The Uninhabitable Earth | Book Review

| Book Review by Jim Scott |

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Wallace-Wells has delivered an eloquent description of the world’s climate breakdown and the consequent societal collapse.  Though a non-scientist and non-environmentalist, this talented journalist writes that mankind has “exited the state of environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place, in an unsure and unplanned bet on just what that animal can endure.”  His conclusion emerges from analyzing years of others’ “scientific work” (my emphasis) and recognizing the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the gold-standard assessment of the Earth’s state (on a carbon dioxide [CO2] drunk) and the likely trajectory for climate change (collapse), due principally to human-generated, CO2-rich emissions, accepted as “settled science” in our schools, colleges, scientific journals, and public media.

Cause=>effect=>solution: he says, “We have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all: a carbon tax and the political apparatus to aggressively phase out dirty energy; a new approach to agricultural practices and shift away from beef and dairy in the global diet; and public investment in green energy and carbon capture.”

In Wallace-Wells’ final pages, he inadvertently acknowledges that “we live today under clouds of uncertainty about climate change,” after already having told us repeatedly of the certainty of his bleak, IPCC scenario.  His stylistic phrase “clouds of uncertainty” is perhaps a Freudian slip: clouds and water vapor are unmentioned greenhouse gas molecules, accounting for as much as 10 times warming effect of CO2 + methane + nitrous oxide, combined, though yet remaining inadequately evaluated and modeled by the scientific community.  Moreover, many other serious researchers, believing that it’s wrong to blame global warming primarily on greenhouse gases in general, much less on CO2 alone, cite IPCC’s major shortcomings in the key areas of research scope, inadequate models, conflicting temperature information, lack of regional geographic relevance, and economics.  And Nobel Prize winner (for climate change economic modeling) William Nordhaus has soundly criticized the IPCC’s strategic CO2-target cap as costing more than it’s worth.

They describe the global heat engine as a complex interplay of activities all over Earth’s surface: on the sea and on land as well as above (stratospheric winds) and below (ocean currents and deep, geological activity).  Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences is aggressively researching the global heat engine scope issues.  In addition, to replacing the clunky IPCC climate models, MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has described in refereed technical journal, NATURE, its long-anticipated “Multi-Sectoral Climate Impact Assessment” strategy using a highly advanced, integrated modeling framework, which at long last analyzes and integrates economics with regional, geospatial factors.  The fresh, ongoing climate research by these and others should help inform Wallace-Wells’ “certainty” as well as help dispel our uncertainties.

Meanwhile, read Wallace-Wells’ book as he takes us to a place where we may not wish to go, as hair raising as poet Virgil was for Dante in the Inferno.

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