Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth may well be the most reader-friendly book to date on the science and consequences of climate change. Flannery breaks down the types of greenhouse gases, where they come from, and what they do to the air and ocean. He shows how warming ocean waters gave Hurricane Katrina the added strength to blow right through Florida and on to New Orleans, and he documents worst-case scenarios for accelerated change.

Flannery and other scientific writers have identified 1976 as the year when the earth's climate took a serious turn under specifically human influences, when the ocean's surface waters warmed and its salt content fell. Flannery writes of humanity's commitment to global warming. We are moving inexorably toward a serious climate shift, due around 2050, based on gases that have already been released into the atmosphere. Like those characters in the Sixth Sense and Jacob's Ladder who haven't noticed that they're dead yet, most of us live in a short-term bubble, blind to what is increasingly obvious and alarming to scientists. Warm the ocean by a degree or two and disaster strikes. Take for example the number of vanishing animal species. Roughly half our rich panoply of creatures could go the way of the dodo by the end of this century. Nor can we any longer ignore the threat of water shortages and famine that may pit us against formerly friendly neighbors and nations in a desperate quest for our personal survival, Flannery notes. We have been running the environmental equivalent of a deficit budget, which is sustained only by plundering our capital base, he writes.

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