- Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming. The Illustrated Guide to the Findings of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change
For those of us who teach physical geography, this story may sound familiar. We were at the point in the course when the material delved into those anthropogenic issues associated with weather and climate such as air pollution, urban heat islands, and global warming. As happens most times when I teach this course, one lone hand goes up and challenges the whole notion of global warming and thus many of the foundations of the entire unit. There are many answers that I can give, but the very question is exhausting and insulting on so many levels. While many physical geography textbooks confront the global warming naysayers head on, they are not comprehensive in approach. In fact, there are very few introductory materials that systematically review the topic of global warming in a satisfactory way. That is where Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump's new book, Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming fills the gap.
The book is an inexpensive ($25.00) [End Page 97] text that is less about reading about global warming than about seeing the impact of global climate change. The book is divided into five major parts: Climate Change Basics, Climate Change Projections, The Impact of Climate Change, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change, and Solving Global Warming. In addition, there is an introduction that describes the mission of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the experience of the authors, and a summary of weather and climate basics, as well as a glossary and index. As stated in the introduction, the goal of the book is to clearly present the main findings of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC to the public in a way that is understandable to the general public. The book is also marketed as a text for introductory students interested in climate change.
The book is striking in that it focuses largely on graphic images to make its case. Along with high-impact photos, the book uses graphs and charts, and maps. Also, the book employs a variety of font styles and text boxes to keep casual readers engaged with the material. Upon first glance, the book's format is magazine-like in style. It is somewhat reminiscent of the popular line of Dummies books. While there is an upcoming Global Warming for Dummies book that will be published in the Fall of 2008 by John Wiley and Son's For Dummies line (May and Caron, 2008), Dire Predictions has a much more serious tone than would be expected in the Dummies series.
One of the strengths of the book lies in the experience of the authors and their ability to telegraph meaning through carefully selected images and concise text. For example in a two-page section titled, "The next century: How will the climate change?" the authors provide minimal text, two graphs, two maps, and several text boxes to make several important points about temperature and precipitation changes that could occur under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Much of the information in this two-page section comes from the IPCC's reports built around cutting-edge climate modeling, but it is synthesized so simply and elegantly that it is quite easy to see the intent of the authors with minimal reading. The style of the book is quite effective for people who are adept at getting information from websites. The impact of the graphics-heavy style of the book is felt even with short sittings.
Another strength of the book is its honest evaluation of what we know and what we do not know on the topic. The authors have carefully selected the most important pieces of information available that make the clear case for climate change, its impacts, and the ways we can solve the problem. Throughout the book...