansively. The Toad wasn't just a local phenomenon, but died out due to wide-ranging changes in ocean temperature, air mass movements and changes in rainfall. This combination of influences resulted in what appeared to us as a minimal change in habitat. To the Golden Toad, that "minimal change" proved catastrophic. The object lesson is clear. How much change will the species humans rely on for survival tolerate? Flannery, citing James Lovelock's "Gaia" hypothesis of the biosphere as a tightly woven "system", argues that the tolerance for change is meagre. And human-induced change is squeezing the tolerance downward. Up to 30% of all major species are under threat of extinction during this century.

Flannery notes how much needs to be learnt about our impact on the biosphere. Only a generation ago we had identified half of the "greenhouse gases" and scientists still contested whether their influence would warm or cool the planet. Now, he stresses, the warming effect is clearly dominant. The result of that warming is unfolding before us right now. More significantly, the consequences of today's conditions will not be fully realised for a generation. When they become apparent they will be far too severe to reverse. The time to take preventive action is now, not in a decade or more. The reason for prompt action refutes the "climate sceptics" who argue that climate change is "natural" and requires adaptability, not severe crisis-preventing action. Flannery explains how this view is mistaken and misleading. The rate of change today far exceeds any past natural process, and its effects may last many millennia. All examples of past climate change show cascading processes, where one small change induces later, more complex or far-reaching results. With today's rate of change so rapid, Flannery argues, the cumulative effects are unpredictable. But they won't be pleasant.

Flannery's presentation is that of the convinced scientist and caring individual. His abilities as a science writer provide us with clearly spelled out conditions and solutions. He is an ardent supporter of personal steps to be taken to reduce that rate of change underway around us. He also shows how industries and governments can contribute to slowing the threat to our biosphere and thus, our children's future. In fact, just about the only negative thing that can be said about this book is its chaotic "References" section. There is a logic in there somewhere, but in this reviewer's opinion, it's to make you go back to the text to cross-check and relearn the point. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Tim Flannery's account of man made changes in our climate is a book which will appeal to a wide audience. Scientists, meteorologists, and others with a professional interest in climate and the weather will appreciate the broad range of expertise Flannery demonstrates throughout this work. A scientist and conservationist himself, Flannery obviously knows what he is talking about. Readers without such a scientific background will enjoy this work because Flannery, like Jared Diamond, is able to write about what could be mind-numbingly complex issues with a wit and clarity that holds one's interest. As an Australian, Flannery writes from the perspective of a citizen of one of the nations which is most heavily environmentally stressed. And it is vital for humanity in Australia and elsewhere to become more conversant with the issues Flannery covers so well.

The Weather Makers describes the many effects human activities have had on our planetary climate, beginning with the development of agriculture and proceeding on to the most recent headlines. Flannery analyzes the probabilities of catastrophic climate changes, stressing that this is not really a question of "If" but "When." He is alarming but not alarmist, not stooping to the level of "The Day After Tomorrow" for example, but also making it clear that even though drastic weather changes will not happen tomorrow, they certainly will within our life times and those of our children unless action is taken.

Flannery is clear about what action needs to be taken. Although not overly enthusiastic about the Kyoto Accord, for example, he does herald it as a good first step. He provides suggestions for individual actions in a "green checklist" at the end of the book, and describes exciting possibilities, including those already well known such as hybrid cars and nuclear or geothermal power sources and intriguing new ones like the mini-cats: compressed air vehicles being developed in Europe.

Its encouraging to see Tony Blair's name, among others in the chorus of enthusiastic responses to The Weather Makers on its back cover blurb. Perhaps Blair and others intelligent enough to recognize that Flannery knows what he is talking about can make some headway against other "leaders" more obtuse than they!
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This book was recommended to me by one of Canada's leading advocates for saving the Polar Regions. He told me I should read this book if I wanted to read the best book that has been written on climate change. I was skeptical, but he was right. This is the best book I have found on the subject of climate change.

The author, Tim Flannery, is a well recognized scientist himself. He begins the book by discussing his reservations about global warming, how scientists are supposed to be skeptical and how much data must be present before scientific consensus can occur. From there, he explains how he was convinced that climate change was real.

In the book, the author starts discussing climate change from many different scientific aspects. Although some of the science is tough, even for science majors such as myself, the specifics of the science involved are used more as examples, allowing readers with less of a scientific background to understand exactly what is being said. The author does a great job of utilizing a number of sciences, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, climatology, meteorology, geology, oceanography and more to prove the argument that climate change exists from every angle.

In addition, he does a great job showing how something happening in one place may affect a totally different region of the world. He covers climate change around the globe in a comprehensive manner, and shows how different peoples will be affected.

Finally, the author discusses what is being done and by whom. He points out the lack of effort to change in the US, as well as in Australia and other countries. He presents good arguments for the slowing global warming and for the economic benefits that countries would enjoy.

This book is the best and most comprehensive I have read on global warming. If you are looking for a book that covers all aspects, this is for you. If you would prefer ranting and raving, don't look here, as there is very little of that present. Finally, if you are in doubt about global warming this book may very well change your mind, or at the very least give you something to think about seriously.
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on February 23, 2006
I picked this book up in the Sydney airport in November while on vacation. Upon return home, I learned that it was not yet published in the US, so ordered 10 copies from Australia. I have given copies to friends and family, colleagues and elected officials. Without wanting to seem excessively dramatic, this book has changed my life.

I had always considered global climate change (GCC) to be one of several important environmental issues. What Flannery does more than anything is synthesize the dramatic developments that have occured in climate science, just in the past few years. He points out that most of us think about GCC in the same terms and from the same limited understanding that we had many years ago when the issue first entered public consciousness. In the meantime, the science has evolved significantly, and with that evolution of understanding, the news has become worse. Since reading the book, I have embarked on a crash reading program on GCC issues and now share Flannery's view that this is not only THE environmental issue, it is THE issue. Many issues are important, but how we deal with them will likely not matter much if we do not seriously address the threat of climate change.

This book is well-written and reads easily. It is accessible and informative to scientists and non-scientists alike (I am a mere lawyer, in fact), and would make a terrific contribution to high school or college level syllabi.

Buy a copy, but you may want to buy two, since you will undoubtedly want to pass it on when you are finished.
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on February 9, 2006
I had the opportunity to read a bound galley of this book. I've read Tim Flannery's other books and was looking forward to more of his really brilliant writing and anecdotes. But I wasn't prepared for the breadth and depth of Weather Makers. This book is extraordinary in every way and deserves as much public discussion as possible. It's the Silent Spring of this generation and one of the best books I've read in years! It's an alarm to all of us sharing this fragile and endangered planet. You should buy two copies and send one to a friend. It should be required reading in Washington and perhaps someone could read this out loud to our president.
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on March 30, 2006
The first half or so of Flannery's book offers one of the clearest and most comprehensive accounts of global warming I have read. He gathers measurements, he explains how the various gases behave in the atmosphere, he documents the effects of climate change. Flannery's strong suit is zoology; his explication of the effects of global warming on animal and plant species is excellent. It is clear that he is not a meteorologist, yet his explication of atmospheric effects is very readable.

I should praise his attempts to offer solutions, rather than note that those latter pages of the book are significantly weaker than the earlier ones -- the mix of generalities and wishful thinking just doesn't seem enough. That is not to say I would have any idea of what is 'enough,' or of any solution that would be accepted by a sufficient portion of our human-crowded, energy-hungry planet.

Again, a first rate overview of the issue, one that gives the reader a sense of understanding and perspective.
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VINE VOICEon May 17, 2007
First of all, let me say I really liked this book, but with a few reservations. I was looking for an unbiased and objective overview of the daunting topic of climate change and almost found it within these pages....almost. Not wanting to base my beliefs on what TV, politicians, and celebrities spew, I sought more information from books written by actual scientists. Flannery is indeed a scientist, however, not a climate scientists. He is actually a zoologist (who have much to contribute to the study of climate change) but this slant is all to apparent in the book. There is just a little too much (for my taste) on the various species that are at risk presumably due to climate change. Another minor complaint is that he gets a little too mother-earthy, what with the Gaia references and the wondrous magical beauty of nature stuff, etc. His passion for earth and nature is clear but I just wanted facts. His discussion of the science is good but there are better books out there if that's what you're looking for. He also tends to be a bit of a doomsayer, throwing around phrases like "Orwellian-style world governments", "protracted dark ages far more mordant than any..before", and a lot of other apocolyptic imagery. In the last couple of sections, it seems as if he just decided to dispense with any semblance of objectivity and lay it all out there (many people will appreciate his candor). Despite these (minor) flaws, this book provides a good overview of the science and politics of climate change.
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on January 7, 2007
If you read only one thing about climate change, it should be this book. Flannery explains the science of it - both pro and contra - even-handedly and intelligibly - even for the non-scientists like me.

It's a very important subject, treated with respect and just the right amount of detail, and it will help you make decisions about your own contribution to the problem of global warming. There is advice on what you can do, and a list of helpful organisations.

Read it, act on it, and the world will be a better place.
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on December 20, 2007
I have read many books that relate to this topic in one way or another. The value of this one is that it manages to include ideas from many disciplines and anticipate all of the skeptics' arguments. The arguments against global warming tend to be ad hoc and depend on very specific, and sometimes small details. This book give a very broad picture of all the evidence and fields of study that play into the global warming situation. Of course, in a book of this length, everything must be summarized, so at times it may seem like the author is simply asserting things without a lot of reference to the evidence, but rest assured, the evidence does exist and if you want to know about it, there are other books on each individual topic. For someone who already knows something about global warming, this book puts all the arguments into perspective and is a big call to action. For a skeptic, the book might appear to be sensationalist. Sadly there are a few key phrases that are such hot button issues, that they could potentially overshadow all of the good the book does. One example would be where he mentions how a carbon trading scheme could serve to transfer wealth from rich to poor countries. This is exactly the criticism leveled on the UN by global warming skeptics. Michaels and Balling use almost that same line in one of their books to discredit the UN's efforts. Still, when it comes to the details, Flannery seems to be right on about almost everything from paleoclimate studies to the prospects of a hydrogen economy. If you have never read any books on global warming, this would be a good one to start with.
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on February 21, 2008
This is a fascinating book because it's so specific and wide-ranging. I originally "read" the audiobook, and found the evidence so overwhelming that I bought the actual book and will reread soon. This is the best thing I've read about the global changes that are happening -- again, because it's so specific. Highly recommended.
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