Viewed from above, Greenland offers an endless vista of whiteness interrupted only by scattered ponds of azure-colored melt water. Ninety percent of Greenland is covered by ice; its ice sheet, the largest outside Antarctica, stretches almost 1,000 miles from north to south and 600 miles from east to west. But this stark view of ice and snow is changing—and changing rapidly. Greenland's ice sheet is melting; the dazzling, photogenic display of icebergs breaking off Greenland's rapidly melting glaciers has become a tourist attraction.
Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet public response in Western nations has been meager. Why have so few taken any action? In Living in Denial, sociologist Kari Norgaard searches for answers to this question, drawing on interviews and ethnographic data from her study of "Bygdaby," the fictional name of an actual rural community in western Norway, during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001.
Americans are concerned about the state of the environment, and yet polls show that many have lost faith in the ability of both scientists and politicians to solve environmental problems. In America’s Environmental Report Card, Harvey Blatt sorts through the deluge of conflicting information about the environment and offers an accessible overview of the environmental issues that are most important to Americans today.
On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP's Macondo well. For months, oil gushed into the Gulf, spreading death and destruction. Americans watched real-time video of the huge column of oil and gas spewing from the obviously failed "blowout preventer." The evening news showed heart-rending images of pelicans, dolphins, and other Gulf wildlife covered in oil.
Global momentum is building to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So far, so good. The less happy news is that Earth's temperatures will continue to rise for decades. And evidence shows that climbing temperatures are already having serious consequences for vulnerable people and regions through droughts, extreme weather, and melting glaciers. In this book, climate experts Michael Mastrandrea and Stephen Schneider argue that we need to start adapting to climate change, now.
Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, "sound science." In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations—even from satellites, which can "see" the whole planet with a single instrument—becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models.
Gaian theory, which holds that Earth's physical and biological processes are inextricably bound to form a self-regulating system, is more relevant than ever in light of increasing concerns about global climate change. The Gaian paradigm of Earth as a living system, first articulated by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, has inspired a burgeoning body of researchers working across disciplines that range from physics and biology to philosophy and politics.
The United States and other nations are facing large-scale risks at an accelerating pace. In 2005, three major hurricanes—Katrina, Rita, and Wilma—made landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast within an eight-week period. The damage caused by these storms led to insurance reimbursements and federal disaster relief of more than $180 billion—a record sum. Today we are more vulnerable to catastrophic losses because of the increasing concentration of population and activities in high-risk coastal regions of the country.
More than half the globe is covered by visible clouds. Clouds control major parts of the Earth's energy balance, influencing both incoming shortwave solar radiation and outgoing longwave thermal radiation. Latent heating and cooling related to cloud processes modify atmospheric circulation, and, by modulating sea surface temperatures, clouds affect the oceanic circulation. Clouds are also an essential component of the global water cycle, on which all terrestrial life depends.
The impact of climate change is widespread, affecting rich and poor countries and economies both large and small. Similarly, the study of climate change spans many disciplines, in both natural and social sciences. In environmental economics, leading methodologies include integrated assessment (IA) and game-theoretic modeling, which, despite their common premises, seldom intersect.