The reality of catastrophic climate change does not seem to be getting through to people, and it is not hard to understand why. Global warming is dismissed as speculation by the president and Congress, and cited-if at all-by the news media in confusing tit-for-tat exchanges full of scientific jargon. The small band of skeptics is given equal weight with the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and their bantering about computer models, aerosols, and ice cores just confuses the public.
The cold winter of 2002 to 2003 was fodder for the morning shock jocks. “Where's your global warming now?” they asked. But the scientists are telling us that climate change is not simply a global hot foot; it is subtler and far more dangerous than that. Instead, we have entered an era of profound climatic instability, with more severe storms and great variations in temperature and rainfall. The broiling summer Europe endured in 2003 was a very dramatic example of the trend.
The essays in this book are reports from the climate front. As Ross Gelbspan notes in the introduction, the science of global warming is no longer being seriously debated. It is real, and it is here. From China to New York, minor changes in what were fairly established weather patterns have already produced profound and permanent effects on local ecosystems. Fish species are disappearing, with ripples throughout the food chain. Birds and butterflies are moving, turning up in places they have never been seen before. Some plants are dying, others thriving as manmade climatic changes accelerate.