Commentary-Mark Lynas’ Book: Six Degrees

Lynas’ Book: Six Degrees

Mark Lynas slogged through scads of climate research, and lumped all the
reports that reported consequences of global heating of 1 degree Celsius
(above pre-industrial levels) into one group. Then he lumped all the
papers reporting consequences of global heating of 2 Celsius, then 3
Celsius, then 4, then 5, then 6.

The result is a book: Six Degrees. Own it. Lynas’ book is as nice a
wrap-up of the research as you can get. Minimum jargon, except where it’s
essential, and then he explains it clearly as he moves along.

I just skimmed quickly through chapter one, on the consequences of a 1
degree bump. Nobody thinks it will stop there. In fact, report after
report in the past couple years cites evidence that we can’t avoid getting
into the 2 degree territory.

We don’t want to get to 2, and especially don’t want to get past it. The
consequences will be anything but cheery.  Responding to the seriousness
of a 2 degree increase, and the evidence that we can’t duck it, the
august, esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Science recently
published an article under a title asking if we should stop worrying and
start panicking.

Having read many of the climate science reports, the chapters I read most
closely in Six Degrees were chapters two and three, where Lynas describes
what we can expect as the heating proceeds into the realm of 2 and, then,
3 degrees. But don’t be dismissive about 4, a level of heating that’s
certainly within reach. And while you’re at it, have a look at chapters
five and six, because that’s not out of the question, either.

I noticed a few times when Lynas took some poetic license with the trends
he describes, using language more colorful and explicit than scientists
usually use in public. But I saw nothing in his book that went too far.
When an author is describing trends with grave consequence, he errs more
by pulling punches than by being too hard-hitting.

Lance Olsen

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