Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Global Weirdness by Climate Central

title:  Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, 
Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future [purchase here]
author: Climate Central
pages: 214
genre:  nonfiction
published: 2012
source:  New York Public Library

One of my LEAST favorite political arguments to have with "people of alternate political persuasions" is about climate change. Over the years, I've read multiple books and articles by journalists and scientists that all arrive at the same conclusion:  the climate is changing because of choices made by human beings.  Yet some people STILL cling to the notion that this fact is subject to debate (?????), and this BLOWS my mind.  I feel like I've read enough to understand generally what's happening, but not enough to synthesize all the evidence and explain concisely and persuasively what's going on.  Thankfully, Climate Central does EXACTLY that with their new book Global Weirdness.

A few weeks ago, I caught Michael Lemonick on NPR's Fresh Air discussing the book and the goals of Climate Central, which prompted me to put it on my holds list.  Check out the interview here.

Climate Central is a nonpartisan nonprofit collective of scientist and journalists, and they do an excellent job of presenting climate science in a balanced, accurate way.  Global Weirdness is organized ingeniously:  each chapter addresses a specific question or concern about climate science in a researched but accessible, bite-sized way.  The authors are also really careful with how they present the info:  this is what we (as scientists) know, this is what we don't know, here's what we have questions about or are unsure of, here's our best guess and here's how we arrived at that hypothesis.  It was peer reviewed multiple times, and despite the scary subtitle, the version of the future they project, if carbon emissions continue at present levels (or even if they are stopped completely, which, let's face it, isn't likely) sucks, but isn't apocalyptic-sounding (which has been a critique of the green movement in the past).

Some of the best chapters (imho):

Chapter 17:  deals with the effect of the carbon we've already emitted into the atmosphere, and what will happen if (when) we keep emitting more.  They use a great analogy and include a diagram that's super instructive.

Chapter 49:  deals with freshwater and why there's so much talk about our diminishing supply.

Chapters 38 & 44: deals with hurricanes and addresses fears around the severe weather of the future.

One of the other general themes of the book is the difference between climate and weather.  Even some of my more enlightened friends have said in the past: "well, if scientists can't predict what the weather will be like next week, how are they really going to try to tell me what the weather will be like years from now?"  Global Weirdness definitely addresses this, along with so many other facets of science. The facts are alarming, but the tone of the book is not alarmist.

It's a quick read (I finished it on a day full of heavy commuting...4 hours spent on a train!) and is written in language everyone can understand, even if they don't have a background in climate science.  In fact, this would make a great beginning of the year read for any high school science class.

Rubric ruling: 8.5.  Absolutely accomplishes what they set out to accomplish.  And I haven't seen it priced at more than $15 anywhere, which is super for a hardcover, and really lends credibility to their mission (message over profit).


  1. What a thoughtful and delightful review! Thanks very much.
    --Mike Lemonick

  2. Awww thank you so much for your kind words and for stopping by!!!