Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions

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Csiro Publishing, Mar 31, 2009 - Science - 368 pages
2 Reviews
It is widely accepted in the scientific community that climate change is a reality, and that changes are happening with increasing rapidity. In this second edition, leading climate researcher Barrie Pittock revisits the effects that global warming is having on our planet, in light of ever-evolving scientific research. Presenting all sides of the arguments about the science and possible remedies, Pittock examines the latest analyses of climate change, such as new and alarming observations regarding Arctic sea ice, the recently published IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and the policies of the new Australian Government and how they affect the implementation of climate change initiatives. New material focuses on massive investments in large-scale renewables, such as the kind being taken up in California, as well as many smaller-scale activities in individual homes and businesses which are being driven by both regulatory and market mechanisms. The book includes extensive endnotes with links to ongoing and updated information, as well as some new illustrations. While the message is clear that climate change is here (and in some areas, might already be having disastrous effects), there is still hope for the future, and the ideas presented here will inspire people to take action. Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions is an important reference for students in environmental or social sciences, policy makers, and people who are genuinely concerned about the future of our environment.

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Very appropriately discussed is the 3 parts of the book. Useful for academic purposes and also a knowledge of the much talked about debate. I appraise the work, although not fully totally convinced about what is claimed about climatic change.

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If I were to say that this book was unique, I would be accused of using a hackneyed technique of criticism. However, this time, I really do believe that there is no other work on the subject matter which can compare with Dr Pittock's Magnus Opus. You would be perfectly justified in asking me why I believe this and I shall try to explain my position.
As the subtitle of the book explains, it is divided into three sections with several well-referenced chapters in each. The first five of them deal with the science. As could be expected from the author's background, the subject is based largely on the IPCC 2007 Report. This has been updated with a great deal of research, bringing it to 2009. There is also a certain amount of anecdotal information. However, the great emphasis is not what is known about climate science, but rather the uncertainties and the risks. Unlike the many other books I have read on the subject, the points of view of the naysayers, the sceptics and the ignorant (grouped as 'contrarians') are also discussed with their pros and cons. Dr Pittock does not hesitate to discuss the pros and cons of the ayesayers, as well, and the IPCC position, into the bargain. This is one good reason why I say the book is unique.
Another good reason is the way that the author, as I have already evoked, treats the questions of uncertainties and risks. In fact, one of the chapter headings, " Uncertainty is inevitable, but risk is certain" gives an excellent insight into the problems that some contrarians, while promoting the lack of certainty, cannot acknowledge that there is an element of risk that must be faced. Until that risk is assessed, no valid decision can be made to deal with it. As an illustration, Dr Pittock wrote the following paragraph:
"In a more extreme case, most of us prudently insure our house against loss by fire, even though we believe that it is very unlikely that our house will burn down. We know that the total loss of house would be disastrous, and the premium we pay the insurance company is relatively small, so we insure against the low probability of a fire. Whether we insure depends on the relative size of the premium versus the size of the potential loss, as well as on the probability of a fire."
His argument is therefore that even contrarians, by analysing the uncertainties, should realise that there is a risk that anthropogenic climate change may cause some damage, even a great deal of damage, to living conditions on our planet. The question therefore does not lie on whether humankind is changing the climate but what to do about it if that were the case. Do we pay the insurance premium on the off chance?
Whereas the science, even with its uncertainties, is fairly well understood, the potential impact of climate change, either globally or regionally, can be judged only according to hypothetical scenarios. These depend upon which of the many models have been used. There is little doubt that the models have been very well refined with increasing numbers of variables incorporated, from both direct and indirect data. People are often confused by various terms used to characterise future climate changes, namely "predictions", "scenarios" and "projections". To add to the confusion there are the probabilities of events happening. When the fractile or percentile probability is translated into text, this may be even more confusing. It is therefore very difficult to forecast the impact of climate change. It is possible to determine the statistical probability of any particular type of event from the models. However, there are numerous variables that cannot be predicted, such as major volcanic eruptions or sudden changes in ocean currents. What is interesting is that the latest data would seem to indicate that the impact will probably be greater than was foreseen in the IPCC 2007 Report. Have we underestimated the impact? Nobody can answer that for sure, but it is far from impossible. (I will add a personal note here by adding that


1 Climate change matters
2 Learning from the past
3 Projecting the future
4 Uncertainty is inevitable but risk is certain
5 What climate changes are likely?
why be concerned?
living with climate change
limiting climate change
9 Climate change in context
10 The politics of greenhouse
11 International concern and national interests
12 Accepting the challenge
Glossary with acronyms

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