The Atlas of Climate Change provides a thought-provoking assemblage of information in an easily digestible format. If one picture is worth a thousand words then you would need to wade through a 500-page book to learn what you can from this book's 100 pages. (If you are keen, maybe try the Stern Report--or the three-part IPCC Fourth Assessment if you are really keen.)
The Atlas comes in six parts, devoted respectively to signs of changing climate; its mechanisms, its drivers; its impacts; what's being done about it, and; what you can do about it. Each section has several double pages with maps and diagrams and helpful text.
The 'Part 1' signs are in the news all the time: Giant icebergs from the break up of the Larsen ice shelf calve off babies that float past Dunedin, an unprecedented hurricane in the South Atlantic (which has never before been warm enough to support such a tropical storm), floods and windstorm events have doubled in 20 years. For future impacts in 'Part 4'. think Katrina. Think sunken Tuvalu.
The 'Part 2' mechanisms are basically the greenhouse effect enhanced by raised levels of greenhouse gases emitted by industry and commercial agriculture. But these interactions are complicated by oceanic circulation that takes centuries; by the unexpected volatility of the land-based ice masses; by plant life that grows faster and captures more greenhouse gas as the C[O.sub.2] level rises (C[O.sub.2] fertilisation) but wilts with higher temperatures; and by clouds which both reflect incoming sunlight and amplify the heat-trapping effect of the greenhouse gases. All this is well illustrated.
This complexity leads to climatic uncertainty so great that warming is projected to be anything from a possibly benign 1.5 degrees Celsius to a certainly catastrophic 6[degrees]C.
What emerges is the yawning gap between what needs to be done and what the politicians can agree to do. Only you can deal with that, by personal choices, including at the ballot box (as discussed in 'Part 6'). Until you get that chance, you can keep abreast of what the politicians say by checking it out against this splendid atlas.
Of course it's this big picture that matters for New Zealand as for every other country, since we are all in it together in spaceship Earth. How the big picture looks in our corner is of more than passing interest to the privileged four million who live here--should little New Zealand be in the lead or should we hope the 'big boys' sort it out for us? As a guide to thinking on this hot topic, Hot Topic is timely Christmas reading for New Zealand managers wondering how to cope with the issue of the century.
Of course, that question is not the same question as 'do we have a problem?' which the denial faction have plugged- to whom Renowden gives (to quote the blurb) "a devastating rebuttal--one that is in no way invalidated by the uncertainty noted above. Falling off a cliff is to be avoided whether it's six or 60 metres high."
Hot Topic is the first popular science book to put global warming into a New Zealand context and it can usefully inform the developing national debate, now that we are moving from our traditional posture--as one European expert put it to me--of all talk and no action. Whether or not New Zealand should lead is a good question, surrounded as it is with major trading partners that have no commitment under Kyoto.
That is a situation that will likely change in a year, with the end of United States' President George Bush's second term, and maybe even sooner across the Tasman--you will know before this is in print. …