With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change

Front Cover
Beacon Press, 2007 - Nature - 278 pages
5 Reviews
Fred Pearce has been writing about climate change for eighteen years, and the more he learns, the worse things look. Where once scientists were concerned about gradual climate change, now more and more of them fear we will soon be dealing with abrupt change resulting from triggering hidden tipping points. Even President Bush’s top climate modeler, Jim Hansen, warned in 2005 that “we are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption.”

As Pearce began working on this book, normally cautious scientists beat a path to his door to tell him about their fears and their latest findings. With Speed and Violence tells the stories of these scientists and their work—from the implications of melting permafrost in Siberia and the huge river systems of meltwater beneath the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica to the effects of the “ocean conveyor” and a rare molecule that runs virtually the entire cleanup system for the planet.

Above all, the scientists told him what they’re now learning about the speed and violence of past natural climate change—and what it portends for our future. With Speed and Violence is the most up-to-date and readable book yet about the growing evidence for global warming and the large climatic effects it may unleash.

“Nature is fragile, environmentalists often tell us. But the lesson of this book is that that it is not so. The truth is far more worrying. She is strong and packs a serious counter-punch. Global warming will very probably unleash unstoppable planetary forces. And they will not be gradual. The history of our planet’s climate shows that it does not do gradual change. Under pressure, whether from sunspots or orbital wobbles or the depredations of humans, it lurches – virtually overnight.”—from the Introduction

“If you want to quickly get up to date on climate change and its consequences, I recommend With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. If you can read only one book on climate change, this is it.” —Lester Brown, president, Earth Policy Institute

“Pearce’s survey of abrupt climate change science is a compelling and terrifying read.” —In Brief (newsletter for Earth Justice)

“You must read this book.” —The Cost of Energy website

Praise for When the Rivers Run Dry

“An enriching and farsighted work.” —Jai Singh, San Francisco Chronicle

“The one-word review of Pearce's book is: Terrifying. Whether he's writing about the Indian peasant farmers who draw from poisoned wells every day, the oblivious Arizonans who run fountains in the desert, or the apocalyptic moonscape that is the Aral Sea (once a thriving fishery, now a toxic cesspool), Pearce manages to convey the immense wreckage human activity is making of our lifeblood.” —John McGrath, Grist

“Pearce provides a compelling compendium of place-based water stories that reveal just how ground-shifting the world’s water predicament will be.” —Sandra L. Postel, Science

“In a highly readable style, Pearce makes the case for a new water ethos.” —Todd Neale, Audubon

“Pearce cogently presents the alarming ways in which this ecological emergency is affecting population centers, human health, food production, wildlife habitats, and species viability. Having crisscrossed the globe to research the economic, scientific, cultural, and political causes and ramifications of this under publicized tragedy, Pearce’s powerful imagery, penetrating analyses, and passionate advocacy make this required reading for environmental proponents and civic leaders everywhere.” —Booklist

“He uses up-to-date science, explains difficult concepts in accurate, entertaining ways and includes a scientific glossary. The result is a gripping, highly readable book—perhaps the best discussion of climate change for lay readers.”—American Magazine

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Sean191 - LibraryThing

[With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change] by Fred Pearce I read this recently, over many lunch breaks - although not sure how I managed, since it's enough to make ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - HadriantheBlind - LibraryThing

An overview of the rapidity of climate change, and the comparative instability and complexity of the environment. Provides many frightening examples, although each deserves more time and research. Read full review

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About the author (2007)

Fred Pearce is a former news editor at New Scientist. Currently that magazine's environment and development consultant, he has also written for Audubon, Popular Science, Time, the Boston Globe, and Natural History. His books include With Speed and Violence, When the Rivers Run Dry, Keepers of the Spring, Turning Up the Heat, and Deep Jungle. He lives in England.

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