Beyond science

 
By Clifford Polycarp
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- Global Warming: The Complete Briefing Third Edition by John Houghton Cambridge University Press Cambridge 2004 US $45

The sea-level is rising. Floods, storms and droughts are becoming increasingly frequent. The earth is warming up and its climatic conditions are changing. So what? Are these reasons enough to worry? John Houghton's book is a wake-up call for the optimist and the oblivious, alike. Houghton gives a detailed explanation of the phenomenon of global warming, and its consequent climate change. His ultimate aim appears to be drawing attention to the fact that human activities are responsible for the current climatic mess (a fact widely accepted in current times) and that the situation calls for immediate action (a sense of urgency lacking in most policymakers).

Global Warming: The Complete Briefing is a comprehensive review of the science of global warming and its impacts. Written in the simplest possible style, this book does not stop at educating the reader about the 'hows' and the 'whys' of global warming and its impacts. It goes on to discuss those countless uncertainties surrounding existing knowledge on the subject. Houghton goes beyond the science and explores the politics and the economics of the problem.

Houghton also explores the ethical aspect underpinning the human action, or in this case, the lack of it. "Mostly we know what to do but we lack the will to do it," Houghton quotes Sir Crispin Tickell, a British diplomat. Houghton attributes this lack of will to the present-day obsession with the "material".

The author concludes that any attempt to address environmental problems "depends not only on knowledge about them but on the values we place on the environment and our attitudes towards it". He proposes that humankind assume stewardship of their natural habitat.

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