Clear, Concise Writing Distinguishes Climate Central’s Global Weirdness

Brief, to the point, and highly accessible — all terms applicable to the new Climate Central book. It may teach little new for those steeped in the subject (other than the virtue of clear and simple English). For those less climate-savvy, it’s a practical and easily digestible resource.


“Plain English” isn’t a term heard so often when it comes to books addressing climate change. And, let’s admit it, it’s sometimes used pejoratively, as in being part and parcel of something of a “dumbing-down.”

If you’re among those who just can’t make it all the way through the relatively quick read of Climate Central’s new 200-page Global Weirdness

If you find the “plain language” — or as the authors in the hard back’s liner cover call it “clear and accessible prose” — somehow tedious and not worthy of your own intellect …

Step back. It’s possible that you’re indeed not the audience for the new book, which carries the subtitle “Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future.” (That subtitle may indeed be about the most dense bit of language one will encounter in the book.)

Written by Climate Central staffers Emily Elert and long-time science journalist Michael Lemonick (pronounced as in lemon-ick), the concise 5-1/4 x 8-1/4 inch book consists of 60 breezy chapters. Each runs no more than two to three pages, organized in four different sections: What the Science Says; What’s Actually Happening; What’s Likely to Happen in the Future; and Can We Avoid the Risks of Climate Change?

No formal and stilted peer-review here, though Climate Central does list an impressive collection of outside scientists it says reviewed it, along with a number of its own in-house scientists.

You’ll find no fire-breathing rhetoric in Global Weirdness, making it a useful and practical — and, to emphasize, highly accessible — backgrounder for those many not up to their eyeballs in the minutia of climate science and climate policy intricacies. The absence of rhetoric aside, the book should leave no question in a reader’s mind that the authors indeed take the science, and the risk a warmer climate poses, seriously. Those accepting what loosely is called the “consensus science” on climate change will likely find little in the book that unnerves them; died-in-the-wool skeptics or deniers (see related posting) will likely find little that changes their views.

The book for some reason lacks a chapter-by-chapter listing, making it somewhat more challenging to return for a refresher on a chapter of particular interest. But its plain and unpretentious chapter titles (examples: “Computer Models Aren’t Perfect. This Isn’t a Big Surprise.”; and “Using Ethanol in Your Car Can Reduce Emissions — but Not Always by a Lot.”) cover a broad range of climate subjects. For those not up to the polysyllabic verbiage so often associated with books on the subject, each chapter is written in a style, as noted by a New York Times commenter, “that Strunk and White [they of Elements of Style fame], would approve.”

For the climate cognoscenti, or those thinking of themselves as such, Global Weirdness might make no more than a good present or a good gift for friends and relatives less immersed, let’s say, in the scholarly literature. As a teaching tool for the broad masses still not seeing a distinction between the ozone hole and global warming, or still not knowing why too much of a good thing (CO2) can be a bad thing, this late summer easy-reading entry will still be of some value as a shelf resource come end-of-year gift-giving season.

All, it’s safe to say, can read it and learn something from it, but it’s real value may lie in its bringing readily accessible and accurate information to those whose work days are not necessarily consumed with readings from Geophysical Research Letters, Proceedings (PNAS), or Science or Nature. Or, for that matter, with readings in what little remains of quickly disappearing daily newspaper science sections.

A podcast of author Michael Lemonick’s mid-August interview on National Public Radio”s popular “Fresh Air” program is available at its website.

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