"The climatic tipping point is the point at which the greenhouse gas concentration reaches a level sufficient to cause catastrophic climate change. The point of no return is reached when that concentration of greenhouse gas has been in place sufficiently long to give rise to an irreversible process. Humanity is now between a tipping point and point of no return."
(So my question that begs an answer: when will we reach the point of no return?)
The above quotation comes from this slim, riveting book by Tim Flannery. Flannery, a professor at Macquarie University (in Sydney, Australia), is a scientist (mammalogist, palaeontologist), explorer, and conservationist. He is chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council (an international climate change awareness group), the Australasian representative for the National Geographic Society, and a director of the Australian Wildlife Conservatory.
QUESTION: what does this book (which Flannery calls a "essay") prove? ANSWER: we have entered a new geological era of our own making. After the Pleistocene (the period of the ice ages) and the Holocene (the ten thousand years of interglacial warmth that followed), we have entered the Anthropocene (the climate of man).
Using recent data, Flannery takes us on an eye-opening tour of the environmental challenges we face and their possible solutions. Is the situation hopeless? NO. Flannery believes that "a sense of hopelessness is just as great a danger to our future as the bankrupt philosophies of the recent past."
After Flannery's main narrative is concluded, there is a final section consisting of six responses of people who have read this book. (One response is written by two people.) These people respectively are a scholar; an entrepreneur; a professor of bioethics; the president and director of the Environmental Defence Fund; a freelance journalist and lecturer on international affairs; and a former environmental journalist.
After these six responses are concluded, there is one brief reply to all of them by Flannery.
Finally, the only problem with this book is that it has no index. Yes, this book is slim so perhaps it doesn't really need an index. However, Flannery packs so much information (and new information) into each page that I feel an index would have been a helpful addition.
In conclusion, this book combines Flannery's passion for this subject with his interdisciplinary scientific precision. I leave you with Flannery's answer to the question that I posed in parenthesis above:
"I think that there is now a better than even risk that, despite our best efforts, in the coming two or three decades Earth's climate system will pass the point of no return. This is most emphatically not a counsel of despair; it is simply a statement of my assessment of probability."
(first published 2009; forward by David Suzuki; 10 chapters; main narrative 105 pages; notes; 6 responses; 1 reply)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>