This book is amazing – startling, terrifying, and yet, reassuring. A unique combination to be sure, but those are the phrases that come to mind when I think back about this book. One of the authors, Wallace Broecker, may sound familiar as the scientist who developed the “conveyor belt” system that explains the circulation of water throughout the world’s oceans. He started measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back in the 1950’s, a time when few people gave any thought to the idea that rising emissions of CO2 could have any effect on us and our world. This early start and subsequent expertise has made him one of the leading researchers in the field.
The amount of science covered in this book is phenomenal. One of the things that really caught my attention is that during the last ice age we experienced a short period of about 10 to 12 years where the earth heated up rapidly and came out of the ice age only to plunge right back into the ice age again. Scientists have no clue as to why this happened and what the implications of this event might be for us today. Another thing that really stuck with me is that about 40% of our increased CO2 output is being absorbed by the oceans. The problem is that this absorption is acidifying our oceans and threatening the way water circulates through them, thereby threatening the best climate stabilizer we have.
The authors believe there is no way we will be able to eliminate our addiction to carbon based fuels quickly enough to stop the ensuing climate problems that increasing levels of CO2 cause. Just as my spirit was sinking in despair at this news, they gave me hope for our future. Technology now exists to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but questions remain about where to store it once it’s been removed. The good news is that they are close to having this system worked out and we have reason to believe that we can return to a cooler world.
Science based books are not typically page-turners, but this one truly is. Give it a try and I think you’ll enjoy it.