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The Uninhabitable Earth
Cover of The Uninhabitable Earth
The Uninhabitable Earth
Life After Warming
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER"The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon."—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday DemonIt...
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER"The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon."—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday DemonIt...
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  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • "The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon."—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon
    It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, "500-year" storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually.
    This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
    In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.
    Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.
    Praise for The Uninhabitable Earth
    "The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet."—Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
    "Riveting. . . . Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells's outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too."The Economist

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter 1
    Cascades

    It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life un-deformed; that it is a crisis of the "natural" world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not circumscribed and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in
    staring it down.
    None of this is true. But let's begin with the speed of change. The earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a wiping of the fossil record that it functioned as an evolutionary reset, the planet's phylogenetic tree first expanding, then collapsing, at intervals, like a lung: 86 percent of all species dead, 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, another 75 percent; 100 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 150 million years after that, 75 percent again. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees Celsius, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane, another greenhouse gas, and ended with all but a sliver of life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is one hundred times faster than at any point in human history before the beginning of industrialization. And there is already, right now, fully a third more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last 800,000 years—perhaps in as long as 15 million years. There were no humans then. The oceans were more than a hundred feet higher.
    Many perceive global warming as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries. In fact, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades. Which means we have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since Al Gore published his first book on climate than in all the centuries—all the millennia—that came before. The United Nations established its climate change framework in 1992, building a political consensus out of a scientific consensus and advertising it unmistakably to the world; which means we have now done as much damage to the environment knowingly than we ever managed in ignorance. Global warming may seem like a distended morality tale playing out over several centuries and inflicting a kind of Old Testament retribution on the great-great-grandchildren of those responsible, since it was carbon burning...

About the Author-

  • David Wallace-Wells is a national fellow at the New America foundation and a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He was previously the deputy editor of The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2019
    "The threat from climate change is more total than from the bomb. It is also more pervasive." A closely argued look at what may be a turning point in human existence.As New York magazine deputy editor Wallace-Wells observes, almost every major moment of "evolutionary reset" in Earth's history has been precipitated by climate change produced by an overproduction of greenhouse gases--and there is now more carbon in the air than at any point in the last 15 million years, leading him to open, grimly, with the warning, "It is worse, much worse, than you think." So it is, and even if the author allows that we have the tools we need to stop transformative climate change, from carbon taxes to carbon capture and a conversion to renewable energy, we lack anything like the political or economic will to alter our course. The results will be catastrophic, from untold millions of environmental refugees to summers that, even in Scandinavia, will be accompanied by killer heat waves. Wallace-Wells rightly muses over the fact that, for all our devotion to end-of-the-world scenarios in science-fiction books and films, too many of us continue to believe that the scientists warning of these dire matters are "simply crying wolf." Witness the sitting president, who considers himself too smart to believe that the climate is changing and that there's still plenty of time to do something about it. There's not, Wallace-Wells writes, leaving us with only a few alternatives, ranging from the hope that some technological miracle can be ginned up to the darker impulse to "normalize climate suffering at the same pace we accelerate it...forgetting all that we had ever said about the absolute moral unacceptability of the conditions of the world we are passing through in the present tense, and blithely."If you weren't alarmed already, Wallace-Wells sounds the tocsin of toxicity. An urgent, necessary book.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 11, 2019
    Wallace-Wells, deputy editor of New York magazine, takes on global warming’s probable apocalyptic consequences in this depressing but must-read account. Wallace-Wells covers well-known threats, such as that rising sea levels will drown low-lying population centers, and alarming secondary effects, including the loss of ice, which, by reducing the Earth’s capacity to reflect heat back into the atmosphere, would only accelerate global warming. Wallace-Wells considers cultural disruptions as well—for example, that rising temperatures could make the hajj to Mecca physically impossible. Wallace-Wells rigorously sources his contentions in detailed endnotes, making clear his gloominess is evidence-based. He also clarifies that his enumeration of calamities may only be the tip of the iceberg, as it is “a portrait of the future only as best it can be painted in the present.” The cumulative effect is oppressive, and his brief references to remaining personally optimistic—because what humanity has done to the planet it can somehow undo—comes across as wishful thinking. At one point, he commends the reader for persisting in reading, observing that each chapter thus far has contained “enough horror to induce a panic attack in even the most optimistic.” This statement stands as an apt summation of this intellectually rigorous, urgent, and often overwhelming look into a dire future.

  • Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times "The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet."
  • John Lanchester, The New York Times Book Review "A brilliant new book. . . . a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet."
  • Fred Pearce, The Washington Post "David Wallace-Wells argues that the impacts of climate change will be much graver than most people realize, and he's right. The Uninhabitable Earth is a timely and provocative work." --Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

    "An excellent book. . . . Not since Bill McKibben's The End of Nature thirty years ago have we been told what climate change will mean in such vivid terms."
  • Susan Matthews, Slate "Urgent and humane. . . . Wallace-Wells is an extremely adept storyteller. . . . A horrifying assessment of what we might expect as a result of climate change if we don't change course."

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