Closer to home, a record-setting heat wave this June killed in the United States, breaking thousands of local temperature records and sending the mercury above degrees as far north as North Dakota. This year has been the hottest year on record for the U. Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 15 years. The majority of those affected were victim to the devastating earthquake that hit Kashmir and Pakistan on October 8. The event of course was not in itself a function of climate change, but the huge numbers of rural poor living in environmentally degraded and unstable regions certainly contributed to the death toll of over 73, Hurricane Stan affected two million people, mostly victim to flooding and mudslides, when it hit Central America a few days earlier.

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Listen in RealPlayer. Kolbert gives even people with whom she disagrees ample opportunity to explain themselves, then deftly dissects their arguments. For example, she explains the origins of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution — adopted by the U. Senate in — which said the United States should not comply with Kyoto until the developing world was similarly bound.

She describes the formidable political forces that supported the resolution, from Exxon to the AFL-CIO, lucidly and fairly explaining the reasons behind their position. Suppose for a moment that the total anthropogenic CO2 that can be emitted into the atmosphere were a big ice-cream cake.

Field Notes works well as an introduction for those who will read just one book on climate, as it deftly weaves in the evolution of the underlying theory and the startling annual accumulation of greenhouse gases measured by the U. Weather Bureau at Mauna Loa since But it is also a wonderful read for those of us who follow the literature pretty closely. What Kolbert does best is explain things through conversations with experts.

For the sake of the planet, I hope that audience, especially in America, is enormous — and that it includes all the political wonks who loved her first book so much. Sign up for our newsletter! The way that humanity tackles this pandemic parallels how it might fight climate change.


Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes From a Catastrophe gives climate change a human face

Start your review of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change Write a review Shelves: environment As the effects of global warming become more and more difficult to ignore, will we react by finally fashioning a global response? Or will we retreat into ever narrower and more destructive forms of self-interest? It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing"--Elizabeth Kohlbert, the concluding paragraph of this book, published in I had read when it came out the award-winning three-part series she wrote for The New Yorker, of which this book is an expansion. Kolbert, whose more recent book The Sixth Extinction I have also been reading but not yet reviewed, traveled to the melting Alaskan permafrost to talk with long time scientists about the effects of CO2 on global warming and her report is absolutely devastating, though she is an elegant writer in communicating the scientific facts and consensus on these issues.


Elizabeth Kolbert



Field Notes from a Catastrophe


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