Book Review of Hot Earth Dreams

I want to state at the outset that this is the most important book extant on the subject of climate change. It is certainly one of the four or five most important books I have read in my life and it is a must read for anyone trying to escape the white noise of a civilization approaching stall speed after several hundred years of industrialization made possible by burning the accumulated energy of a few hundred million years of decayed animal and vegetable matter. That burning has had enormous consequence for the planet with an explosion of machines and technology, resource extraction and population growth unimaginable to the people toiling in the fields in a pre fossil fuel era a few hundred years ago. Like all explosions, there are consequences which will follow from the unrestricted burning of oil and gas and coal. That is where Frank Landis steps in with this master work of cause and effect, plausible projection and extrapolation of current trends spinning scenarios which are stunning and disturbing. Unique to his book are timelines of what our future world could look like in the near future. Landis maps this future as beginning when the world has shot its carbon emissions wad sometime in the next 50-100 years and continuing for the next 400,000 years. The early portion of that period beginning roughly at the turn of the next century he calls the High Altithermal which will cover about1500 years. The last 398,5000 years he calls the Deep Altithermal period. The High Altithermal is the period during which the earth continuously warms at about 1 degree C every 40 years peaking at about 5 to 8 deg C in the next 200-300 years. This will be a time of great meteorological change which includes sea level rise brought about by melting of the Greenland and the West Antarctic and East Antarctic ice sheets.
The key figures to remember are how many tons of carbon has been emitted to date and how many more will be emitted in the next 100 years. We have emitted 370 Gigatons of carbon in all our history since we climbed out of the trees onto an African savanna. Giga- = billion. Since 1970 we have emitted twice as much carbon into the atmosphere as we did in all human history prior to 1970. If we continue to emit business as usual, we are on track to emit anywhere from 1000 to 1400 GtC(giga-tons of carbon) by the time we are through by the end of this century. This emission will be matched or exceeded by other sources of carbon such as methane clathrates and methane hydrates being released in a thawing Arctic.
The reader must keep in mind that Landis is offering possible scenarios and timelines all based upon the work of climate scientists using models constructed since the advent of computers. The real value of his book is his broad encompassing eclectic approach to all the features of a warming world beyond climatic and meteorological change. For example how will all organisms and populations and nations adapt to these sudden changes? How will language change? What empires will rise or fall? Will this period we call the anthropocene of evolved humankind cease to exist? What will happen to our economic, social and political structures? What civilizations who have risen and fallen before can contribute to the argument.
Additionally Frank Landis has many chapters on how we humans perceive such a discounted future by clinging to faulty reasoning such as binary thinking, by focusing upon a
Revelations style Apocalypse and wishful thinking where Technology will save us. THEY will think of something, right????
Implicit in his book is a tacit assumption that we are dealing with a collapse of world civilization and a massive die off at some point in the not too distant future. Landis tiptoes around this subject and rarely spins dramatic Mad Max cinematic visions. Only rarely does he get explicit of what might happen and how bad it could be. He is a little more daring in his excellent blog: heteromeles.com. In a recent post he imagined what his home state of California might look like at the end of this century. For example he gives the current population of California(39 million) and estimated population in 2050(52 million) and assumes a 95% die-off by the end of the century taking it to 2.6 million which is still ten times the population before the white man arrived. His statics are cold and dry and he eschews delving into what a 95% die-off would look like, what human suffering it would involve. Whew!
Landis structures the book in a unique fashion keeping chapters short as he jumps from subject to subject. It makes for a book which is read chapter by chapter and can be put down without the reader losing his thread. After all this is not a CJ Box thriller.
The book suffers at times from errors of fact and spelling and syntax and it could use a good edit. Some of the terms he uses such as Terafart referring to a Trillion tons of Carbon is jarring to this reader as well as use of street slang like “…this sucks…” and similar expressions mars what is an otherwise extremely well reasoned and highly readable sentence and paragraph structure. He can be humorous and witty as he lays out a really apocalyptic future. His book is detailed and scientific and well annotated with an extensive bibliography. I do feel that he could add more facets to his diamond such as how and why and if these die-offs are inevitable and how they might look. He also needs a chapter or two on the physics of energy and how it relates to fossil based food, goods and service production and how or if so called renewable energy might mitigate his scenarios.
This copy is a published on demand book which needs a big name publishing house to take over production and distribution to get it the audience it deserves. Hot Earth Dreams 1.0 is an amazing effort and this reader is looking forward to version 2.0 .

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About cal48koho

I was born in Montana and raised in a dozen Air Force SAC bases. I attended Holy Cross,West Point and UNC in Chapel Hill(MD"71). Army doc in the last years of the Viet Nam fiasco. My wife and I live in a log cabin I built in Jackson Hole in 1975 when we aren't on our Cal 48 yawl. I've done a dozen different jobs and retired from ER and Anesthesia in 2004. I've written magazine articles and am writing a Kunstleresque novel about life in a past Peak Oil world. We are living in a beautiful alpine setting where we hike and ski when we're not thinking about economics and spreading the implications of PO to anyone who will listen.
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