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By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon--the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight. Now expanded into book form, Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil fuel industry's coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The book carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves. Like John Hersey's Hiroshima and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth, Losing Earth is the rarest of achievements: a riveting work of dramatic history that articulates a moral framework for understanding how we got here, and how we must go forward.


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By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. Losing Earth is their story, and ours. The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking chronicle of that decade, which became an instant journalistic phenomenon--the subject of news coverage, editorials, and conversations all over the world. In its emphasis on the lives of the people who grappled with the great existential threat of our age, it made vivid the moral dimensions of our shared plight. Now expanded into book form, Losing Earth tells the human story of climate change in even richer, more intimate terms. It reveals, in previously unreported detail, the birth of climate denialism and the genesis of the fossil fuel industry's coordinated effort to thwart climate policy through misinformation propaganda and political influence. The book carries the story into the present day, wrestling with the long shadow of our past failures and asking crucial questions about how we make sense of our past, our future, and ourselves. Like John Hersey's Hiroshima and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth, Losing Earth is the rarest of achievements: a riveting work of dramatic history that articulates a moral framework for understanding how we got here, and how we must go forward.

30 review for Losing Earth: A Recent History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    Climate change is not a new phenomenon. We have known for decades that it’s happening. And to put it quite simply, we have not done enough about it. Considering the scope of what we face, we have done absolutely nothing to prevent it. As the years have passed, the problem has got progressively worse. We burn more fossil fuels and we cut down more of the rain-forest to accommodate our ever growing and longer living population. We live in the now, engaging in the same circular petty politics that o Climate change is not a new phenomenon. We have known for decades that it’s happening. And to put it quite simply, we have not done enough about it. Considering the scope of what we face, we have done absolutely nothing to prevent it. As the years have passed, the problem has got progressively worse. We burn more fossil fuels and we cut down more of the rain-forest to accommodate our ever growing and longer living population. We live in the now, engaging in the same circular petty politics that only exist to serve the neoliberalist state and continue to destroy our home with our consumerism. We don’t grow. We don’t learn. And, if we carry on, we’re all going to die because we are losing the earth. This book is a brief history, chronicling the decade that we really could have prevented the destruction we have subsequently wrought on our home. We have permanently changed the biology of our planet. The damage is totally irreversible as we have lost so many species because their habitat has ceased to exist because of our actions. We will never get them back. They will never walk the earth again and it’s completely on us. We are to blame. Nothing but a globally co-ordinated action plan could have prevented it, but nobody proposed it because nobody was listening. The problem, the major problem we still face today and the one that is often wielded by climate change deniers, is that it’s bad for business. Environmentalism is bad for business so it’s easier to pretend like it doesn’t exist and continue on as normal, so the massive corporations don’t lose any of their precious money. We ignore the problem and we carry on. And our children must face the aftermath. We have known for 50 years. Let that sink in. Facebook| Twitter| Insta| Academia

  2. 4 out of 5

    meg

    while I'm familiar with the science obviously and the political situation of the recent past, this was a clear-eyed and thorough investigation of the period between roughly 1979 and 1989 when the science was accepted and policies were being considered and we actually could have kept warming below 1.5C and absolutely nobody did anything, as per usual, I'm screaming endlessly into the void that was the main body of the book, which was very good, but the reason it's getting five stars is the afterw while I'm familiar with the science obviously and the political situation of the recent past, this was a clear-eyed and thorough investigation of the period between roughly 1979 and 1989 when the science was accepted and policies were being considered and we actually could have kept warming below 1.5C and absolutely nobody did anything, as per usual, I'm screaming endlessly into the void that was the main body of the book, which was very good, but the reason it's getting five stars is the afterword, which is a piece of scathing, excruciatingly true rhetoric that just slapped me in the face on the train this morning "It is not yet widely understood, though it will be, that the politician who claims that climate change is uncertain betrays humanity in the same fashion as the politician who fabricates weapons of mass destruction in order to whip up support for a profiteering war. It is not yet widely understood, though it will be, that when a government relaxes regulations on coal-fired plants or erases scientific data from a federal website, it is guilty of more than merely bowing to corporate interests; it commits crimes against humanity. The rejection of reason—the molten core of denialism—opens the door to the rejection of morality, for morality relies on a shared faith in reason. Actions to hasten carbon dioxide emissions are the ineluctable corollary of climate denialism. Once it becomes possible to disregard the welfare of future generations, or those now vulnerable to flooding or drought or wildfire—once it becomes possible to abandon the constraints of human empathy—empathy—any monstrosity committed in the name of self-interest is permissible." again, I am screaming in fruitless rage

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    In 1979, scientists learned everything we needed to know about Earth's changing climate and the human factors that have led to it. Not much has changed, scientifically, in the intervening years. Our predictive models have gotten better, and, if anything, we've learned that the original estimates offered by scientists regarding warming trends were too generous. Nathaniel Rich explores the decade of 1979-1989, when global warming first came into the public purview and scientists and some politicia In 1979, scientists learned everything we needed to know about Earth's changing climate and the human factors that have led to it. Not much has changed, scientifically, in the intervening years. Our predictive models have gotten better, and, if anything, we've learned that the original estimates offered by scientists regarding warming trends were too generous. Nathaniel Rich explores the decade of 1979-1989, when global warming first came into the public purview and scientists and some politicians attempted to begin curbing carbon emissions and atmospheric pollution contributing to the rise of greenhouse gases that will, inarguably, have severe effects on human survival and extreme weather effects upon the Earth. It's also the decade that, despite George Herbert Walker Bush running on a pro-environmental campaign, that the GOP became the party of science denialism. Narrating all this is Matt Godfrey, whose narration is crisp and even-keel. Rich writes in a highly accessible manner, avoiding technical and scientific jargon, and Godfrey's narration follows a similar For Everyone approach. It's not highly dramatized, but simple and to the point. It's very well done. It's a chilling account, and also one that is deeply disheartening. The scientific consensus on the validity of climate change is there -- 97% of all the world's scientific community agrees that it is real and that humans are the cause), regardless of what right-wing politicians, conservative commentators, and businesses that have grown fat and rich off the production of fossil fuels would have you believe. One of the arching themes of LOSING EARTH surrounds the economy of climate change, and whether or not humanity as a collective will allow itself to suffer short-term pains in order to ensure long-term benefits. Sadly, the answer, as is obvious to anybody that's been paying attention, is no, we will not. Humanity simply doesn't care enough about its long-term survival. We are too greedy to care about the world we leave behind for future generations. Greed rules all. Greed will, ultimately, destroy us. With 2018 the fourth hottest year on record, the science is clear. We are on the brink. Maybe -- maybe -- scientific advancements might come along to help us, but it's hardly a guarantee. We had our chance to save ourselves, and we squandered it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Numidica

    Enlightening but depressing. We knew everything we needed to know in 1988 to make the decision to start taking action to avert the global warming catastrophe, but oil companies banded together to block action and support Republicans who did their bidding to oppose action. So now we will get at least 3 degrees C warming when it might have been held to 1.5C, which, in terms of ultimate effects is a huge difference. I voted for Reagan, in ignorance of his anti-environmentalism. I vowed after 2000 n Enlightening but depressing. We knew everything we needed to know in 1988 to make the decision to start taking action to avert the global warming catastrophe, but oil companies banded together to block action and support Republicans who did their bidding to oppose action. So now we will get at least 3 degrees C warming when it might have been held to 1.5C, which, in terms of ultimate effects is a huge difference. I voted for Reagan, in ignorance of his anti-environmentalism. I vowed after 2000 never to vote for a Republican again; this book lays out the case for the complicity or the fossil fuel industry and the Republican Party in the coming global disaster. For crying out loud, even Margaret Thatcher understood that global warming was real, and was man made. Sad, when an entire political party does not care what happens to the generations to come.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    3.5 stars-- If you need a historical non-fiction read to reinforce your bitterness against the boomers, this is it :D. A little lacking as a book in terms of the narrative drive, but the history it recounts is incredibly important & will be an important story to remember as our planet faces the challenges ahead 3.5 stars-- If you need a historical non-fiction read to reinforce your bitterness against the boomers, this is it :D. A little lacking as a book in terms of the narrative drive, but the history it recounts is incredibly important & will be an important story to remember as our planet faces the challenges ahead

  6. 4 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    101st book for 2019. Covering a period roughly between 1979 and 1989, Nathaniel Rich's book chronicles the rise of the political awareness of the dangers of global warming and early attempts to create legislation to fix the problem. What's really stands about from this book is that all the basic facts and arguments about global warming were already present by the mid-1980s. Definitely worth a read. 4-stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I am one behind on my commitment to read 12 science books this year, so I need to catch up. This is a short book based on a long-form piece from The New York Times Magazine earlier this year, and it captures a brief period of time--20 years or so--when taking on climate change was a possibility. From Carter, through Reagan, and into Bush the First, climate change (then called The Greenhouse Effect) was a widely accepted phenomena in the halls of government and the boardrooms of American corporati I am one behind on my commitment to read 12 science books this year, so I need to catch up. This is a short book based on a long-form piece from The New York Times Magazine earlier this year, and it captures a brief period of time--20 years or so--when taking on climate change was a possibility. From Carter, through Reagan, and into Bush the First, climate change (then called The Greenhouse Effect) was a widely accepted phenomena in the halls of government and the boardrooms of American corporations. Exxon officials, government agencies, environmentalists, and politicians, all understood that man-made climate change was real, that the consequences would be awful, and that we needed to act in concert with other nations to address the burgeoning crisis. Except we didn't. One of the people cited in this books ask, "What do you do when the past is no longer a guide to the future?" which is, literally, the problem we are facing. We have lived in a stable climate for as long as there has been an us. Now, we are faced with a problem that requires politicians--who think in iterations of 2, 4, and 6 years cycles--to champion policies that people will hate. Use less energy. Pay more for energy. Change how you live. Be inconvenienced. Higher taxes. Less choice. It's not wonder that people forty years ago thought, "Well, that's going to be someone else's problem." And now it is. Climate change is a part of our national and global understanding now, which is good, but since the time period this book covers (until the early 90s or so), the forces of denial have gone in to overdrive, and have made incredible headway politically. Since the 1990s, we have burned more carbon than the rest of human history combined. The United States government is pulling out of the Paris Accords, which offered some tiny sliver of hope. And science itself is under attack by the forces of irrationality. I first heard about climate change in the spring of 1989, during the period the author discusses in this book. I was 19 years old, and I thought, "Well...that doesn't sound good." Now I am 50, and the reality predicted by the environmentalists and scientists has come to pass. What's worse, the political reaction to climate change in the United States has become even more toxic. I do not think our civilization is up to the challenge of sacrificing now to benefit those who come after us. At least, America isn't. It's sad. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...

  8. 4 out of 5

    《Maram》

    The truth is: Humans are selfish Humans are stupid Humans are ignorant

  9. 4 out of 5

    Luana

    This book is an explicit account of the extent of human selfishness and stupidity. Learning about our history should give us an incentive to avoid the mistakes we have repeatedly made in the past: that of denying the bleak future that all of humanity is clearly facing. We need to stop with our self-delusions, stop worshipping politicians and act now before it’s too late. A decade has already been squandered. Let us not ruin another one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan Paxton

    If you take one thing from this short but powerful book (expanded from an issue-length article Rich wrote for The New York Times Magazine), it's this quote: "More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since November 7, 1989, the final day of the Noordwijk conference, than in the entire history of civilization preceding it." In the 1980s we had a real chance to stop climate change. Rich tells you how the science came together and how one man - Bush I advisor John Sununu - played the prime ro If you take one thing from this short but powerful book (expanded from an issue-length article Rich wrote for The New York Times Magazine), it's this quote: "More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since November 7, 1989, the final day of the Noordwijk conference, than in the entire history of civilization preceding it." In the 1980s we had a real chance to stop climate change. Rich tells you how the science came together and how one man - Bush I advisor John Sununu - played the prime role in starting us down the road we're on now, where the Republican Party have made climate change denial an article of religious faith, where huge companies use the same tactics they created to deny that smoking causes cancer to inculcate doubt, and where we are plunging headlong into a runaway climate holocaust. Rich tells the story well and succinctly - the book is just over 200 pages - with engaging portraits of the characters involved, in particular NASA scientist James Hanson, who the right wing continues to pillory and lie about for telling the scientific truth about how pouring gigatons of fossil carbon into the atmosphere affects the climate. There's a lot of useful material here you'll be able to deploy against deniers - climate change isn't something Al Gore pulled out of his ass in 1990, it's been talked about since the 1950s. In the end, Rich thinks there's still time to save the climate, and civilization. I don't share his optimism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I need to stop reading Global Warming books because they’re depressing the fuck out of me. But, this is an incredibly important subject and I’d rather be existentially depressed than ignorant. Anyway, this was a nice political counter to the apolitical Uninhabitable Earth I read recently. While that one focused on the science and the environmental consequences, this focused on the political machinations that will be our undoing. It took us back to the beginning of the climate crisis, when the oz I need to stop reading Global Warming books because they’re depressing the fuck out of me. But, this is an incredibly important subject and I’d rather be existentially depressed than ignorant. Anyway, this was a nice political counter to the apolitical Uninhabitable Earth I read recently. While that one focused on the science and the environmental consequences, this focused on the political machinations that will be our undoing. It took us back to the beginning of the climate crisis, when the ozone hole first became a social issue, and the world first met to organize a treaty. When we lost Earth before we even had a chance to fight for it. If anything, this book made it very clear to me how likely it is we as a species will ever make any significant change towards slowing warming (unlikely) and just how hard it is to affect those changes. It was just as important and eye opening as Uninhabitable Earth, and I again highly recommend it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    daisy

    simultaneously one of the most enthralling and TOTALLY FRUSTRATING books i have ever read. made me both hopeful and completely and utterly enraged at the world at the same time. the fact that we had all the knowledge to deal with our climate crisis back in the 1980s only to be brought down by fewer naysayers than can be counted on one hand is, in a word, horrifiying. have times changed? hard to say. i just hope that we don't keep going round in circles for another 40 years. this book should be a simultaneously one of the most enthralling and TOTALLY FRUSTRATING books i have ever read. made me both hopeful and completely and utterly enraged at the world at the same time. the fact that we had all the knowledge to deal with our climate crisis back in the 1980s only to be brought down by fewer naysayers than can be counted on one hand is, in a word, horrifiying. have times changed? hard to say. i just hope that we don't keep going round in circles for another 40 years. this book should be a warning to everyone who reads it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Henri

    This book has an amazing quality of presenting what would normally be quite boring(apart from the fact that it's the fate of the planet involved) board meetings in the 80s as these mega cool superman vs batman events. Well written, short and bittersweet.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Before I start my review let me say this. This book is very easy to read and does a great job at showing that the whole World has had it's head stuck up its ass regarding global warming and to an extent, we still do. I believe in global warming, environmentalism, and the Republican Party purposefully spouting lies in order to confuse the American People. However. I am a librarian and as a librarian I absolutely require authors to include sources, bibliographies, and PROOF to back up what they are Before I start my review let me say this. This book is very easy to read and does a great job at showing that the whole World has had it's head stuck up its ass regarding global warming and to an extent, we still do. I believe in global warming, environmentalism, and the Republican Party purposefully spouting lies in order to confuse the American People. However. I am a librarian and as a librarian I absolutely require authors to include sources, bibliographies, and PROOF to back up what they are trying to prove in their writing. This book NEVER SHOULD HAVE MADE IT PAST ITS EDITOR. The author provides no sources whatsoever for any part of his book. THIS IS WHY WE THE PEOPLE CAN NO LONGER TRUST WHAT WE HEAR AND READ. AUTHORS, EDITORS, AND PUBLISHERS are no longer REQUIRING the use of sources. HOW CAN WE BELIEVE WHAT WE'RE READING IF WE DON'T KNOW WHETHER SOMETHING IS AN OPINION? I AM SO FUCKING ANGRY OVER THIS!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Austin Hahn

    One of the most hopeless and also hopeful books I've read in a long time. The conclusion is worth reading on its own, on the imperative of reframing climate change as a moral issue to stop the end of civilization, not just a political issue to be solved.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: An account of the lost opportunity of the 1980's to address climate change and the birth of the polarized dialogue that exists to this day. Did you know that much of the scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and global warming traces back to the nineteenth century? That in the 1950's and throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scientists were already warning of global warming and contending that warming connected with higher carbon dioxide levels was already evident? Did you kn Summary: An account of the lost opportunity of the 1980's to address climate change and the birth of the polarized dialogue that exists to this day. Did you know that much of the scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and global warming traces back to the nineteenth century? That in the 1950's and throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scientists were already warning of global warming and contending that warming connected with higher carbon dioxide levels was already evident? Did you know there was a time when climate change and the science behind it was not a political issue and that political leaders in both parties, and many others in most the the countries of the world, substantially agreed that this was a looming problem that needed to be addressed? That world leaders came very close to an agreement to limit and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 1989? That was thirty years ago. In 1990 human beings emitted more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Instead of cutting that amount, by 2018, the amount was projected at 37.1 billion metric tons and growing. Nathaniel Rich narrates the story of a lost moment through two figures: Rafe Pomerance, an environmental lobbyist and Gordon MacDonald, a climate scientist. A third figure who plays a prominent role is James Hansen, a NASA climate scientist who compiled massive amounts of data, and gave compelling testimony wherever called upon. Pomerance, came across this finding in a government study on the continued use of fossil fuels: "continued use of fossil fuels might, within two or three decades, bring about 'significant and damaging' changes to the global atmosphere." That was in the Spring of 1979 and changed the course of his life. It led to his interview with Gordon MacDonald, a geophysicist, who was glad that someone beside him finally noticed. Rich's book traces their efforts to mobilize awareness and action, culminating in the formation of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and a climate summit in the Netherlands in 1989. Initially, action on climate change was widely supported, at least in public statements. Meanwhile, a transformation began to take place in the fossil fuel industry from studying the issue themselves and reckoning on the consequences of continued fuel use, to a movement of resistance and a challenge to the science, and exercise of increasing leverage. In the climate talks, the resistance of one US figure led to a meaningless agreement to which the US never subscribed, and an increasingly politicized discourse around climate issues. Perhaps the most stunning revelation of this book was that it was not always so. Rich's afterword is both hopeful and sobering. He both notes the technological advances that might be turned to action limiting global temperature rises to somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. Yet he also wrestles with the propensity of human beings to not act to address possible dangers down the road and instead prefer their present comfort. He not only condemns in the strongest terms those who twist and deny what they know. He challenges all of us:    We do not like to think about loss, or death; Americans in particular, do not like to think about death. No matter how obsessively one follows the politics of climate change, it is difficult to contemplate soberly an existential threat to the species. Our queasiness even infects the language we use to describe it: the banalities of "global warming" and "climate change" perform the linguistic equivalent of rolling on sanitary gloves to palpate a hemorrhaging wound. To see how close the world came to a climate agreement on carbon emissions in the 1980's, to learn of a time when this was not a political football, suggests that it may be possible in the future. To avert the worst possibilities, it is imperative. One concludes Rich's book wondering, will we seize or miss the opportunity that we have? 

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Not much longer than a feature length New Yorker article, this is a must read both for its recent history of the science and politics of climate change, and because it lays what's at stake right on the line. Today's adults will face difficulties, our children will see real hardship, their children will fight for survival in a devastated world. Our current path into the future will take us to extreme ugliness - need, war, disaster, collapse. Perhaps Greta Thunberg (not mentioned in the book) and Not much longer than a feature length New Yorker article, this is a must read both for its recent history of the science and politics of climate change, and because it lays what's at stake right on the line. Today's adults will face difficulties, our children will see real hardship, their children will fight for survival in a devastated world. Our current path into the future will take us to extreme ugliness - need, war, disaster, collapse. Perhaps Greta Thunberg (not mentioned in the book) and her "woke" friends around the world will manage to close the gap between reality and political action, but if not...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)

    3.75/5 Losing Earth is a clear-eyed, timely, and incredibly well-researched piece of investigative journalism focussing on the decade roughly between 1979-1989 when efforts to effectively counteract climate change could have been done. But instead, the backlash from corrupt politicians, hugely influential oil and gas industries, all played the devil's advocate, leaving us in the dire circumstances we've found ourselves in today. The only criticism I have of this book is that it does get a little 3.75/5 Losing Earth is a clear-eyed, timely, and incredibly well-researched piece of investigative journalism focussing on the decade roughly between 1979-1989 when efforts to effectively counteract climate change could have been done. But instead, the backlash from corrupt politicians, hugely influential oil and gas industries, all played the devil's advocate, leaving us in the dire circumstances we've found ourselves in today. The only criticism I have of this book is that it does get a little too factual and dry at parts.

  19. 4 out of 5

    L.G. Cullens

    With all the propaganda and distractions, do you really know what humanity is up against and how we got to this reckoning of human existence? This book tells it as well as most any I've read, at least the more recent history. Not a lively read, but an important one if you value your future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Short and impactful. Should be mandatory reading.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    The most common takeaway from Nathaniel Rich's Losing Earth: A Recent History seems to be that the USA could have addressed climate change in the 1980s. But it didn't. That common takeaway is fine, but today we should highlight this conclusion after reading Losing Earth: Nearly every conversation we have in 2019 about climate change was being held in 1979. That includes not only the predictions about degrees of warming, sea level rise, and geopolitical strife but also the speculations about geo- The most common takeaway from Nathaniel Rich's Losing Earth: A Recent History seems to be that the USA could have addressed climate change in the 1980s. But it didn't. That common takeaway is fine, but today we should highlight this conclusion after reading Losing Earth: Nearly every conversation we have in 2019 about climate change was being held in 1979. That includes not only the predictions about degrees of warming, sea level rise, and geopolitical strife but also the speculations about geo-engineering technology, the appeals to help developing nations overcome starvation and diseases without relying, as we did , on massive increases in coal consumption, and the cost-benefit analyses that always seem to favour inaction. I was convinced by Rich's claim that we knew enough to act in 1979 and that we could have acted in the 1980s, even if he seems to overstate the likelihood of action. This passage further shows that when evaluating comments made about climate change, we would do well to consider historical trends, whether they go back 10 years or 40. ExxonMobil, Rich writes, announced in 2008 that it would"no longer fund 'public policy research groups' that advanced climate skepticism. But ExxonMobil has continued to do so to this day, even as it places national television advertisements featuring attractive young scientists experimenting with green algae." The advertisements are not isolated lies but rather longstanding structural deceptions designed to shape (or prevent) policy. This wariness should be applied to institutions, corporations, and individuals. So although George H.W. Bush made some bold comments about addressing climate change while on the campaign trail, we should not be surprised that his administration opposed meaningful action in response to climate change because his commitment to the issue was limited to a few signals made while campaigning. Today, the Sunrise Movement says it has "no permanent friends, no permanent enemies." This policy is practical, but they, and we, should add an asterix that reads, roughly, "trust but verify by examining the individual, institution, or group's past actions." People mostly default to past behaviors and mostly change at the margins. In trying to shift skeptics and deniers into responding to climate change, greens are not only asking their most skeptical audience to change but to change after seeking out up to forty years of climate denial messaging.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    The New York Times reported scientists claiming that the earth was warming in 1953 (66 years ago.) In 1979, scientists, industrialists, and politicians knew pretty much what we know now about climate change. Generations have been screwing their descendants over and over. The haves have benefitted from the use of fossil fuel to the detriment of the poor who are dispropotinately harmed by floods and droughts. Mike Pompeo recently said that the Arctic ice melt is good because it makes it easier to The New York Times reported scientists claiming that the earth was warming in 1953 (66 years ago.) In 1979, scientists, industrialists, and politicians knew pretty much what we know now about climate change. Generations have been screwing their descendants over and over. The haves have benefitted from the use of fossil fuel to the detriment of the poor who are dispropotinately harmed by floods and droughts. Mike Pompeo recently said that the Arctic ice melt is good because it makes it easier to drill for oil. If you do nothing else, vote climate deniers out of office. If you're disheartened see this short film by one of our most prominent millennials. https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/g...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Shapiro

    5/5. I'm blown away by this achievement, even though this book's brevity constrains it from being a "textbook" or all-inclusive account of humanity's relationship to climate change and our (in)action with respect to it. Nathaniel Rich provides an insightful and fascinating account into the origins of climate science and the attempts of several scientists and policy-makers, as early as the 1960s, to create a worldwide treaty, or to get any political leader to give a shit, to curb carbon emissions 5/5. I'm blown away by this achievement, even though this book's brevity constrains it from being a "textbook" or all-inclusive account of humanity's relationship to climate change and our (in)action with respect to it. Nathaniel Rich provides an insightful and fascinating account into the origins of climate science and the attempts of several scientists and policy-makers, as early as the 1960s, to create a worldwide treaty, or to get any political leader to give a shit, to curb carbon emissions. Even though I was already somewhat familiar with this story (for example, Bill McKibben's excellent Falter which I listened to last year), the way Rich drives the story forward, using key characters to propel the narrative forward, is incredible. I kept getting sucked into this story, desperately wanting the climate change lobbyists and scientists to succeed, even though (spoiler, but not really) they don't. In 5 measly hours I felt like I just absorbed 20 hours worth of information, without the writing getting overly bogged down by technical details or names or dates. It's a sad, depressing story, but paradoxically an inspiring one. Yes, this book reaffirmed that human beings are arrogant, stupid, short-sighted, foolish, and pathetic. But it also made me aware of how much some people care and how much difference (good or bad) an individual can make. If not for a few key players, the entire sad history of climate policy could have been so different. But even more than the impact of individuals, this book further reveals how America's (and the world's) political systems are simply not equipped to deal with huge existential problems like climate change (the ozone hole being a notable exception because it had that "fear factor" while also having a clear-cut solution, unlike climate change as a whole). Up until the afterword, I was immensely enjoying this book but it hadn't done anything that I hadn't expected. The final section of Losing Earth is a magnificent, powerful piece of writing that reinforces just how messed up our world is and how, above all else, above the empty promises and apathy and short-sightedness, all that matters is that we, as individuals and as a species, care. Care about ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. This is something I've lost sight of in my own life - falling into the trap of not caring, of subscribing to a society and value system that is utterly meaningless. It's up to each and every person to care. About anything, really. It's then that we as a species can take meaningful action, both about climate change and beyond - to create a better future for ourselves. Really, I'm blown away. I'm usually pretty sceptical and wary of books that try to say anything about society, politics, or the environment because generally, they either say nothing new or just espouse bullshit. Even the most inspiring books I've read have cliched moments, and Losing Earth is no exception. At the end of the day, it's just another book about the environment, one that won't really make a meaningful difference. But the author knows this, is painfully aware of this, and it's his self-awareness and earnestness to convey his message to the reader, combined with the top-notch story-telling and historical account of this fascinating topic, that makes this one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read (or listened to, in this case). I recommend this to everyone.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ceridwyn

    Nathanial Rich also writes fiction and it makes his non-fiction very easy to read. This entire book reads like a long-form journalism article in The Atlantic and is a clear history of what happened in USian politics between 1979-1989 in relation to climate change. The book is enraging, depressing, and has a focus on the USA that isn't always helpful. First fact: There have been no major findings in climate science since 1979. Rich indicates that, as a society, we can allow ourselves to understand Nathanial Rich also writes fiction and it makes his non-fiction very easy to read. This entire book reads like a long-form journalism article in The Atlantic and is a clear history of what happened in USian politics between 1979-1989 in relation to climate change. The book is enraging, depressing, and has a focus on the USA that isn't always helpful. First fact: There have been no major findings in climate science since 1979. Rich indicates that, as a society, we can allow ourselves to understand what climate change might look like in specific but not systemic ways. Since climate has been consistent for centuries, human beings have taken it for granted and find it difficult to understand the true gargantuan value it holds. He asks the question: is it possible for scientists to produce a study that WOULD convince politicians to act? Climate change is an existential problem that affects the whole world rather than a political problem that has a solution. Rich's solution is that every crisis needs a hero and that scientists and activists both make for difficult heroes. He discusses that scientists are necessarily and by training cautious in their statements and everybody else misses the point because they don't understand the qualifications. What is written in reports is often not what is said in press conferences. He then details out the 'gotcha' moment of the Ozone hole visualization - the first time this picture was shown, it wasn't called the Ozone hole and it was 'misleading' because it only showed part of the year - not the year around effect. However, this made it a small enough problem to address, but large enough and with enough impact to break through political complacency and inaction. In addition, Dupont, while the largest manufacturer of CFCs in the world, swiftly realised that it stood to profit from the transition and started supporting the phaseout. The world's governments acted together and committed to a specific cause of action that caused the phaseout of CFCs and the slow shrinking of the Ozone hole. Looking at climate change, however, Shell/Exxon had deep investments in renewable energy, but a shift away from supporting these at White House level meant the US wasn't a leader in climate change in the way it had been in CFC reduction. The 'fragmented world' problem means that different countries have different responses to climate change and an increased reliance on fossil fuels. One of the key science activists during this time, Jim Hanson, has his own proposal for how to fix the climate crisis. It runs over the course of a decade, fixes climate change and saves trillions of dollars. The change is feasible and economically rational, but the wrong people are in power, and they are a working at the edges, where the risks are higher.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard S

    It's amazing to think, as the world is sent barreling along like an out-of-speed locomotive to environmental catastrophe, that there have been moments when the political power existed to actually accomplish something - Bush in 1992, Obama in 2012, presidents with the desire and ability to enact change - but nothing happened. Now Trump actually jokes about it in his Twitter feed every time there's a cold day, an astonishing level of ignorance, and one that gives no chance or hope - even a glimmer It's amazing to think, as the world is sent barreling along like an out-of-speed locomotive to environmental catastrophe, that there have been moments when the political power existed to actually accomplish something - Bush in 1992, Obama in 2012, presidents with the desire and ability to enact change - but nothing happened. Now Trump actually jokes about it in his Twitter feed every time there's a cold day, an astonishing level of ignorance, and one that gives no chance or hope - even a glimmer - that anything will be done - and withdrawing from the Paris Accords, not even paying a political price. This is a pretty decent book at giving the long history - very, very long history - of efforts to contain CO2 emissions and global warming - this is not an issue that started with Al Gore, it's been around a much longer time, and there was even time of bi-partisan consensus. But the will has never existed, to give up our cars and build nuclear power plants - such an easy fix too! - even that is impossible for us - for there's no one else to blame but US. Anyway, I've read many books on Global Warming, and this is a nice history. It's unfortunately a bit slanted on the left when it really doesn't need to be - and in fact it makes the book unfortunately the type that will be avoided by the people who most need to read it. Engaging in gratuitous Republican bashing doesn't help, it discredits you with the voters you need to persuade. Global warming is not an issue that should need to be politicized - and yet somehow it is - and of all of the incredible ignorance on display (see Tucker's "Ship of Fools" book for a sample) on the right is balanced by the hypocrisy and greed and failure of the left (particularly on the issue of nuclear power). As Nathaniel Rich aptly points out, arguing against global warming is like saying slavery didn't cause the Civil War because slavery didn't exist. There are facts - CO2 levels are rising to ridiculous levels - insane, unprecedented levels, out of control - and what is worse, these levels aren't going to come down just because we stop producing the gasses. So here you have it - the book could be retitled: "A History of the Failure of Mankind to Prevent the End of the World." Now this is _definitely_ a book whose content will be of interest 200 years from now when those future generations ask - why did our ancestors fail to do anything about the impending doom? Our generation will be hated by future ones (those Trump tweets will be Exhibit A). And unless you are someone driving an electric car, avoiding beef, and living a carbon neutral life, and that is just an insanely low %tage of people (buying carbon credits doesn't cut it sorry) - there's no one else to blame. This is our collective legacy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Muneeb Hameed

    I'm moved. "Nearly every conversation that we have in 2019 about climate change was being held in 1979. That includes not only the predictions about degrees of warming, sea level rise, and geopolitical strife but also the speculations about geo-engineering technology, the appeals to help developing nations overcome starvation and disease without relying, as we did, on massive increases in coal consumption, and the cost-benefit analyses that always seem to favor inaction. Forty years ago, the poli I'm moved. "Nearly every conversation that we have in 2019 about climate change was being held in 1979. That includes not only the predictions about degrees of warming, sea level rise, and geopolitical strife but also the speculations about geo-engineering technology, the appeals to help developing nations overcome starvation and disease without relying, as we did, on massive increases in coal consumption, and the cost-benefit analyses that always seem to favor inaction. Forty years ago, the political scientists, economists, social theorists, and philosophers who studied the slow-moving threat of climate change generally agreed that we could not be counted on to save ourselves. Their theories shared a common principle: that human beings, whether in international bodies, democracies, industries, political parties or as individuals, are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations." "When popular movements have managed to transform public opinion in a brief amount of time, forcing the passage of major legislation, they have done so on the strength of a moral claim that persuades enough voters to see the issue in human, rather than political, terms. We do not hesitate to summon moral arguments in debates about racial injustice, nuclear proliferation, gun violence, immigration, or the accelerating rate of mechanization ... the first requirement is to speak about the problem honestly: as a struggle for survival." "The cost-benefit analysis is rapidly shifting; the distant perils of climate change are no longer very distant. Many now occur regularly, flagrantly. Each superstorm and super fire is a premonition of more terrifying convulsions to come. But disasters alone will not revolutionize public opinion in the remaining time allotted to us. It is not enough to appeal to narrow self-interest; narrow self-interest, after all, is how we got here. Tens of millions of Americans who have no reason to believe that flames will lick at their patio doors or that floodwaters will surge up their driveways must still be moved to demand a full transformation of our energy system, our economy, ourselves."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maya

    My earliest, possibly apocryphal, memory of hearing about climate changes is when I was in elementary school (homeschooling, that is) and my mom tore the page out of the workbook and said I didn't need to learn about that garbage. So even when I think of climate change, there's always that voice of denialism at the back of my mind. The idea that it isn't a settled thing is attractive, very "both sides have points" kind of thing. I didn't know that limiting emissions was part of Bush Sr.'s candidac My earliest, possibly apocryphal, memory of hearing about climate changes is when I was in elementary school (homeschooling, that is) and my mom tore the page out of the workbook and said I didn't need to learn about that garbage. So even when I think of climate change, there's always that voice of denialism at the back of my mind. The idea that it isn't a settled thing is attractive, very "both sides have points" kind of thing. I didn't know that limiting emissions was part of Bush Sr.'s candidacy platform. Or that Margaret Thatcher also warned against the dangers of global warming. That the conservatives were not always the monolithic deniers that they present today. This book was depressing, so much of the science was already settled but of course as soon as they realised they would have to pay for it, the economic interests started pushing back. This book is short, kind of a primer on climate change history, which was useful cause I really know nothing

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diogenes

    Humankind is inevitably doomed to suffer. Thank you, Nathaniel Rich, for illustrating our collective unwillingness to avert the encroaching chaos to come with such a succinct accounting of the heroes of science and the villains of denialism & disinformation in this existential crisis in which we are all complicit and therefore guilty. Of course a warming world won’t affect everyone equally. Ajay Singh Chaudhary typed up a nice essay for The Baffler in April (2020), explaining how the global poor Humankind is inevitably doomed to suffer. Thank you, Nathaniel Rich, for illustrating our collective unwillingness to avert the encroaching chaos to come with such a succinct accounting of the heroes of science and the villains of denialism & disinformation in this existential crisis in which we are all complicit and therefore guilty. Of course a warming world won’t affect everyone equally. Ajay Singh Chaudhary typed up a nice essay for The Baffler in April (2020), explaining how the global poor will be screwed far faster than the upper-crust: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/were-no... But it’s already too late to avoid the effects, and vampiric capitalism, wanton myopia, and pure and simple greed will forever win in the arenas of politics and big business . . . that is until they are fundamentally changed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Excellent history of a confusing, ultimately disappointing period around the dawn of public awareness of climate change and its potential effects. There has been neither scientific nor political breakthrough in climate change since the late 1970s, only the infusion of more money on both sides. The science is more refined, evolved to the point of attribution, but still ineffectual at solutions. The politics... are exactly the same. The IPCC, active for more than 35 years now, has served as little Excellent history of a confusing, ultimately disappointing period around the dawn of public awareness of climate change and its potential effects. There has been neither scientific nor political breakthrough in climate change since the late 1970s, only the infusion of more money on both sides. The science is more refined, evolved to the point of attribution, but still ineffectual at solutions. The politics... are exactly the same. The IPCC, active for more than 35 years now, has served as little more than a record of US and global political inaction in the face of stable scientific certainty. It's time to move past the lies and opposition of a few bad (yet highly influential) actors, face reality, accept our own complicity, and do something.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ellery

    “Everyone knew—and we all still know.” But we do nothing. A stunning indictment of the U.S. government’s complacency in addressing climate change from 1979-1989, a complacency abetted (of course) by the willful hypocrisy of the oil, gas and coal industries. This indictment is even more painful when juxtaposed alongside a celebration of the scientists, activists and politicians who worked tirelessly, during this same period, to ensure that the world knew the truth, believing—in vain—that the worl “Everyone knew—and we all still know.” But we do nothing. A stunning indictment of the U.S. government’s complacency in addressing climate change from 1979-1989, a complacency abetted (of course) by the willful hypocrisy of the oil, gas and coal industries. This indictment is even more painful when juxtaposed alongside a celebration of the scientists, activists and politicians who worked tirelessly, during this same period, to ensure that the world knew the truth, believing—in vain—that the world would be moved to act. The book begins, fittingly and bitterly enough, with Proverbs 1:20-29. “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square... ‘They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge.’”

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