The Weather Makers: How We Are Changing The Climate And What It Means For Life On Earth by Tim Flannery (HarperCollins), 356 pages. $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
For all the horror The Weather Makers describes, it's a relief to find a book that captures the magnitude of the threats to life on this planet, coupled with sensible solutions.
Tim Flannery does not equivocate. He meticulously documents the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reduction. It is based on the findings of over 400 experts and as many peer reviewers, joined by hostile governments such as Saudi Arabia, the United States and coal-loving China. "If the IPCC says something, you better believe it," warns Flannery, "and then allow... that things are far worse."
One of the most moving passages in The Weather Makers concerns Flannery's own scientific research in the Nong Valley of Papua New Guinea. There, in 1985, he was the first mammalogist to discover some unusual species. By the time he returned in 2001, the species he had discovered had been exterminated. Climate change had caused the once lush rain forest to be transformed into what he calls a vast vegetable tombstone.
Flannery's photographs of spectacular flowers from the threatened Karoo region of South Africa or of the golden toad, the first species to become extinct because of climate change, for example are extremely effective.
My only quibble is that while Flannery argues strongly for the potential of better building codes, energy conservation and renewables to achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, he is silent on the need for improved land use planning and car restraint policies.
Denmark is praised for generating 23 per cent of its electricity from wind, for example, but there is no mention of the same country's role as a world leader in the reduction of auto dependency.