(PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review
(PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
(PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, “500-year” storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually.
This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.
Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.
Praise for The Uninhabitable Earth
“The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet.”—Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
“Riveting. . . . Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells’s outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too.”—The Economist
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE
“Potent and evocative. . . . Wallace-Wells has resolved to offer something other than the standard narrative of climate change. . . . He avoids the ‘eerily banal language of climatology’ in favor of lush, rolling prose.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
“The book has potential to be this generation’s Silent Spring.” —The Washington Post
“The Uninhabitable Earth, which has become a best seller, taps into the underlying emotion of the day: fear. . . . I encourage people to read this book.”—Alan Weisman, The New York Review of Books
“Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt.” —Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated
“A brilliant new book. . . . a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet.”—John Lanchester, The New York Times Book Review
“David Wallace-Wells argues that the impacts of climate change will be much graver than most people realize, and he’s right. The Uninhabitable Earth is a timely and provocative work.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
“An excellent book. . . . Not since Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature thirty years ago have we been told what climate change will mean in such vivid terms.” —Fred Pearce, The Washington Post
“One of the very few books about our climate change emergency that doesn’t sugarcoat the horror.” —William T. Vollmann, author of No Immediate Danger
“Powerfully argued. . . . A masterly analysis of why—with a world of solutions—we choose doom.” —Nature
“This gripping, terrifying, furiously readable book is possibly the most wide-ranging account yet written of the ways in which climate change will transform every aspect of our lives, ranging from where we live to what we eat and the stories we tell. Essential reading for our ever-more-unfamiliar and unpredictable world.” —Amitav Ghosh, author of Flood of Fire
“Urgent and humane. . . . Wallace-Wells is an extremely adept storyteller. . . . A horrifying assessment of what we might expect as a result of climate change if we don’t change course.” —Susan Matthews, Slate
“If we don’t want our grandchildren to curse us, we had better read this book.” —Timothy Snyder, author of Black Earth
“Lively. . . . Vivid. . . . If you’ve snoozed through or turned away from the climate change news, this book will waken and update you. If you’re steeped in the unfolding climate drama, Wallace-Wells’s voice and perspective will be stimulating.” —David George Haskell, The Guardian
“Wallace-Wells has a gorgeous command of the English language, and knows how to lay down prose that moves the reader at such a clip that one feels like a Kentucky Derby–exhausted mare at the end of each chapter. . . . Wallace-Wells sets himself and his analysis of climate change apart from the predominant voices of leadership in the field.” —Laurie Garrett, The Lancet. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
“Beautifully written. . . . As climate change encroaches, things will get worse. Much worse. And David Wallace-Wells spares no detail in explaining how.” —Kate Aronoff, Bookforum. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
“Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order. Read it and, for the lack of any more useful response, weep.” —Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
“A brilliant and unsparing analysis of a nightmare that is no longer a distant future but our chaotic, burning present. Unlike other writers who speak about human agency in the abstract, Wallace-Wells zeros in on the power structures and capitalist elites whose mindless greed is writing an obituary for our grandchildren.” —Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear
“A lucid and thorough description of our unprecedented crisis, and of the mechanisms of denial with which we seek to avoid its fullest recognition.” —William Gibson, author of Neuromancer
“David Wallace-Wells has produced a willfully terrifying polemic that reads like a cross between Stephen King and Stephen Hawking. Written with verve and insight and an eerie gusto for its own horrors, it comes just when we need it; it could not be more urgent than it is at this moment. I hope everyone will read it and be afraid.” —Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon
About the Author
David Wallace-Wells is a national fellow at the New America foundation and a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He was previously the deputy editor of The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life un-deformed; that it is a crisis of the “natural” world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not circumscribed and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in
staring it down.
None of this is true. But let’s begin with the speed of change. The earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a wiping of the fossil record that it functioned as an evolutionary reset, the planet’s phylogenetic tree first expanding, then collapsing, at intervals, like a lung: 86 percent of all species dead, 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, another 75 percent; 100 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 150 million years after that, 75 percent again. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees Celsius, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane, another greenhouse gas, and ended with all but a sliver of life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is one hundred times faster than at any point in human history before the beginning of industrialization. And there is already, right now, fully a third more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last 800,000 years—perhaps in as long as 15 million years. There were no humans then. The oceans were more than a hundred feet higher.
Many perceive global warming as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries. In fact, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades. Which means we have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since Al Gore published his first book on climate than in all the centuries—all the millennia—that came before. The United Nations established its climate change framework in 1992, building a political consensus out of a scientific consensus and advertising it unmistakably to the world; which means we have now done as much damage to the environment knowingly than we ever managed in ignorance. Global warming may seem like a distended morality tale playing out over several centuries and inflicting a kind of Old Testament retribution on the great-great-grandchildren of those responsible, since it was carbon burning in eighteenth-century England that lit the fuse of everything that has followed. But that is a fable about historical villainy that acquits those of us alive today—and unfairly. The majority of the burning has come since the premiere of Seinfeld. Since the end of World War II, the figure is about 85 percent. The story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is the story of a single lifetime—the planet brought from apparent stability to the brink of catastrophe in the years between a baptism or bar mitzvah and a funeral.
We all know those lifetimes. When my father was born in 1938—among his first memories the news of Pearl Harbor and the mythic air force of the industrial propaganda films that followed— the climate system appeared, to most human observers, steady. Scientists had understood the greenhouse effect, had understood the way carbon produced by burned wood and coal and oil could hothouse the planet and disequilibrize everything on it, for three-quarters of a century. But they had not yet seen the effect, not really, not yet, which made it seem less like an observed fact than a dark prophecy, to be fulfilled only in a very distant future—perhaps never. By the time my father died, in 2016, weeks after the desperate signing of the Paris Agreement, the climate system was tipping toward devastation, passing the threshold of carbon concentration—400 parts per million in the earth’s atmosphere, in the eerily banal language of climatology—that had been, for years, the bright red line environmental scientists had drawn in the rampaging face of modern industry, saying, Do not cross. Of course, we kept going: just two years later, we hit a monthly average of 411, and guilt saturates the planet’s air as much as carbon, though we choose to believe we do not breathe it. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
The single lifetime is also the lifetime of my mother: born in 1945, to German Jews fleeing the smokestacks through which their relatives were incinerated, and now enjoying her seventy-third year in an American commodity paradise, a paradise supported by the factories of a developing world that has, in the space of a single lifetime, too, manufactured its way into the global middle class, with all the consumer enticements and fossil fuel privileges that come with that ascent: electricity, private cars, air travel, red meat. She has been smoking for fifty-eight of those years, always unfiltered, ordering the cigarettes now by the carton from China.
It is also the lifetime of many of the scientists who first raised public alarm about climate change, some of whom, incredibly, remain working today—that is how rapidly we have arrived at this promontory. Roger Revelle, who first heralded the heating of the planet, died in 1991, but Wallace Smith Broecker, who helped popularize the term “global warming,” still drives to work at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory across the Hudson every day from the Upper West Side, sometimes picking up lunch at an old Jersey filling station recently outfitted as a hipster eatery; in the 1970s, he did his research with funding from Exxon, a company now the target of a raft of lawsuits that aim to adjudicate responsibility for the rolling emissions regime that today, barring a change of course on fossil fuels, threatens to make parts of the planet more or less unlivable for humans by the end of this century. That is the course we are speeding so blithely along—to more than four degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2100. According to some estimates, that would mean that whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia south of Siberia would be rendered uninhabitable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding. Certainly it would make them inhospitable, and many more regions besides. This is our itinerary, our baseline. Which means that, if the planet was brought to the brink of climate catastrophe within the lifetime of a single generation, the responsibility to avoid it belongs with a single generation, too. We all also know that second lifetime. It is ours. (PDF) The Uninhabitable Earth A Story of The Future review PDF
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