The Coming Storm , by Bob Reiss

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Topic classification : environmental science - greenhouse gases - global warming -
international scientific organizations - government policies

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The Coming Storm by Bob Reiss

Hardcover - 320 pages
First Edition, September 2001
Published by Hyperion
ISBN 0-7868-6665-9 / 0786866659

            Bob Reiss has succeeded in writing the very best book about global warming as a public issue, that is, focusing on the collaboration among international scientific associations, and the problems involved in persuading the political and industrial planners abound the globe to support treaties and research programs.

The Coming Storm , by Bob Reiss - Hardcover Nonfiction

            However, this is not a source book about the atmospheric chemical process of global warming. It does not explain the physical interactions of carbox dioxide, sunlight, ozone, etc. It is best viewed, therefore, as a book about public policy making, the economic pressures exerted on politicians around the world, and the ways in which scientists from various countries try to rise above politics when they collaborate.

            The book is nonfiction but reads like a novel, for example, it says:

"Early in the morning of April 16, 1998, a day that anyone living in Nashville, Tennessee at the time will never forget, a 52-year-old meteorologist named Bobby Boyd steered his Ford Takoma pickup through light dawn drizzle, along Shady Trail Road...." [page 1]

            Additionally, many scenes are presented in the form of dialogue. The book is recommended to readers who enjoy the storytelling style throughout. It is for readers who want to learn about the personal experience of being there, trying to be effective in saving the planet's environment, despite the spectrum of competing interests among bureaucracies. It is not for readers looking for the just-the-facts format in books about science and public issues, nor is it for chemistry or biology students seeking a study guide about the process of global warming.

            Pursuant to the author's format, technical facts about the greenhouse gas emissions and the greenhouse effect are there, but these facts are distributed throughout the book, not concentrated in a specific presentation. You could, of course, look up these terms in the index, and note the page numbers:

    Greenhouse gas emissions
	alleged benefits of, 248
	binding restrictions on, 238, 239
	Clinton administration and, 148-149, 169-171, 176
	corporations cutting, 186, 265

[... and so forth.]

Book Description from the Publisher

The Coming Storm : Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future , by Bob Reiss

Tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, heat waves -- acts of God or the results of man's actions? To answer that question, this riveting book places readers in the eye of today's deadliest storms.

If you think the world's weather catastrophes are becoming more frequent and more powerful, you're right. Ten of the last eleven years have been the hottest on record, filled with dozens of record-breaking hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Is this a coincidence, or is our civilization wreaking havoc on global weather? Journalist Bob Reiss shares America's growing fascination -- and concern -- with the phenomenon of extreme weather, a series of interlocking human stories that together create an ominous forecast for the twenty-first century. The Coming Storm presents a frightening, enlightening, and fascinating portrait of an ecosystem off track.

About the Author

Bob Reiss is a former Chicago Tribune reporter who has written for the Washington Post, Outside, Parade, Smithsonian, GQ, and Rolling Stone. He was a National Magazine Award finalist for his reporting on the Amazon and is the author of ten novels and two books of nonfiction. He lives in New York City.

            To that extent, I might disagree with book reviewer Ted Conover, who wrote, in part, " The Coming Storm is the layman's guide to global warming...." Rather, the book excels in the domain of its intended purpose. Furthermore, the book's subtitle, Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future, doesn't accurately represent what the book is about, as the phrase implies a topic that the book scarcely mentions. It's a truly fabulous book -- assuming that the intended reader understands what that book is about before buying it.

            Just one more warning must be made. In the words of the reviewer for Publishers Weekly: "Don't be fooled by the similarity between the title of this new book by journalist Reiss and The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber." The book by Bob Reiss consists of carefully researched facts, dispite the misfortune that an allegedly pseudo-scientific book has a similar title.

            The Coming Storm points out that the Environmental Protection Agency had released a report which concluded that human actions were increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and which predicted that the result would be an increase in the number and severity of floods and droughts.[204] That report set off a fierce debate worldwide, with debaters sometimes resporting to a "Are you for us or against us?" attitude.

Excerpt from book review in
Publisher's Weekly

... Reiss writes in the urgent yet reasoned voice of a person sounding an alarm while there is still time to act. Tracing both scientific and policy debates year by year from 1988 through 2000, he recounts the drama of deadly winter storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, killer heat waves, melting glaciers and thinning polar icecaps, while relating the parallel stories of scientists, politicians, lobbyists and industrialists and their clashing views in the face of mounting evidence and conflicting national interests. As Reiss describes it, the worst human disasters of this new century may result not only from storms in the geophysical climate but also from crises in the geopolitical one. It's time for the world to make plans if only we can agree what to plan for.

            In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first report. In 1995, the IPPC had its second meeting in Madrid and published its second report. Much of the book covers the organizational process for such conferences, which may be viewed as half science and half politics. For example, U.S. Senator Tim Wirth asked Kamal Nath, the Minister of Environment for the government of India, to participate fully in the 1995 conference. Nath had great skepticism, since his country's economy relies on three- and four-wheeled motor vehicles, despite a report by the World Bank that has concluded that air pollution kills 40,000 people per year in India, and that those vehicles are the main cause. Nath explained that India is a poor country, and as soon as another country volunteers to pay for it, he's willing to support the retooling of industry to protect the environment. [189-190]

            The oil and coal industries launched a campaign to discredit, through personal attacks and other means, Ben Santer, Ph.D. of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory outside of San Francisco, California [205-206, 211]. Santer was the primary author of of the "notorious Chapter 8" [205] of the 1995 IPCC report, which pointed the finger at certain industries.

Reviewed by Mike Lepore for

            These are the sort of events which every educated person needs to understand to practice good citizenship in the technological age, with its many uncertainties. We need to know why we must undertake a difficult task of worldwide policy reform, as well as what factors may impede the efforts.

323 pages, including the 13-page 2-column index. No illustrations.

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