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The Big Answer


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The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

a book by David Wallace-Wells

(our site's book review)

Danger, Climate Catastrophe Ahead!

The Amazon blurb says that #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • "The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming 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.

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
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

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: Life After Warming 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. See also Al Gore's Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.

In Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, things seemed to get, as Alice learned in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser; with climate change, people who know disaster is coming keep doing the same thing that created the disaster—curiouser and curiouser
In Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, things seemed to get, as Alice learned in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser; with climate change, people who know disaster is coming keep doing the same thing that created the disaster—curiouser and curiouser

In a Twilight Zone mood, we are now submitting for your approval: "We’re hurtling down a one-way road toward the Global Warming world order at mind-boggling speeds, the terrain is getting more treacherous by the minute, and we’ve passed all the exit ramps. From this point forward, there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads 'Danger, climate catastrophe ahead.'"


Chapters in The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

I. Cascades

II. Elements of Chaos
Heat Death
Hunger
Drowning
Wildfire
Disasters No Longer Natural
Freshwater Drain
Dying Oceans
Unbreathable Air
Plagues of Warming
Economic Collapse
Climate Conflict
“Systems”

III. The Climate Kaleidoscope
Storytelling
Crisis Capitalism
The Church of Technology
Politics of Consumption
History After Progress
Ethics at the End of the World

IV. The Anthropic Principle

He just read The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
He just read The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Reviews of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

A New York Times Editors' Choice

"The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming 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

“Potent and evocative. . . . Wallace-Wells has resolved to offer something other than the standard narrative of climate change. . . . He avoids the ‘eerily banal language of climatology’ in favor of lush, rolling prose.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

"Most of us know the gist, if not the details, of the climate change crisis. And yet it is almost impossible to sustain strong feelings about it. David Wallace-Wells has now provided the details, and with writing that is not only clear and forceful, but often imaginative and even funny, he has found a way to make the information deeply felt." —Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated

“A brilliant new book. . . . a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet." —John Lanchester, The New York Times Book Review

"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: Life After Warming 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." —Fred Pearce, The Washington Post

"One of the very few books about our climate change emergency that doesn't sugarcoat the horror." —William T. Vollmann, author of No Immediate Danger

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming is one of the very few books about our climate change emergency that doesn't sugarcoat the horror
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming is one of the very few books about our climate change emergency that doesn't sugarcoat the horror

“Powerfully argued. . . . A masterly analysis of why—with a world of solutions—we choose doom.” —Nature

"This gripping, terrifying, furiously readable book is possibly the most wide-ranging account yet written of the ways in which climate change will transform every aspect of our lives, ranging from where we live to what we eat and the stories we tell. Essential reading for our ever-more-unfamiliar and unpredictable world." —Amitav Ghosh, author of Flood of Fire

“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.” —Susan Matthews, Slate

“If we don’t want our grandchildren to curse us, we had better read this book.” —Timothy Snyder, author of Black Earth

If you’ve snoozed through the climate change news, this book will waken and update you
If you’ve snoozed through the climate change news, this book will waken and update you

“Lively. . . . Vivid. . . . If you’ve snoozed through or turned away from the climate change news, this book will waken and update you. If you’re steeped in the unfolding climate drama, Wallace-Wells’s voice and perspective will be stimulating.” —David George Haskell, The Guardian

“Beautifully written. . . . As climate change encroaches, things will get worse. Much worse. And David Wallace-Wells spares no detail in explaining how.” —Kate Aronoff, Bookforum

"Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order. Read it and, for the lack of any more useful response, weep." —Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order. Read it and, for the lack of any more useful response, weep
Relentless, angry journalism of the highest order. Read it and, for the lack of any more useful response, weep

"A brilliant and unsparing analysis of a nightmare that is no longer a distant future but our chaotic, burning present. Unlike other writers who speak about human agency in the abstract, Wallace-Wells zeros in on the power structures and capitalist elites whose mindless greed is writing an obituary for our grandchildren." —Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear

"A lucid and thorough description of our unprecedented crisis, and of the mechanisms of denial with which we seek to avoid its fullest recognition.” —William Gibson, author of Neuromancer

"David Wallace-Wells has produced a willfully terrifying polemic that reads like a cross between Stephen King and Stephen Hawking. Written with verve and insight and an eerie gusto for its own horrors, it comes just when we need it; it could not be more urgent than it is at this moment. I hope everyone will read it and be afraid." —Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon

Civilization is busy with the business of destroying everything it can get its hands on, all for the advantage of a privileged few, and at the expense of the great many. Even if we 'fix' Global Warming, all the rest will remain
Civilization is busy with the business of destroying everything it can get its hands on, all for the advantage of a privileged few, and at the expense of the great many. Even if we 'fix' Global Warming, all the rest will remain

Omitted from the author's discussion of climate change challenges is class—the rich/nonrich dynamic. The oligarchs that are in the process of trying to solidify decisive political/military control over the entire world do not see their vital interests as identical to the vital interests of the billions of global have-nots. In fact, as this situation develops, they will see their interests, more and more, as diametrically opposed to the rest of us. Accordingly, a lot more time and effort will be spent on facilitating the efforts of the wealthy and powerful to take possession of all of what’s left (water, food, air, weapons), with utter indifference to the plight of the billions of people who will have to do without. See Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.

The ladder of class mobility has been rigged so nonrich can never become rich—however, wealth won't save the rich from the coming climate catastrophe
The ladder of class mobility has been rigged so nonrich can never become rich—however, wealth won't save the rich from the coming climate catastrophe

Nina, a VERY insightful Amazon reviewer, says "What is it you want to save? Even without Anthropogenic Global Warming, our present civilization (like many others before it) is busy about the business of destroying everything it can get its hands on, all for the advantage of a privileged few, and at the expense of the great many. Even if we 'fix' Global Warming, all the rest will remain. Perhaps the consequences of Global Warming as outlined in this book is the price we must pay to wake up. I'm not at all sure I want to save the present world order, even if in not doing so I'm taken out." (Source: My Question Has Always Been--Even After Reading This Book--What Is It You Want To Save?, Nina, Amazon reviewer)


All Mass Extinctions But the One That Killed the Dinosaurs Involved Climate Change Produced by Greenhouse Gas

Of the five mass extinctions we've had on Earth, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas
Of the five mass extinctions we've had on Earth, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas

Wallace-Wells tells us "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 . . . 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 250 million years ago; it began when carbon dioxide 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"

"The upper end of the probability curve put forward by the U.N. to estimate the end-of-the-century, business-as-usual scenario—the worst-case outcome of a worst-case emissions path—puts us at eight degrees. At that temperature, humans at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying. In that world, eight degrees warmer, direct heat effects would be the least of it: the oceans would eventually swell two hundred feet higher, flooding what are now two-thirds of the world’s major cities; hardly any land on the planet would be capable of efficiently producing any of the food we now eat."

Trilobites disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 252 million years ago. The trilobites were among the most successful of all early animals, existing in oceans for over 300 million years—there were 50,000 species of trilobites
Trilobites disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 252 million years ago. The trilobites were among the most successful of all early animals, existing in oceans for over 300 million years—there were 50,000 species of trilobites

Big Oil Convinced the Kochs and the Republicans and Trump to Label Global Warming as a Hoax—a Classic Case of the Blind Leading the Blind (Right Off a Cliff)

Compare the trilobites' 300 million years with our 5 million years. Nature had carbon dioxide excess create mass extinctions several times—and that is what wiped out the trilobites after their 300 million year reign. Humans will experience carbon dioxide excess which will again create mass extinctions, including us. Our extinction would not have happened except for our overpopulation and overuse of fossil fuels. By 2100 the irreversible runaway global warming will have killed off a few billion people, and the rest of that century will be a Hell that would have been preventable in the early 21st century, but Big Oil convinced the Kochs and the Republicans and Trump to label global warming as a hoax, so no action was taken.

Big Oil convinced the Kochs and the Republicans and Trump to label global warming as a hoax—a classic case of the blind leading the blind (right off a cliff)
Big Oil convinced the Kochs and the Republicans and Trump to label global warming as a hoax—a classic case of the blind leading the blind (right off a cliff)

Later presidents will do what Obama did—token gestures, and leaders around the globe will follow suit. So the wealth of the few would end up motivating the 6th mass extinction. Are humans an intelligent race? The trilobites lived 60 times as long as we humans. Dinosaurs extended from 240 million years ago to now, since some people count birds as modern feathered dinosaurs. Others say dinosaurs perished 66 million years ago. So dinosaurs lasted somewhere between 174 and 240 million years. Again—compared to our 5 million years, they and the trilobites are huge successes, while humans are a puny failure. So humans are a semi-intelligent race, since they don't seem able to apply brainpower to survival, while trilobites and dinosaurs have no such problem. See Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right and Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America.

American wildfires are predicted to advance ninefold under global warming where in a single year in recent history it was recorded that ten million acres were burned—wildfires are described as a global pandemic
American wildfires are predicted to advance ninefold under global warming where in a single year in recent history it was recorded that ten million acres were burned—wildfires are described as a global pandemic


In one of the most apropos and frightening metaphors about climate change, David Wallace-Wells states that we are 'running a car in a sealed garage'
In one of the most apropos and frightening metaphors about climate change, David Wallace-Wells states that we are 'running a car in a sealed garage'

Peter Frase's Book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism Is Even Scarier and More Engaging Than The Uninhabitable Earth

Peter Frase wrote a great book—Four Futures: Life After Capitalism—in which he predicted four different possible futures. 1. communism, 2. rentism, 3. socialism, 4. exterminism.

Socialism—one of Frase's four futures—supports the view that the goods and services produced should be dispensed based on the productivity of an individual. In contrast, communism believes that the wealth should be shared by the masses based on the needs of the individual. In practice, however, communist party heads were as greedy and corrupt as capitalist leaders and in both cases leaders acted in their own interests, not the people's interests, in spite of their telling the people what they wanted to hear. In rentism, the techniques to produce abundance are monopolized by a tiny elite, who exploit it for their own wealth accumulation—citizens be damned. You might recognize this as Trump's mantra, which he covers up with his Make America Great Again farce.

Make America Great Again is the cover story, but Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again is the real story
Make America Great Again is the cover story, but Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again is the real story

There's a horrible fourth future worse then you can imagine: Peter Frase’s fourth future, exterminism and it is horrifying: a neo-feudal nightmare. The elites retreat into heavily fortified guarded enclaves where the robots do all the work. So who cares, right? You do. Non-elites are trapped outside in the hot, ugly version of the hell that is the speedily frying planet. As Frase sees it, “The great danger posed by the automation of production, in the context of a world of hierarchy and scarce resources, is that it makes the great mass of people superfluous from the standpoint of the ruling elite.” The elites can choose to keep the non-elite in prisons and refugee camps. However, they're likely to conclude it is convenient to simply exterminate the non-elite. They're unnecessary and useless and—worse—have this nasty habit of breathing oxygen, which elites want all to themselves.

This is how the elites live in exterminism and—yes—it's air conditioned
This is how the elites live in exterminism and—yes—it's air conditioned


This is how the non-elites live in exterminism and—no—it's not even the teeniest bit air conditioned
This is how the non-elites live in exterminism and—no—it's not even the teeniest bit air conditioned


Science has gifted us with amazing ways to ruin the environment and amazing ways to kill each other—if these two continue, life will eventually degenerate to rats fighting in a toilet
Science has gifted us with amazing ways to ruin the environment and amazing ways to kill each other—if these two continue, life will eventually degenerate to rats fighting in a toilet

Wildfires, Hurricanes and Floods, Oh My!

Droughts and floods will increase in frequency and severity. Wildfires, which Americans have seen within the past few years in California and the Pacific Northwest, will increase in severity and frequency. Severe weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, will proliferate and become stronger. Prepare yourself for the designation of a Category 6 hurricane. Established diseases will spread (malaria, dengue fever, and zika will move north), and new pathological organisms will evolve in our hothouse atmosphere. Crops will fail and yields decline.

The Uninhabitable Earth reads like 228 pages of a guy standing on the corner screaming 'Repent sinners! The end is near!'
The Uninhabitable Earth reads like 228 pages of a guy standing on the corner screaming 'Repent sinners! The end is near!'


The new pathological organisms that will evolve in our hothouse atmosphere may create pandemics that kill billions
The new pathological organisms that will evolve in our hothouse atmosphere may create pandemics that kill billions

The information contained in The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming is extremely important, because it sounds the alarm at a time when immediate action must be taken. And because it forces one to question so many fundamental assumptions behind modern life in a developed country. And because it is founded in rigorous research on a topic that is overwhelmingly significant. But the writing is sloppy and so is the punctuation—so much so that the points being made are sometimes lost in the mire.


Elites May Decide Non-Elites Are Good for Nothing—Except as Food

If the elites see resources deplete too rapidly as crops fail and air and water turn to crap, they may decide that genocide is the only way to ensure their survival—here elite's death dealing hovercraft fry people into something elite-edible: 'tastes like chicken!'
If the elites see resources deplete too rapidly as crops fail and air and water turn to crap, they may decide that genocide is the only way to ensure their survival—here elite's death dealing hovercraft fry people into something elite-edible: 'tastes like chicken!'

There was a History Channel TV series Life After People that was very intriguing, showing what would happen in the years and centuries after the disappearance of people—all people. The planet quickly reverted back to nature. The global warming facts were not considered, nor was there an explanation as to where 8 billion people went. Because of its subtitle, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming reminded us of that show, a show that reminded everyone that the world would keep on turning with no people around. Predators and dog packs would reign supreme.

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming scared the crap out of many of its readers. Good! We need to QUIT PROCRASTINATING! Keeping one's head in the sand has the unfortunate effect of rendering one's backside singularly vulnerable.

Keeping one's head in the sand has the unfortunate effect of rendering one's backside singularly vulnerable
Keeping one's head in the sand has the unfortunate effect of rendering one's backside singularly vulnerable

The Six Mass Extinctions

  1. End Ordovician, 444 million years ago, 86% of species lost
  2. Late Devonian, 375 million years ago, 75% of species lost
  3. End Permian, 251 million years ago, 96% of species lost
  4. End Triassic, 200 million years ago, 80% of species lost
  5. End Cretaceous, 66 million years ago, 76% of all species lost
  6. The Anthropocene Epoch, the mass extinction humans are now causing


See Earth's sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn.

See Also: