Reviews for The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

by David Wallace-Wells

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

"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 gasesand 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 itforgetting 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 Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Wallace-Wells is not a scientist or an environmentalist; he is a journalist who, as he explains, began collecting stories of climate change, many of them terrifying, gripping, uncanny narratives. He warns: It is worse, much worse, than you think. Wallace-Wells explains why in a bracing, well-organized, fully sourced, powerfully composed survey of the planetary changes happening now at shockingly rapid rates and their dire human consequences. Wallace-Wells tracks the cascading human costs of the rising sea levels threatening coastal cities. He also describes how flooding rivers, heat, drought, and the loss of topsoil and pollinators are decimating crop yields and warming ocean temperatures are endangering marine life while the human population and its need for food continue to increase.The litany of interconnected global-warming disasters is pummeling. There's the epic damage wrought by more frequent and more ferocious storms and wildfires, and the insidious harm of air pollution, including the reduction of cognitive abilities. Wallace-Wells also casts light on the link between capitalism and environmental catastrophes, and how climate change is instigating wars and mass exoduses of refugees, crises that will grow more severe. This clarion and necessary overview takes its place on a long list of similarly eloquent cautionary treatises by Bill McKibben, Al Gore, James Hansen, Elizabeth Kolbert, Naomi Klein, and many more. Yet after decades of warnings, we have done nothing to reduce our burning of fossil fuels. Wallace-Wells makes it personal: Every year, the average American emits enough carbon to melt 10,000 tons of ice in the Antarctic ice sheets enough to add 10,000 cubic meters of water to the ocean. Every minute, each of us adds five gallons. But for all the overwhelming information so compellingly presented here, Wallace-Wells is adamant in his assertion that there are solutions and that it is not too late to implement them. A rise in climate-change consciousness is finally underway, and we must now, at long last, learn to think and act as one global community, one people, whose fate is shared by all. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2019 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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. (Feb.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

When an author congratulates a reader for her/his getting to page 138, one can safely assume that the information in the book is terrifying. The titles of the first 11 chapters of The Uninhabitable Earth are "Heat Death," "Hunger," "Drowning," "Wildfire," "Disasters No Longer Natural," "Freshwater Drain," "Dying Oceans," "Unbreathable Air," "Plagues of Warming," and "Economic Collapse." The title of the twelfth and last chapter, "Systems," refers to global disruption including wars and forced migration—a projected one-billion climate migrants on the planet by 2050. To date the responses to global warming have been denial (both major political parties in the US are guilty of this) and simply looking away instead of acknowledging the climate debt owed by the wealthy nations of the West who created the Anthropocene in one generation. The next generation has the task of reengineering a world not based on fossil fuels. Accomplishing this will not rely on the actions of well-meaning individuals who recycle or do not use plastic straws (though these are responsible behaviors); rather, the political will for a livable planet must be created by voting for responsible leaders. The world, as one, must respond to the call for action. We have only one planet to call home. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Patricia A. Murphy, emerita, University of Toledo