The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells [9/10]

“It is worse, much worse, than you think.” Thus begins “The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future” written by journalist David Wallace-Wells. His take on climate change began with a 2017 New York magazine article that went viral and he’s an elegant, disciplined writer over the course of the eighteen or so punchy chapters. Twelve of them cover the facts: heat death, hunger, plagues of warming, etc., etc., a litany of what is guaranteed to come and what will probably come and what might come. As an antidote to the constrained conservatism of the otherwise heroic IPCC reports, Wallace-Wells is a bracing if thoroughly depressing guide to Earth’s future. The book’s final chapters address modes of thought and reaction to the unfolding tragedy; I found them fascinating whilst not always emerging satisfied. By book’s close, our oracle kicks us again (” No human has ever lived on a planet as hot as this one; it will get hotter.”) then offers oblique comfort: ” There is one civilization we know of, and it is still around, and kicking—for now, at least. Why should we be suspicious of our exceptionality, or choose to understand it only by assuming an imminent demise? Why not choose to feel empowered by it?” As reader, you’ll choose your own response. Whatever you do, do not ignore this vital book.

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