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The Uninhabitable Earth summary

David Wallace-Wells

A Story of the Future

4.5 (153 ratings)
32 mins

Brief summary

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells is a book that explores the potential impact of climate change on our planet. It presents a stark warning about the devastating consequences of inaction and the need for urgent action to mitigate the worst effects.

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    The Uninhabitable Earth
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    The Paris climate agreement’s goals are hopelessly optimistic.

    In 2015, most of the world’s leaders met in Paris to agree on a new set of goals to tackle climate change. Politicians had seemingly realized the gravity and urgency of our situation; many believed humanity had turned a corner on its dirty past. From these talks came the central objective of keeping global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, a figure widely regarded as the threshold at which disaster begins.

    But there’s a problem: We’re going to smash right through this 2-degree ceiling.

    Just take the report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2018. It states that if governments take aggressive action on global warming now, and immediately enact all policy changes agreed to in Paris, we’ll probably still get a global temperature increase of 3.2 degrees before warming stops. What’s worse, currently, no industrial country is even close to enacting all the policy changes.

    What does this mean more concretely? Basically, that even our new best-case scenario looks pretty bleak.

    If countries woke up tomorrow and miraculously met Paris’ emissions targets, the world’s ice sheets would still collapse within our lifetime. This would eventually cause over a hundred cities to flood, including Miami, Shanghai and Hong Kong. At 3 degrees of warming, southern Europe would be in permanent drought, and the annual area of the United States scorched by wildfire would increase by 600 percent.

    And remember, this is an optimistic view.

    Estimating a worst-case scenario by 2100, the UN put forward the staggering figure of 8 degrees. At this temperature, equatorial regions become completely uninhabitable. Huge firestorms would devastate our forests. Two-thirds of the world’s cities would flood, and tropical disease would thrive in what we once called the Arctic.

    Perhaps the scariest thing about global warming, though, is its frantic pace. In geological terms, we’re used to thinking of Earth as a gradual, almost lethargic system which takes millions of years to change.

    But this is a dangerous fallacy. More than half of carbon emissions have come in the last three decades and the overwhelming majority since World War II. It’s no exaggeration to say that the planet has been brought to its knees within a single generation – and that the task of saving it rests solely on our shoulders now.

    To save the planet, though, we need to understand the consequences of climate change. And these are more complex than they seem.

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    What is The Uninhabitable Earth about?

    The Uninhabitable Earth (2019) is a terrifying rundown of the horrors which await in an ever-warming world. With poetic brilliance, Wallace-Wells draws from the latest research in climate science to give us an elegant final warning. Runaway wildfires, submerged cities, polluted air and global pandemics – these and other climate-induced catastrophes not only await in the very near future but in some cases have already arrived.

    The Uninhabitable Earth Review

    The Uninhabitable Earth (2019) by David Wallace-Wells is a thought-provoking exploration of the impending consequences of climate change. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents a compelling and urgent account of the potential catastrophes that await us if we don't take action to address climate change.
    • By drawing on scientific research and data, it offers a sobering and comprehensive examination of the impact of global warming on ecosystems, economies, and societies.
    • The book's unflinching honesty forces readers to confront the reality of the crisis, making it impossible to ignore and motivating us to take action.

    Best quote from The Uninhabitable Earth

    Global warming has improbably compressed into two generations the entire story of human civilization.

    —David Wallace-Wells
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    Who should read The Uninhabitable Earth?

    • Climate-conscious citizens who need it given to them straight
    • Anyone seeking to understand the cutting edge of environmental science
    • Everyone living on planet Earth

    About the Author

    David Wallace-Wells is a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He is also a national fellow at New America, a think tank focused on public policy issues ranging from health and gender to the environment.

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    The Uninhabitable Earth FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Uninhabitable Earth?

    The main message of The Uninhabitable Earth is the urgent need to address and tackle the climate crisis.

    How long does it take to read The Uninhabitable Earth?

    The reading time for The Uninhabitable Earth varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Uninhabitable Earth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Uninhabitable Earth is worth reading as it provides a compelling and thought-provoking perspective on the urgent challenges our planet faces.

    Who is the author of The Uninhabitable Earth?

    The author of The Uninhabitable Earth is David Wallace-Wells.

    What to read after The Uninhabitable Earth?

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