The Uninhabitable Earth
Life After Warming
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Economist • The Paris Review • Toronto Star • GQ • The Times Literary Supplement • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews
It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible—food shortages, refugee emergencies, climate wars and economic devastation.
An “epoch-defining book” (The Guardian) and “this generation’s Silent Spring” (The Washington Post), The Uninhabitable Earth is both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it—the ways that warming promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and nature in the modern world, the sustainability of capitalism and the trajectory of human progress.
The Uninhabitable Earth is also an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation—today’s.
LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/E.O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD
“The Uninhabitable Earth is the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet.”—Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
“Riveting. . . . Some readers will find Mr. Wallace-Wells’s outline of possible futures alarmist. He is indeed alarmed. You should be, too.”—The Economist
“Potent and evocative. . . . Wallace-Wells has resolved to offer something other than the standard narrative of climate change. . . . He avoids the ‘eerily banal language of climatology’ in favor of lush, rolling prose.”—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
“The book has potential to be this generation’s Silent Spring.”—The Washington Post
“The Uninhabitable Earth, which has become a best seller, taps into the underlying emotion of the day: fear. . . . I encourage people to read this book.”—Alan Weisman, The New York Review of Books
Wallace-Wells, deputy editor of New York magazine, takes on global warming's probable apocalyptic consequences in this depressing but must-read account. Wallace-Wells covers well-known threats, such as that rising sea levels will drown low-lying population centers, and alarming secondary effects, including the loss of ice, which, by reducing the Earth's capacity to reflect heat back into the atmosphere, would only accelerate global warming. Wallace-Wells considers cultural disruptions as well for example, that rising temperatures could make the hajj to Mecca physically impossible. Wallace-Wells rigorously sources his contentions in detailed endnotes, making clear his gloominess is evidence-based. He also clarifies that his enumeration of calamities may only be the tip of the iceberg, as it is "a portrait of the future only as best it can be painted in the present." The cumulative effect is oppressive, and his brief references to remaining personally optimistic because what humanity has done to the planet it can somehow undo comes across as wishful thinking. At one point, he commends the reader for persisting in reading, observing that each chapter thus far has contained "enough horror to induce a panic attack in even the most optimistic." This statement stands as an apt summation of this intellectually rigorous, urgent, and often overwhelming look into a dire future.
Not for the squeamish
Poorly written. I finished the book because I believe the topic is of paramount importance and was hoping to glean something insightful. Nothing. Condescending, a meandering rant.
It's very seldom that I put a book down before finishing it, but I couldn't take anymore after getting about halfway through "The Climate Kaleidoscope" section. Here's my advice for those wanting to learn more about climate change: get your hands on the author's notes and read whatever you want from those books and articles. "The Uninhabitable Earth" is just a summary of the science the author has gleaned, accompanied by his ranting, raving, contradictions, and endless condescensions. The "Cascades" section is sheer torture -- artificial, absolutely horribly written prose. If you're still determined to read this, I'll go ahead and give you a preview of what you will learn: the author hates Santa Barbara for some reason ("with its Mission-style impasto of infinite-seeming wealth"); he also hates the wealthy and ambitious, especially those who live in the western world ("gathering in those new megalopolises like moths to a flame"); and he must find the word "quotidian" stimulating in some way considering how many times he uses it. Honestly, that's what you're in for.