The Weather Makers


Tim Flannery




Date Reviewed:

June 17, 2007

his is a terrific book. It is so good that I had trouble finishing it. I had difficulty reading the last several chapters because it left me depressed. Flannery presents a completely convincing case that man is causing global warming, and the consequences are already being felt.

I had no idea the effects of global warming were already so apparent. Flannery takes us on a tour around the globe, showing the early devastating effects of global warming - the extinction of the Golden Toad and other species in Central American cloud forests. The bleaching of coral reefs because ocean waters have grown too warm. A valley in New Guinea with a unique ecosystem that dries out in drought, and then is consumed in a wildfire. The polar regions are losing their ice, and the abundant wildlife at the poles is collapsing - krill, polar bears, lemmings, penguins - their populations are dwindling. The environment change is too fast for animals to adapt. We could be at the start of a massive species die-off, an extinction event.

I think this book must have been written in 2005, because I didn't see any mention of hurricane Katrina in the edition that I read. The headlines regarding climate continue to roll in - today I heard on the radio about a fire in Florida. What is unusual about this fire is the area burning used to be the bottom of Lake Okeechobee. Extended drought has lowered the water level so much that marsh plants are drying out and becoming flammable. Click here for photo of the fire.

In the book, Flannery describes the devastation that global warming is causing his home country of Australia. Warmer ocean water has altered the wind patterns and the ocean currents, so Australia is now suffering from persistent drought. I recently saw a headline describing how the Australian government was going to cut off all water for irrigation because there was not enough available for the cities - so the lack of water has continued in Australia long after the book's publication. Ironically, Flannery points out that Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, along with George W Bush, is one of the last remaining leaders in denial about global warming. Howard's plan to meet future energy needs for Australia involves the construction of coal burning power plants, and coal is the worst contributor to CO2 levels in our atmosphere.

Any person who reads newspapers and magazines will already be familiar with a lot of the material in this book, such as the potential that fresh water from the melting Greenland ice sheet will disrupt the Gulf Stream that carries warm water to the Europe - one of the ironies of global warming is that it may result in a much colder Europe. Flannery does a great job of pulling together a lot of the material you may have read else where, plus adding a lot of information to broaden the reader's understanding of the current state of affairs, and the potential problems that may result if humans don't limit their emissions.

While reading this book, I borrowed the DVD "An Inconvenient Truth" from a friend. Gore's DVD obviously has more visual impact - the photographs of the melting ice, the charts of the CO2 levels, the pictures of the post-Katrina New Orleans. But I think Flannery's book gives a person a better understanding of the global warming phenomena. I can't imagine any one would read this book and still be in doubt about global warming. What can we do about it? Well, I rode my bike to work today...