NY Review of Books: Bill McKibben, “Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?”

Bill McKibben opens his book reviews with:

“We may be entering the high-stakes endgame on climate change. The pieces—technological and perhaps political—are finally in place for rapid, powerful action to shift us off of fossil fuel. Unfortunately, the players may well decide instead to simply move pawns back and forth for another couple of decades, which would be fatal. Even more unfortunately, the natural world is daily making it more clear that the clock ticks down faster than we feared. The whole game is very nearly in check.”

He then describes Gabrielle Walkers’ book on her experiences in Antarctica and how the thrill of pulling an ice core that’s 800,000  years old,  the historical CO2 levels and how there is a direct correlation to the planets temperature and the atmospheric C)2 levels. In Walkers’ words, she sees Antarctic for all it’s largess and splendor, but McKibben brings us all down to earth, to reality and reminds us that it just is not so….

“But of course Antarctica is pristine no longer. Human effects on the atmosphere and climate can actually be read more easily from the South Pole than almost anywhere on earth, and the results are truly horrifying. To put the facts simply, the massive ice sheets are starting to move with awful speed. On the narrow Antarctic Peninsula, which points up toward South America, and where most Antarctic tourists come, melt is proceeding as fast as or faster than anywhere on earth. It’s here that a big chunk of the Larsen B ice shelf broke off in 2002.”

“….but her account provides all the background you need to understand what may have been the most depressing announcement yet of the global warming era.

In mid-May of this year, a pair of papers were published in Science and Geophysical Research Letters that made clear that the great glaciers facing the Amundsen Sea were no longer effectively “buttressed.” It turns out that the geology of the region is bowl-shaped: beneath the glaciers the ground slopes downward, meaning that water can and is flooding underneath them. It is eating away at them from below and freeing them from the points where they were pinned to the ground. This water is warmer, because our oceans are steadily warming. This slow-motion collapse, which will occur over many decades, is “unstoppable” at this point, scientists say; it has “passed the point of no return.”

There’s so much that Bill articulates in the review, read it here

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