Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Weather Makers

Here's a better use for your time than reading blogs: read 'The Weather Makers' by Tim Flannery instead. I see that it is 4th on Chapters' listing of best-selling books, so maybe some of you already have.

Dave Pollard has an excellent review, and Terry Glavin has a front-page story on Flannery in the Georgia Straight in case you are looking for more details.

I note that both Pollard and Glavin use the phrase 'tour-de-force' to describe 'The Weather Makers' and it's an apt description. Whether you are already deeply concerned about the impacts of global warming or whether you are still skeptical that global warming even exists (or that it is caused by human activity - or that it will have a big impact - or that it will cost too much to do anything about it) you will benefit by reading it.

Flannery methodically covers the entire spectrum of issues surrounding global warming, starting with a clear and entertaining description of how climate works and the history of the climate, moving on to a description of some of the impacts global warming is having, a section on the science of prediction, what conclusions scientists have reached and how they reached them, a section on the politics surrounding the issue, in particular the Kyoto Accord, and finally a section on possible solutions.

The real value of the book comes from Flannery bringing everything together in one volume, and from Flannery's writing. He manages to make very complicated topics easily understandable, and the fact that he writes like a scientist - not making wild claims, evaluating all the evidence dispassionately, acknowledging what limited benefits which will accrue from global warming - makes the book that much more credible, and in turn, that much more disturbing.

For it is a very disturbing book. I like to think that I am fairly informed already on this issue, at least for a layman, but I still found myself at times angry and at times depressed while reading, a reaction I suspect most people will have.

At the end of the book, Flannery pushes the idea that we all need to try and cut 70% from our own emissions, while at the same time pushing for more political action. By changing our own spending patterns towards greener products (green power, solar panels, solar water heaters, more energy efficient cars, transit systems), these products will gain economies of scale, making them cheaper and creating a positive feedback loop.

His list of things you can do is here. Personally, it's a frustrating list since there's not much there for someone who owns neither a vehicle nor a house, but perhaps others are in a better position to reduce their emissions.

I could write more about the book itself, but you are better off reading Dave Pollard's excellent summary. After all, my conclusion is the same,
"In summary, this is an important book, a work of true science, and a must read for anyone who cares about future generations or the health and sustainability of our planet. But rather than instilling new hope and galvanizing billions into action to deal with this huge challenge, I suspect Flannery's book may well be, a century from now, the final epitaph for our civilization."

I guess time will tell. John at Dymaxion World does a good job digging up news from the new sustainable technology front, this latest post being just one example. In the end, I think it will not be a question of whether we are capable of sustaining our civilization without cooking the planet and ourselves with it, but rather a question of whether we are collectively willing to do so.

There's a fine line between those two concepts, especially for someone like me who doesn't believe in free will, but I think it is a meaningful distinction all the same. What it suggests to me is that fighting through the smokescreen of skepticism to get as many people as informed as possible about what is happening will be just as important as taking action to reduce our own emissions. So beg, borrow or buy a copy of 'The Weather Makers', and then once you've read it, lend it or give it to someone else to read.


  • I've had other people tell me it's an excellent book as well. I'm not sure whether I can stand to read it though because it really is depressing.

    Declan said: "At the end of the book, Flannery pushes the idea that we all need to try and cut 70% from our own emissions, while at the same time pushing for more political action."

    I think this is excellent advice. As Ghandi said we need to "be the change". Also, there is something comforting ( at least for me ) about doing something concrete instead of advocacy.

    Still, in the end, I am deeply pessimistic that enough people will voluntarily make enough change to make any real difference.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 4:17 PM  

  • Hello Declan

    The Weather Makers is on order at the Trent University Library and already at the Peterborough Public Library with four holds on it(When I looked on Wednesday, though, it was supposed to actually be on the new book shelf, time having run out on a hold. It wasn't there when I looked). Both Libraries also have other general books on climate change. I'm not planning to join the rush myself any time soon, but certainly there is interest.
    Best Wishes,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • Kevin - I agree about being pessimistic about voluntary changes.

    Alan - Good to hear that there is interest out there - hopefully it eventually translates into action

    By Blogger Declan, at 8:53 AM  

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