Reading Recommendation: 6 Degrees, by Mark Lynas
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, presents climate change research in an easily digestible format. It explores the chilling effects of a heating planet degree by degree, including both the results of models that peer into possible futures and the findings of paleoclimatology. The book endeavors to tell the story of a frightening future that is becoming ever more plausible.
As Sandy bore down on New York City, I was part way through the section of the book that describes things that might happen at three degrees of warming. As we watched the storm come in, I was reading, “Instead of a shortage of water, the great threat to the Big Apple is too much of it.” After describing how much of New York is threatened by sea level rise, Lynas goes on to say, “The configuration of the East Coat shoreline also makes New York particularly vulnerable to storm surges, because the right-angle bend between New Jersey and Long Island funnels water right into the city’s harbor….” Later in that section, he looks even more prescient as he notes that larger hurricanes and larger nor’easters may make perfect storms more likely and more frequent.
Just a day or so after the remnants of Sandy wetted Toronto, I flew in there for the World Fantasy Convention. Many of the attendees were from the New York publishing business, and I heard stories of flood fears and felled trees. People were calling home to check with loved ones to see if the power was back on yet. At different points in the convention, three people who know of my futurist bent and my interest in climate change came up and told me they are planning to move to find a place that will be safer (and not all of them were from New York).
Even though it was published in 2008, and thus is missing the most recent data, the information in this book is important. Many people should be reading it. Six Degrees left me with near certainty that we will experience significant change because of what we have done in the past regardless of what we do today. While we may not yet have passed the worst tipping points outlined in current research, we are running up on them fast.
This is a plausible future. Perhaps even a likely one. We should be reading this the way that we read 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, as warning, and we remember that this is science and not science fiction.
Note – this is NOT a book about solutions. It is simply a well-told story based on science. If you want to pair it with a book that includes solutions, consider Peter Diamandis’s Abundance or Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded.