The Uninhabitable Earth

The Uninhabitable Earth


It is worse, much worse, than you think.

The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and if your anxiety about it is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today.

Over the past decades, the term "Anthropocene" has climbed into the popular imagination - a name given to the geologic era we live in now, one defined by human intervention in the life of the planet. But however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. In the meantime, it will remake us, transforming every aspect of the way we live-the planet no longer nurturing a dream of abundance, but a living nightmare.

Our Review

The Uninhabitable Earth is one of the scariest books I have ever read, and I have never wished something was fiction as much as I wished that of this book. It’s a massive wake up call to all of us.

It certainly made for an uncomfortable read and the author is clearly passionate about the subject. It is thoroughly researched and his frustration at the scale of our destruction is clear.




“The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life undeformed; that it is a crisis of the ‘natural’ world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can shield against the revenges of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth, and the technology it produces will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence of staring it down. None of this is true.”

“there are so many aspects to the climate change kaleidoscope that transform our intuitions about environmental devastation into an uncanny complacency that it can be hard to put the whole picture of climate distortion into focus. But we simply wouldn’t, or couldn’t, or anyway didn’t look squarely in the face of the science.”

“It is tempting to look at these strings of disasters and think, Climate change is here. And one response to seeing things long predicted actually come to pass is to feel that we have settled into a new era, with everything transformed. In fact, that is how California governor Jerry Brown described the state of things in the midst of the state’s wildfire disaster. ‘a new normal’

The truth is actually much scarier. That is, the end of normal; never normal again.”

“All hurricanes now unfold in the weather systems we have wrecked on their behalf, which is why there are more of them, and why they are stronger. The same is true for wildfires; this one of that one may be ‘caused’ by a cookout or a downed power line, but each is burning faster, bigger, and longer because of global warming, which gives no reprieve to the fire season. Climate change isn’t something happening here or there but everywhere and all at once. And unless we choose to halt it, it will never stop. “

“This is the time we should be working together instead “we are unbuilding these alliances – recoiling into nationalistic corners and retreating from collective responsibility and from each other.”

“Climate change means some bleak prospects for the decades ahead, but I don’t believe the appropriate response to the challenge is withdrawal, is surrender. I think you have to do everything you can to accommodate dignified and flourishing life, rather than giving up early, before the fight has been lost or won, and acclimating yourself to a dreary future brought into being by others less concerned about climate pain. The fight is definitively, not yet lost – in fact will never be lost, so long as we avoid extinction.”

“Fully half of British emissions it was recently calculated, come from inefficiencies in construction, and clothing; two thirds of American energy is wasted, globally, according to one paper, we are subsidizing the fossil fuel business to the tune of $5 trillion each year. None of that has to continue.”

“In a 2018 paper, forty-two scientists from around the world warned that, in a business-as-usual scenario, no ecosystem on earth was safe with transformation ‘ubiquitous and dramatic’ exceeding in just one or two centuries the amount of change that unfolded in the most dramatic periods of transformation in the earth’s history over tens of thousands of years. Half of the Great Barrier Reef has already died, methane is leaking from the Arctic permafrost that may never freeze again, and the high-end estimates for warning will mean for cereal crops suggest that just four degrees of warming could reduce yields by 50 percent. If this strikes you as tragic, which it should, consider that we have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all.”

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