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Mark Maslin, ‘Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction’ (2nd edn)

27 November 2008

Published 27 November 2008 (Oxford, OUP: 2008, 176 pp.; ISBN 978-0-19-954824-8; £7.99 RRP)

Professor Mark Maslin

In his preface to the new edition, Professor Maslin, who is the Co-Director of the UCL Environment Institute, announces that, ‘in my opinion, global warming is good for humanity’. This makes more sense than one may think at first – as he explains: ‘There are two major problems facing humanity in the 21st century: global poverty and global warming,’ and these two are, he believes, quite connected. To alleviate global poverty, he argues, ‘we need to help poor countries to develop as quickly as possible’ and, although the bad news is that ‘development … is always accompanied by an expansion of the amount of energy used’ – which will ‘accelerate global warming’ – the good news is, that ‘to deal with global warming we must first deal with developing countries, and thus we must for the first time in humanity’s history tackle the unequal distribution of global wealth’. This is how ‘global warming is making us face the forgotten billions of people on the planet, and we must make the world a fairer place’.

Divided into chapters which cover, among others, the definition of ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’, the history of the global warming debate, evidence for climate change, and possible future impacts, this book cannot fail to come as a blessing to those of us who hear and read about ‘global warming’ and ‘energy efficiency’ every day, but with every day feel as if we had more to unlearn, and more again to learn afterwards. And it isn’t just words: well-placed illustrations and tables contain helpful graphs and data – including an illustration of the ‘present carbon cycle’ which reminds one eerily of the ‘water cycles’ one had to reproduce in geography lessons at school, and reminds one, too, of that golden time when one was ten years old and did not have to care about ‘carbon cycles’. Things have come a long way since humans first panicked about acid rain and the hole in the atmosphere, and if anyone wants to know where these ‘things’ are, exactly, this book is where they can be found. Professor Maslin unpicks the controversies surrounding the global warming hypothesis, explains basic concepts, and examines the evidence which underlies both accounts of past developments and dramatic predictions by scientists, in order to ‘introduce the reader to the complexities of both the science and the politics of climate change’, and to provide ‘an incentive to read more on the subject’. Why? Because global warming is not a mere 'scientific issue', but ‘challenging the very structure of our global society’.

By Gesche Ipsen

Professor Mark Maslin
In addition to his directorship of the UCL Environment Institute, Professor Maslin is also Head of UCL Geography, Executive Director of Carbon Auditors Ltd and a Trustee and a Director of TippingPoint. He is a leading climatologist with particular expertise in global warming, causes of past and future global climate change, ocean circulation, ice ages, gas hydrates, Amazonia, East Africa, human evolution, and the climatic consequences of volcanic eruptions. He has published eight books, and over twenty articles on global warming and natural disasters in publications such as the ‘New Scientist’ and the ‘Guardian’. He regularly appears, and is consulted, on programmes such as ‘Horizon’, ‘Newsnight’, ‘Dispatches’, and the BBC’s highly successful ‘Supervolcano’ and ‘Superstorm’. The first UCL Environment Institute Policy report led by Professor Maslin was the basis of the Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme ‘Greenwash’ (5 March 2007) and made the front page of the Guardian newspaper.

UCL Environment Institute
The UCL Environment Institute (UCL-EI) was set up in 2003 as the focal point for environmental research and related activities at UCL. Its mission is to develop synergies between science, social science, engineering, humanities and the arts to tackle both natural and anthropogenic environmental risks. The UCL-EI aims to play a leading role in developing these pan-disciplinary endeavours both within and outside UCL, and currently facilitates research relating to climate change, water resources and sustainable cities across all eight UCL Faculties. The UCL-EI also aims to increase the interaction between environmental research at UCL with business, media and policy makers; it currently has joint projects with large property developers (Development Securities, Hermes), insurance companies (JLT Re) and water and waste companies (Thames Water, the North London Waste Authority), hosts the Thames Estuary Partnership, and, together with the UCL Engineering Faculty, co-hosts the EPSRC Bridging-the-Gaps programme, and coordinates UCL’s contribution to HYDRA.