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The Weather Makers

by Tim Flannery

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


The Weather Makers
Eminently Readable

Paleontologist/Mammologist Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers is science book written for non-scientists. Flannery demystifies the extremely hot topic global warming, as well as basic atmospheric and global climate theory.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and had no trouble comprehending the information that was provided. For anyone who has felt ill-informed every time they've seen a headline about global warming or climate change, this book is a must read. The succinct and clear definitions of climate jargon alone make this reading time well spent.

Scientific Theories Explained

The first seventy-five pages of The Weather Makers explains the basics of how the atmosphere works now, as well as how it has worked in the past. It explores greenhouse gasses and acid rain, and lots of theories about how it all fits together to determine how hot our summers are, and whether we can expect rain on Tuesday.

Nothing will usually make my eyes glaze over faster than a scientist explaining complex scientific theories, but Flannery makes all of this stuff extremely palatable, and understandable. He has a great sense of humor, and segues nicely from topic to topic.
After he gives us the basics, he spends the next couple of sections exploring all the data that have been collected about the various ecological effects of climate change. It turns out that scientists have been doing quite a bit of research on this topic over the past few decades.

Stormy Future?

In addition, Flannery spends some time on the various theories about what all this data might mean for our planetary future. He explores not only the various weather changes that are occurring and may occur, but also what that might mean to life on our planet.

What I found very compelling about this part of the book is that the author, clearly an environmentalist, acknowledges that scientists are not at all certain about what the effects of man-made climate change will be. He simply presents the various speculations and hypotheses posited by today's best scientific minds.
And contrary to what pop-fiction author Michael Crichton would have you believe, the scientific community seems exceedingly unified in their assessment that humans are warming the atmosphere. The theories of what that might mean to all living things on Earth range from not-so-good to absolutely catastrophic. Flannery does an excellent job of supporting each theory with data that have already been collected.

Call To Action

The last section left me feeling a little conflicted. Flannery does a great job of suggesting various ways that you and I can make a difference on a personal level, and of explaining what needs to happen on a global level to minimize the damage we do to our planet. He reiterates how bad it will be for all living things if we do nothing.
Unfortunately Flannery then tries to ratchet up the fear factor by imagining an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-restrictive, world government enforced carbon emission standards that succeeds only in convincing me that he should stick to non-fiction. His editor should have talked him out of this bit of fanciful pontification - it only weakens an otherwise strong offering of factual data.


I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the environmental issues surrounding climate change and global warming. Understand that the author is an avowed environmentalist, and although he does want you to go out and buy a hybrid vehicle, he is for the most part willing to let the facts speak for themselves by presenting them in a clear and logical manner. His sources are well documented, and he offers commonsense solutions for those people who wish to try to make a difference. This book is such a pleasant read, and I learned so much in the process of reading it, that I found myself wondering why more of the beginning science texts from my time in school weren't better written.
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