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)
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
UCL Environment Institute