October 10, 2019

Review: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is terrifying. Up till now, I hadn't read such a thorough explanation of the horrors climate change will visit on the planet, and the first section of this made me want to hide under the bed. I can understand why Greta Thunberg and other young activists are so pissed off right now, because they'll have to live with the consequences of the world's inaction.

A good companion to this book would be The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions, by Peter Brannen. This book points out that all but one of Earth's past mass extinctions were fueled by climate change. This includes the end-Permian extinction that killed between 90-95% of all life then existing on Earth. The Uninhabitable Earth starts out comparing current trends to this extinction, in one of many chilling paragraphs:

In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 250 million years ago; it began when carbon dioxide 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 as long as 15 million years.

I recommend this book, but be prepared to be depressed afterwards. And then emerge from under the bed and prepare to fight, because this is the only Earth we have, and there is no Planet B.

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