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Global warming: The book

October 11, 2008 | 12:01 am

Dire_predictions_2 As an environmental reporter for the L.A. Times, with a particular focus on global warming, I have too many newly published books crossing my desk. Do I feel guilty that I don't have the time to read them all? Of course. And do I feel ashamed not to have absorbed the thousands of pages and graphs disgorged over the past eight years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nobel Prize-winning group of the world's leading climate scientists?  To be sure.

But now comes a handy guide for every harried individual daunted by the complexities of greenhouse effects, carbon-cycle feedbacks, ocean conveyor belts and climate modeling. "Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming" bills itself as "The illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC." If that sounds dull, think again. The 208-page volume, from DK Publishing, known for its "information architects," is chock-full of easy-to-understand graphics overlaid on stunning photographs, with simple text that even the science-challenged can grasp.

But simple doesn't mean dumbed-down. The authors are climatologist Michael E. Mann, director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center and lead author of the 2001 IPCC report's chapter on "Observed Climate Variability and Change," and Lee R. Kump, a Penn State geosciences professor with 75 peer-reviewed publications under his belt. Mann, a founder of the science-based RealClimate.org website, is also known as the father of the "hockey stick" graph of temperature trends.

The book is divided into five parts: Climate Change Basics, which answers such questions as "Why is it called the greenhouse effect?" and "What can a decade of western North American drought tell us about the future?"; Climate Change Projections, which looks at what's expected in the next century and how different regions are expected to vary; The Impacts of Climate Change, which explains the effects from coral reefs to polar permafrost; Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change, which examines economic effects, water and agriculture; and Solving Global Warming, which analyzes strategies from green building to geoengineering and advises on how to cut your own carbon footprint.

Southern Californians take note: There's a section on Is it time to sell that beach house?

— Margot Roosevelt

Photo credit: DK Publishing Inc.

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