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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 10, NUMBER 2, FEBRUARY 1997

BOOKS AND PROCEEDINGS...
GENERAL INTEREST, POLICY & ECONOMICS


Item #d97feb25

Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-1), U.N. Environ. Prog., Jan. 1997, $39.95 hbk./$24.95 pbk. (Oxford). Full text also available on the Internet at http://grid2.cr.usgs.gov/geo1/ (U.S.); http://www.grid.unep.ch/geo1/ (Switz.); http://www-cger.nies.go.jp/geo1/(Japan); http://www.unep.org/unep/eia/geo1/ (Kenya).

The first of a biennial series, based on the work of 20 internationally renowned environmental institutions, four scientific working groups, and U.N. participation through the U.N. system-wide Earthwatch. Despite some encouraging changes in several countries, overall there has been insufficient progress since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, largely due to absence of political will and the shortage of funds. Among several disturbing trends discussed are emissions of greenhouse gases, unsustainable energy use, and complex and little understood changes in the interactions among biogeochemical cycles.

Four areas needing immediate, concerted action are (1) attainment of energy sustainability; (2) technological improvements to minimize waste and reduce natural resource consumption; (3) water use; and (4) more investment in environmental data collection.


Item #d97feb26

Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose, S.H. Schneider, 174 pp., Jan. 1997, $20/£11.99 (Basic Books in the U.S.; Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the U.K.).

A "Science Masters Series" book, intended to allow readers to be introduced in moderate depth by experts to critical scientific issues. This volume integrates several disciplines (such as biodiversity, global warming, population growth, economic development) that intersect with climate change. Also analyses the conflicts between economics and ecology, the role of special interests and the media, and what constitutes responsible consensus among scientists. Briefly reviewed by F. Pearce (New Scientist, p. 44, Jan. 25, 1997), who calls much of the author's latest work a rehash. Pearce comments that the book's approach, to extend climatology into a broader study of the way the planet works, lacks rigor and degenerates into a soft-nosed espousal of no-regrets policies.


Item #d97feb27

Technological Trajectories and the Human Environment, J.H. Ausubel, H.D. Langford, Eds. (for the Natl. Acad. of Engineering), 214 pp., 1997, $42.95 (Natl. Acad. Press).

This collection of essays is the most recent outcome of investigations begun in 1998 by the National Academy of Engineering to increase understanding of the long-term interactions between the environment and technological change. The introduction, by Robert M. White, concludes that the essays strike an optimistic note on a topic that generally evokes pessimism, and that the book is intended to provide stable, useful reference points for individuals, enterprises and governments on these matters. Among the ideas covered are freeing energy from carbon, life styles and the environment with respect to energy, and sustaining the human environment.


Item #d97feb28

Economics of Atmospheric Pollution (NATO ASI Ser., Partnership Sub-Ser. 2: Environ. Vol. 14), ca. 180 pp., 1997, $117 (Springer).

Deals with the economics of transboundary air pollution and climate change, emphasizing the non-linear and stepwise damage functions of global warming. Also reviews policy instruments used to reduce various types of pollutants.


Item #d97feb29

Time Scales and Environmental Change, T.S. Driver, G.P. Chapman, Eds., 275 pp., 1996, £56.50 hbk./£18.95 pbk. (Routledge).

Geomorphologists think in the context of millions of years; politicians in election terms; the media in decades. The public can cease to think about global warming with one bad summer. In this book, experts from diverse disciplines offer ideas on the subject of time as it relates to temporal and geographical perspectives.


Item #d97feb30

Currents of Change: El Niño's Impact on Climate and Society, M.H. Glantz, 194 pp., 1996, $59.95/£40 hbk., $19.95/£14.95 pbk. (Cambridge Univ.).

Explains how widely dispersed climatic extremes might have a common origin in the phenomena of El Niño-the periodic warming of sea surface water in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The author is concerned that there is too much emphasis on developing the ability to forecast El Niño, and not enough on the value of using existing information. According to reviewer G. Philander (Nature, p. 35, Jan. 2, 1997), Glantz has written an absorbing book that is mainly concerned with the impacts of climate changes on society, and that emphasizes detailed descriptions of how and when El Niño has brought floods, droughts and other disasters, not on scientific explanations. Although the author is not a physical scientist, the reviewer commends him for attempting to bridge the gulf between scientists and those who benefit from science.


Item #d97feb31

Global Warming and Global Politics, M. Paterson, 256 pp., £50 hbk./£15.5 pbk. (Routledge).

The publisher states this book is one of the few that attempts to explain the politics surrounding the issue of global warming by looking at the major theories within the discipline of international relations.


Item #d97feb32

Tough Choices: Facing the Challenge of Food Scarcity (Environ. Alert Series), L.R. Brown, 1996, US$11/Can.$13 (Norton, for Worldwatch). Data are available on disk directly from Worldwatch.

Written as a contribution to the World Food Summit (Rome, Nov. 1996), and constitutes part of an ongoing debate between the Worldwatch Institute and both the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank, which are both projecting a future of food surpluses and declining grain prices. Because it has waited so long to act, the international community now faces tough choices relating to population growth, water scarcity, and land use. Achieving an acceptable balance between food and people now depends more on family planning than on farming and fishing. However, global warming is considered to be the "wild card" in our food prospect, a complicating factor for farmers who have always had to deal with the vagaries of weather.


Item #d97feb33

Biodiversity II: Understanding and Protecting Our Biological Resources, M. Reaka-Kudla, D.E. Wilson, E.O. Wilson, Eds., 560 pp., 1996, £28.95 (Joseph Henry Press).

A sequel to the 1988 volume, Biodiversity, this update reports on the current studies, charts species depletion rates and projects future trends, and explores new strategies for understanding and protecting biodiversity.

Reviews of Previous Entries: General, Policy & Economics

Item #d97feb34

Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather, S.H. Schneider, Ed., 929 pp. (in two volumes), 1996, $195 (Oxford).

Reviewed by F.K. Hare in Clim. Change, pp. 129-130, Sep. 1996, who finds that by any standards this is a large achievement without any real parallel, written by a remarkable cast of authors and editors. Despite some omissions among the biographies of climate scientists and in some scientific topics, this work will be a solid, permanent feature that will make this science accessible to a rapidly growing body of other scientists, as well as to journalists and politicians.


Item #d97feb35

Interpreting the Precautionary Principle, T. O'Riordan, J. Cameron, Eds., 315 pp., 1995, £15.95 (Earthscan).

An extensive review is given by E. Hay in Intl. Environ. Affairs, pp. 95-98, Winter 1996. The reviewer considers the book a successful attempt at making sense of a "rather shambolic concept" by clearly presenting the complexities involved in attaining precautionary environmental policies.


Item #d97feb36

Full House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity, L.R. Brown, H. Kane, 261 pp., Aug. 1994, $8.95 (Norton for Worldwatch).

Reviewed by K. von Moltke in Intl. Environ. Affairs, pp. 92-94, Winter 1995. Considers Lester Brown an optimist because he can confront the environmental threats of our time and still believe that solutions are at hand. This book is essential reading, even if the authors' arguments about coming food shortages are incorrect. The book states in sober, simple terms, that the ultimate limit on human consumption of resources lies not in nonrenewables, but in renewable resources, and that the limiting factor on expansion of human population is the biological capability of the planet. The authors are right in principle; the only argument concerns whether they are right to expect this threshold to be reached in the next 40 years.

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