Sweating It

Carl Zimmer reviews climate change books by Tim Flannery and Elizabeth Kolbert in the New York Times Book Review:

Zimm2It would be hard to imagine a better time for these two important books to appear. The science of global warming has been making dramatic headlines. NASA scientists recently reported that 2005 was the hottest year on record. Researchers studying the oldest core of Greenland ice yet extracted have also reported that there is more heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any other point in the past 650,000 years. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that if we continue pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the world’s temperature will climb significantly, and new computer models project a grim scenario of droughts and rising sea levels. Global warming is a fiendishly complex scientific puzzle, and “The Weather Makers” and “Field Notes From a Catastrophe” help show how the individual pieces fit together into a worrying whole.

It’s also a fiendishly complex political puzzle, and there may not be much time to decide how to act. Some leading climate scientists warn that we might be as few as 20 years away from a “tipping point,” after which it will be too late to reverse catastrophic change. Yet so far such warnings have not led to much meaningful action. The Bush administration proposes cutting carbon emissions by investing in hybrid cars and other futuristic technologies. Meanwhile, many of the nations that signed the Kyoto Protocols are failing to meet their own targets.

More here.