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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book review: "The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction"

click image to purchase: print $8.99, Kindle $.99
I just finished reading this short (46 page) book by Thom Hartman published back in August 2013.  What this book does like no other is to put contemporary climate change into the context of geologic history.  The writer lays out all of the known extinction events and the theories about their causes.  He then reviews current conditions and draws parallels. The biggest take away from this book is that all of the other extinction events took thousands of years to happen.  The current extinction which is already underway will take mere decades or a century or two at most.  It is all made painfully clear what is going on, why, and how there is very little time left for us to take action if it is not already too late.

I have skimmed through Naomi Klein's excellent "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate" and Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History", and found this book to be wonderfully concise and crystal-clear in the way that he defines the crisis unfolding around us.  This is a very quick read with no skimming required and packed with thoughtful insights.  He makes the reader painfully aware that the fossil fuels that took millions of years to bury are being burned in the blink of a geologic eye with the most dire of consequences.  It is not just carbon dioxide that we need to be concerned around it is the methane that is being released from the Arctic tundra and deep ocean methane clathrates.  Methane is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and as the oceans warm a feedback goes into effect triggering massive releases of this potent gas.  The only question is: has our climate already crossed a tipping point or not and is there anything we can realistically do about it?

This very short book is a must read if you want to be fully educated about abrupt climate change and its causes and outcomes.