The Uninhabitable Earth is one of the most terrifying books that I have ever read. David Wallace-Wells’ survey of the impacts of climate change can sit alongside horror authors such as Stephen King and Paul Tremblay in terms of its ability to induce nightmares.
Appropriately subtitled ‘A Story of the Future’, the book focusses on the impacts that even a couple of degrees of temperature increase will have on the planet.
For too long, the image of a starving polar bear and rising sea levels has encapsulated our understanding of how global warming will change the lives of everyone. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The first half of the book explains in horrifying detail the varied ways that climate change will transform life as we know it: a temperature of increase of just four degrees could lead to America’s maize crop falling by 50%, air pollution killed more than a million Chinese people in 2015, in thirty years time a billion people in Asia could be facing fresh water shortages.
The Uninhabitable Earth bombards the reader with statistics which reflects the author’s expertise as one of the most prominent journalists covering climate change today. This data become more troubling as the reader begins to realise how the effects of climate change will exacerbate each other and could potentially lead to the collapse of civilisation as we currently understand it.
Wallace-Wells uses a dizzying number of facts to justify his opinions and readers who aren’t scientific experts may find the opening chapters slightly overwhelming.
The second half of the book is much more accessible; the focus shifts to the way the climate crisis may impact the way we see the world around us and affect everything including the stories that we tell and the way that we understand capitalism.
Despite occasional passages where the constant stream of information can make the book overly dense Wallace-Wells deserves huge amounts of praise for the way that he presents the immense challenges we face without ever completely losing hope.
Published by Penguin, available on Amazon