The Weather Makers Essay - Critical Essays

Tim Flannery

The Weather Makers

In The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth, climatologist Tim Flannery explains that human-generated climate changes are underway. The changes will accelerate and prove mostly harmful, even catastrophic, during the twenty-first century, but Flannery's purpose is not simply to alarm. He argues that corrective measures are practicable and urgent. What the world's new weather makers, humans, have done, they can also undo, or at least mitigate.

Consider the likely effects. Even if wide-scale measures are taken to stabilized carbon dioxide levels immediately, the average world temperature will rise about two degrees Fahrenheit over the next few decades. That is inevitable. If humanity continues “business as usual,” however, the rise will be between five and nine degrees Fahrenheit. In either case a carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere means a more acidic, warmer ocean, decimating marine species and coral reefs, increasing such extreme weather conditions as El Niños and hurricanes, raising ocean levels, and possibly altering major currents. On land higher air temperatures will hasten species extinctions; water resources will dwindle for some major population centers; and some areas will become deserts, restricting agriculture and shifting it closer to the poles. Severer living conditions and competition for water and food will stress civilization and under the worst scenarios cripple it.

Flannery argues from trenchant, disquieting, abundant scientific evidence, and his discussion is balanced and lucid, if at times anxious in tone. No one with an open mind can come away from The Weather Makers without being profoundly effected by his call for systematic changes in energy consumption to limit the damage from global warming. Still, humanity is vast. Resistance to change is pervasive. Politics confuses the issues. Flannery's bleakest forecasts seem likeliest.