This is a short book that has been updated regularly since it began life in 2004 entitled Global Warming: A Very Short introduction. It is so packed with facts that it is impossible to summarise, but here are some interesting components of it.

  • Climate change is one of the four defining challenges of the 21st century, along with environmental degradation, global inequality, and global insecurity. Climate change will continue to increase the temperature of the Earth and raise global sea level. It will increase the frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, floods and storms, threatening the health and livelihoods of billions of people. The severity of these climate change impacts will depend on what we do now to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Science is not a belief system. It is a rational, logical methodology that moves forward by using detailed observation and experiments to constantly test and retest ideas and theories. So you cannot pick and choose which bits of scientific evidence you want to believe in and which bits you want to reject.
  • The delay in recognizing climate change and doing anything about it has an interesting history. In 1959, the physicist Gilbert Plass published an article in Scientific American declaring that the world’s temperature would rise by 3°C by the end of the century. The caption with it read, ‘Man upsets the balance of natural processes by adding billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.’ But there was a lack of increase in global temperatures and scientists thought we might be entering another ice age. It was only in the late 80s that temperatures began to rise and opinion changed.
  • Meanwhile, the majority of media in the UK, USA and Australia in the 1990s cast doubt on the claims of climate change. There was a recurrent attempt to promote mistrust in science, through strategies of generalization, exaggerating disagreement in the scientific community, and discrediting scientists. This effort is supported by five of the largest publicly listed oil companies that in 2019 spent over $200 million lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate policy. In addition, the media’s ethical commitment to balanced reporting draws unwarranted attention to critical views however marginal they are, and even if they are outside the realms of good science.
  • Solutions include adaptation, mitigation, alternative, renewable or clean energy, carbon capture and storage, reforestation and rewilding. Transport reduction or adaptation would help too, since it accounts for 14% of all GHG emissions. There also some geoengineering or technofixes that could contribute.