on May 26, 2010
I'm writing this review to respond to the author of amazon's solitary negative review of this book that implies that Gwynne Dyer is nothing more than a conspiracy theorist, attempting to create a profitable hysteria:
This publication is primarily based on military strategies based on projections of climate change, strategies created by credible sources like the US military and the pentagon. These Strategies (one of the more famous called, "the age of consequence") are not the work of, "a spaced out out hippy," but of militarized powers, analyzed by a renowned PhD Military and Middle Eastern History commentator - who publishes a weekly column in several international newspapers.
I can appreciate any argument on the validity of sourcing, or the probability of occurrence of predicted events being quite low, or maybe even slights on the authors character that give reason for bias. I find this very useful pieces of information in a review, and quite frankly relevant. That said: discounting a work of this caliber as alarmist fiction denies that it is based largely in fact (and when it treads into speculative territory, it goes out of its way to acknowledge this) as well as it's primary use as the basis of exploring current conception.
on March 13, 2009
This book is remarkable. It is gripping and shocking. As one might say about a good thriller, I couldn't put it down. The information is current and well-sourced, and the analysis was typical Gwynne Dyer: smart, insightful and at times funny. Dyer talks about enormous social, political and environmental changes that are going to occur over the next several generations as a result of climate change. Take a look around: what are we as a society focused on? Can our society plan beyond a 5 year horizon? Can we invest in our future when most of us won't be around to see the return on our investment? You may ask yourself questions like that after reading this book. I sincerely wish any remaining climate change sceptics would read at least part of this book. To quote the introduction, "The potential cost of doing too little, too late is vastly greater than the cost that might be incurred by doing more to fight global warming than turns out, at some later date, to have been strictly necessary." Please read this book. For our futures.
on April 21, 2010
The author interviewed an impressing selection of people from ALL sectors, including not only sciences but also the economy and the military from all over the world. If some reviewer defame this book as too green or too eco, he didn't read it: It is partly build on information from the US Pentagon which is not known for its hippie-eco-attitude. Instead, the book is written rather objective, the author does not claim to predict what will happen, but what can happen if we don't manage to reduce our GHG emissions. The illustrated scenarios raise various international topics and make you think of our future and of our current behaviour in new, disturbing ways.
on September 8, 2009
The title "Climate Wars" hints at Dyer's contention that global warming will not be a benign phenomenon where things will continue as before. Rather like the human body, where a fever of only three and a half degrees Celcius is potentially fatal, an increase of only a few degrees can potentially cause massive changes in the earth's climate. The earth's biosphere appears to be more fine-tuned and fragile than we thought, and we have unknowingly pushed it far toward making the earth a far less habitable place for humans to live.
He believes that irreversible changes are coming at a rate higher than even recent generally accepted predictions, so that the goal, for example, of the U.S. and British governments to achieve 80 percent cuts to emissions by 2050, is not enough. To illustrate what may be coming, then, he creates a number of fictitious scenarios, set at various times in the relatively near future. These scenarios are possible futures he imagines in a world increasingly under stress from the effects of climate change. They illustrate his point that global warming is not the relatively easy problem that, for example, CFC's and the ozone layer was, where the world could simply rally together and deal effectively with it.
Though there are technological hurdles to be overcome, they are not insurmountable, and could largely be dealt with in the next couple of decades if the international community, with a single mind, made a decision to move away from oil and coal energy sources and develop alternatives. Of course that would include, among other projects, building five million wind turbines around the world in the next five years - quite an undertaking, but certainly doable, especially if you consider that the world builds 65 million cars a year. He believes that we could achieve 80 percent cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, if the political will were there. And politics is the arena where the game will be decided. It is political will, not technological solutions, that that will limit our response to the coming crisis.
As the effects of climate change manifest themselves it will become clear why the international community will not be of a single mind. Developing nations, such as India and China, will not agree to curb their emissions to the same degree as the old, fully industrialized nations, at least not at first. They will consider it a matter of basic justice that they be allowed to catch up in economic development before making their cuts, and that the West will have to take the initiative and actually accept deeper cuts initially than if everything were across-the-board. This is going to be an extremely hard sell with voters in the developed countries, who will certainly object to paying for benefits that will be spread to countries that not only are not paying for them but are continuing to belch out greenhouse gases.
Another feature of climate change that can lull policy makers to inactivity is the huge amount of latency between cause and effect. There is roughly a 40 year lag in seeing the effects of current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. So at the time when we need to act (now), climate effects are only beginning to be felt, and we don't feel the sense of urgency that we ought. And to make it worse, thirty years from now when we're really working hard to address the problem, it will seem that it isn't helping, because things will actually be getting worse, even though we would then be mitigating the effects for a future generation. So the difficulty is not only in getting started, but in staying the course.
This forty-year lag in climate effect means that regardless of what we do now, there will be at least some negative changes felt in mid-century. These changes, including drought and sea-level rise, will cause some countries to suffer a lot more than others. The one critical, indispensable, sine qua non of reducing and then eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is international cooperation. And we see that even today, when things are relatively good, that is hard to achieve. But when climate change starts causing food shortages and mass displacement of people, any chance of international cooperation will vanish. Climate treaties will not be much of a priority for especially the developing countries as all their efforts will be focussed on maintaining order and feeding their people. Conflict over dwindling resources and access to food will intensify as, after all, Dyer notes grimly, "people always raid before they starve."
There is general agreement that we need to keep warming below 2 degrees Celcius so that feedbacks don't kick in that would make warming a self-sustaining process. Dyer thinks we won't make emissions-reducing deadlines to prevent that. So it will be necessary, today, to begin preparing, for future use, geo-engineering strategies which would produce a cooling effect, allowing us the time to stop carbon dioxide emissions and then bring atmospheric concentrations back to a safe level, while keeping the temperature from rising more than 2 degrees. One such technique, mimicking the action of volcanoes, could be the release of sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, producing a temporary "global dimming."
Dyer's dark forecast is more extreme than the views held by most policy makers and climate scientists, but it is not implausible. Plausibility factors much into of our lives, for example our decision to buy fire insurance even though it is not likely that we will ever experience a house fire. As so much is at stake in the uncertain predictions of climate change, to err on the side of caution can hardly be called foolish. And as worldwide oil resources dwindle and prices skyrocket, we are going to have to make massive changes away from oil-based economies anyways. We ought to consider ourselves fortunate that we are only now facing this coming crisis, and not fifty years ago when we had no alternatives to fossil fuels.
As a journalist and expert on modern warfare, Dyer takes the issue of global warming to an entirely new level of discussion in his latest book, "Climate Wars". For him, the subject of greenhouse gas emissions is no longer limited to an academic discussion on how they may or may not impact and alter our biosphere. Rather, global warming is a reality that is starting to reconfigure some of the very delicate geopolitical balances existing in our present world. For Dyer, writing this book is an opportunity to examine some very plausible doomsday scenarios that could face us in the very near future as we wrestle with this almost unconquerable problem. The growing shortage of water in some of the world's biggest watersheds is a major focus of the writer's attention. With northern and tropical interior lands drying up in places like Western Russia, Central China, India, Central Africa and Central Canada, it is not unlikely to assume a major shift in population as people seek other sources of food. While there is indisputable evidence that the earth is heating up at a steady rate of a couple of degrees every decade, nobody knows for sure how this will all play out in its effects on relationships between countries over matters such as deteriorating air quality, water shortages, the appearances of megacities, and the shortage of food. Dyer drives these points home by setting up very scary Sci-Fi apocalyptic settings that are meant to bowl the reader over with their potential destruction. One silver lining in all Dyer's ponderings is that the world is finally beginning to address the need to be less dependent on fossil fuels and more committed to practicing better environmental sustainability. This book, though overstated in places, is a clear reminder that the noose is tightening and we no longer have the luxury of contemplating scientific models in order to ascertain the true nature of the beast. The faultlines that come with global warming have already begun to widen in key battle zones around the world. Ours is the task to now figure out how to prevent them from widening so as to erupt in a global conflagration. I was surprise to see that Dyer chooses not to mention the Middle East and its pending water shortages.
on January 15, 2012
Every alternate chapter of "Climate Wars" describes a different future scenario, exploring how climate change could affect international relations.
United States, 2029, where masses of starving immigrants from the drought-stricken Mexico lead the American government to close the southern border and arm it with barbed wire, machine guns, and land mines.
Northern India, 2036, when water disputes with Pakistan lead to a nuclear conflict that destroys the Taj Mahal.
China, 2042, when geoengineering gone wrong corresponds with a massive volcano, leading to a sudden (albeit temporary) drop in temperature.
The Arctic, 2175, when the oceans begin to smell like rotten eggs ' anyone familiar with previous mass extinctions will know why that's not as trivial as it may sound.
Scary, scary stuff. And most of it within my lifetime. Military 'scenarios' are not predictions or even projections. But they're based on such projections, so they hold a frightening grain of plausibility.
When people claim that the consequences of turning away from fossil fuels will be worse than just letting climate change happen, tell them to read "Climate Wars". It shows us just what's at stake here.
Please visit my blog, [...], for more articles about climate change, including many book reviews.