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Six Degrees Our Future On A Hotter Planet [Paperback]

Mark Lynas
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 21 2008
An eye-opening and vital account of the future of our earth, and our civilisation, if current rates of global warming persist, by the highly acclaimed author of 'High Tide'. Picture yourself a few decades from now, in a world in which average temperatures are three degrees higher than they are now. On the edge of Greenland, rivers ten times the size of the Amazon are gushing off the ice sheet into the north Atlantic. Displaced victims of North Africa's drought establish a new colony on Greenland's southern tip, one of the few inhabitable areas not already crowded with environmental refugees. Vast pumping systems keep the water out of most of Holland, but the residents of Bangladesh and the Nile Delta enjoy no such protection. Meanwhile, in New York, a Category 5-plus superstorm pushes through the narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn, devastating waterside areas from Long Island to Manhattan. Pakistan, crippled by drought brought on by disappearing Himalayan glaciers, sees 27 million farmers flee to refugee camps in neighbouring India. Its desperate government prepares a last-ditch attempt to increase the flow of the Indus river by bombing half-constructed Indian dams in Kashmir. The Pakistani president authorises the use of nuclear weapons in the case of an Indian military counter-strike. But the biggest story of all comes from South America, where a conflagration of truly epic proportions has begun to consume the Amazon...Alien as it all sounds, Mark Lynas's incredible new book is not science-fiction; nor is it sensationalist. The title, 'Six Degrees', refers to the terrifying possibility that average temperatures will rise by up to six degrees within the next hundred years. This is the first time we have had a reliable picture of how the collapse of our civilisation will unfold unless urgent action is taken. Most vitally, Lynas's book serves to highlight the fact that the world of 2100 doesn't have to be one of horror and chaos. With a little foresight, some intelligent strategic planning, and a reasonable dose of good luck, we can at least halt the catastrophic trend into which we have fallen - but the time to act is now.

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Review

'Scientists predict that global temperatures will rise by between one and six degrees over the course of this century and Mark Lynas paints a chilling, degree-by-degree picture of the devastation likely to ensue unless we act now..."Six Degrees" is a rousing and vivid plea to choose a different future.' Daily Mail 'The saga of how, in the world as imagined by thousands of computer-modelling studies, global warming kicks in degree by degree. "Six Degrees", I tell you now, is terrifying.' Sunday Times 'Brilliant and higly readable.' Sunday Times

About the Author

Mark Lynas is an activist, journalist and traveller. He was editor of the website www.oneworld.net and has made many appearances in the press and TV as a commentator on environmental issues. He also throws custard pies at lunatics who pronounce global warming a fantasy. He is the author of 'High Tide: News from a Warming World'. He lives in Oxford.

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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six steps to some surprises Aug. 19 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's hard to understand how there could be any climate change "sceptics" remaining. Perhaps they have failed to comprehend the long view of what the circumstances are. What does an increase in global temperatures really mean? Mark Lynas has culled the massive number of reports on the topic and here woven them into a comprehensive picture of likely futures for this planet. In this effective work, he lines out what the changes in our biosphere are likely to be over the next decades. It's a chilling account and one that should be in the hands of every industrialist, policy-maker and tax-paying consumer.

Using the data supplied by his extensive resources, Lynas depicts global and regional changes in environment due to increase over time. His temperature range selection is driven by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC's reports indicate a six degree Celsius increase over the next century. Integrating the scientific research on the biosphere, IPCC is able to review existing and past conditions and those likely to ensue in the future. Lynas synthesizes the reports to present a picture of conditions likely with each degree of heat will lead to over time. The first degree is typified by examples of drought. The Great Plains of the US trans-Mississippi is already showing signs of that dry-out. The author explains that drought in one place may be off-set by rainstorms elsewhere. Heat over land desiccates, but heat over water increases evaporation leading to greater precipitation. Even with but a single step up in temperature, the rains may be intense in some locales. This seems to be occurring already, with ravaging storms displacing many refugees. Katrina is almost certainly an example of the new environment.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I did not take this all the way to the end because the later arguments stand on the shoulders of the earlier bits. The earlier bits are crumbly, and my blood pressure, normally normal, was rising faster than the Author's imagination. I am keeping this book away from my library to prevent my library getting a fever.
P. 17
In the United States, fluid inclusion data from ice core are commonly used, but I suspect the data are very unreliable. Researchers at UofT never used secondary inclusions (bubbles on healed fractures) for sphalerite geothermometry, and never even bothered with calcite fluid inclusions, assuming them worthless because of the weakness of calcite. Strictly speaking, determining whether an inclusion is primary is not possible. It is possible, however, to determine whether an inclusion is secondary, but not the other way around. Many secondary inclusions are unrecognised until set in context where they cannot fit thermodynamically and then they are discarded.
Ice is an open system simply because it expands as it freezes. Think of it this way. Ice will vacuum ambient air into its structure as it crystallizes. The trapped gasses then reorganise into bubbles. Moreover, the transition from firn to ice can take hundreds to thousands of years on any particular glacier. In the top transparent to translucent tens of metres, the firn freezes and thaws an unknowable number of times before conditions obtain to freeze it for the long term as crystalline ice.
The isotopes used for temperature determinations are heavy isotopes of oxygen and carbon; in a closed system, they proxy for temperature. In an open system, the light isotopes differentially leave the system and the heavies concentrate. In the ice core scientific papers I have from Lonnie T.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and provocative Nov. 24 2007
By Paul Vitols - Published on Amazon.com
Using a solid, conservative methodology, the author paints a frightening picture of the climatic changes that lie before us as Earth grows hotter from greenhouse-gas emissions.

I was torn between assigning this book four stars or five. While there's nothing about this book I don't like, I didn't want to be influenced by my own conviction of the overriding importance of this topic for all of us, and have tried to grade the book purely on the basis of my reaction to it as a book.

But the topic is urgent and important, and Mark Lynas has treated it effectively and with authority. His approach was to review all the published scientific literature he could find on climate modeling and paleoclimatology. His sources therefore consist exclusively of peer-reviewed scientific papers: no pop-science books, interviews, or mass-market magazine articles. He created a database of articles and organized them into categories according to the amount of warming they discussed: 1 degree Celsius, 2 degrees Celsius, and so on up to 6 degrees.

The book builds up a picture of the heating Earth, each chapter notching the average temperature one degree higher. At 1 degree, for example, Lynas discusses the likely desertification of the American West. The great plains ranging east of the Rockies north to Saskatchewan are actually an ancient dune-field covered with a thin layer of soil held in place by plants. Climate models show its likely reversion to a more drought-stricken regime that has also existed in the ancient past. The result will be the death of the plants, and blowing away of the topsoil--just as happened with the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma in the 1930s. This new Dust Bowl will be much larger and more enduring--and where will all the people go?

That's only one heading in the 1-degree chapter; there are nine more, including the slowing or stopping of the Gulf Stream, the melting of the Arctic icecap, and the die-off of coral reefs. Then it's on to chapter 2, with 11 headings of its own. The effects he looks at are diverse, sometimes smaller, such as the extinctions of individual species, but mostly much larger, such as the severe droughts and mass migrations we can expect when the world's mountain glaciers--source of much of our drinking-water--finally disappear, as they are rapidly doing right now.

By the time we get to 6 degrees, the point is abundantly clear: we must not let this happen. At that point our planet will be ice-free, largely desert, and whipped by "hypercanes" vastly more powerful than today's strongest storms. In Lynas's personal opinion, the human species will likely survive, but it will be a small remnant, and one of only a few survivors of this great extinction event.

Still relatively buried in the scientific literature are discussions of positive-feedback loops that may--indeed likely will--lie ahead: mechanisms that will accelerate warming beyond our ability to stop or control it. One such is the melting of tundra permafrost, which will likely release methane in large quantities, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. Another is the awesome storehouse of methane as hydrates on the continental shelves, which may be released as the oceans warm.

Based on his survey, Lynas finds that our window of opportunity to head off the worst of it is very small indeed. We have almost certainly already crossed the threshold of 2 degrees of global warming, so the first two chapters are a snapshot of how our world will look just a few years from now. Indeed, the current droughts in Atlanta, California, Portugal, Australia, and elsewhere are themselves the manifestation of the process unfolding.

Lynas sums up with a discussion of what's stopping us from acting more vigorously, as well a look at the magnitude of the task. It makes for mighty sobering reading.

His prose is vigorous, vivid, and confident. Lynas has studied the climate for years, and visited remote spots of the globe. To be sure, I found the message depressing. It's all the scarier because it's not hysterical--it's lifted right out of peer-reviewed papers. But it has woken me from my own torpor of denial. Whatever decisions we each make, we should be informed. And this book provides an especially crucial kind of information.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the need for radical urgent action Dec 4 2007
By Brian Delaney - Published on Amazon.com
He certainly did his homework for this book. It was a given a very positive review on realclimatedotorg which convinced me it was worth reading. I consider myself fairly well informed on this topic but I learned a lot of useful information here. He particularly explains all the possible positive feedback mechanisms very well. Perhaps the most interesting single fact I learned was that the global temperature in the depths of the last ice-age was just 6 degrees colder than today, which makes me appreciate what a significant change we could be facing if we don't soon adopt a radically different way of life.

My quibble with this work was that he skims over the 'positive' aspects of climate change, if he mentions them at all. He briefly refers to longer growing seasons and improved productivity in the higher latitudes, and doesn't at all refer to reduced mortality from warmer winters, of which Lomborg makes much of in 'Cool It' (unscientific and not recommended), and even the IPCC mentions in its 4th review. While not in any way a climate skeptic, I was left with the feeling of not being given an opportunity to make my own evaluations, and his tone seemed a little evangelical for me at times.

In the long run, if society needs convincing of the need for radical action, I don't think this is the correct approach. Everyone's intelligence and discernment should be respected.

But I don't want to dwell on a small error in a really well-researched and engaging work. This is a fine book, a gripping read, and I recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shortsightedness Jan. 14 2014
By Manfred Finkhaeuser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of the few books which impressed me most and scared me at the same time. I do not understand why humans can be as stupid as appearently they are and do not act in time to avoid the drama which perhaps our generation will no face but a very next one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Need more proof of climate change? Me neither, but this is good Oct. 29 2013
By Doc jojo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Books on climate change and global warming can be a little dry. Not this book. It's easy to read...more of a conversational style. You'll turn off your lights and monitor, unplug your chargers, and drive less from now on after reading this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars It's aite March 14 2013
By Lue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
it's interesting, especially if you into that stuff. the projects are quite scary and fascinating, but you need quite the scientific background to truly appreciate everything. i just bought for my college class, and i wouldn't recommend it as a fun read cuz it's really random n how its content transverse so many topics. feels more like a magazine than a book.
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