Book Review: The Weather Makers

Consider the Golden Toad. Only discovered in 1966, it lived in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. Every year, in the short wet season in April, they would come out in the hundreds for the mating season and the resulting eggs would be laid in the pools of water left over from the rains. Except by the late 80's there were fewer and fewer and in 1989 a single male was seen, the last Golden Toad. It took ten years to figure it out, but it seems that every year the mists that gave the Cloud Forest its name were rising higher and missing entirely more days. The pools dried up before the tadpoles turned into frogs and the direct sun reached the frog's skin. They died, the first known extinction attributed to global warming.

Tim Flannery's book is full of stories like this; it is comprehensible and easy to understand. The Great Barrier Reef will become the Great Stumpy Reef as it bleaches under higher temperatures; Mountains become leveled as biodiversity declines. One can relate to every example- It is all dealt out in a way that you leave knowing so much more than you did when you started yet one is not ready to stick their head in the oven.

It is not a negative book, it lays out the problem and many of the proposed solutions but does not write us off. For us the most surprising line in the book was a single statistic- 55% of energy consumed in the United States goes for domestic heating and cooling. This is nuts, and can be dealt with using current technology. It also points out the misdirection of energy and effort- buliding a hydrogen economy makes no sense when 30% of domestic energy use is going for making hot water, which is easy and cheap to replace with solar. He is sensible and makes one focus on priorities. Flannery scares you to death but does not lose hope; We are impressed and inspired. ::The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, available at ::Amazon

Read also Andrew Nikiforuk's review for the Globe and Mail. He knows how to write.