Essay

Dire Predictions Book Review

Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump. 2008. DK Publishing, Inc., New York. 208pp. $25.00. (ISBN: 978-0-1360-4435-2)

Greenhouse gas emission and its impact on global warming is a phenomenal topic, and I am privileged to have read this informative book on global warming. The title of this book sounds gloomy, but between its covers lie details that offer some critical solutions to the projected catastrophe of climate changes in the future.

              The book “Dire Predictions” has two authors, but the lead author is Dr. Mann. He is a member of the Pennsylvania State faculty, holding joint positions in the Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences, and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also a director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC). He received his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Applied Math from the University of Berkeley, an M.S degree in Physics from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University. Dr. Mann is the recipient of several fellowships and prizes. He has been named to the “Scientific American 50,” a list of leading visionaries in science and technology. He was the lead author of the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Third Scientific Assessment Report published in 2001, and a reviewer for the most recent Fourth Report. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed and edited publications, and is a co-founder of RealClimate.org which seeks to inform the public, journalists, and policy makers about the science of climate change..

The goal of this book is to present the main findings of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC in a way that is comprehensible to the general public. It achieves this goal in an illustrated, visually-striking, and powerful way. The scientific findings that provide validity to the implications of climate change are presented in clear-cut graphic elements, remarkable images, and comprehensive text. The book is striking in that it focuses largely on graphic images, charts, high impact photos, brilliant colors, and maps to make its case.  It employs a variety of font styles and text boxes to keep casual readers engaged with the material. At first glance, the book’s format is magazine-like in style, but it has a much more serious tone than would be expected for magazines.

Dr. Mann explained the science of climate change simplifying it to the general public. According to him, the atmosphere is getting warmer by the day, and he blames this remarkable change in atmospheric temperature on anthropogenic activities, thereby disproving some myths about climate change that believe that the rising level of CO2 is as a result of natural activity. The book is divided into five major parts: Climate Change Basics, Climate Change Projections, The Impacts of Climate Change, Vulnerability and adaptation to Climate Change, and Solving Global Warming. In addition, there is an introduction that describes the mission of the IPCC, the experience of the authors, and a summary of weather and climate basics.

Dr. Mann starts out by explaining basic phenomena related to climate change such as greenhouse gases, feedback loops, interglacial, and climate model. He shows how these concepts interplay with rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, mainly as a result of anthropogenic activities, to cause climate changes. He illustrates that the changes in the Earth’s climate, such as shifting precipitation patterns, worsening drought in many locations, increasingly severe heat waves, and more intense Atlantic hurricanes, are likely repercussions of human activities as compared to natural impacts. The author lays down a projection of how earth’s climate will change, with some degree of uncertainty. He links the amount of future global warming that is expected to occur at projected CO2 levels with current rates of fossil-fuel burning. He projects that, at current rates of CO2 emission scenarios, there will be a decrease in Artic sea ice, an acceleration of sea level rise, increased drought, flooding, and extreme weather for many regions of the earth.

Furthermore, Dr. Mann talks about the impacts of global warming on humanity and planet Earth. These impacts include a greater tendency towards drought in some regions and flooding in other regions, the widespread extinction of animal species such as the coral reefs. Also he foresees a decrease in global food production, the loss of coastline and coastal wetlands, increased storm damage and flooding in many areas, and a wider spread of infectious disease. Factors such as these could lead to increased competition for natural resources, over taxed social services and infrastructure and conflicts between regions.