Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming
By Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump
DK Publishing, $ 25.00 US or less, Available Now
Let's say you're a preeminent paleo-climate researcher who's been widely recognized for groundbreaking, dramatic work. Your reward from the usual suspects is to be attacked, shamelessly misrepresented, dragged through several legislative circuses with decidedly mixed receptions. At times openly harressed by world class industry whores, forced to appear beside Michael Crichton of all people, while antiscience ideologues eagerly take turns metaphorically beating you in public with the political equivalent of soap bars in a sock. What to do? One way out would be to lower your profile.
But if you're my courageous colleague Michael Mann, Associate Professor in the Department of Meteorology and Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, founding member of the premier climate change blog Real Climate, and one of the original producers of the now famous Hockey Stick graph, you team up with like-minded fellow PSU Geoscientist Lee R. Kump to set the record straight. In Dire Predictions, Mann and Kump do exactly that, producing along the way a unique resource for any champion of science and the environment.
Here in one book is the skinny on past climate change, current observations, future predictions, economic and geopolitical considerations; on and on the science marches; three decades worth of research compressed into 207 colorful pages. Virtually every antiscience claim is debunked. Whether rw talking points come your way from friends or family parroting energy propaganda, or wind up in your inbox from the friendly community troll working pro bono on behalf of Exxon-Mobil, this book has the accessible, scientifically based response you're going to want close at hand.
The book is organized into easily browsed, information dense, well written summaries and sections labeled with descriptive headers, such as "Fingerprints distinguish human and natural impacts on climate" or "Couldn't the increase in atmospheric CO2 be the result of natural cycles?"
How do scientists know that is is not? ... Just as the atmosphere has gradually become less radioactive over time, its ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 has been decreasing. This rules out natural, non plant derived carbon sources, such as volcanoes and the oceans. [Page 34 - 35]
Natural science books in general and climate science books in particular have become something of visual/literary works of art in recent years. Dire Predictions clears that increasingly high and doubtless expensive hurdle with room to spare. The photos and artwork are exquisite, the graphs well placed, and the designers employ daring color and layout combos lending the book a rich visual texture from cover to cover. On just a handful of pages a few words of one text color would run over a similar colored background splotch, reducing the contrast or getting a tiny bit too busy for my aging eyes. This was rare and not a problem using proper lighting. Overall, that bold mix between text/background colors and image layouts was delightfully creative and successfully presented. The two copyrighted images I've reproduced above and below don't begin to do it justice.
But what sets the book apart in the mind of this reviewer is the extraordinary scientific accuracy within. Official documents, peer reviewed papers, and IPCC reports can be tedious and confusing for the layman to slog through. That immense body of work is translated into a well organized overview composed of readable chunks flowing along at a brisk pace, each with just the right touch of technical detail for readers with a reasonably good understanding of basic physical science. But these translators aren't interested onlookers into the scientific process: they're two of the scientists who helped create a significant quantity of the original material under discussion and who understand the whole of it to a degree most of us could never fathom -- if not for their remarkable, reader-friendly effort under review today.
The book is clearly a labor of love, written for those of us who share the authors' fascination for Science and Nature. Browse through Dire Predictions at the local bookstore, or online (Large file warning), and I think your first impression will agree with my conclusion: This rendering of meticulous, documented climate research, stunning crisp photos, remarkable artwork, and easy to read charts strikes clear, individual notes, while still managing to come together fully in the glossy pages like a stirring symphony of popular science.
Comments are closed on this story.