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There are of course many books, both short and long, on climate change. This one is particularly focussed on New Zealand and the South Pacific: what could the future look like for this region?
This is one of the BWB Texts, which are billed as “short books on big subjects”. It’s certainly a short book, and there are few subjects bigger than climate change.
Meduna has found a surprising number of studies on aspects of climate change within New Zealand and Antarctic and charts their effects on our flora, fauna, ocean levels and the projected impact of these changes on the way that we live. There’s no wild predictions: just careful analysis of where we are, how we got here, and what our future path looks like.
Many children already born will see the year 2100, and that is the time-span that is broadly dealt with. The author has found many scientists working in the areas of climate change, geography, palaeontology and related fields, and brings their findings about the past and present, and more importantly their projections for the rest of this century, to a wider audience.
The book has nine chapters, and most begin with a simple, particular observation – such as a very wet June causing flooding in many part of NZ – and use of the underlying science work to explain a wider phenomenon – in this case the El Niño climate event and its effect on the oceans. And of course, what affects the oceans affects all of us. This moving from the particular to the general is a feature of the writing, and roots the narrative in the concrete, leading the reader to more abstract thinking in gentle steps. This technique is just right in this situation, and I am sure that the author would be a gifted teacher.
Some of the predicted changes are horrific such as flooding of coastal regions. Some are less so: kiwifruit orchards in Canterbury anyone? The author does not dramatise but bases her predictions on what we see now and can model for the future. I say “her predictions”, but they aren’t hers alone: the scientists involved are named, and their experiments and theoretical work described.
In a book this size it obviously isn’t possible to discuss all the possible variations thrown up by the climate models, and it isn’t possible to discuss the experimental data in depth. But this does not detract from the book’s usefulness as an introduction to, and summary of, the science. Thankfully, the book is free of rhetoric, is always rational and unruffled even when describing we have damaged the world possibly beyond repair, and is carefully based on good science. Political issues are avoided.
There are no tables, figures or graphs – I did want a map of Antarctica at one point.
Veronika Meduna initially trained as a scientist, and now works as a science broadcaster and journalist. She is one of the best communicators of science that this country has. She has managed to condense a wealth of information into the book’s 89 pages, and include suggestions for further reading for those interested in more depth in some of the matters discussed. The writing is clear, engaging and yet precise.
There are many of these BWB texts, released in electronic and print form. I hope that they are all as good as this one. If you do not already have a good grasp of the science behind climate change, read it immediately.
Reviewed by Gordon Findlay
Towards a Warmer World: What Climate Change Will Mean for New Zealand’s Future
by Veronika Meduna
Published by Bridget Williams Books