Climate Feedback

Pocket IPCC

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For anyone interested in the state of the earth’s climate, the most recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are essential – if not exactly bedtime – reading (I prefer a bit of Proust myself).

Fair enough, the panel’s synthesis report collapsed the three prior encyclopaedic volumes into a summary of what one really needs to know about climate change, its impacts and what we could/ought to do about it, but it’s still not the most accessible synopsis I’ve seen.

Now this problem has been solved with a diminutive and accessible translation in the form of Mike Mann and Lee Kump’s Dire Predictions, reviewed here for us by Jay Gulledge of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Gulledge, who briefs decision-makers in various sectors on the science and projected impacts of climate change, applauds the fact that he no longer has to consider whether to lug around three books the size of the Los Angeles telephone directory, and can instead use this “lavishly illustrated volume”, which he says is “little more than a centimetre thick and fits neatly in the outer pocket of my backpack”.


Although Dire Predictions is a pocket guide, its explanations of complex key topics in climate science, such as climate sensitivity and attribution modelling are “probably the best I have seen on these difficult topics for the lay reader”, writes Gulledge.

Where it is perhaps less successful, he says, is in giving even coverage to the work of the three IPCC working groups. Gulledge also critizes the authors’ decision to forgo discussion of the controversial projections of sea level rise published in the 2007 IPCC report, instead favoring more recent projections by the German climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf.

Overall, Gulledge’s take:

In spite of some flaws, I found Dire Predictions unique in its IPCC-centric organization, rich with accessible and well-presented data, and largely successful in its attempt to demystify the voluminous reports in a small footprint. At its best, this little book opens up the world of climate science by showing the real data in accessible formats and by addressing key uncertainties.

You can read the full review here.

Olive Heffernan

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