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  • The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge by Kirstin Dow and Thomas E. Downing
  • Enzo Ferrara (bio)
by Kirstin Dow and Thomas E. Downing. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., 2011. 128 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-5202-6823-4.

The current climate crisis appears as a difficult phenomenon for the layman to appreciate and as a mess to be socially and economically assessed by the expert observer. Some activists object that climate change is almost a matter for sociopsychoanalysts rather than for climatologists [1]; it is, in fact, difficult to understand how a well-educated sapiens sapiens population is capable of continuing to ignore such evidence of pending troubles such as those due to the blowup of climate. Consider the first months of 2014: While California sees the looming impacts in the form of an epic drought, in Southern England and Wales residents are seeing an opposite but related effect, experiencing a total rainfall in the region in January 2014 amounting to more than three times the average. According to the world’s longest-running weather station (Radcliff Meteorological Station, Oxford University), more rain fell there in January 2014 than during any winter month since daily recording started in 1767.

But the pictogram of climate change has not yet entered the public imagery, and most people fail to appreciate the amplitude and endangerment of its extension. If it is impossible to react immediately and reverse the problems oppressing us, one can at least prepare a catalog of the troubles. This is the case of The Atlas of Climate Change, a textbook that illustrates in terms and numbers [End Page 90] the inventory of what is actually happening in our atmosphere and, as its immediate consequence, on water fluxes. Since its first edition was issued in 2006, the information gathered in the Atlas has constituted an insightful guide to analyze the problem of climate, an issue that is climbing higher up the global agenda. The here considered 2011 edition is separated into eight parts. After the introduction, the Atlas goes on to discuss the signs of the changing climate (parts I and II). It then catalogues climate change’s driving agents (Part III) and the expected consequences (Part IV). Then the Atlas provides possibilities of personal and collective actions (Part V), along with the international policies (Part VI) adopted to respond and, possibly, find solutions (Part VII) to the global challenge of climate. The authors also illustrate the latest developments in research to mitigate and adapt to changes under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

The Atlas resumes general evidences and information resources in its last part (Part VIII) in the shape of tables offering easy-to-understand details on such data as total population, per capita income, human development index, greenhouse gas emissions and percentage of population at risk from sea-level rise on a country-by-country basis.

In addition to addressing the reduction of pollutant emissions and the need for adequate funding for climate change studies, inviting local and regional authorities to develop policies, and advocating the use of renewable energy sources, the Atlas also advocates conformist solutions to the issue, such as trading in carbon credits to share the burden of reducing emissions globally. But sections on health impacts, as well as those on agriculture and water security, are rather instructive and worrisome. The expectation in a warming world is an increased frequency of heat waves and greater moisture in the atmosphere leading to extreme precipitation events that are both intense and frequent. Flooding is expected to be the greatest threat for the immediate future, but a large number of “unsettled themes” that apply to the consequences the wet weather will have on communities remain. These consequences are not straightforwardly quantifiable in terms of vulnerable populations, or health and economic impacts. Addressing these unsettled themes calls for increasing the capacity of nations to cope with climatic hazards, raising public awareness and building a more resilient and healthy infrastructure. In this way, this booklet can be a great resource for climatologists, researchers...


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pp. 90-91
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