Field notes from a catastrophe Man, nature, and climate change

Elizabeth Kolbert

Book - 2006

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New York : Bloomsbury Pub. : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers 2006.
Main Author
Elizabeth Kolbert (-)
1st U.S. ed
Physical Description
210 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. 195-203) and index.
  • Shishmaref, Alaska
  • A warmer sky
  • Under the glacier
  • The butterfly and the toad
  • The curse of Akkad
  • Floating houses
  • Business as usual
  • The day after Kyoto
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Man in the anthropocene.
Review by Choice Review

Kolbert's Field Notes offers a largely nonscientific account of recent climate variability and change and the policy-related decisions (or lack thereof) made in the wake of unprecedented environmental changes. The author combines field experience, including personal observations from the high northern latitudes where climate changes have been disproportionately large, with interviews with high-ranking scientists to assemble a rather dismal view of humankind's future in light of a disregard for greenhouse-gas-induced global warming. Although Kolbert makes excellent use of the refereed scientific literature, her argument is largely one-sided, relying on correlation as evidence rather than physical causation. Nonetheless, her account provides a sobering view of climate in the future, as well as an interesting account of developments in climate science and their intersection with policy and economics. As such, this book is an excellent introduction to issues involved in implementing climate-related policies in a world dominated by economic interests and increasing energy demand. Very useful bibliography. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. J. Schoof Southern Illinois University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

On the burgeoning shelf of cautionary but occasionally alarmist books warning about the consequences of dramatic climate change, Kolbert's calmly persuasive reporting stands out for its sobering clarity. Expanding on a three-part series for the New Yorker, Kolbert (The Prophet of Love) lets facts rather than polemics tell the story: in essence, it's that Earth is now nearly as warm as it has been at any time in the last 420,000 years and is on the precipice of an unprecedented "climate regime, one with which modern humans have had no prior experience." An inexorable increase in the world's average temperature means that butterflies, which typically restrict themselves to well-defined climate zones, are now flitting where they've never been found before; that nearly every major glacier in the world is melting rapidly; and that the prescient Dutch are already preparing to let rising oceans reclaim some of their land. In her most pointed chapter, Kolbert chides the U.S. for refusing to sign on to the Kyoto Accord. In her most upbeat chapter, Kolbert singles out Burlington, Vt., for its impressive energy-saving campaign, which ought to be a model for the rest of the nation-just as this unbiased overview is a model for writing about an urgent environmental crisis. (Mar. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

New Yorker staff writer Kolbert (The Prophet of Love, 2004) reports from the frontlines of global warming. Based on a three-part series that appeared in the magazine, this slim volume conveys through telling detail the changes already being wrought by human-induced global warming. For most Americans, this issue is not yet "close to home," Kolbert writes; the early effects are found nearer the poles. In the Alaskan village of Shishmaref, early spring thaws and storm surges may force residents to relocate from their centuries-old home. The same fate threatens permafrost expert Vladimir Romanovsky; huge sinkholes are opening up practically on his doorstep. Kolbert's excursion to Swiss Camp, a research station in Greenland, ends with her finding a large puddle in her tent. Later she bids a fond farewell to one of the rapidly shrinking glaciers in Iceland. The island nation has had glaciers for the past two million years; one day they may all be gone. When the ice melts and the oceans warm, sea levels go up. Determined to keep their homes, the Dutch are well underway with plans to accommodate the rising waters, including buying out low-lying farms to hold projected floodwater and building floating houses. Vignettes also describe instances of warming-induced migration (butterflies moving their ranges northward) and disappearance (the golden toad, which had nowhere to go from its mountaintop). Although lighter on science than most books covering climate change, Kolbert's narrative does provide enough history to orient readers. A visit to David Rind at the GISS Climate Impacts Group reveals that, ironically, while flooding may occur on some parts of the planet, the continental U.S. may face severe drought. Obligatory chapters on politics and the Kyoto Protocol are followed by stories of grassroots efforts by local governments--but will they be enough? Good storytelling humanizes an often abstract subject. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.