The Uninhabitable Earth - A Story of the Future by David Wallace Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace Wells


'In crystalline prose...a devastating overview of where we are in terms of climate crisis and ecological destruction, and what the future will hold if we keep on going down the same path...This is an epoch-defining book. (Matt Haig, 'The Book that Changed My Mind' The Guardian)

'If you read just one work of non-fiction this year, it should probably be this' David Sexton, Evening Standard

Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the Sunday Times, Spectator and New Statesman

A Waterstones Paperback of the Year and shortlisted for the Foyles Book of the Year 2019

Longlisted for the PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

From the back of the book:

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-food shortages, refugee emergencies, climate wars and economic devastation.

An "epoch-defining book" (The Guardian) and "this generation's Silent Spring" (The Washington Post), The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it-the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress.

The Uninhabitable Earth is also 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-today's.

My Review: (2 / 5 stars)

Although I am quite conscious about our impact on the environment and the perils of climate change, I have not done a great deal of further research and was interested to start reading this pick.  Given the rave reviews plastered on the book, maybe I expected too much.  I don't feel like this book was written to convert climate change deniers and it certainly did not provide any ideas for change.  It was written almost like a laundry list of studies done on climate change, often listing a study, its authors and short conclusion in one long sentence and then never mentioning it again.

Moreover, some of the conclusions and comparisons he makes within the book do not make logical sense.  Saving money by reducing global warming to avoid spending on cleaning up devastation from adverse weather (while a compelling argument) is not the same as making money as the author states.  9 years of rain forest carbon emissions in Brazil is not comparable to one year of emissions in the US and China as these are different time scales.  So while the author had some valid points, his logic underpinning them was not always sound. 

The structure of the book was also a bit haphazard, mentioning potential climate devastation in one country, then a completely unrelated impact in another country on the other side of the world in the same paragraph.  In addition, each potential devastating impact from freshwater shortages to wildfires to migration to war seemed to reference different levels of temperature rise, 1 degree, 2 degrees, 3 degrees up to 8 degrees or more depending on what sounded the worst in each scenario instead of sticking to one or two measurements that he stated early on would be the most likely paths that we are on if we do as a society do nothing.

Although I did not enjoy reading this book at all, I did learn a bit more about climate change other than melting ice caps and sea level rises, and it did accomplish its task in alarming the reader.  However, after the alarm bells were sounded, I was disappointed that in the end, the author spends a lot of time talking about the psychology of climate change inaction instead of offering a call to action besides a political solution reserved for the top echelons of business and politics.

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