Thursday, November 20, 2014

Climate Science Too Technical? Check Out "The Climate Crisis" by David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf

One of the problems with the IPCC 5th Assessment Reports (AR5) is that they are highly technical. Even the Summary for Policymakers is technical, and you can be sure that reading the thousands of pages that summarize the tens of thousands of scientific studies evaluated for the AR5 are mind-numbingly technical. But you still want to learn about climate science. The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change is a great book for you.

Written by climatologists David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf, The Climate Crisis was published in 2010 so isn't quite as up-to-date as the most recent IPCC report, but it does a decent job of explaining the status of climate science to non-scientists.

That doesn’t mean the book isn’t technical. It is chock full of color graphics, charts, tables, and photographs documenting every aspect of climate science. But the authors work hard to present the information in language that educated non-scientists and scientists, as well as professionals in other fields, can more readily understand. Overall they accomplish this goal, though I do think that parts of the book are still technical enough to confuse your “average Joe” (i.e., most of us). Conversely, I don’t think they explain some of the charts well enough – there is a tendency to have a narrative and reference a chart or graph, but then not explain the graph in detail. This is intentional as the book is designed to communicate the information on a level that non-climatologists can understand, but I did find myself wanting to drill into the figures more than was enabled.

Still, these are minor quibbles and I find the book to be a very useful addition to the reading list of anyone interested in the topic of global warming or climate change. The authors are both practicing climatologists and professors of climate science. Rahmstorf has been a lead author in recent IPCC assessment reports and so has intimate knowledge of both the science and the process for review. Both authors contribute to the blog, a useful, though still technically oriented, source of information that delves deeper into certain aspects of the science.

The book itself focuses on the state of the science and examines the evidence of climate change already being observed, what is happening with snow and ice in various parts of the world, how the oceans are changing, and how climate is measured. They also have chapters on what we might see in the future with respect to climate change, impacts of those changes, and how we can avoid the worst of it. They briefly touch on climate policy in the last chapter, but they focus on the need for action, the global nature of the cooperation required, and the differences between developed and developing nations, rather than discussing any specific policy solutions.

I definitely recommend the book. Readers will find it both informative and enlightening.