(Warning - depressing book review)
Six Degrees outlines degree by degree what would happen in a climate changed world. So Chapter One outlines the effects of a one degree rise in the average global temperature, including the loss of the Gulf Stream, which currently maintains the climate in UK and northern Europe at a much warmer temperature than otherwise would be the case given our latitude. So paradoxically northern Europe stands to become colder in the first stages as climate change really takes hold. Chapter by chapter the effects are spelled out, the Amazonian forest would be history once the temperature has risen by 4 degrees and once we reach a global average temperature 6 degrees higher than todays, we face outright catastrophe with mass extinctions not only of animals and plants but of uhuman populations too.
The book uses evidence from paleontology from the prehistoric times of greatest global warming to project possible future scenarios. However we are risking temperature rises that are beyond what the world has known, ever. Previous global warming incidents also took place over longer time periods enabling the life forms that were around at the time much more time to adapt to the new climate and survive. This time the temperature is rising much quicker and there is less time to adapt.
There is probably some natural element to the current rise in global temperatures (the climate has, after all, changed throughout the history of the earth) but the evidence points squarely to most of it being due to human activities. Reading articles such as Arctic Ice in Death Spiral by Stephen Leahy makes you wonder how far we already are on the path to irreversible climate change.
Unfortunately most of us are probably too wedded to our comfortable convenient lifestyles and governments see no votes in compulsory reductions of standard of living. So whether we can actually cut back on emissions in time to avert catastrophe is probably a rhetorical question to which the answer is sadly no. I'm very glad I don't have children, because I would fear their future so very much. I would like to be optimistic, but somehow I really don't see it after reading this book. I also envisage this review getting as few comments as did my review of Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe).