Paperback: The Hot Topic, By Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King

Bloomsbury, £9.99
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The Independent Culture

The former government Chief Scientist Sir David King once caused a furore by making what, in a rational world, would have been the uncontroversial comment that global warming is a more serious threat than terrorism. Here, he and the science writer Gabrielle Walker, with no discernible axe to grind, coolly set out the known facts about climate change.



First, alternative culprits are eliminated: it's not caused by increased solar activity, lulls in volcanic eruptions, or a wobble in the Earth's orbit. It is the result of increased carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, which means that we did it. The extent of the rise since the 19th century is three-quarters of a degree globally. But that's enough to cause melting of the Arctic ice cap, bleaching of coral reefs, drought in north Africa and an increased intensity of hurricanes. And because of a time-lag due to the way oceans release the warmth they've absorbed global temperatures will still rise even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases now.

But this book is far from a hysterical cry of "We're doomed!". Preparations for the coming changes can be put in place. Simultaneously we must slow and then stop the rise in emissions. The authors examine technological and political ways to achieve this, debunking the pet myths of the sceptic and also the apocalyptic scenarios of "climate pornographers". The final effect is not pessimistic but bracing: we can tackle global warming, as long as we, and our governments, take it seriously. It contains advice on how we can do our bit: vote for politicians who believe in the problem, yes, but also change your light-bulbs, drive less, recycle, insulate your home, switch appliances off at the socket. Above all, be positive, and don't annoy people by being smugly "greener than thou".

You knew all this, but The Hot Topic removes any excuse for not acting on it.

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