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The Rough Guide to Climate Change: A book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:47 PM GMT on January 29, 2008

If you're bewildered by the complexity of the climate change/global warming issue, and want a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide that presents an unbiased view of the important issues, look no further than Robert Henson's Rough Guide to Climate Change. In fact, we've found the Rough Guide to Climate Change so helpful and well written, that wunderground has licensed a copy of the introductory chapter and featured it on our Climate Change web page. This chapter is a "sneak preview" of the Second Edition, which is scheduled to be released February 4. If I were teaching a course on climate change at the high school or introductory college level, this would be the text.

However, the Rough Guide does not read like a textbook. It presents the key issues in a straightforward, clear, and conversational manner. The author, Robert Henson, is a meteorologist and journalist who works as a writer/editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He organizes his book into four sections: "The basics"--global warming in a nutshell; "The symptoms"--what's happening now, and what might happen in the future; "The science"--how we know what we know about climate change; and "Debates & solutions"--from spats and spin to saving the planet. The book has information current up to September 2007, and discusses the major climate change event so far this century--the record melting of the Arctic's sea ice that peaked in September 2007, opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history.

Helpful graphics and interesting sidebars are interspersed throughout the text. Some of the more interesting sidebars include an interview with James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis that treats Earth as a living being; "The Nights Chicago Fried", an account of the deadly 1999 heat wave in Chicago; and "The Fast-Disappearing Snows of Kilimanjaro", discussing the controversy over why Mt. Kilimanjaro's ice is disappearing. My favorite sidebar is "Climate Change and the Cinema", where we learn that the first movie to discuss artificial climate change was probably Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), which featured a young Leonard Nimoy as part of a gang of Martians bent on exploding Earth from its orbit so Mars can move sunward and benefit from a warmer climate. The sidebar also discusses the impact of movies like The Day After Tomorrow and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

The 2006 first edition of the Rough Guide is my favorite climate change reference book, and I highly recommend purchasing the second edition when it comes out February 4. You can preorder a copy of the second edition from amazon.com ($16.99, softcover). Overall rating: four stars out of four.

Jeff Masters

Book and Movie Reviews

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.