Climate Change: What Everyone Needs To Know, by Joseph Romm

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Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® by Joe Romm is just out, and is the most up to date examination of climate change science, the effects of climate change on humans, policy related problems, and energy-related solutions. Everyone should read this book, and if you teach earth system sciences you should consider using this book as a guide in your teaching, or in some cases, assigning it in class. The book is written to be read by general audiences, so it would work well in a high school or college setting.

As Romm points out, climate change will have more of an impact on humans, including you, than even the Internet. It is an existential issue. Romm acknowledges that some of these impacts are already happening, but that future impacts are likely to be very significant. Over the last 10 years or so, we have seen remarkable superstorms, significant drought, notable wildfires, and killer heat waves. These events have made people sit up and take notice. For this reason, more people want to know more about climate change, and indeed, everyone should know something about this problem. Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is an effort to provide that information to the average person.

Romm’s book is divided into major sections: Climate Science Basics, Extreme Weather and Climate Change, Projected Climate Impacts, Avoiding the Worse Impacts, Climate Politics and Policies, The Role of Clean Energy, and Climate Change and You. Each of these chapters is divided into a number of bite-sized mini-chapters covering the larger topic in logical sequence, with helpful illustrations.

To me, one of the most significant contributions of this book is Romm’s discussion of severe weather and climate change. This is an emerging area of science. In my view, the weather related impacts of climate change have been visible since about 1980, but have increased more recently, even in the last five years or so. It is very difficulty to study these changes because severe weather events, while common, end up being rare when you divide them by region, season, kind of impact, and kind of climate related cause. Also, meteorologists, who are in the trenches when it comes to severe weather, have been reluctant in recent years to openly acknowledge climate change (especially among the “presenters” or TV meteorologists, as they are called in different countries). This is said to be because they are part of the press, which is in large part funded by the corporate world, and you don’t want to piss off your corporate sponsors. Romm’s sections on climate change and extreme weather are well thought out, well documented, and well presented.

Another area of strength is Romm’s treatment of energy alternatives. Romm is detailed and specific in his discussion of energy and suggestions about the needed changes.

To have a significant chance of keeping total warming below 2°C, we need to cut global emissions of carbon dioxide and other major greenhouse gas (GHG) pollutants by more than 50% by mid-century. That rapid decline needs to continue through 2100, by which time the world’s total net emissions of greenhouse gases should be close to zero, if not below zero.

Romm’s section on “Climate Change and You” is a unique contribution to the growing literature on this topic.

The transition to a low carbon economy is inevitable this century, and indeed it has already begun. It will have significant consequences for both you and your family, whether the transition comes fast enough to avoid dangerous warming of more than 2°C or not. …because climate action has been so delayed for so long, humanity cannot avoid very serious climate impacts in the coming decades—impacts that will affect you and your children. Therefore, you need to understand what is coming so that you and your family will be prepared…

The defining story of the 21st century is a race between the impacts our cumulative carbon emissions will increasingly have on our climate system and humanity’s belated but accelerating efforts to replace fossil fuels with carbon-free energy. Some of the most significant impacts of climate change are ones that we likely have not foreseen. For instance, a couple of decades ago, few people imagined that the most consequential near-term impacts of climate change on large parts of both the United States and Canada would be the warming-driven population explosion of a tiny pest, the tree-destroying bark beetle.

Romm points out that many Americans, when they decide to retire, consider moving to a place that is near a coast line, or a place that is relatively warm, or both. Bad idea. With sea level rise and increasing heat, one should really re-think that strategy. He talks about the impending crash in coastal property values (something I’ve been yammering about for some time now … the current value of land that will be inundated by sea level rise is actually almost zero, though the market has not adjusted yet!). He also covers what students who want to be prepared for a role in a climate-changing world should study, investment strategies, necessary changes in diet, and how one can (and should) reduce one’s own carbon footprint.

The book has fairly extensive footnotes, and is available in hardcover, soft cover, or eBook formats.

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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14 thoughts on “Climate Change: What Everyone Needs To Know, by Joseph Romm

  1. In poll after poll, climate change is way down on the list of people’s concerns. Closer to the top, especially recently, is Islamic terrorism.

    Is Romm on board with Bernie?
    “In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. If we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re gonna see countries all over the world — this is what the CIA says — they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops, and you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.”
    – Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, 11/14/15.

  2. @See Noknowledge #1: Don’t you mean, “on board with the Joint Chiefs of Staff?” The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been reporting this for at least the past ten years (that is, since the last Bush administration).

    Generally speaking, among the people who actually have to worry about long term dangers, science denialism is difficult or impossible to find. It is only among those for whom denialism doesn’t (yet) cost anything that you find it.

  3. #2

    Thanks for your intelligent, informed rebuttal. Among those “who actually have to worry about long term dangers” are insurance companies and other financial institutions. Like a number of defense departments – not just USA’s – they take climate change very seriously.

  4. I’ve noticed that TV weatherpersons are blaming all the weird weather on El Nino.

    In a related note, a few days ago two guys gave our office what was supposed to an AIA-approved seminar on Black vs White roofing. There is such a seminar in the AIA catalog, but what they gave us was editorially slanted in favor of using black EPDM roofs wherever possible. Due to LEED and other sources, we’ve been using lighter-colored TPO and PVC roof membranes or at least light-colored ballasts on built-up roofing for at least ten years now. These guys cited studies that ‘proved’ that one saved more money from heating with a black roof than from cooling with a white roof. They cited the 2013 Washington Examiner article attacking LEED in general. One of their assertions was that white roofs increase climate change because black roofs don’t reflect light and heat into the atmosphere. When I go online I can see that there are numerous websites pushing the same agenda.

  5. One of their assertions was that white roofs increase climate change because black roofs don’t reflect light and heat into the atmosphere.

    So increasing planetary albedo toward 1 increases tropospheric / surface temperature? Who knew?

    These black roof enthusiasts have to explain how Snowball Earth states occurred and endured for millions of years.

  6. “One of their assertions was that white roofs increase climate change because black roofs don’t reflect light and heat into the atmosphere.”

    Sure! Just like briar patches don’t provide rabbits a place to hide from a fox.

  7. To Michael Kelsey, SLACker:

    What was the military/intelligence consensus on climate change in the years leading up to the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D.?
    And in the years before the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, and the Battle of Vienna in 1683?

    Or for the Pan Am flight 93 blown up in Cairo in 1970 (back when the talk was of global cooling), the 1985 Achille Lauro attack, etc.?

    How did the military powers-that-be back then tie in climate change to Islamic terrorism?

  8. Climate change, global warming is all manufactured by planes spraying toxic chemicals all over the world including here in US. We lost the true blue sky looooong time ago due to this subversive activities by military/airforce and those whom we place in so called “public offices”. These sprayed chemicals spread out and create green house effect creating extreme heat/droughts but it is used also for floods and violent weather patterns. Don’t allow you to be fulled by leading scientists, MSN and anyone on the payroll. These are scam artists and you got to know and be able to distinguish natural clouds from fake/chemical clouds. This is happening for too long, many decades right from the begging of the airline industry back in early 1900’s.

  9. Nope. Complete fabrication, roman.

    We lost the blue sky because of pollution, but not deliberate chemtrailing.

    If you want to see what the closest thing to your asinine assertion is in this, the real world, look up the lead additives in petrol.

    And that had a reason: the chemical company making lead tettraethyl needed a market or go bankrupt, so they made one.

    What reason is there for the airlines, including every pilot and ground crew, to knowingly pour toxins into the air to create global warming?

    Not forgetting that high level clouds produce cooling, while the low level clouds produce warming. And those contrails are high up. You know, the opposite of what you claim to be going on.

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