Book Review

Paul Brown  (2007)

Global Warning: The Last Chance for Change

ISBN13: 9780762108763
ISBN10: 0762108762
Publisher: Reader’s Digest Association

Publication Date: November 2007

This visually appealing book not only enables the readers in comprehending the crucial issue of climate change in simple manner, but also highlights the fact that action is mightier than words and tells what each person can do on his or her part to protect “Mother Earth” from the adverse effects of climate change. It contains more than 300 breath-taking snaps.

Describing the scientific facets of global warming in a crystal clear manner, this stark evaluation indicates why scientists foresee that it could reach the point of no return within the next decade. The world economy, and the entire mankind itself, may be in doldrums unless greenhouse-gas emissions are curtailed, warns the author. He substantiates the argument with mind blowing color photographs exhibiting the effects of man's abuse of the earth such as raising sea levels, dust storms, melting ice sheets and glaciers, and the devastating effects of hurricanes. Some of the most heart wrenching images are taken from space that show the innumerable electric lights utilized by developed economies at night. Brown blames the politicians who are scared of losing votes for not taking timely action to prevent the impending cataclysm, Surprisingly, the author sees hopeful signs, in a number of developing countries such as Costa Rica and Papua, New Guinea, that are determined to tackle climate change. Most of the countries across the globe, including Denmark, Norway and Japan, started using wind and solar power, geothermal power plants, and wave and undersea turbines. Brown's inspiring book carries the message that the whole globe needs to address this issue immediately. We have started aping the carbon greedy western style of living and it is high time we came out of that style which would really save Mother earth from further devastation.

Author Paul Brown has more than one and half decades of experience as the environment reporter and presents the content on global warming and climate change in a reader friendly fashion. More than 300 wonderful photographs and maps around the globe capture the plight of wildlife, industrial calamities, coastal erosion and vanishing glaciers. The author feels that all of us have our roles to play with regard to environmental protection. Some of the ways could be switching off the lights when away, minimizing the usage of car at home and vote for the governments that are more concerned with environment.

The following are some of the important quotes from the book:

"This is the biggest challenge our civilization has ever had consciously to face. If this goes on, we will lose ice cover on our planet. The process will cause such rapid transformation we will have enormous trouble adapting."

--Sir David King, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government

“The weight of evidence for climate change is very strong indeed, and it has gotten stronger over the years...The rate of warming is now greater than it has been for 10,000 years; that means the rate of climate change is greater than it has been for 10,000 years."

--Sir John Houghton, Professor in atmospheric physics, University of Oxford, recipient of Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal, Honorary Member American Meteorological Society.

Though Paul Brown is a long time journalist for The Guardian, not a scientist, he is able to prove his statements with solid scientific facts, for example, when he clearly attributes the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to Global warming. No words to describe the stunning impact of the snaps appearing in the book. But, one feels the combination of photos and text to be slightly unclear. The author could have arranged them better. But one gets accustomed to the mix within a few chapters. To begin with, the reader starts ignoring the text for the sheer beauty of the photos. The photos keep appealing to the reader for a while .The photos are a dramatic coverage of different facets of global warming. By the end of the book one starts paying attention to the text than the snaps as the facts draw more attention.

 In some way, there are three things that are interwoven beautifully through this book: the pictures of Global warming, the facts and numerous data included in the text, and the extraordinary and power packed quotes. Together it is a great concoction.

At times Brown has touched on several aspects of Global warming that have not been noticed by many. Many of us are aware that sea level is rising and that many tiny islands are in jeopardy. But we perceive the problem as one affecting the concerned nation only, with coastal flooding making the people to shift towards inland. In America, a lot of inhabitants have to relocate themselves from the Gulf Coast, Florida and Manhattan to more inland areas. Paul Brown is also worried about the problem of entire island nations, like Mauritius, that will submerge in their entirety.  The complete disappearance of entire nations, which has already begun, is something very difficult to imagine. But it is going to become a harsh reality very soon. This is the reason why some of the countries that are keen on solving global warming problems have joined hands with that of threatened island nations. It is not only tiny island nations but also the cities that are facing the same critical problem. The cities that are likely to be submerged but that do not have current plan to deal with this grave problem are cities like New York, Hong Kong and Chittagong. These three cities alone would represent 30 million refugees as sea levels rise. London and Amsterdam are cities that have plans in place to deal with sea level rise...but are having to continually upgrade them because sea level increases are outpacing what was planned for.

And then there are hurricanes. Global warming is something that could enhance the hurricane strength. This remains a bone of contention, but Paul Brown really puts it into perspective.

To quote Brown:

“This is true, of course, but examine the evidence of all the remarkable weather events that occurred around the world in 2005, 2004 and the decade before, and it seems to be overwhelmingly obvious that something extraordinary was happening--in fact, that man-made climate change was here--a fact finally confirmed by scientists in the three 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports”.

There is also a lot of material in the book which makes one dejected and depressed. He writes very elaborately about the gravity of the problems that have started manifesting due to global warming, and is blunt about detailing the magnitude of the problems our children and grandchildren will face...and how difficult it might be to deal with such pressing issues.  But in the end, he highlighted on solutions which revive hope.

It has dawned on the nations that the time has come to make mends from stupidity to care. Denmark and Germany are planning to execute their alternative energy programs. Even conservative nation like Switzerland has realized the dangerous impact of global warming. The author appreciates politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and ex Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for taking efforts to reduce the effects of Global warming.

The author feels that nuclear energy would be our saviour is only our illusion. Though we have to keep the current nuclear plants, but constructing new ones would not benefit us.

Energy conservation, opting for other forms of energy like solar energy and economic shifts are some of the suggestions offered by Brown to solve the negative effects of global warming.

One can say that this is the most elaborate book on Global Warming till date. I consider this book a must to read for all.


L. Shankari
Sona school of Management, Salem, Tamil Nadu